Oscar Wilde.

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

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and pedigree was given to the world. As this romance would
have been a grand feature in an advertisement of a stallion, Mr.
Norton was too slow in evolving it, and when he did bring it out
nobody believed it. At that period many portions of New Eng-
land abounded in stallions with bogus pedigrees and histories,
and if we judge Norton by his acts in giving his horse three
different names at different times and places, we must conclude
he was ready to conceal or invent anything that would add to
his horse's popularity and patronage.

Sherman Morgan. — In his history of the Morgan Horse, Mr.
Linsley names this and three or four other sons of the original,
that were kept for stock purposes, but none of them seems to
have attained any eminence, except Sherman. Ashe never made
any pretensions to being a trotter, he would have been forgotten
long ago, had it not been for the lucky circumstances that he
was the sire of Black Hawk, and thus his name has been pre-
served. He was scant fourteen hands high, with heavy body on
short legs, and carried his head well up. He was a chestnut and
foaled about 1809. There has always been a doubt in the minds
of many as to whether he was the sire of Black Hawk, but that,
question will be considered when we reach that horse. His dam
was a very handsome mare, brought from Naragansett, a pacer,
and a very desirable saddle mare. In the trotting "Eegister," three
representations are given as to the breeding of this mare, namely,
that she was of the Spanish breed; that she was an imported
English mare; and that she was brought from Virginia on ac-
count of her beauty and speed. The first claim seemed to have
the best historical support, and besides this she was brought from
Providence, Khode Island, and was a very fine pacer. The
theory was then prevalent that the Narragansett pacers were of
the "Spanish breed." The elimination of that foolish notion
from the history of the pacers does not affect the plain statement
that she was a Narragansett pacer. It is not known that this


mare ever produced anything else, either by the original Morgan
•or by any other horse.

Black Hawk. — As his name indicates, this horse was a jet
black, and was something over fifteen hands high. He was
foaled 1833, was got by Sherman Morgan, and was bred by Ben-
jamin Kelly, of Durham, New Hampshire. As the question of his
paternity has been the subject of a great deal of bitter con-
troversy, continued through many years, and participated in by
men of intelligence, on both sides, I must give the history, as I
understand it. Mr. Kelly kept a tavern at Durham and Mr.
Bellows, the owner of Sherman Morgan, made this house one of
his points of stopping as he traveled his horse, in his circuit of
the season. Along with Sherman he had another horse called
Paddy, black as a raven, that did some service at seven dollars,
while the price for Sherman was fourteen dollars. On one of
his visits, Mr. Kelly's black mare, called "Old Narragansett"
was bred to Sherman and proved to be in foal. Not long after
this Mr. Kelly sold the mare to Mr. Shade Twombly, living
about two miles from Durham, and a part of the agreement was
that if the mare should prove to be with foal, Mr. Twombly was
to pay for the services of the horse. The next spring the mare
dropped a fine black horse colt, and Mr. T^vombly claimed the
colt was by Paddy and not by Sherman, hence, he refused to pay
fourteen dollars for the services of Sherman, but was willing to
pay seven dollars for the services of Paddy. This resulted in a
lawsuit in which it was proved that Sherman was the sire of the
colt, and Mr. Twombly's estate had to pay the money. The colt
was kept by Mr. Twombly's heirs, at pasture in Greenland, New
Hampshire, till he was about two years old, when he was sold at
auction to Albert Mathes, of Durham, for seventy dollars and
from him he passed to Benjamin Thurston, of Lowell, for two
hundred dollars. In Thurston's hands he became quite noted,
locally, as a trotter, and in 1844 he became the property of David
Hill, of Bridport, Vermont, where he became altogether the most
popular stallion in the United States, and died there November,
1856. He was the first horse to command one hundred dollars
for his services; and many of the great mares of the country
were sent to his embrace, among them the world-renowned Lady
Suffolk, but unfortunately she failed to produce.

