Horse Breeding in Orange County
From: The History of Orange County, New York
Edited by: Russel Headley
Published by: Van Deusen and Elms
Middletown, New York, 1908


THE lay of the land in Orange County, hills and valleys, with the farms divided in such a manner that each one has a proportion of high uplands, as well as low meadows, enables the breeder to tide over wet as well as dry seasons.

If the season is wet for the low meadows, the uplands make luxuriant growth, and in a season of drought the lowland pastures and meadows can be depended upon for a good supply. The writer has farmed forty two years at his home farm and there has never been a season when grass has really failed for animals at pasture or for hay making.

In seeding land in Orange County, timothy, redtop and the clovers have been the principal seeds used in the past. In time these run out, giving way to grasses that appear natural to this section, viz., June grass, white clover and senica grass. These varieties start growing early and continue late, thus making the pasturing season a long one. Cut for hay, the quantity of the latter is not equal to that first mentioned, yet the quality is considered far superior.

Orange County being well watered in addition to its abundant supply of the best natural grasses, makes it an ideal horse breeding section.

Imported Messenger appears to have been the fountain head of the highest type of the American light harness horse.

Imp. Messenger was in service at Goshen in 1801. Jonas Seely, Sr., of Oxford, had a large strong mare of great endurance known as Black Jin, and this mare bred to Imp. Messenger produced Silver Tail.

In 1814, the son of Imp. Messenger, known as Hambletonian, made the season in Goshen, yet on certain days of each week was taken to Florida for service. Silver Tail was bred to Hambletonian and produced One Eye, the latter a grand animal and fast trotter for her day.

When Imp. Belfounder was in service at Washingtonville, the season of 1832, Josiah Jackson, of Oxford, owned One Eye, and bred her to that horse, producing a mare that was a high class trotter, and is known as the Charles Kent mare.

The Charles Kent mare had passed through the hands of several owners to Jonas Seely, of Sugar Loaf. On June 5, 1848, he bred her to Abdallah and on May 5, 1849, a bay colt with a small star and white hind ankles, was born.

In the fall of that year the Charles Kent mare and her foal were purchased by Wm. M. Rysdyk, a farmer of Chester.

Mr. Rysdyk was born on a farm between Florida and Goshen. He frequently saw the son of Imp. Messenger (known later as Bishop's Hambletonian), pass his home on trips between the above villages, and, although very young, was so impressed by the rare qualities of the horse, that he chose his name for his own colt, now known as the "great progenitor of trotters," Rysdyk's Hambletonian.

It will be observed that this colt was by Abdallah, a grandson of Imp. Messenger. His granddam wads by Bishop's Hambletonian, a son of Imp. Messenger and his great granddam a daughter of Imp. Messenger. The blood of this imported horse had given great results in the localities where he had been in service, and the same was true relative to his descendants, particularly so in the case of his son, Bishop's Hambletonian and his grandson, Abdaliah.

Imp. Bellfounder's individuality, his beautiful trotting action and strong inclination to stick to that gait, commanded the admiration of horse lovers. His daughter, the Chas. Kent mare, produced Hambletonian, a daughter of his son, King's Beilfounder, produced the race winning trotter Sir Walter, record 2.27, also by Abdallah. Another daughter produced to Cassius M. Clay, Jr., Harry Clay, record 2.29, the greatest of the Clay family as a brood mare sire.

Rysdyk's Hambletonian carried three crosses of Imp. Messenger blood. concentrated in the first four generations. It was this unparalleled wealth of Messenger blood, his rare temperament and individuality, and the fact that Mr. Rysdyk had driven him, the third time harnessed to a sulkey, a, mile in 2.48 1/2, on the Union Course, Long Island, the fall he was three years old, that gave his owner unbounded confidence in the colt's future. This, the breeding public must have shared, as at four years of age he served one hundred and one mares, producing seventy eight colts at $25.00 each, thus earning for his owner $1,950.

In the late fall of that year two Virginia gentlemen, looking for a stock horse, visited Mr. Rysdyk's place, and after examining Hambletonian, stood ready to buy him at $10,000, yet Mr. Rysdyk would not sell.

