Oscar Wilde.

Lady Windermere's fan, and The importance of being Earnest online

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a half hands high, but compact, trappy movers and had most
excellent dispositions. Many of them were ideal roadsters,
where speed was not in great demand, for they were kindly,,
tractable and always on their courage. Many of them carried
themselves in excellent style, and notwithstanding their diminu-
tive size, it is not probable we will ever again see a better tribe of
every-day, family horses. In all their outline and in every linea-
ment they were the very opposite of the blood horse, and when
bred on any strain outside of their own family, they almost uni-
versally failed to impress their own characteristics on their pro-
geny. This failure I observed with deep regret more than forty
years ago. The step could be extended and the speed increased
by crossing with the long striders, but in securing this we lost
the Morgan, In advance of their general distribution they had
the misfortune to be heralded as great trotters, and in this re-
spect, at least, they failed of meeting expectations. They went,
largely, into the hands of inexperienced men, who knew nothing
about how to cultivate speed, and the little, short, quick steps of
their new trotters gave them all the sensations of going fast,
without the danger incident to rapid traveling. In regard to the
matter of speed, through the overzealous and not too conscientious-


editors and others to say nothing of the advertisements of those
who had them for sale, they suffered greatly by too much praise.
The result is that the original type has been extinguished, and it
is doubtful whether a fair specimen could be found, even among
the mountains of New England. Next to the injury which the
family sustained from the exaggerated claims of speed put for-
ward by its too sanguine friends, there was another and even
greater injury from the asburd and foolish claims made for his
blood. It is impossible to make a thinking and sensible man be-
lieve that a little hairy-legged "nubbin" of a pony, weighing eight
hundred and fifty pounds, hired for fifteen dolhxrs a year to drag
logs together in a clearing, at which employment he was a great
success, had the blood of the I'ace horse in his veins. This was
always a stumbling block to my immature enthusiasm for the
Morgan horse. From an experience of a great many years and
from the developments of horse history during that time, I find
the "stumbling block" no longer worries me, for it has rotted
away and disappeared. Although the family has ceased to exist
as a factor in current horse history, it had a history in the past;
and, as a historian, I must consider its origin as well as the
deeds it has accomplished or failed to accomplish.

Mr. Justin Morgan, the central figure in this investigation,
was born in West Springfield, 1747, where he married and lived
till 1788, when he removed to Randolph, Vermont, where he died,
March, 1798. He was a reputable citizen, fairly well educated
for his time, and taught school for a living. He owned a house
and lot in his native town, where he kept a wayside house of en-
tertainment, and during the early summer he usually had a stal-
lion to keep on the shares. In the spring of 1785 he had charge
of the horse True Briton, or Beautiful Bay, and I will here
add that three years later, John Morgan, Jr., had charge of the
same horse at Springfield, for the seasons of 1788 and 1789.
This John Morgan, Jr , removed to Lima, New York, late in
1790 or early in 1791. Justin had sold his place in West Spring-
field to Abner Morgan, on long payments, and in the summer of
1795 he came back to West Springfield to collect some money
that was due him, presumably on the price of his former home,
but he failed to get money and took two colts instead. One was
a three-year-old gelding and the other was a two-year-old bay
colt, entire. He led the three-year-old with a halter and the two-
year-old followed. The date of this visit to the old home is the


key to the main question to be settled, and it is fixed by Justin
Morgan, Jr., then a lad of the right age to remember such things,
and by Soloman Steele and Judge Griswold, who fix the date in
the late summer of 1795. The horse was sold and resold and
sold again, as a foal of 1793, and that date never left him till he
died in 1821. I look upon this date as perfectly immovable, and
every attempt that has been made to overthrow it has not been
based on any reasonable evidence, nor prompted by a desire to get
at the truth, but only to make a fictitious sire a possibility. This
was the original Morgan Horse, and this date was thoroughly
fixed by Linsley, without knowing that it upset the pedigree he
had labored so hard to establish. After a lapse of fifty years an
attempt was made to fix up a pedigree for the "Original Morgan
Horse," claiming that he was got by True Briton or Beautiful
Bay — represented to be a great race Rofse, stolen from the great
race horse man. Colonel De Lancey, in the Kevolutionary War.
I must, therefore, consider, briefly, this part of the fiction.