To understand why the fight against the Sherman Morgan
paternity of this horse should have been so bitter and so per-


sistent, we must consider the conditiou of the horse interests in
New England at that time. When Black Hawk came to the
front the Morgans of the real Morgan type had already attained
some degree of popularity and here came a horse overtopping
them all, with no trace of the Morgan type about him. He and
his family attracted the attention of purchasers and threw a
shadow of doubt over the little punchy, hairy -legged fellows that
knocked out many a sale. Besides this, it was a serious and real
question in the minds of a great many honest and intelligent
men, as to whether Sherman Morgan, so typical of his family,
could possibly have been the sire of a horse so completely outside
of the family, not only in appearance and formation, but in his
ability to trot. In 1847 Black Hawk was pitted against the
Morse Horse, mile heats, best two in three, at the Saratoga State
Fair, He won the first heat in 2:50| and the second in 2:43^.
He was then fourteen years old and this was very fast, for a.
stallion of that period. It is but justice to say that the Morse
Horse contingent claimed that Black Hawk was set back in the
first heat for running and that the heat was given to the Morse
Horse in 2:52^ and that the second and third heats were won by
Black Hawk in 2:544 and 2:56. Just what the truth is in this
disagreement I am not able to determine. As we look at this
horse, so distinct from all his tribe; and as we consider the very
indistinct knowledge of the laws of generation as held by the
masses in that day, we cannot wonder that the paternity was so
vehemently disputed, Neither can we wonder, as his descend-
ants pass in review before us, that this dispute has never been
settled to the satisfaction of the contending parties. The old
Morgan type never reappears in the descendants of this family.

But, we must not forget that we have considered only half of
the inheritance of this horse. He had a dam as well as a sire.
To that half of his pedigree we must now give some attention.
The story of the "half-bred English mare, brought from New
Brunswick" has had its day and we may as well lay it aside as a
humbug. Mr. Allen W. Thomson, of Woodstock, Vermont, has
brought out the facts with regard to this mare in a form that is
very clear and satisfactory. In 187C Mr. Thomson visited Albany
for the purpose of examining everything that had been said in
The Country Gentleman newspaper touching on the paternity of
Black Hawk. In this search for the sire he would necessarily
find many references to the dam and among these references he


was greatly surprised to find she had been described as ''a pacing
mare." He goes on to say: "In our visit the same fall to Dur-
ham, Dover, Portsmouth and Greenland to learn more of her, we
found a number that knew her when owned in Durham, and they
said she was then known as the 'Old Narragansett Mare,' They
said that Benjamin Kelly, deceased, brought the mare into Dur-
ham, that he had a son John L. living in Manchester, New
Hampshire, and that he would know more about her, etc."
After learning that Mr. John L. Kelly was a very intelligent and
responsible man, having been city marshal and mayor of Man-
chester, and known as ''Honest John," he wrote him and received
the following reply:

" In answer to your inquiries about the dam of Black Hawk, I will give you
my best recollections, aided somewhat by a dairy which I kept at that time. I
returned to Durham from a sea voyage in the fall of 1830. In the following-
spring I went to Boston wif i my father with a lot of horses. We stopped
over night at Brown's Hotel, at Haverhill, Mass., where we met a teamster
from Portsmouth, N. H., with a team of four horses. In the hind span was a
large gray horse and a dark bay mare. Among father's horses was one which
was a good match for the gray horse. The man noticed it and lold father that
the mare was too fast for the horse, was worth two of him for speed and bot-
tom, yet he would trade with father for his gray horse. After a good deal of
talk, with the aid of Mr. Brown, the trade was made and we drove the mare
in the carriage to Boston, leading the others. We found her to be a splendid
roadster, and as she was not in good condiiion to sell, we took her back to Dur-
ham. At this time she was chafed and bruised up very badly with the heavy
hames, yet in a few months she came out of it, with no traces of it, excei)t a
few white spots on her back and breast. The teamster said she was a Narra-
gansett mare. She would weigh. 1.000 pounds. Father kept her as one of his
stable horses. She was found to have great speed as a trotter, and father was
always bragging about her. One day, late in the season, Israel Esty, of Dover,
drove up to Durham with a trotter, and bantered father for a trot, mile heats
on Madbury Plains, between Durham and Dover. I had great faith in the
mare and pleaded with father to accept his offer, and he did, and fifty dollars
was staked on the race. John Speed was father's hostler, at the time, and he
commenced getting the mare ready for the race. He had only three weeks ta
do it in. At the time specified, a large collection of people from Dover and
Durham collected to witness the race. Dr. Keuben Steele was one of the
judges. The Esty horse won the first heat, the Kelly mare won the next two,
distancing the horse in the last one. In the spring of 1832 John Bellows came
to Durham with the old Sherman Morgan, and I persuaded father to have the
mare bred to him. He did, as I saw the horse cover her. I was 21 in 1832;
went to sea again that fall. My recollection of the dam of Black Hawk is she
was a very fine pointed dark mare, with a nostril so large, when excited, that
one could put his fist into it. John L. Kelly.

