Taking the Hack

Undated image of a Wellington Transfer Co. horse-drawn coach, also known as a "hack." Photo 970300 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

Undated image of a Wellington Transfer Co. horse-drawn coach, also known as a “hack.” Photo 970300 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

I wrote yesterday about some of the transportation options available to people in nineteenth-century Wellington, and I mentioned the Wellington hack. “Hack” was a shortening of the word “hackney,” a type of sturdy, horse-drawn coach that served as a taxi and mail delivery vehicle in that period. Anyone who has read a Jane Austen novel is likely familiar with the term.

Today as I was conducting research I ran across this wonderful notice in The Wellington Enterprise. It had apparently been a hard winter in early 1880, and the ground was deeply rutted and frozen solid, making travel difficult. The newspaper wryly observed, “The Oberlin Hack, with four horses came toiling in at a toirtoise [sic] pace, at 11 a. m., Monday, the horses wearing a martyr-like expression, as though they wished a mail route had never been thought of.”

A nearby timetable helpfully indicates that the hack line from Oberlin and Pittsfield was supposed to arrive at nine o’clock in the morning on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, returning at one o’clock the same afternoon. Why this particular hack arrived on a Monday is not recorded, but perhaps the weather conditions necessitated a change of schedule.

The paper also noted, “The rain on Thursday night softened up the mud and made the going much better, as the increased number of teams in town Friday indicated.” Another mention in the same edition described the “mud embargo” on goods in the town, in other words, a slight reduction in the variety and selection of materials for sale because of the temporarily impassable roads (3-11-1880, pg. 3).

The American House and Wellington Town Hall. Note the hack waiting at the hotel steps. Image was taken between 1885 (when Town Hall was built) and end of the century (when Interurban street cars on tracks were introduced). Photo 970386 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

The American House and Wellington Town Hall. Note the hack waiting at the hotel steps. Image was taken between 1886 (when Town Hall was completed) and end of the century (when Interurban street cars on tracks were introduced). Photo 970386 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Taking the Hack

  1. Armchair Historian Post author

    That is a great question. I don’t know definitely, but my assumption has always been that it was some sort of loading/unloading platform for carriages and wagons. If anyone knows for certain I would love to hear.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s