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Hot off the Press

Historical Horse News Stories from the Past

A Horned Horse

Schenectady, New York

July 1, 1887

Among the horses that drew the canal boat W. H. Seward, of Chittenango, as it came into Schenectady today was one had between his left ear and eye a horn about three inches long, ringed, ribbed and resembling the horn of Durham cattle. The horse uses the horn handily in scratching its legs.


Horse Travels 55,896 miles

Veteran Mail Carrier of Virginia has driven Animal more than twice Distance around the Earth in Twenty Years; Postmaster-General to be Told of Record

Washington D.C.

August 17, 1927

It falls to the lot of few men to drive one horse more than twice the distance around the earth. It falls to the lot of few horses to go so far.

Leroy J. Caldwell, veteran rural mail carrier of Craig county, Virginia is proud of the horse, now 20 years of age. It has gone nearly 56,000 miles through many years over his routes and still is giving faithful service between Newcastle and Abbott.

In the years which piled up the remarkable mileage, the horse has learned thoroughly his part of the job for Uncle Sam. He knows every mail box between Newcastle and Abbott, and stops at each without reminder from Caldwell. He also has learned the rules of the road with the increase of automobiles. Whenever he hears a motor car approaching; he draws over to the right side without urging to let it pass.

When Caldwell learned that the record of his horse was to be shown to Postmaster General New, he went before a notary public and took oath that the animal on that day, had amassed a travelling score of 55, 896 miles.


More than a Thousand Horses die in Stable Fire

Nearly 1500 Animals Perish – Frightful Scenes of Suffering

New York, New York

May 27, 1887

The greatest fire that has taken place in this city for many years broke out at 1.30 o’clock this morning in the stables of the Belt Line Horse Railroad.  The stables, with all their contents, were completely destroyed.  More than 1400 horses perished in the flames.  130 cars, with a large quantity of harness, feed and other material were burned up.  Only forty horses were saved out of the nearly 1500 in the stables. 

The stables occupied the whole front of the west side of Tenth Avenue and extended down Fifty-Third and Fifty-Fourth Avenues, half way to Eleventh Avenue.  The building was three storeys high. 

The fire was discovered in the cellar in the extreme western end of the stables and spread so rapidly that it was impossible to enter the building to save the horses.  When the firemen arrived the whole building was in flames, and the heat was so intense that the firemen could not approach close enough to be of any service to save the premises from destruction. 

When the fire broke out, the entire stock of horses owned by the Railroad company, nearly 1500 in all, were in their stalls on the second and third floors of the building.  The employees of the company made desperate efforts to release them so that they might be driven into the street, but the rapid spread of the flames prevented this.  The watchmen ran up the runway, and in the first few minutes they released and drove into the street almost fifty of the frightened animals and then they were compelled to abandon the horses to their fate and fly for their lives. 

The flames leapt from floor to ceiling and wall to wall, and within six minutes had obtained a start that nothing could check.  The fire ate its way through every opening, simultaneously bursting out the windows.  A brisk wind was blowing and what impetus the flames lacked they got from the outside element.

The helpless horses made their horrible situation known by agonising cries.  There was a panic among the animals before the fire reached them and they stamped and kicked and tugged at their halters vigorously.  Now and then one of the unfortunates would get loose and gallop blindly over the stable floor until overcome by the dense smoke.  Long before the flames enveloped the great building the last animal succumbed. 


Horse Rescued by Equine Pal

Burlington, Vermont

November 10, 1927

An old black horse and a young grey horse were caught in the flood when the Winooski river flooded over a blooded stock farm. Both started to swim. Watchers on higher ground saw them struggling to reach shore.

The old horse began to falter, slowed up and finally started to sink, the watchers related. The young horse, swimming beside him, paused as if uncertain was to do. Suddenly the black head reappeared above the rest of the flood and the old animal set his teeth in the young grey’s mane.

With a mighty tug the young horse started again for the bank, towing his exhausted companion. At last he reached shallow water and human friends drew both animals ashore.