"Manchester. N. H., August 25, 1876."


The only "trip" in this letter is where Mr. Kelly speaks of the
mare as "a dark bay," but as the identity of the mare is fully
maintained by other witnesses, this shade of color is not material
and is, doubtless a slip of the pen. We don't know she was a
Narragansett mare, but we do know that she was called a Narra-
gansett. It is wholly possible she may have been a bastard Nar-
ragansett, or she may have been called a Narragansett merely
because she was a pacer. At that date there were still many de-
scendants of the old Narragansetts to be found, of greater or less
degree of purity in their breeding. Among Mr. Thomson's
gleanings from persons who knew the mare there are some bear-
ing upon her color and gait that are in order at this point of our
inquisition. Mr, John Bellows, the owner of Sherman Morgan,
says: "She was a good-sized black mare, a fast trotter, with a
swinging gait, and resembled in appearance the Messenger stock
of horses." The following description was gathered from several
persons who knew the mare well and among them Mr. Wingate
Twombly, son of her former owner. "She was a large, rangy
mare, a little coarse and brawny, did not carry much flesh, might
have weighed some over one thousand pounds and was a trifle
over fifteen and one-half hands high. Head and ears rather
large, neck long and straight, withers low and thin, medium
mane and tail, had more hair on the fetlocks than her son, was
called black a little way off, but close to one could see her grey
hairs mingled with her coat and close to she was called a steel
mixed. She had a white strip in her face and some say a little
white on one hind foot. She was smart to go, but her gait was
not a smooth, square trot. Some called it a sort of a pace,
others that she single-footed. She went with her head low when
trotting fast. One person said it was about a straight line from
her back to her head when she was going fast. She was called
the Narragansett Mare when Mr. Kelly owned her. From other
sources and from men who personally knew the mare and had
ridden beside her, we have undoubted evidence that she was very
fast, but all through there is some confusion about the character
of her gait. Mr. Bellows, who ought to know something about
the gait of a horse, says: "She was a fast trotter, with a siuing-
ing gait." Now just what he means by the phrase "swinging
gait" is hard to determine. Putting all these bits of evidence
together, the reasonable conclusion seems to be that she was


double-gaited, and when speeded she would go from the trot to
the pace or from the pace to the trot as the case might be.

From this synopsis of all that has been developed in the blood
lines of Black Hawk, there can be no longer any mystery about
where he got the characteristics making him so intensely diifer-
ent from the representatives of the typical Morgan. His sire
was out of a high-class Narragansett pacer, and his dam was prob-
bly a fast Narragansett pacer, thus giving him presumably
seventy-tive per cent, of Narragansett blood and twenty-five per
cent, of Morgan blood. The fight that was made against him all
his life, as not being a genuine Morgan, had its foundation in
justice and truth. He was not a Morgan in either blood or char-
acter. He founded a very valuable line of trotters, something
that no other branch of the Morgan family has ever accomplished,
and of right his descendants should be designated as "the
Black Hawk Family," and not jumbled up with the heterogeneous
mass of nondescripts still called "the Morgan Family." Black
Hawk's gait was spluttery and uneven, rather than square and
mechanical. A few of his progeny were very perfectly gaited,
but a great many of them manifested their evil inheritance,
which, together with unskillful handling, destroyed all possible
value as trotters. He placed three in the 2:30 list; fourteen of
his sons were sires of 2:30 performers, six of them with two or
more, and two daughters produced 2:30 performers. He died
November, 1856.