First — As a starting point in the pedigree, it is assumed that
the race-horse in question was stolen, during the War of the Revo-
lution, from James De Lancey, perhaps the largest and most
widely known of all the colonial horsemen of that day. He was
the first man to imjDort race horses into this colony, and his name
and the fame of his horses were discussed everyAvhere. He was
very rich, in politics a Tory, and on the eve of hostilities he sold
out every horse he owned, of whatever description, went back to
England and never returned. This disposes of the false assump-
tion that the sire of the original Morgan horse was stolen from

Second — There was another James De Lancey, cousin to the
preceding, and not a rich man, who was colonel of a body of
Tory cavalry operating in Westchester County from 1777 to the
close of the war in 1782. It is not known whether he ever owned
a race horse in his life, but it is certain he was a dashing fighter,
and at the head of the cowboys he was known to the inhabitants
of all that region. His name is not to be found anywhere in con-
nection with horses. He bore, in full, the same name as the dis-
tinguished horseman, and was mistaken for him, although he was
on the other side of the ocean.

Third— It is claimed that "one Smith" stole the horse in
question from Colonel De Lancey and sold him to Mr. Ward, of
Hartford, Connecticut, who kept him a few years and sold him


to Selah Norton, of the same place, and remained his till he died.
Who was this "one Smith" and where did be belong? Where is
the evidence that this "one Smith'' stole a horse from Colonel
De Lancey?

Fourth— In the New York Packet, then published at Fishkill,
under date of October 19, 1780, we fiiid the following: "Last
week Lieutenant Wright Carpenter and two others went down
to Colonel James De Lancey's quarters and lay in wait for his
Appearance. He accordingly came and having tied his horse at
the door, went into the house; upon which Carpenter seized the
horse and mounted. When De Lancey discovered him, he im
mediately alarmed his men, who pursued him to White Plains,
but in vain," etc., etc. This Lieutenant Carpenter was a dash-
ing young fellow and was promoted next month to the j^osition
of first lieutenant in Captain Lyons' company, of the Second
Kegiment of New York Militia, of Westchester County, and still
commanded by Colonel Thomas. This is the man who stole the
horse, this is the contemj^oraneous evidence of it, and "one
Smith" had nothing to do with it.

In these four points we have what may be considered the first
chapter of this investigation and, as will be readily seen, each of
them must be fatal to the pretentious claim that has been main-
tained for about a hundred years. Avoiding all circumlocution,
I think it is safe to say that this so-called pedigree did not orig-
inate this side of Hartford. The Second Regiment of New York
Militia, called "The Skinners," was made up of Westchester
County men, and as Colonel De Lancey had been sheriif of that
county, everybody knew him and knew that he was not the race
horse James. We must, therefore, look further on for the time
when and the person by whom this pedigree was manufactured.

In 1784 this horse was advertised at Lanesboro, Massachusetts,
under the name of Beautiful Bay, and no attempt was made to
give a pedigree or origin of the horse.

In 1785 he was at West Springfield, Massachusetts, in charge
of Justin Morgan, still called Beautiful Bay, and still no pedi-

In 1788 and 1789 he was in charge of John Morgan, Jr., of
Springfield, Massachusetts, and here, for the first time, he is
designated as "the famous full-blooded English horse, called
True Briton or Beautiful Bay," but no pedigree is given.

In 1791 he was advertised at East Hartford, Connecticut, by


his owner, Selali Norton, and his pedigree is here given for the
first time as follows: "True Briton, or Beautiful Bay, got by im-
ported Traveler, dam De Lancey's racer." After advertising the
horse for seven years without a pedigree, at last Mr. Selah Nor-
ton manufactures one and gives it over his own signature.

In 1793 he is again called Beautiful Bay, but no pedigree, at
South Hadley, Massachusetts.

In 1794 and 1795 he was kept at Ashfield, Massachusetts, by
Mr. Norton himself, and called Traveler, and his pedigree is
again given in amended form as follows: "Sired by the famous
old Traveler, imported from Ireland, dam Colonel De Lancey's
imported racer."