A Homesick Horse’s Journey

The Manchester Mirror tells the following story of a homesick horse that ran away from his new master and made the journey alone to his old home, a distance, we believe, of about 30 miles

Manchester, New Hampshire

June 22, 1878

Eighteen months ago a bay horse was purchased in this city by Mr. Nathaniel Wiggin, of Greenland, and driven down to his farm. The horse was well fed and well treated, and he waxed fat and seemed happy as it is given for the most fortunate horse to be. One night recently he escaped from his pasture, and was nowhere to be found when he was wanted next day.

Harnessing another horse, Mr. Wiggin set forth to capture the deserter, and traced him from place to place until he reached Newmarket Bridge. Here he was informed by the toll gatherer that the horse had been there, and evidently wanted to pass through, but was driven back and the gate closed; but even then he would not go away, and the first time after his arrival that a team went through he made a dash, squeezed through alongside of the other horse, and clattered away up the road, snorting triumphantly as he went.

Mr. Wiggin, having no longer any doubt as to where the runaway had gone, drove on to Manchester as directly as he could go, hearing about the horse occasionally all the way, and on arriving at Manchester, there he was, sure enough, in his old stable which he had left 18 months before.


Paul Revere’s Borrowed Horse

Boston, Massachusetts

September 23, 1927

“Paul Revere has been given a good deal of praise for his midnight ride, but how about the horse that carried him? Isn’t it about time that faithful animal received some credit”?

So spake recently an 8-year-old boy to Boston’s Old South Meeting House collection of historic curios, as reported by the custodian there. James O. Fagan, who in connection with the incident exhibits an entry in the visitor’s register made by the same boy, on suggestion of his grandfather, who accompanied him.

The boy’s entry reads: “Bainbridge Larkin, Georgetown, Mass, one of my great-grandfather’s supplied Paul Revere with a horse the night of his ride.”

Deacon Larkin, the great-grandfather referred to by the boy, was at least four times removed in that relationship. It is not so very widely known that the deacon, who lived in City Square, Charleston, in 1775, loaned one of his best horses in his barn to Revere for the gallop to Lexington, where Revere disembarked from his row-boat at the Charleston shore the night of April 18.

The fact that the British, when they captured Revere that night after he had left Lexington, appropriated his borrowed horses, and the Deacon Larkin never saw it again, leaves that animal’s subsequent fate a matter for sympathetic speculation.

The boy, who owed his thought of Revere and the horse to contemplation of a photograph of the Old North Church and a manuscript roster in Revere’s own hand of a local artillery company of which he was a Lieutenant-Colonel, commanding in the Revolution, is quoted further by Custodian Fagan as having said, “What could Revere have done that night without my great-grandfather’s horse?  As it was, all he had to do was hold his seat and keep the animal’s head turned in the direction of Lexington.  The horse did the rest.  But neither Longfellow nor anyone else has ever given us any particulars about the faithful animal.  We don’t know whether he was black, white, brown, grey or sorrel or anything else about him.”


Showing off his Stamina

General Miles making 90-mile horseback ride.

Tries to do it in eight hours with relays.

Washington, DC.

July 14 1903

Great interest is taken here in a 90-mile ride which General Miles is making today from Fort Sill to Fort Reno.  It was not known when the General left that he contemplated any such feat, but it is recalled today by his clerks that before leaving he made enquiries as to distances from point to point in Oklahoma, and took with him maps of the country surrounding Fort Sill.  The statement that he is making this 90-mile ride in eight hours with nine relays of horses, to show that he should not be retired, is absurd, owing to the fact that his retirement at the age of 64 next month is compulsory by law.  General Miles probably desires to set at rest certain gossip as to his physical condition by making this ride, a task which would prove severe for any man in the prime of life, no matter what his previous training. 


General Miles made it in Triumph

Kansas City, Missouri.