How well this confidence in the horse's value was borne out in after years, for as soon as Hambletonian's colts had become two and three
years old and were placed on exhibition at the fairs, their high quality, fine general characteristics, superb trotting action and being almost uniform in rich bay colors, won them nearly all the prizes.


In Show Class.
First prize was awarded to Hambletonian by Abdallah.
Second prize - Rattler.


In Show Class for Aged Stallions.
First prize was awarded to Edsall's Hambletonian (Alexander's Abdallah) by Hambletonian - J. S. Edsall
Second prize - Washington - J. D. Veruol
Third prize - Harry Clay by Cassius M. Clay - J. D. Sayer

In the Speed Classes for 4 Yr. Old Mares.
First prize - Lady Howard by Hambletonian. - J. W. Hoyt Time, 3.02
Second prize - Alida by Hambletonian. - M. F. Ten Eyck Time 3.03

Best 5 Yr. Olds.
First prize - Lady Banker by Hambletonian. R. Galloway Time, 2.51
Second prize - Frank Dickerson by Hambletonian. Geo. Payne Time 2.53 1/2
Third prize - Jenny Hawkins by American Star. J. J. McNally Time 2.54

Best 3 Yr. Old Stallion.
First prize - Guy Miller by Hainbletonian. it F. Galloway Time, 3.00
Second prize - Young Abdallah. Geo Payne Time 3.24
Third prize - Index, Seely C. Roe Time 3.26

Best 4 Yr. Old Stallion.
First prize - Hambletonian 2nd (Volunteer) by Hambletonian. Joseph Hetzel. Time, 2.57
Second prize - Abdallah by Hambletonian. - Wm. M. Rysdyk Time 3.04 1/2.
Third prize - Tom Thumb (Wild Warrior). - Robt. Carr Time 3.10

Best 5 Yr. Old Stallion.
First prize - Harry Clay by Cassius M. Clay. - J. P. Sayer Time 2.56
Second prize - C. M. Clay. - C. J. Brown Time 3.14

Stallions Free for All
First prize - Amegentan Hambletonian - Seely Time, 2.50
Second prize - Harry Clay by Cassius M. Clay. - J. P. Sayer Time 2.53
Third prize - Edsall's Hambletonian (Alexander's Abdallah) by Hambletonian. - J. S. Edsall Time 2.54

Mares Free for All.
First prize - Mary Hoyt by American Star. - W. Hoyt Time, 2.36 1/2
Second prize - Goshe2.4oid by American Star. - Edmund Swadsy Time 2.44 1/2
Third prize - Lyd by Bolivar. Amos Ryerson Time 2.52

The above summaries show that in every speed class for colts, the get of Hambletonian were the winners and one of the very first of that horse's get, Edsall's Hambletonian (Alexander's Abdallah) in stallion class for show, was awarded first prize.

It is of interest to note that in the class for mares of all ages, Mary Hoyt's record of 2.36 1/2 was the first record performance better than 2.40 on the Goshen track and she was in the hands of the best horseman of his time, J. W. Hoyt. This performance shows the real value of the colt records, they having no track education and no modern appliances such as boots, etc.

Mr. Joseph Hetzel, a farmer near Florida, related to the writer years later, that he had no idea of competing in the speed class with his colt Hambletonian 2nd (Volunteer), and so informed inquirers at Goshen, yet when it was confided to him that it had been said "he dare not," "his Dutch was aroused," Hetzel barrowed a skeleton wagon and harness and at his request the judges permitted him to start behind the other entries. Mr. Hetzel made no attempt for the lead until passing the stand the second time when he gave his colt his head, soon obtaining a commanding lead and finishing more than seven seconds ahead of his nearest competitor. Such an ovation as this church deacon and his colt received from an enthusiastic and admiring assemblage is seldom witnessed.

