Heart of Louisiana: Horse-drawn carriages

Heart of Louisiana: Horse-Drawn Carriages

BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - For over a century, horse-drawn carriages were the primary means of transportation in Louisiana. Now relics of the past, some are being preserved for posterity in a Baton Rouge museum.

LSU's Rural Life Museum has one of the largest collections or horse-drawn wagons and buggies in the country.

"This carriage was used by four generations of doctors out of Washington Parish, Louisiana," said museum Director David Floyd.

The carriages come directly from the original owners, and all come with stories.

"This jumper, for instance, is from Longwood Plantation, which is just south of Baton Rouge Gardere Lane and was used in the fields," Floyd said. "It was kind of like the Jeep of the time."

A horse-drawn hearse made out of cypress comes from St. Michael's Catholic Church in the town of Convent.

"[It] was used in that parish to bury everybody from 1850 to 1942," Floyd said.

It comes complete with the shovel used to dig graves in the church cemetery.

And there's another hearse used by a black benevolent society in West Feliciana Parish.

"It was a burial insurance society in which you would buy a policy and they guaranteed you a first-class burial, and so this was a hearse that brought you to the graveyard for your last trip," Floyd said.

There are wagons from the farm, and this one from a Baton Rouge family for city use, complete with rubber-lined wheels and battery-powered headlights.

This carriage was one of the first taxis on the streets of New Orleans. And it was a business that lasted well into the 20th century.

"It came from the Toye family of New Orleans, which was a very prominent family and still is," Floyd said. "He ended up starting the Toye Carriage and Cab Company in the 1850s. Bought several cabs. There was no public transportation, there was no taxis so to speak in New Orleans at the time."

There's a wagon from the days of horse-drawn vendors - one peddled popcorn and peanuts on the streets of New Orleans. And a delivery wagon from a general mercantile store in Sugar Town, Louisiana.

"No matter what your social status was, your ancestors lived and survived a certain way," Floyd said. "And you have that part of you and you."

These old relics of everyday life provide a direct link to the personal histories of almost any family. To learn more about the museum, click here.

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