July 14 1903

General Nelson Miles, as black with dust and grime as the plains over which he had come, but as fresh as the 34-year-old officer who had been his companion, entered Fort Reno at 2.10 o’clock this afternoon, completing the longest horseback ride ever made by a commanding general of the army.  It is 90 miles from Fort Sill to Fort Reno, and General Miles made it exactly, according to schedule, in eight hours’ actual riding time – 10 hours 20 minutes from start to finish.

Just for good measure, the General called for a horse an hour after his arrival at the fort, and rode four miles to El Reno to take the train for the North.  The day was remarkably hot – above 90 degrees before 8 o’clock this morning, and nearly 100 degrees before the ride was completed, but General Miles did not seem to mind it.  A relay of horses had been arranged for him at 10-mile intervals.  The only horseman who stayed with him throughout the journey was Captain Sayers of the Eighth Cavalry.

The first thirty-five miles of General Miles’s long ride was made in record time, the distance being covered in 2 hours, 25 minutes.


A Horse Ghost

How Rose appeared last night on New High Street.

Los Angeles, California

February 8 1882.

Last night the ghost on New High Street was to be investigated, and a Times reporter was on hand.  Quite a number of persons were there, anxious to get a glimpse of the spirit.  As soon as everybody was arranged, the lights were put out and all commanded by the Master of Ceremonies to keep quiet.  This seemed to be an easy matter, as every person in the room was frightened almost to death, to use a school-girl’s expression.  In a few minutes a clatter like the rush of 40 or 50 horses was heard on the roof of the house.  This lasted for a second or two when the sound was dropped to the floor and ghost and mustang were in plain view.

This was too much for most of the company and they ran out of the house.  But a few of the brave ones remained in the room and tried to get the ghost of poor Rose to talk, but he only turned his pockets inside out and looked sad.  He finally dismounted and the horse disappeared.  The ghost then fell to his regular business of blowing cold air.  As soon as every person in the room was paralysed he vanished, yelling like an Indian. 

The ghost has created a good deal of excitement in town and a number of persons have visited the house in the daytime.  Mrs. Rose stated to the reporter that she would not live in the house for all the money in the country.  This is the first time his ghost-ship has made any noise.  What he will do is to be seen.


Reporters routed

The Times Staff start out to see the ghost and see him.

Los Angeles, California

February 10 1882.

The Rose Ghost has evidently got a spite against The Times reportorial staff.  Last night two of the force started out for New High Street about 12 o’clock with the full determination of sifting the matter and getting at the true inwardness of the business.  The moon was just about, or ought to have been, ready to peep over the eastern hills, a beautiful rain-cloud hung over the western hills, and everything was as quiet as the tomb.  This is American poetry for saying it was a good time for dissatisfied spirits to walk. 

But to return, the two reporters felt bold and turned the corner of Temple Street with a swagger that would have put a Comanche Indian to shame:  but alas! The bravery didn’t last, for before they reached the house flapping of wings and the tramp of a mustang was heard near at hand. 

The news-gatherers stepped to one side to let the horseman pass, the horse, or whatever it was, did not pass, but took a circle around them, made an unearthly noise – something between the groan of a dying man and the chirping of a night-hawk. 

This was too much for the reporters, and they started on a run for the office, and never stopped until they were fortified by a big dictionary and in the awful presence of their chief.  If the editor-in-chief wants the ghost interviewed tonight, he will have to send the Devil or go himself.


Man Eating Stallion

Middleton, New York

May 4, 1878

The Hambletonian stallion Risingham, owned by Dr. James A. Schultz, of this place, was shot and killed last night, he being considered unsafe to keep. Dr. Schultz says the horse was insane beyond a doubt. He was 21 years old, and for 19 years had been a confirmed man eater. More than 20 keepers have been crippled by him, and he has killed three persons outright. No professional horse trainer could subdue him, and all the systems of horse-training and breaking have been tried in vain. He was a thoroughbred Hambletonian, his sire and mare being of fine blood. He had been in harness but once in 14 years, and that was recently when Dr. Schultz had him hitched up, it requiring several men to do it. The doctor then attempted to drive Risingham, but the animal became so furious and unmanageable that he was allowed to go at once to his stall, where he has remained ever since. The sum of $7,000 was once offered for him, and refused by his owner, in hope that he might be cured. The last feat Risingham performed was to bite the right cheek of a Negro keeper entirely off, the unfortunate groom’s three immediate predecessors having lost respectively an ear, three fingers, and a thumb, and the muscles of the right forearm.