Mr. Hetzel sold his colt soon after to Sheriff Underhill, of Brooklyn, for $2,500. The writer sold his colt, the afternoon of his winning performance at a handome price. Lady Howard passed to Governor Amsa Sprague, of Rhode Island. In fact, everyone of these colts by Hambletonian was soon sold at good prices, yet none were from trotting bred mares and but one (Alexander's Adallah) from a fast trotting mare.

It is particularly interesting to note the summary of the trotting stallions, as American Star and Harry Clay produced the dams of the record breakers of later years.

As illustrative of Hambletonian's great worth (earning capacity), the writer will mention an over night visit at Mr. Rysdyk's home as early as 1865, the latter part of June. The next morning Mr. Rysdyk drove home behind Lady McClellan to a farm that he had recently purchased for the overflow of stock from his home farm. The new purchase was made from an up to date painstaking man, and good buildings and fencings, also fertile fields were in evidence; brood mares and foals and young stock were distributed about in the pastures. Mr. Rysdyk's son, William, had already commenced the hay making of the season's crop.

Starting on the drive homeward Mr. Rysdyk inquired, "How do you like the Seely farm, my new purchase?" The writer could only reply in laudatory terms. "Well," said Mr. Rysdyk, "That farm cost me nearly twenty two thousand dollars and Hambletonian earned the purchase price in three months." The record on file in the county clerk's office in Goshen, gives the seller as Charles B. Seely to Wm. M. Rysdyk. The deed calls for 218 98/100 acres, consideration $21,048, dated April 1, 1865. No world's records had been won by the get of Hambletonian at this time.

George Wilkes, under the name of Robert Fillingham, started in his first race on Long Island, August 1, 1861. He made a record of 2.22 at Providence in a race that he won October 18, 1868, making him the champion trotting stallion of the world. Jay Gould reduced this world's champion stallion record at Buffalo August 7, 1872, to 2.21 1/2 Dexter began trotting May 4, 1864 and at Buffalo, N. Y., on August 14, 1867, became the world's champion by trotting to a record of. 2.17 1/4. George Wilkes, Jay Gould and Dexter were sons of Hambletonian, the last two from daughters of American Star.

Added to the marvelous performances of Hambletonian's immediate progeny, those of his sons began to come forward. The daughter of Edsall's Hambletonian (Alexander's Abdallab) Goldsmith Maid, began trotting September 7, 1865, at Goshen, N. Y., and at Mystic Park, Boston, September 2, 1874, reduced the world's record to 2.14.

St. Julian by Volunteer made a world's record of 2.11 1/4 at Hartford, Conn.

These performers attracted great attention and made a demand for the products of the breeding farms at remunerative prices, stock being purchased and taken to almost every section of the United States.

Therow Felter was keeping a summer resort at Greenwood Lake and bred a brown mare to Hambletonian April 22, 1855, the product being George Wilkes, who after his career on the turf, was placed in the stud in Kentucky.

Charles Backman established a breeding farm at Stony Ford about 1855. At this time the blood of American Star and Cassius M. Clay, Jr., particularly that of his son, Harry Clay, was very popular and Mr. Backman stocked his farm with many mares by these great sires. He sold to the Hon. Chas. Stanford, of California, Electioneer, a son of Hambletonian, whose dam was Green Mountain Maid. by Harry Clay; also a small band of brood mares. George Wilkes and Electioneer became great sires and in considering the relative merits of the two families, it is a debatable question which should be placed first. Mr. Backman's farm, Stony Ford, in the matter of brood acres and splendid equipment was unrivaled. The farm turned out race winning and record breaking youngsters, splendid roadsters, horses celebrated as sires, also brood mares of a high order. Many of the first men of the country, including General U. S. Grant, enjoyed Mr. Backman's hospitality. Stony Ford Stock Farm passed to the ownership of Mr. J. Howard Ford, who, with Austral (winner of the blue ribbon in Madison Square Garden), a progenitor of beauty and extreme speed at the head of a band of choice brood mares, is breeding colts of rare quality.