This is the last trace we have of the horse Beautiful Bay, for
that seems to be his honest name, and now I must ask some
questions. These advertisements cover a period of eleven years
and they are worthy of careful study. From 1784 to 1791 there
is no attempt at giving any pedigree at all. With the exception
of three seasons he seems to have been let, probably on shares, to
different keepers, in different parts of the country. From first
to last Selah Norton seems to have been his owner. If he had
received the pedigree, and the romantic story of his theft, from
"one Smith," as claimed, is it conceivable that he would have
concealed that story from the public when it would have added
so much to the patronage of his horse? How does it come that
not a single man having this stallion in charge, except Selah
Norton himself, ever gave his pedigree? What prompted Selah
Norton to withdraw the horse from public service, in Hartford,
immediately after he first gave his pedigree? Was it because
everybody there kncAV it was a fraud? When the horse was taken
to South Hadley in 1793, why did his keeper there refuse to
accept either the name True Briton or the new pedigree? It will
be observed he was advertised there simply as Beautiful Bay and
no pedigree given. The next two years we find him at Ashfield,
Massachusetts, to which point it would seem his owner had re-
moved from Hartford. For some reason that can be better
imagined than explained, the names Beautiful Bay and True
Briton are there dropped and he is rechristened as Traveler. To
this change of name the old pedigree is attached, with a very
important change in that also, as follows: "Sired by famous old
Traveler, imported from Ireland, dam Colonel De Lancey's im-
ported racer." These three words, "imported from Ireland,'"


are very important in two particulars, for they not only knock
out the "featherheads" who have been always maintaining that
the imported Traveler meant Lloyd's Traveler of New Jersey,
son of Morton's Traveler, that was imported from Yorkshire into
Virginia about 1750, but it convicts Selah Norton of inventing
this pedigree, for there was no such horse brought from Ireland.
It is certainly unnecessary to say another word in illustration of
Selah Norton's character. When we study these advertisements
it becomes as clear as the light of day that nobody believed him
or the story that "one Smith" stole the horse from Colonel De
Lancey. The crimes of horse stealing and desertion were ex-
ceedingly common during the period of the revolution and it is
quite possible that "one Smith" may have stolen a horse out of
somebody's stable and sold him to Mr. Ward or Mr. Norton as
the same horse that Lieutenant Carpenter stole from Colonel De
Lancey, but neither "one Smith" nor "one Norton" knew any-
thing more about his pedigree than he did about the man in the
moon, and I will here end the second chapter of this investiga-

I am clearly of the opinion that Justin Morgan was an honest
man and that he would not tell a lie, even if he knew it might
accrue to his present and personal advantage. He was poor,
feeble in health, and had hard scuffling to get along. As a
means of livelihood, in part at least, it seems to have been his
business for a good many years to keep stallions on shares for
different owners. As late as 1795 he had a horse from Hartford,
Connecticut, called Figure, to which we will refer later on. In
1788 he sold his little place in West Springfield, Massachusetts,
and removed to Randolph, Vermont, where he died in March,
1798 In the autumn of 1795 he visited West Springfield again,
for the purpose of collecting some money that was still due him
there, probably some deferred payments of his former home, and
as he was not able to get the money he took two horses in lieu
thereof. One was a three-year-old gelding, and the other was a
two-year-old bay colt, entire. He led tlie gelding beside the
horse he was riding and the colt followed all the way. The evi-
dence that fixes the date of this trip in the autumn of 1795 and
the age of the colt that followed seems to me to be completely
bomb-proof. This evidence not only embraces the recollections
of Justin Morgan's neighbors, but when he died the colt, in 1793,
was sold by his administrators as a five-year-old. In all the


changes of ownership that took place through his life and at his
death, in 1821, he was represented as foaled in 1793. He died
from the effects of a kick that was neglected, and not from old