Five shots were fired into the forehead of Risingham as he stood in his stall. They seemed to have had no effect upon him, except to increase his attempts to get at the bystanders, and to add to the ferocity of his kicking and jumping. By strategy Dr. Schultz managed to sever his jugular vein, and he bled to death, dying as he lived, exhibiting all the fierceness of a most vicious nature. His last effort was an attempt to seize his owner’s arm in his teeth. Dr. Schultz intends to dissect the remains of the stallion and have the skeleton articulated and set up in his office.

[Note:  see also the story of The Man-Eater of Lucknow.]


Horse Stealing as an Art

An English Gypsy’s Operation in America – The Thorough Organization of a Gang which was directed by a Mastermind

Binghamton, New York

November 15, 1883

Fifteen years ago, the southern tier counties of this state, the counties of North-Eastern and Eastern Pennsylvania, and the border counties of New Jersey and New York, seemed to be especially selected for the operations of horse-thieves. Stables and pastures were emptied of valuable stock and some portion of the territory named almost every night, and although horse-thief detective societies were organised in different places, it was a rare occurrence for any of the thieves to be apprehended.

It was evident that the robberies were committed by a gang operating in a systemised manner, but no clue could be obtained that would lead to a knowledge of its organisation or members.  In 1870, however, information was obtained in an unexpected manner that resulted in breaking up the gang and putting an end to systematic robbery of this kind.  The man who gave the information was rewarded with a sentence of seven years in state prison.  He died last Saturday, aged 50 years, in a small village in Pennsylvania, a few miles from this city, where he had lived since 1879, supporting himself and family by working at the trade he learned while in confinement, a reputable and respected citizen. 

In 1870 a number of horses had been stolen in a neighbouring Pennsylvania county, and officers succeeded in getting on the track of the thief.  He was followed into the central part of the state, and overtaken while in possession of four of the missing horses.  He was riding one and leading the others.  He was arrested and brought back to the county and lodged in gaol.  He broke out the same night, and was captured just before he would have escaped over the New York state line. 

When he was called for trial, he pleaded guilty, saying at the same time that he was tired of leading the life of a horse-thief, and asked the court whether a statement he could make as to the methods of the gang to which he belonged would have any weight in mitigating his punishment.  Being assured that it would, he gave a history of the gang, told how its operations were conducted, and related incidents connected with the work of some of its members.  The court had intended to sentence the prisoner to ten years’ imprisonment for horse-stealing and to three years for jail-breaking, but after receiving the plea of guilty and the exposé of the gang, sentenced the prisoner to seven years in the penitentiary.

He served his time and returned to the county a reformed man with a handsome sum of money which he had earned by working overtime in prison.  He went to work for a farmer and a year afterward married a respectable girl and removed to the village mentioned, where he joined the Baptist church, in which at the time of his death, he was a Deacon.  The story he told to the court was substantially as follows.

The gang was organised in 1866 by a full-blooded English gypsy named William Temple who fled to this country from England in 1865 to escape the penalty of crimes he had committed there.  Temple was born in a tent in 1810, while the tribe to which his mother belonged were encamped on the grounds owned by a man named Temple, hence his name.  When he was 18 years old he attempted to murder a gypsy girl, for which crime he was sentenced to transportation for life to Van Dieman’s Land.  After serving a few years of his sentence, he escaped as a stowaway in a vessel, and returned to England, where he at once entered upon a career of crime, horse-stealing and burglary being his favourite pursuits.

After coming to America he met others of his kind wandering about the country, and in 1866 he had selected 25 of them and organised his gang of horse-thieves. 

