A Chilling Experience

Baltimore, February 1910

A story retold from Baltimore Memories, compiled in 1999 by Dorothy and Gordon West & Ron Smith

It was a cold Sunday morning in February 1910 – minus 10 and dropping – when Robbie McKenzie, a local teamster left Baltimore with his horses and sleigh to pick up a load of hay. He “took the only real road there was” – up Highway 45 and then east on Community Centre Road to his destination.

When the hay was loaded, he grabbed the reins and turned his team around. McKenzie was anxious to return before dark and decided to take a back route – a forced lane – to shave a few miles off his trip. The sleigh glided easily along the untracked snow but as he coaxed his team over a rise, a runner caught and the sleigh and its load flipped over, burying McKenzie underneath. The sleigh’s whiffle tree broke loose but miraculously, the horses stayed put, somehow trampling their reins into the snow “which froze hard and pulled their heads down, so they were immobilized.”

When it was discovered that McKenzie hadn’t arrived back on Monday, a village search party went out. Hope of finding him alive was fading by Tuesday morning when a bunch of kids on their way to school heard sleigh bells. They raced through the snow drifts up the lane and encountered the team of horses and overturned sleigh but there was no sign of Robbie McKenzie. Little did they know that he lay motionless beneath the load of hay.

The horses were cut loose and taken back to a nearby barn – they had stood for 50 hours and survived. Robbie McKenzie was dug out and he survived but he’d “been lying with his head lower than his heels”, and as one man put it, “Honest to God… his face was blacker than the ace of spades, but when they heaved him up, the blood ran the other way and he turned paler and paler until his face was as pure as the driven snow.”

[Winter 2022/2023 departments]