Ethan Allen, 43. — This was a handsome, bright bay horse,
less than fifteen hands high, with three white feet and a star.
He was foaled 1849, got by Black Hawk, 5; dam, a fast trotting
grey mare of unknown pedigree. With a list of all the cele-
brated American horses before him, it would be very difficult, if
not impossible, for the best-informed horseman to select an animal
that has been so great a favorite with the American people, and
for so long a time, as the famous Ethan Allen. When four years
old he gave the world a sensation by eclipsing everything that
had appeared before him at that age; and again when he was
eighteen years old he renewed and intensified the sensation by
trotting in 2:15 with a running mate. These sensations of his
youth and his old age, did much to give him a standing with the
people; but his wonderful beauty and remarkable docility and
kindness, with the elegance and ease of his action, made him the
favorite of everybody. His trotting gait was recognized by the-


best judges and experts as probably more perfect than that of
ajiy horse of his day. Others have gone faster singly, but no
one has done it in greater perfection of motion. In his great
flights of speed he was not bounding in the air, but down close
to the ground, with a gliding motion that steals from quarter
pole to quarter-pole with inconceivable rapidity. He was bred
by Joel W. Holcomb, of Ticonderoga, New York, and as the re-
sult of a practical joke he played, for the purpose of annoying his
uncle, David Hill, the owner of Black Hawk, against whom he
had some pique just at that time, many well-meaning and no
doubt honest people once believed, and possibly still believe, that
Ethan Allen was by Flying Morgan and not by Black Hawk.
The fact that Ethan Allen was the same color as Flying Morgan
and that there was some resemblance in size and style of action
of the two horses, lent a strong suggestion to the joke as a truth.
I am indebted to Mr. I. V. Baker, Jr., of Comstock's Landing,
S. B. Woodward, then of Ticonderoga, and B. H. Baldwin, of
AVhitehall, New York, for the details of the way the Flying Mor-
gan story started, and need only say the narrator was an eye-wit-
ness to the whole affair. In the spring of 1852, in the barroom
of 8. B. Woodward's hotel, at Ticonderoga, quite a number of
the villagers being present, Mr. Joel W. Holcomb came in and
said he was going to Avrite a letter to R. M. Adams, of Burling-
ton, Vermont, the owner of Flying Morgan, and he was going to
have some fun with him; and, going to the desk in the room, he
wrote, substantially as follows: "I don't know but I have made
all the reputation for David Hill and old Black Hawk that I
care to. I am willing to have the credit go where it belongs,
and desire to let yourself and the public know that my colt Ethan
Allen is got by your horse Flying Morgan."

"There," he said, "you will see this in all the Vermont paper.;
next week. Won't Uncle David be mad?"

"What!" exclaimed some of his neighbors, after hearing it
read, "you won't put your name to such a falsehood as that?
It's a shame."

"Well, well," said Holcomb, "I'll add a postscript." And
going to the desk he wrote below his signature, leaving a good
wide space between his signature and the following words:

"Flying Morgan never covered the dam of Ethan Allen, never
smelt of her and never saw her, consequently Ethan Allen was


not by Flying Morgan, but he can beat Flying Morgan or any
other stallion in the State of V'ermoiit."

The next fall Mr. Adams visited many of the fairs with his
horse and showed Ilolcomb's letter, and, it is said, with the post-
script torn off. Every man in Ticonderoga knew as well as Mr.
Holeomb how Ethan Allen was bred, and this letter created
much indignation. But Holeomb was a reckless man and cared
for nothing more than what he called a good joke, and the
more it hurt any one's feelings the better it suited him.

This account of the "joke" was written down by Mr. Baker,
at the dictation of Mr. AVoodward, April 22, 1875, and I have
implicit confidence in its substantial accuracy. It has been said
that the reason Holeomb did this was out of ill feeling toward
Mr. David Hill, the owner of Black Hawk, and Holcomb's uncle,
Ijecause he dunned him for payment of the horse's services in
getting Ethan Allen. One day at the Fashion Course, in the
spring of 18G7, as I was looking at Ethan while he was taking
his daily exercise, either Mr. Holeomb or Mr. Roe, his partner —
I knew them both by sight as the owners of Ethan Allen, but not
well enough to distinguish one from the other, but I think it was
Mr. Holeomb — came up to me and expressed a good deal of
solicitude to know how I was registering the horse. He ap-
peared gratified when I assured him I had no doubt he was a son
of old Black Hawk and would so enter him. He remarked "that
was right," and said the Flying Morgan story originated in a
practical joke and should not be permitted to go into history as a
fact. This is the full history of the basis of the controversy,
and certainly, to a reasonable man, it does not leave a single peg
on which to hang a hope for the Flying Morgan story.

