The Black Mariah


Cree Vicar Dave ~ SASS Life #49907


I like looking at antiques; maybe that’s why I spend so much time each morning in front of the bathroom mirror.  The Vicar’s Wife and I have strolled the aisles of many museums, from small local ones to the Smithsonian in D.C.  When I spot an old energy saving device, like a hand operated washer or a treadle sewing machine I like to point out to the missus how much money we could be saving if she was the proud owner of one of those “green machines” of the “Good old Days”.  She’s always quick to tell me that her boots are not only made for walking but can leave more of an imprint than carbon.

What brings me to marvel most about antiques (especially of the late 1800’s) are the ornate style and the quality of workmanship of the products of yore.  They were true craftsmen in my book.  Their tools were composed mostly of the hand operated variety, but they turned out items of such amazing quality.

While passing through Manton, Michigan after  Church Conference a while back we spotted the “Manton Area Historical Museum”.  So we wheeled over to have a look see.  Manton is in Wexford County, Michigan where my dad, bless his soul, was born in 1903.  The Museum was quite impressive for its size.  We were greeted by Pamela Rayment, one of the museum’s curators, and her two helpers Noelle Nyquist and her little brother Axel who help grandma spruce up the place.  They have a variety of things on display.  Old household items, tools, war relics and a huge diesel engine that used to run an electric generator to supply power to Manton back in the early 1900’s.  But what really caught my eye was “The Black Mariah”.  Something so unique that I had never seen one before in my close to seven decades of sojourning this planet.  It was a horse drawn sleigh hearse.  Now I’ve seen horse drawn hearses before in pictures, on display and even in use on TV.  But I have never even seen a photo of a sleigh hearse before.  Maybe some of you have had the opportunity to view one but I had never seen this type of vehicle before.



This “Black Mariah” was purchased from the Cunningham Coach Co. of Rochester New York back in 1890 for the sum of $650.00 by Abraham Woodward Funeral Home in Manton.  And it still looks like it is sittin on the showroom floor.  The hearse was retired in 1924.  They sometimes used it after they introduction of the automobile because of the bad condition of winter roads back then.  It is now on permanent loan to the Manton Museum by the Bostick Family.  The craftsmanship is so outstanding one can only marvel at how it was accomplished back before automation and CNC machines.  The majority of the hearse is made out of what looked like oak with that beautiful black patina.  The corners and windows dividers are large columns with ornate carvings the full length.  The windows have beveled glass and there is a large lantern on each side of the drivers sear.  Inside there is a wicker basket that cradled the deceased to their final resting place.  I like what it says in 2 Samuel 14:14 “Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die.  But God does not take away life; instead, He devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from Him.”

I would imagine that there are others of the “Black Mariah” variety still around.  But if you have never seen one before your curiosity can be quenched by taking a trip to Manton, Michigan.  Or if you’re not up to that challenge then you’ll just have to be satisfied with my humble photos that really do not do it justice.  The “Manton Area Historical Museum” has limited afternoon hours from Memorial Day thru Labor Day.  They have an open house on Labor Day Weekend with quilt displays and other attractions.  The cost is a small donation but the enjoyment is very large.  I would like to thank Pamela Rayment and her helpers for a very enjoyable experience at the Manton Museum.

For info you can call 231-824-3208 or go on the WEB at  ~ or snail mail to:

The Manton Area Historical Museum

C/O Manton Area Chamber of Commerce

PO Box 313

Manton Michigan 49663 ~ or email:


Hope ta see ya on the trail,

God Bless,