The only serious attempt that has heen made to controvert the
date of 1793 was that made in the name of John Morgan, of
Lima, New York, in 1842, he being then eighty years old, in the
Albany Cultivator. Unfortunately the editor fails to publish the
letter he professes to have received from John Morgan and only
gives his construction of it, which any child knows is no evidence
at all. The editor represents him to say "that the two-year-old
stud which he (Justin) took with him to Vermont was sired by a
horse owned by Selah Norton, of East Hartford, Connecticut,
called True Briton or Beautiful Bay." Justin Morgan removed
to Eandolph, Vermont, in the spring of 1788, and this John
Morgan removed to Lima, New York, about February, 1790.
They were not brothers, but distant relatives. If John means to
say that Justin "took with him" when he removed to Vermont a
two-year-old son of Beautiful Bay, that colt must have been
foaled in 178G, which would make him twelve years old instead of
five when he was sold upon the death of his owner, and thirty-six
years old instead of twenty-nine when he died from a kick.
Now, if we concede that Justin did take with him a two-year-old
son of Beautiful Bay, the dates render it impossible that he
should have been the founder of the Morgan horse family and we
have no trace of him whatever.

Another authority has very recently come to the front, and in
order to avoid the difficulty of dates and still retain the possibil-
ity of the horse being by Beautiful Bay, insists that he was foaled
1789 and bred by Justin Morgan himself. Under this new light
he was foaled in Vermont and didn't have to travel there at all.
He insists further that he named the horse Figure and kept him
in the stud till his death in March, 1798, when the horse was sold
and his name changed to Justin Morgan. It is true that Justin
Morgan, still seeking to make a living, kept a stallion two or
three years ovvned in Hartford, Connecticut, and advertised him
as "the famous horse Figure, from Hartford." Now, if this
horse was foaled the j)roperty of Justin Morgan and owned by
him as long as he lived, why should he advertise him as "from
Hartford?" All these efforts to fix dates by shifting about so as
to make it possible for the bogus stolen horse to come in as a sire,


have already received more attention than their importance de-
mands and I will therefore call this the close of the third chapter.

There are several incidents connected with the life of the colt
of 1793 that fixed his identity and age upon the recollections of
tlie neighbors and friends of Justin Morgan. Solomon Steele,
Evans, Rice and others who knew the colt well, all agree that the
colt followed his companion and playmate from West Springfield
to Randolph in the autumn of 1795 and that he was not then
halter broken. They all agree tliat Evans hired him for fifteen
dollars a year to draw logs in his clearing, in the place of a yoke of
oxen. They all agree that Justin Morgan died in March, 1798,
and that the colt was then sold as a five-year-old. The death was
an immovable date fixer around Avhich everything in connection
with these events must be determined. And when the horse
died in 1821 nobody had ever doubted that he was foaled 1793.

Justin Morgan, Jr., was in his tenth year when the colt was
brought home, and he was twelve years old when his father died.
In 1842 Justin Morgan, Jr., in a communication to the Albany
Cultivator, says: "One was a three-year-old gelding colt, which
he led; and the other a two-year-old stud colt, which followed all
the way from Springfield. The said two-year-old colt was the
same that has since been known all over New England by the
name of the Morgan Horse. I know that my father always, while
he lived, called him a Dutch horse. I have a perfect recollection
of the horse when my father owned him and afterward, and well
remember that my father always spoke of him as of the best

When he made these clean-cut and emphatic declarations
Justin Morgan, Jr., was fifty-six years old, and it has been sug-
gested that he was too young, at the time, to have remembered
about the colt. This is a grave mistake, for farmer's boys re-
member a thousand things better then than they ever do after-
ward. I don't think that my own memory is remarkable, but to-
day, at over three score and ten, I can, with the utmost distinct-
ness, recall the names, color, markings, size, peculiarities and, in
some cases, the history of most of the horses that were on the
farm when I was eight years old. I can, therefore, have no hesita-
tion in accepting Justin Morgan's evidence on account of his
youthfulness, at the time of which he speaks.

