An article from the July 23, 1873 Washington (PA) Reporter recently caught my attention, as it is particularly demonstrative of the once-love of true staying contests Americans appreciated both in flat racing and in harness:
On Wednesday and Thursday, the 14th and 15th of June, the Driving Park at St. Paul, Minnesota, was the scene of an extraordinary trot, Mr. Martin Delaney matching his sorrel mare (a small, full blooded Morgan) to trot two hundred miles in forty-eight hours, for the small take of two hundred dollars. The St. Paul Press says of the first day: The trot was commenced yesterday at twenty minutes past four o’clock a.m., Mr. J. Cummings holding the ribbons. The mare started out at the rate of more than ten miles an hour, for the first two hours, and was gradually slowed to about an average of about ten miles an hour. At five minutes past ten she had completed the fifty miles, making it in some five hours and forty-five minutes. She was then given a rest of three hours and a half, and was started at a little past one on the second fifty miles. At half past seven she had completed it, having made the first hundred miles in fifteen hours, which leaves thirty-three hours for the completion of the other hundred. She made the last mile of her first hundred yesterday, the fastest of any—five and one-half minutes. Those who witnessed the feat say that the mare showed no sign of fatigue, never sweated a hair, and trotted off to the stable to feed at the end of her day’s labor as briskly as though she had just come from the barn.
|Detail of St. Paul MN Driving Park location, Rice's Map of St. Paul, 1874|
Just as a point of reference, the record for trotting 100 miles in harness (8 hours, 55 minutes, 53 seconds) was set by a bay gelding named Conqueror, on November 12, 1853, at Centerville, Long Island. Inbred to the imported Bellfounder (damsire of the great Hambletonian), Conqueror was by Latourette’s Bellfounder (by imp. Bellfounder’s son Tremper’s Bellfounder) and the imp. Bellfounder’s daughter Lady McClaire.
The article continues:
Wednesday the first one hundred miles was completed, and at half-past seven o’clock the mare was driven to the stable apparently in as good condition as if she had only traveled one quarter of the distance. [On Thursday] morning, when taken out of the barn at five o’clock to complete the trot, she seemed a little sore at first, but soon warmed up and commenced her day’s work with wonderful ease. At ten o’clock she had completed thirty-one miles and was withdrawn until four minutes past twelve p.m. After this rest, in which she manifested no sign of weariness, she made her next seven miles in one hour and two minutes. No pains were taken to keep an account of her rate of speed, but in general terms it averaged during the day about six minutes and five and one-half seconds per mile for the first fifty miles, and seven minutes and two and one-half seconds for the second fifty miles. After the rest given the mare—from seven until nine o’clock in the evening—all parties on the ground saw that she would make her 200 miles easily. She pursued her even gait, and a few minutes past one o’clock this morning completed the race, making her last mile in nine minutes and thirty-one seconds. Thus she won the wager, and in three hours less than the time given her. She trotted off the track seemingly unconscious of the marvel she had performed.
Bred in Vermont and brought to St. Paul via Chicago in 1873, this unnamed 15.2 hand Morgan mare was simply known as the “Two Hundred Mile Mare.” It was later said, “For endurance and determination she was a most remarkable animal, capable of taking two men in a buggy fifty miles in five hours, which feat she performed more than once.” Being so highly regarded, she was bred to a grandson of Hambletonian, Andrews Burnham (Milwaukee), and in 1875 produced The Pigeon, a brown filly that a writer to Wallace’s Monthly described as “a filly that has developed into an animal of such rare excellence, that the breeding of the dam has become an object of much interest.”
One point of interest in my own research deals with breeders and owners in western Pennsylvania—their socio-economic positions, their religion affiliations, what led them into horse ownership as well as how that ownership profited them, not necessarily financially, but socially and in their other business (or political) dealings. In other words, did the prestige of possessing a good horse aid them in getting ahead? While I haven’t researched in any further detail Martin Delaney, I did find it interesting that in 1875—two years after his mare’s legendary accomplishment—he founded the Union Stock Yards in St. Paul, to aid in transporting the meat from his butchering business. The owner of her daughter The Pigeon, steamboat captain Barton Atkins left sailing the lakes and became a railroad executive, eventually appointed by President Grover Cleveland as the United States marshal for Alaska, a position he held from 1885 to 1889.
- “Trotting Two-hundred Miles in Forty-Five Hours” Washington Reporter, July 23, 1873.
- Edward Madden, The Trotters of Hamburg Place, Lexington, KY (Cleveland: Judson Printing Company, 1911) pp. 95-97.
- J. Fletcher Williams, History of Ramsey County and the City of St. Paul (Minneapolis: North Star Publishing Company, 1881) pp. 255-256.
- Wallace’s Monthly, vol. VII, no. 3 (April 1881) p. 212.
- John Brandt Mansfield, ed. History of the Great Lakes vol. II (Chicago: J. H. Beers & Company, 1899) pp. 809-812.