Letter to the Editor: Horsing around in early Clarkston


Dear Editor,

While reading about Clarkston in its earlier years, I discovered that Depot Road, off Main Street which now leads to our beautiful park and City Hall, used to be called Livery Hill.
Due to its steep grade, the road would be closed off in the winter so children could use it as a sledding hill.  I found reference to the Skarritt Livery, 1912, and I’m thinking the horse livery was close to this road, thus the name, Livery Hill. Those children had no idea their great grandchildren would someday play on swings, slides and feed ducks in the Mill Race at the bottom of their sledding hill.
Horses played a huge roll in early Clarkston residents’ lives.  Frank Walter, early entrepreneur, drove a wagon along the roads in our area, pulled by two horses, selling items needed by early residents.  A picture in the Heritage book, edited by Jennifer L. Radcliff, on Page 53, shows baskets on the top of the wagon filled with orders from his last trip past these houses and farms.  The article states he continued his traveling business even after a new store opened in town.  This was in 1890s.
In 1907, the mail was delivered by horse and buggy, see a picture on the same page. I think today, how fun it is to buy a horse and buggy ride at Frankenmuth or at the White Horse Inn in Metamora.  I look at these photos and imagine the joy that must have been to have a “relationship” with your horse, so much more than just your transportation for the day.  I’m sure they had wagon “breakdowns” with their horses but being an animal lover, I think, better than calling a wrecker and waiting for it to arrive, would be to spend some quality time with your horse. Such a slower pace it was then. It would be nice to have that again. That’s why Mackinac Island has such an appeal for me. In this picture, two of the postmen were Albert Hammond and John Hammond.
Another “horse” anecdote comes from Parke Lake behind homes on the east side of Main Street.  The lake is named after a Clarkston surveyor named Parke (thus the “e” since it was his name). If you drive into the city of Clarkston from the east, you will see Parke Lake on your left on the curve as you head toward Main Street.
From “Images of America,” Cara Catallo for the Clarkston Community Historical Society, I will quote since her words paint such a beautiful picture in my mind.
“Clarkston’s longtime postmistress Elizbeth Hammond Ronk (notice the name from the earlier postmen) recalled how people passed time in the winter racing their horses on frozen lakes.  Her family’s workhorse would break into a canter as he rounded the Clarkston Road curve approaching the lake, as if it were time to race again.”
With this current cold weather, the lake is frozen well enough for ice fishing and skating, but I never thought about horse races on the lake for fun. I often think about that workhorse as I round that curve coming from the library.  I’ve seen horses that love to “show off” their strength, beauty and also they just like to run for fun.  I can almost see him wanting to take some time off from his work duties, swerve onto the lake and start to run. It would have been a glorious sight.

Eric Haven
Clarkston Mayor

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