Frances Dodge on holiday sleigh

Frances Dodge drives a holiday sleigh through the snow.

Estate Stories: Sleigh Bells Ring

The holidays were always a special time for the Dodge-Wilson family. We’re sharing some of their favorite memories and traditions in a special holiday edition of our Estate Stories series.

Sleigh Ride with Alfred, Matilda, Dick and BarbaraHome for the Holidays

“When I was a girl, at home, our Christmases were very simple.” Matilda Dodge Wilson told the Detroit Free Press in December of 1959. “We were a small family and our relatives lived too far away in Canada to be with us.

“This is probably why I’ll always remember the exciting time at Meadow Brook.”

Matilda’s fondest childhood memories of the holidays were the gifts delivered by horse and cutter, a type of sleigh, on Christmas morning, with the sleigh bells ringing. This tradition continued at Meadow Brook Hall for many years.

A Special Delivery

When Frances was older, she dressed up in a long velvet coat and rode in the sleigh from the Farmhouse to The Hall, full of presents for her younger siblings Richard and Barbara. When there wasn’t enough snow for a sleigh, she continued the ride in a carriage.

Meadow Brook Farms Sleigh Ride party

With the extensive farmland on Meadow Brook, sleigh riding was a favorite activity to share with friends. John Dodge even had a sleigh that could fit 30 people to tow around the farms.

Dashing Through the Snow

During the holidays and winter months, Matilda and Alfred Wilson were known to throw sleigh parties. Family and friends from out of town would gather at Meadow Brook for a luncheon and a sleigh ride around the estate.

“We still have the cutter,” Matilda said in 1959, “but we seldom have enough snow at Christmas time now.”

Be captivated by the people, places and tales that make Meadow Brook Hall so remarkable. Our Estate Stories series unlocks the vaults, dives into the archives and seeks out tales of the Great Estate to pique your interest and enrich your life.