Samuel Hill, in this locality, followed by his son, Ed. Hill, bred horses in fashionable lines of blood. Jonas Hawkins began breeding to Hambletonian when he bred the McKinstry mare May 16, 1853, producing Shark, record 2.30 1/2, to saddle 2.27 3/4 a winner at one, two and three miles on Long Island tracks. The McKinstry mare produced by American Star, Clara, and on May 8, 1857, Mr. Hawkins bred Clara to Hambletonian, producing the renowned Dexter, record 2.17 1/4. The breeding was continued by Mr. Hawkins's son, Jonathan, who bred Dictator, a wonderful sire and several sisters, also Kearsarge by Volunteer. This family is truly great judged by the recognized test of greatness, extreme speed and race winning qualities.

Alden Goldsmith's Walnut Grove Farm near Washingtonville, became famous as the home of Volunteer, a horse that attained great prominence in the stud. Mr. Goldsmith, with his sons, James and John, showed rare judgment and skill in the selection and development of great turf performers and as professional drivers the sons were at the very top. During the many years that Alden Goldsmith campaigned a stable of trotters on the Grand Circuit, his horses were the grandest in existence and his success was brilliant. In this vicinity were the Brooks, the Moffatts, the Hulses, the Hallocks, the Thompsons, who bred fine horses and profited thereby.

The Mills family of Bullville had been patrons of American Star and when the superiority of the Hambletonian American Star cross was made evident by the performances of Dexter, they were enabled to breed in this fashionable line. Harrison Mills, from Hambletonian and his American Star mare, Emma Mills, produced Independent and Sweepstakes. The former a fine animal that sired speed. The latter a beautifully shaded bay, individually most perfect in action, really a grand horse. Sweepstakes, considering his opportunities was an excellent sire. James M. Mills bred Chosroes, Imperial and Fisk's Hambletonian, all by Hambletonian, the latter from Lady Irwin by American Star. Fisk's Hambletonian became quite noted as a sire in Michigan.

At Middletown, John E. Wood bred many fine horses, the most prominent being Knickerbocker, son of Hambletonian, and Lady Patchen by George M. Patchen. J. D. Willis, with Harry Clay, 2.29, at the height of his stud career, other fine stallions, and a band of choice brood mares, bred, developed and trained youngsters evidently with pleasure and satisfaction.

At Florida, Jefferson Post bred Middletown by Hambletonian from a mare whose sire, Vivian Grey, was a grandson of the great American Eclipse. Nearby, Joseph Hetzel bred the great Volunteer and his two full brothers. Nathaniel Roe, also of Florida, bred Florida, son of Hambletonian and a daughter of Volunteer, a most excellent sire. Mr. Roe purchased in Kentucky colts, at least three, by famous sons of George Wilkes, and kept them for service at his farm. William Roe, a son, inherited his father's estate and is following the paternal footsteps in horse breeding.

About Warwick were the Wellings, the Sanfords, the Wismers, and just over the county line in New Jersey were the DeKays and Givens. All breeders of fine horses. At Belivale was W. H. Wismer, breeder of Woful.

The Sayer familes at Westtown, bred fine horses, Decater Sayer's farm being the center of attraction when that grand individual and phenomenally gaited horse Harry Clay was broken to harness at four years of age and was owned and kept for public service till sold, to Harry Dater and removed to Long Island, May 8, 1862.

At Monroe works, Mr. Peter Townsend, who with his brothers owned the vast Sterling tract with its two blast furnaces (where the great chain that spanned the Hudson River, during the war of the Revolution, was made at his grandfather's Sterling Iron Works), had near his house a farm, "The Old Fields," which was mainly used to breed horses for the pleasure and use of his family. He first had a daughter of American Eclipse, a daughter of Young Engineer (sire of the dam of Gideon). From the latter he bred a pair by Abdaliah, also a pair by Hambletonian. Mr, Townsend purchased of Lieutenant General Manry (while Professor of Tactics at West Point), Saline, a thoroughbred mare brought from the latter's home in Virginia, that, bred to Hambletonian, produced Jas. H. Coleman, quite a trotter for his day; and Lord Sterling, that had the thoroughbred finish yet beautiful trotting action; also Young Selene by Guy Miller, that by Iron Duke produced Monroe, 2.27 1/2. A sister, Miss Monroe, was the dam of Fergus McGregor. Young Selene produced by Volunteer, St. Patrick, 2.14 1/2.

