A one-horse open sleigh upcoming project for Boundary Woodworker’s Guild

Erin Perkins
By Erin Perkins
December 28th, 2012

Visitors to the Boundary Museum will soon be able to go Dashing through the snow in a one horse open sleigh – at least in their minds – thanks to a generous donation by Merv Hartman of Greenwood.

Hartman donated a McLaughlin one-horse sleigh to the museum after seeing how well the Boundary Woodworkers Guild restored their most recent project, the Bossburg stage coach which was unveiled in the Canada Day Parade this past year, according to Bob DeMaertelaere, a member of both the Woodworkers Guild and the Boundary Museum, in a recent blog posting he made on the museum website.

“Fortunately all the metal bits were present even the brass label proclaiming it to be a McLaughlin,” writes DeMaertelaere. “The thin wood which made up the curved shell of the sleigh is not salvageable as well as most of the frame. However, the curved hardwood supports have fared much better and can mostly be restored.”

The McLaughlin sleigh was a fairly common Canadian-made model from the turn of the last century. McLaughlin sleighs and carriages were originally manufactured by Robert McLaughlin, a farmer who lived in Ontario. He built his first sleigh in his barn. His sleighs soon gained such popularity that he opened a factory called McLaughlin Carriage Works in Oshawa, Ontario. At one time, his company was the largest manufacturer of horse-drawn buggies and sleighs in the British Empire. Later, he and his son went into manufacturing the horseless carriage, or motorcar, under the name McLaughlin, then Buick, then McLaughlin-Buick and finally under their modern name, General Motors.

The “cutter” model of sleigh that was donated to the museum was usually drawn by one horse, and was known for being fast. Really the cutter was the sports car of its time.

The restoration project won’t be for the faint of heart. The stage coach took a year and hundreds of volunteer hours to restore. The volunteers worked feverishly on every detail. One of those volunteers is Grand Forks resident David Bevan. Bevan personally and painstakingly restored the leather seats on the stage coach. Every detail of the seats and the stage coach were made to be as authentic as possible right down to the horse hair stuffing in the seats and the leather buttons. Bevan, a local history buff, will be spearheading this latest venture.

For the next year the sleigh will be housed at the Boundary Woodworkers Guild on Donaldson Drive in Grand Forks where every piece will be restored and then put back together.

The project can be viewed by the public on Saturday mornings.

The museum hopes to be able to unveil the good-as-new sleigh by next Christmas.

To learn more about sleighs visit http://www.discoverypub.com/feature/2010_01.html or specifically the history of General Motors and the McLaughlin sleigh go to the GM Canada website at http://www.gm.ca/gm/english/corporate/about/ourhistory/detail.

Also, the Boundary Museum often has information about ongoing restoration projects and displays on their website at www.boundarymuseum.com.