View From Caleb L. Howe's Studio Window
In this pretty town of Brattleboro, so well governed, so tidy, so prosperous, and in every way such a charming place to live in, it seems strange to be obliged to write upon such a subject as cruelty to animals, still it is often the case that from the habit of years a thing which is in itself cruel goes on without the seeming knowledge of the inhabitants. The accident which took place on a recent Saturday has led me to put in writing my views upon the subject, and I do it in the full conviction that it is the result of carelessness instead of any desire to hurt. I am told that this accident was due entirely to the fact that the horse was left exposed to the unmerciful, torturing fly. This is happening each day upon the main street. I have repeatedly, during my stay of two months, seen a horse tied in front of a store for half a day, and in four instances for more than eight hours. On Sunday mornings it is a common practice to fasten horses during church time on the block between High and Elliot streets, many of them in the sun and unblanketed. I have counted a dozen; last Sunday there were nine, four of which were not blanketed; six were tied in the sun. A few Sundays ago two women tied a horse before one of the stores at 10 A.M., unblanketed, in the sun; the poor dumb beast fretted and pawed there until 3 o'clock P. M. Why are not these people compelled to take their horses to the various stables provided for the purpose, where I am told they are placed under shelter for the small sum of 10 cents? Would it not be well for the town authorities to take some action upon this matter, limiting the time and insisting, by means of a fine, upon proper protection for the poor beast from the sun, flies and cold?
I understand that at one time the town society for the prevention of cruelty to animals did good work in this direction. Where are they now?
Before closing I must enter a protest against the check rein. In the use of this old-fashioned relic Brattleboro is far behind the age. It has been judged unnecessary and cruel in England and abolished by law. In New York it is very seldom used and in most of our cities it has become a thing of the past. Without it a properly broken horse has freedom of action which is of great use to the driver. The Kimball Jackson check, largely in use in Brattleboro, has long been considered the most cruel of any.
As a rule the horses in this town are well fed and well groomed; then why spoil the good by cruelty. While trying to live as Christians is it not our duty to be as kind as possible to the dumb brutes which play such an important part in the comfort, to say nothing of the utility, in our lives.
E. E. Williamson.
Oct. 1, 1891.
Isaac Halsted Williamson, the son of the former Chancellor of New Jersey and the grandson of the eleventh Governor of New Jersey, was boarding during these years at the Brooks House. His two sisters were Elizabeth and Eve. The Williamson family was from Elizabethtown, Union County, New Jersey.
The Kimball Jackson check-rein became very popular for driving horses after Hiram Woodruff first devised the overdraw check-rein for the famous trotting horse Kimball Jackson. The rein prevented Kimball Jackson from getting his head down to his breast when making a break. With his head down, he could not be brought back to a trot.
With this rein, the driving horse could not see the ground immediately in front of him, and so could not avoid obstacles in the road. When ascending a steep grade, the horse could not put all its force into the collar. When descending, the rein stressed the horse's back and front legs. Horses were seen tossing their heads in an effort to relieve the numbing of head and neck that set in with the use of the overdraw rein.
Brattleboro merchant James Fisk, Sr. invented a safety harness that allowed horses to escape from a wagon that was losing control, especially on steep downhill grades. This harness prevented much suffering for both beast and man.
About the most exciting runaway that Main St. ever witnessed, occurred Saturday forenoon. A horse belonging to Rev. Mr. Smith of the West village was hitched in front of Knapp's store, and the rein slipping down the post drew the horse's head down, the animal began to pull, and finally the bridle came off, and the horse started on a run down street. Within a few rods it collided with the carriage of W. W. Barney of Guilford, and he sitting in the buggy was thrown violently to the ground striking on his head and rendered unconscious. Then both horses dashed around the Elliot street corner, one on the south sidewalk and one in the road. In front of the F. & M. Exchange they met Mrs. Spears of Guilford, and one of them ran right up the booted back of her buggy and cut the rim of the seat. But luckily she happened to be sitting on the other side of the seat and was not hurt, though paralyzed with fear. The other one dashing under the piazza of the fish market made havoc generally, smashing glass and hitting a post to which a team belonging to H. W. Jacobs of Guilford was hitched and that horse ran into the yard of White's stable yard, dragging the post along after it. Considerable damage was done to the buggies that were left stringing along all the way up to Green street. Mr. Barney was taken unconscious into Holden's drug store, and Dr. Conland summoned. The injuries did not appear serious and he soon recovered so that he walked up to T. J. B. Cudworth's house and Sunday went home. He's seemingly all right now though he has suffered some ill effects from the blow.