In the early morning shadows of Skenemonk Mountains is "Glen Lea," the charming home of Mr. William Crawford. Here may be found Alto McKinney, by that great sire of race horses of extreme speed, McKinney, 2.11 1/4 dam Cresida, 2.18 3/4 at three years, by Palo Alto, 2.08 3/4 champion trotting stallion of 1901.

At Turner, Thos. Lewis bred Dandy, a daughter of Young Engineer, to Hambletonian, producing Gideon, that sired the dam of the great performer Nelson, also from Dandy and Iron Duke, Silver Duke, 2.28 3/4.

The late Mr. Pierre Lorillard (the only American who has attained the distinction of winning the classic event of the world, the English Derby, with a horse of his own breeding), was a patron of Hambletonian - the youngsters being raised on one of his Tuxedo farms. R. F. Galloway near Turner was a breeder to Abdallah and Hambletonian. Guy Wilkes cost him $500 at three years, at seven years he dealt this horse to E. W. Teakle, receiving the famous Princess, 2.30 and $3,500. Princess had been bred to Hambletonian and the next spring (1863), gave birth to Happy Medium, 2.32 1/2, that in February of 1871, was sold to Robert Steel of Philadelphia, Pa., for $25,000.

Near Newburgh, Mr. Jas. Hasbrook bred horses, and on his half mile track, Judge Fullerton, Mountain Boy, Music and others received their harness education and acquired great speed. Mr. Aymar Van Buren, always a horse lover, procured from Wm. M. Rysdyk, Molly, daughter of Long Island Black Hawk and Betsy by Imp. Bellfounder, from Hambletonian and Molly, Mr. Van Buren bred Effie Deans, 2.25 1/2 and Lottie, 2.28, placing Molly in the great brood mare list. This was in the seventies and Mr. Van Buren is still breeding and finding pleasure with his horses. Mr. J. A. P. Ramsdell is breeding The Arab, that retains the beautiful type, great courage and endurance of his desert ancestry.

At Goshen in the early days of trotting horses were J. S. Edsall, owner of the famous Alexander's Abdallah, also breeder of Fleetwing (dam of Stamboul, 2.07 1/2). John Minchen, later owned a stock farm at Stony Ford with Young Woeful and Tom Mare for stud service. This John Minchen farm was later purchased by General Benjamin F. Tracy and called Marshland stud. It was stocked with trotters impotent blood: Advertiser, 2.15, sire of the world's fastest yearling trotter, Adbell, 2.23 and others; Lord of the Manor, by Mambrino King "handsomest horse in the world," and Kiosk, a son of Kremlin, champion trotting stallion of 1892. The brood mares were choice and it was a great loss to Orange County when General Tracy discontinued breeding at this farm.

Mr. Geo. S. Wisner bred Samson and other most excellent horses at his farm. Edmund Seely owned American Star, a horse that by his unique, open, stride, great courage, quality of endurance that served him through great hardship to the end of his days, without blemish, made the breeding on qualities of his progeny a wonderful contribution to our American trotters.

Parkway Farm, made one of the real beauty spots of Goshen by the late owner, Senator McCarty, takes the highest rank as a breeding establishment, with the great Joe Patchen (the iron horse), sire of the wonderful horse, Dan Patch and other performers. The form of Joe Patchen is such that his services are sought from every section in this country.

When Mr. E. H. Harriman paid $41,000 for Stamboul to place at the head of his Arden Farms Breeding establishment at Goshen, he became the owner of a champion, whether on the turf or in the show ring. When Elsie S. by Stamboul (bred by Mr. Harriman) defeated Mr. Marcus Daly's Limerick in the $5,000 match race at Goshen, 1898, the joy of Orange County breeders was complete.

Mr. Harriman's patronage has had a wonderful influence in uplifting and popularizing the sport of competition of the light harness horse in Orange County.

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