These picked men were the regular workers, but Temple appointed agents in almost every county of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, eastern Ohio, and southern New York. 

The gang was divided up into what were known as “prospectors,” “actual workers,” “runners” and “doers,” and so perfect was the system that up to the arrest of the narrator but one other arrest in the gang had come to his knowledge.

The “prospector” was a man who was capable of putting on and assuming different disguises, such as a stock-buyer, horse-trainer or doctor.  His duty was to find out where the most valuable stock could be obtained, how it could be approached safely, and what the chances were for getting away with it without detection.

After this information was conveyed to headquarters, the “actual workers” were sent out to get the horse out of the barn or pasture, whichever it might be.  The men selected for this were young, active members of the gang and were necessarily expert horsemen, bold and fearless of consequences.

The “runners” were men who were assigned to the duty of relieving the “workers” of the horses after they were secured, and “running” them to some one of the stock farms belonging to the gang.  They had farms in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Ohio.

The narrator was a runner and, when captured with the four horses, was on his way to one of the Pennsylvania farms, and was within a few miles of it when arrested.  It was owing to the breaking of a rule of the chief that he was apprehended.  That rule was that no runner should have more than one horse in charge, and that no two horses should be taken to a farm by the same route.  The runners who should have supported him did not reach the rendezvous for some reason, and he was handicapped by the four horses.

The “doers” were the artists of the gang.  It was their duty to alter the appearance of all horses that were “run” to the farm.  This was done by clipping, branding, singeing, dyeing etc.  So skilful were these men in changing the appearances of a horse that stolen horses had more than once been sold in the same neighbourhood where they had been stolen. 

It was a rule of the gang that no wagons or harness should be stolen from farmers or in farming neighbourhoods.  The men who operated in cities and the larger towns were known as “gig workers” and “livery racket” men.  The former were assigned to watch the turn-outs of leading physicians who drove alone and when they had tied their horses at the houses of patients in favourable localities, to quickly untie them and drive rapidly away.  Although their branch of the business was apparently the most risky of any, the narrator had never known an arrest of any of the “gig workers” to be effected.  The most accomplished member of the gang in this branch was “Doctor” Poles.

The men who worked the “livery racket” were spruce young fellows who could carry fine clothes to advantage and assume the air and manners of dashing salesmen.  They put up at the best hotels in the larger towns, had plenty of apparently valuable baggage and spent money liberally.  They always had much business in the outlying country and patronised the livery stables well, returning the rigs and paying promptly.  Finally, they would hire the best team and carriage in a stable for a “pleasure drive”.  This one they never returned, for before the “nice young fellows were suspected, they were a long way towards one of the farms which they seldom failed in reaching before they could be traced.”

The narrator gave the location of two of the farms in Pennsylvania, but the fact that he had not appeared at the farm with the four horses when he was due was evidence enough to the managers of the gang that he had been captured, and the “farms” were put in such shape, to guard against any possible emergency, that when officers paid a visit to them, nothing of a suspicious character could be discovered, and they were subsequently sold. 

The information given as above gave the authorities substantial material with which to work, and they used it so well that some of the leading members of the gang were arrested within the next four years, and Temple himself was forced to seek a hiding place in New York City, where he spent all of the money he had made to secure immunity.  He died in 1870, and the last money he possessed was used in sending his body to England.  He was 60 years old.

Among the members of the gang arrested was the champion “gig worker,” Doctor Poles.  He stole a valuable turn-out belonging to Doctor Pennypacker, who lived in Philadelphia, while it was standing in front of his own residence.  The horse was recognised by the doctor’s son as it was being driven by the thief down Eleventh Street, and the boy ran after it, crying, “Stop, thief!”  A policeman stopped the horse and arrested the thief and he was sentenced to a term in the penitentiary.

After the death of Temple, the gang became scattered and since then the operations of horse-thieves in this region have been confined to the exploits of individuals, and it is believed that the last member of the Temple gang is now doing time in Sing Sing prison.

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