Did Justin Morgan know what he was saying when he "always,
while he lived, called his horse a Dutch horse?" And did he


understand the historical meaning of his words when "he always
spoke of him as of the best blood?" To answer these questions
Ave must make some reference to history. The Butch horses
were a breed wholly distinct from the horses of the other colonies.
The colony of New Netherlands (New York) received its supply
from Utrecht, in Holland, commencing in 1634 and a few years
following. In forty years they had so increased that the colony
was well supplied. These horses were about fourteen hands and
one inch high, which was about one hand higher than the horses
supplied to the English colonies. They were not only higher,
but they had more bone and muscle, and, I think, more shapely
necks. In every respect they were better, except that they were
not so good for the saddle, for the reason, as I think, that they were
not pacers. The standard that determined their superiority was
the higher prices at which they were bought and sold, over the
New England horses, as shown by the official reports of the
colony. When the colony passed under British rule, the first
governor immediately established a race course on Hempstead
Plains, Long Island, and there in 1GG5 the first organized race in
tins country took place. This was long before the English race
horse had reached the character of a breed, and a round hundred
years before the first representativ^e of that breed reached New
York. The horses that ran at Hempstead Plains were un-
doubtedly Dutch horses, for the inhabitants of New York and
Long Island attended these annual meetings in great numbers,
and as they were nearly all Dutch they would not have gone a
stone's throw to see an English horse run. These annual race
meetings were kept up a great many years by the successive

In 1635 two shiploads of Dutch horses, from the same quarter,
chiefly mares, reached Salem, Massachusetts, and were sold at
prices enormously high as compared with the prices of those sent
from England to the same colony. These two shiploads added
materially to the average size of the horses of the colony of Mas-
sachusetts Bay, as shown by statistics, as well as the other colo-
nies getting their foundation stock from that source. We may
safely conclude, I think, that some of the descendants of these
shiploads were taken to the valley of the Connecticut when
Hartford was planted, for we not infrequently meet with the
term "Dutch horse" in the old prints of that valley. Besides
this source the valley of the Hudson was full cf them. They


retained their distinctive appellation till about the beginning of
this century.

Mr. 0. W. Cook, of Springfield, Massachusetts, did a great
deal of fundamental investigation on the origin of this family,
away back in 1878-9, etc., and I am under special obligations to
him for being the first man to open my eyes to the great confi-
dence game that has been played for a hundred years, and all orig-
inating in the fabulous story of "one Smith." Among other im-
portant things he unearths an advertisement of Young Bulrock
that was advertised to stand at Springfield, 1792, as follows:
"Young Bulrock is a horse of the Dutch breed, of a large size,
and a bright bay color, etc." In speaking of his pedigree, Mr.
Cook most pithily remarks: "In view of the three-fold concur-
rence of time and place and breed, it fits into the vacuum in the
Morgan's lineage as a fragment of pottery fits into its comple-
ment." There was another horse advertised in Springfield that
year, but he had neither name nor breed and in color he was
gray. The advertisement of Young Bulrock fits in time, fits in
color and fits in breed; and thus removes all reasonable doubt
that he was the sire of the original Morgan horse. This is the
reason why Justin Morgan "always, while he lived, called him a
Dutch horse;" and the little scrap of history given above will
show why he always spoke of him as "of the best blood." He
was right in the former and he was right in the latter declara-
tion. It is not possible, at this day, to prove, technically, these
matters of a hundred years ago, but after considering all the
facts in the case, we must conclude that they are satisfying to
the human understanding, and that Justin Morgan told the truth.

For the past fifty or sixty years the breeding of the original
Morgan horse has been a subject of apparently unending con-
troversy. The real facts concerning his origin, however, have
never been brought to light and fully developed until within the
last few years, and it is probable that nothing of material value
will ever be added to the foregoing tracing. We have found
from contemporaneous history that Lieutenant Wright Carpenter
stole a horse from Colonel James De Lancey and was successful
in carrying him into the camp of the patriots at Fishkill, and
that is all we know about that particular horse. After the war
was over it is stated that "one Smith" sold a horse to Mr. Ward,
of Hartford, and represented that he had stolen the horse froin
Colonel De Lancey, and Mr. Ward sold that horse to Selah Nor-


ton, who seems to have owned him as long as he lived. It must
be accepted as true that Lieutenant Carpenter captured a horse
from Colonel De Lancey, but we cannot accept it as true that
this was the same horse owned by Norton. We must first know
how and where "one Smith" got him. Norton had this horse
and advertised him in different parts of the country for public
service seven or eight years before the romance of his history

Online LibraryOscar WildeLady Windermere's fan, and The importance of being Earnest → online text (page 39 of 61)