Chelsea Area Historical Museum To Display Holmes’ Family 1890s Cutter Sleigh



The Chelsea Area Historical Museum’s new permanent exhibit, “The Holmes’ Cutter,” opened on Feb. 11. A small sleigh, the cutter was originally owned by Harmon and Edith Holmes, the founders of what today is known as the Chelsea Milling Company – producer of Jiffy Mix.

Bill O’Reilly, CAHS volunteer, was instrumental in bringing the cutter to the museum. It was discovered in the carriage house behind what was once the Holmes family home on East Middle Street.

Matt and Jennifer Baghdoian, current owners of the home, donated the cutter when they found the deteriorating late 1880s carriage house was beyond repair and could no longer store it, said O’Reilly.

The cutter and the carriage house’s large central barn doors were donated to the museum in 2019.

“The 1890s era cutter was built in Kalamazoo by the American Carriage Company.” said O’Reilly, “most likely commissioned by Mr. Holmes.” The Kalamazoo company produced carriages, sleighs, and cutters from 1890-1920.

O’Reilly added that throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, sleighs and cutters were the mode of horse-drawn transportation during the winter months, and though similar, the two designs served distinct purposes.

Sleighs were large and accommodated entire families. Cutters were smaller and were more often used by individuals. Because occupants had to sit close and cozy, cutters were the preferred choice among courting couples, too. The horse would have been kept in the same carriage house.

CAHS has been waiting for an opportunity to properly display it but had to find the place and the funds to obtain a structure to house it.

“When I reached out to Howdy Holmes, great-grandson of Harmon & Edith, and current CEO of Chelsea Milling,” said O’Reilly, “he did not hesitate to provide the funds necessary to make this project happen. It’s fitting, too, that the cutter will be displayed just a couple of hundred yards from the site of the carriage house that was its home for well more than a century.

“Though a nod to the significant impact the Holmes family has had on the Chelsea community, the cutter also allows us to capture a piece of Chelsea’s transportation history and keep those memories alive.”

The mission of the Chelsea Area Historical Society is to gather and preserve Chelsea area history, educate the public, and promote the restoration and preservation of historic buildings and sites for future generations. The museum is located in the 1853 Boyd House, at 128 Jackson St., across from the Chelsea Depot. The museum is open Saturdays, noon to 3 p.m. and on Thursdays evenings, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., during Sound & Sights. For more information, visit or call 734.476.2010.

Photos courtesy of CAHS

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