But, the paternity of Ethan x\llen is not left to the uncertain-
ties of recollection nor to be trifled with by practical jokers.
The books of Black Hawk's services show that the dam of Ethan
Allen was bred to him on a certain day or days of the season of
1848, and was taken away believed to be in foal. This fact is con-
ceded on all hands as wholly indisputable, but it is claimed that
Flying Morgan was kept in Ilolcomb's stable one night, after the
mare returned from Bridport, and the two were there surrepti-
tiously coupled. I have studied this claim in all its details, I
have examined every detail minutely, and I do not hesitate to
say there is not a single shadow of evidence to support the claim.
In Vermont, as in Kentucky, there are many people who can re-


member things that never occurred, but in the former State these-
people are at a great disadvantage, for they are not able to get so
many to agree with and support their remarkable memories.
The Vermonters are very far from being all honest, but they are
very much disposed to make up their own minds, whether riglit
or wrong.

In searching for the breeding of the little flea-bitten grey
mare, "called a Messenger," that produced Ethan Allen, I have
not been sparing of either time or labor. I have assiduously
followed every clew that presented itself, and waded through
"sloppy" correspondence "knee deep," but I never have been
able to reach a single point that was relevant and tangible.
From the first that is known of her at Hague, New York, her
identity has been maintained by a spavin on one leg and one hip
knocked down, and thus she has been traced through the hands,
of many owners till she reaches Mr. Holcomb, of Ticonderoga,
New York. A pretence has been set up that she was by some
Morgan horse, but this was only a wish of the originator, and not
a fact founded on reasonable evidence. It is said she was quite
a fast trotter, in her younger days, and that she could beat all
the farmers' horses against which she was started. That she
had a trotting inheritance, and probably from Messenger, there:
can be no reasonable doubt.

Ethan Allen made his first appearance as a trotter at the Clin-
ton County Fair, as a three-year-old, and made a record, over a
very bad track, of 3:20 — 3:21. In May following, then four years
old, at the Union Course, he beat Kose of Washington in 2:36 —
2:39 — 2:42. This was then the fastest time ever made by a four-
year-old. He then retired to the stud and did not again appear
till October, 1855, when, over the Cambridge Park Course, he
beat Columbus, Sherman Black Hawk, and Stockbridge Chief for
the stallion purse in 2:34^ — 2:37. Three of the contestants here
were sons of Black Hawk. The next season he defeated Hiram
Drew twice, to wagon, making a record of 2:32|. October 15,
1858, at Boston, he beat Columbus Jr., and Hiram Drew, 2:37 —
2:35 — 2:33. The same month, on the Union Course, he beat
George M. Patchen, to wagons, distancing him the first heat in
2:28. At the Union Course, Long Island, July 12, 1860, he beat
Princess, distancing her the second heat in 2:294^ — 2:25^. This,
is his fastest record. He was frequently beaten by George M.
Patchen, Flora Temple, etc., and it was thought by many that,


he could not take up the weight and "hold the clip" for the full
mile out. His most famous performance was made in 1867, and
as I had the pleasure of witnessing it, from a very eligible posi-
tion, I will here repeat the description as then made:

"On the 21st of June, 1867, on the Fashion Course, it was
my good fortune to witness the crowning event of his life.
Some three weeks before, with running mate, he had beaten
Brown George and running mate, in very fast time, scoring one
heat in 2:19. This made horsemen open their eyes, and there at
once arose a difEerence of opinion, about the advantage to the
trotter of having a runner hitched with him, to pull the weight.
This resulted in a match for two thousand five hundred dollars
to trot Ethan x\llen and running mate against Dexter, who was
then considered invincible. As the day approached the betting
was about even; but the evening before the race, word came
from the course that Ethan's running mate had fallen lame and
could not go, but they would try to get Brown George's running
mate, then in Connecticut, to take the place of the lame runner.
As the horses were strangers to each other, it was justly con-
cluded that the change gave Dexter a great advantage and the
betting at once changed from even to two to one on Dexter.
Long before noon the crowd began to assemble; the sporting men
everywhere were shaking rolls of greenbacks over their heads,
shouting "two to one on Dexter." I met a friend from Chicago,
who sometimes speculated a little, and when he told me he was

Online LibraryOscar WildeLady Windermere's fan, and The importance of being Earnest → online text (page 40 of 61)