Delaware News

Old sleigh finds new life at Delaware park


When Jesse Swickard was courting Lizzie Carpenter on snowy days in the early 1900s, Lizzie could hear the bells on Jesse's sleigh when he was traveling from his farm at Central College and Harlem roads to her Plain Township home, where New Albany High School now sits.

"She could hear him when he started out and knew when he was coming," said their daughter, Naomi Fodor.

Fodor said the courtship was a success and her parents married in 1906.

They kept the sleigh and used it in local races. Fodor said she remembers her mother talking about being thrown from the sleigh into the snow with Jesse during one race.

Jesse and Lizzie owned about 640 acres in Plain Township and New Albany, much of it along Johnstown Road in what is now the New Albany Country Club community, Fodor said.

Several New Albany landmarks are named for the family, including Swickard Woods and Fodor Road.

Jesse Swickard died in 1970 and Lizzie died in 1983, Fodor said.

The sleigh came into Fodor's possession and she donated it to the New Albany-Plain Township Historical Society several years ago, hoping the society could use or display it.

But society President Marilyn Regrut said the society did not have a proper place to store it.

"We were never able to use it or restore it," she said.

Regrut said society members recently decided to donate the sleigh to the Gallant Farm Preserve, 2150 Buttermilk Hill Road in Delaware County.

Gallant Farm Preserve Manager Gabe Ross came to New Albany to pick up the sleigh Nov. 25.

The sleigh and other farm implements and large pieces belonging to the historical society are stored at the Rose Taylor Dryer House, 7569 E. Walnut St.

That home was donated to the historical society by Joe Ciminello when he developed the New Albany Links subdivision in 1999. The property includes a large barn and several smaller buildings used primarily for storage, Regrut said.

Gallant Farm is one of the Preservation Parks of Delaware County, which are funded through donations and a 10-year levy approved by voters in 2008.

Robin Mayes, Gallant Wood's educator, said the farm is an educational center where children and others can learn how farms used to operate in central Ohio.

"It's a way to give the kids a glimpse of what life was like," Mayes said.

Gallant Farm Preserve opened in 2012 with a newly constructed reproduction of a rural farmhouse from the 1930s and '40s. The land includes a museum, granary, crops and an orchard.

Mayes could not say how the sleigh will be used but said the park's programming will take advantage of it.

Ross said Gallant Farm Preserve has no horses to pull the sleigh, but volunteers who work with the farm have horses they could bring in for an event.

Regrut said she and Fodor visited Gallant Farm Preserve and are happy to find a permanent home for a piece of New Albany and Plain Township history.

"We're very excited that it's going to be restored and someone will actually use it," Regrut said.