---We noticed an item in the Reformer last week concerning the few horse-sheds back of the town hall---saying there was a strong movement among the private citizens for an improvement in the smell and appearance of the place. I have also noticed sketches from time to time, lately, complaining of their being a nuisance, causing a fearful stench, etc., and advocating their removal. Is this the public spirit of the enterprising citizens of Brattleboro? Where is the society with the long name, that exists only in name, that never had enough sympathy for our dumb animals' comfort to do anything further than, in a few instances, to order a horse put in the stable for the owner to hunt up and pay the charges, whether it was fed or not? Who cares? Now, why did they not get up a petition to have suitable sheds or stables build, at the town's expense, for the horses that come into town, so they will not be obliged to stand hitched in the street in all kinds of weather and positions, to the imminent peril of both themselves and the people passing along the sidewalks, to say nothing of driving through the street or narrow snake-path between the teams? When the snow is deep it is unsafe for both man and beast to have horses stand hitched two or three feet higher than the sidewalks, with heels much higher than their heads, as I have often seen them hitched the whole length of the street, so close together than it would be impossible to get them any nearer, and with nothing to prevent their jumping on the sidewalks among the crowds of people passing, should disposition or fright cause them to do so. Look at the number of horses that take fright and break away, when snow slides off the buildings or runaways dash through the streets, smashing other teams they come in contact with; also, how many horses cannot be hitched in the street at all, owing to having been struck over their noses by passers by. Oh, I know what you are aching to say: put them in the livery or feeding stables, and pay 25 to 50 cents for the privilege, when you are down perhaps once or twice a day, perhaps only once a week, or only once in a while. And suppose you need your team three or four or perhaps half a dozen times while you remain, to go to different places in the village? It is not everyone who has money enough to throw it away in that way, if they had the disposition. I am afraid the merchants would complain of dull times and want of trade more than they ever did yet, if every one is obliged to pay toll every time they come into the village with a team. If you care for the enterprise, respect and prosperity of Brattleboro, build a good string of convenient, respectable, public horse-sheds, with feed-boxes properly protected against cribbing horses, within easy access of the business portion of Main street, where it is convenient and respectable for men or women to put up their teams and where they will run no risk of having their property pilfered. Then people living out of the village can come to church if it is stormy, and have a comfortable place for their horses as well as themselves; and ministers would not have as much cause to preach about "fair weather Christians" and "folks that are afraid of a little rain." Possibly, if they took a candid, serious view of the matter, they might think people could serve the Lord as well and innocently by their own firesides as by going to church and leaving their horses standing out in the bleak winds and snow drifts in winter or a soaking rain in summer, and returning home with clothing soaked through from wet cushions and robes. Possibly they might get to heaven quicker---if they succeeded in getting cold enough. But "the merciful man is kind to his beast." If the horse-sheds must be removed on account of the "bad smell," why not remove every livery and feeding stable, hotel and private barns in and about the village, from which there must certainly be more scent than from half a dozen or less open sheds, only occupied partially during the day and evening. It has been said that if the sheds are removed, a promise has been made to beautify the embankment with steps, etc. I think it would look more respectable, at least, to clear up the bank between the buildings and the railroad, for decency if not on account of the impression it makes upon people passing through in the cars. Some, if not all, of your readers will remember the remarks made by C. F. Thompson when the subject was brought up in our last town meeting, viz.: that, instead of tearing down the only free public sheds there are in the village, they had better build more; that the want of them affected trade, and that a man living about half way between Brattleboro and Putney had told him he should come to Brattleboro to trade more, but there was nowhere to put his horse when he got there, so he went to Putney where they have plenty of good sheds. So, if you want trade to come to Brattleboro, in mercy have some accommodation for the faithful horse that carries the burdens. You have bonded the town $50,000 with interest to build one railroad, and are anxious to bond still more to build another. Charity begins at home, and I for one think horses deserve more charity than a majority of their drivers. Now let our enterprising citizens wake up to this long-neglected work, and secure the necessary ground, which will never be any cheaper than at the present day.