Reminiscences Of Rysdyk’s Hambletonian, Orange County, New York

Some few years ago a local newspaper published an interesting account of the history of Rysdyk’s Hambletonian, Roe’s Abdallah Chief and old Abdallah, the famous sire of these notable horses. The late H. Wisner Wood, of Chester, who was one of the last of that school of famous breeders and lovers of the trotting horse, related to a party of gentlemen the following reminiscences of the way history in the trotting world began to be made in and about Chester:

“I was present,” said Mr. Wood, “when the colt that became the most celebrated sire of American trotters was foaled on Jonas Seely’s farm at Sugar Loaf, three miles from Chester, and which was later known as Rysdyk’s ,Hambletonian. All previous histories of Hambletonian make the incorrect statement that Jonas Seely took pity on a mare that he happened to see in New York, and which had been, and was being abused by her owner, a butcher, by the name of Charles Kent, whereupon he bought the mare and took her to his farm at Sugar Loaf, where he used her for breeding purposes. That statement is all right, so far as Jonas Seely’s taking pity on the mare and buying her is concerned, but he didn’t `happen to see her in New York,’ the fact being that he had taken her to New York originally and sold her to Kent, and naturally knew all about her.

“Jonas Seely was an extensive trader in horses and cattle along in the forties and later. In the course of his dealings he got hold of a mare that proved to be out of the famous old Bellfounder. The mare turned out to be a good family horse and became a great favorite with his family, but he had a chance to make a profitable deal with Kent and disposed of her to him. She proved to be a good one on the road and came to be known as the Kent mare. I was in New York one day some months after Kent bought the mare and went to see him. I found she had been abused shamefully. She was badly, and as it turned out, permanently crippled. I prevailed upon Jonas to go and see her and buy her back. He did so and brought her to his Sugar Loaf farm, with the intention of letting her spend her days there, which, from her condition, did not promise to be many.

“About that time Jonas Seely and other farmers in that neighborhood, who were interested in having good horses, induced the owner of Abdallah, the great Long Island sire of good horses, and then well along in years, to bring that horse to Chester. He came here two or three seasons, the last one being in 1848. The Kent mare had revived so under the care she had received, at her old Sugar Loaf home that Jonas used her in the stud to breed to Abdallah. Her colt was foaled in March, 1849, and was probably the last of old Abdallah’s get, and was founder of the great race of trotting horses of the Rysdyk Hambletonian strain. And right here I come to the incident which determined the future career of Hambletonian and placed him in the possession of William M. Rysdyck, instead of Seely C. Roe, who later purchased a colt, which was a half-brother of Hambletonian, and became almost as celebrated as Hambletonian.

“When the colt that the Kent mare dropped in March, 1849, was two or three months old, Jonas Seely got a horse deal streak on and made up his mind to use the mare and colt in making it. He first applied to my brother, Cornelius, in Chester, and endeavored to sell the mare and colt to him, but Cornelius did not fancy them, and declined to purchase, claiming that he had all the horses he could take care of. So that deal was off, and possibly it was a fortunate thing for the future Hambletonian.

“Seely C. Roe heard that the mare and colt were in the market and went to Jonas’ farm and looked at them. He thought well of them and had fully made up his mind to buy them when he returned from attending court at Newburgh. He drove to Newburgh with Dan Durland, of Chester, who was driving a mare that belonged to a man living near the New Jersey line, in the vicinity of Edenville. Dan Durland told Seely C. Roe that the mare he was driving had a colt sired by Abdallah about the same age as the colt belonging to Jonas Seely. He was so favorably impressed with the performance of the mare Dan Durland was driving that he thought her colt would turn out better than the one Jonas Seely’s mare had. That was a lucky turn of affairs for William M. Rysdyk, who was a farm hand at that time, with little ready cash, but he was a remarkable judge of horse flesh. He managed to scrape up $125, the price Jonas Seely wanted for the mare and colt, and bought them. Hambletonian was naturally a wonderful horse, but it was Rysdyk ‘s genius in caring for and developing him that made him the marvel that he became.

“And now we come to the history of Roe’s Abdal lah, later known as Roe’s Abdallah Chief. He was also a wonderful horse in many respects, though not as celebrated in the stud as Hambletonian. He was sired by old Abdallah. His dam was a daughter of Phillips, out of a daughter of Decatur and an unknown; Decatur was by Marske, out of a daughter of Imported Emperor; Marske was sired by Imported Diomed out of a daughter of Imported Medley. Phillips, the sire of the dam of Roe’s Abdallah Chief, was sired by Duroc, out of a daughter of Imported Messenger; Duroc was sired by Imported Diomed out of Amanda; Amanda was sired by Gray Diomed out of a daughter of Old Cade and a daughter of Independence; Imported Diomed was out of a. daughter of Sloe and a daughter of Vampire and Imported Calista. Thus you see that the dam of Roe’s Abdallah Chief had a generous mixture of Imported Diomed blood in her veins, as well as the blood of Imported Messenger.

“I bought the colt from the Edenville owner of the mare, which Seely Roe intended to buy, paying $250 for it, and named it Abdallah, after his sire, old Abdallah. After my folks found out what I had paid for the colt, they made a tremendous fuss about it. It was a pretty stiff price to pay for a colt, even in those days, but I had an idea that I had not made a bad bargain. My folks changed their minds a year or so later. I had bought a farm after purchasing the colt and needed money to stock it. Seely C. Roe had been casting fond eyes on my young $250 stallion, and after a while offered me sixty good cows for him. I accepted the offer and stocked my farm nicely, and incidentally, heard no more about my extravagance in buying horses.

“Roe’s Abdallah Chief, as he came to be known later on, was the sire of Messenger Duroc. Messenger Duroc was the famous stallion owned by the late Charles Backman, owner of Stony Ford Stock Farm, situated near Goshen, and was for years the premier stud there. His progeny was famous for beauty, strength and speed. Messenger Duroc was the sire of Prospero, 2:20, and seventeen others in the 2:30 list, also sire of the dam of Virgo Hambletonian, sire of Charlie Hogan, 2:18%; also sire of the dam of Lysander, sire of William Kearney, 2:20½, and three others in the 2:30 list; also sire of the dam of Banker, sire of Bermuda, 2:201/2, also sire of the dam of Beecher, sire of Mike, 2:28; also sire of the dam of Standard Bearer, sire of Marloe, pacer, 2:15, and three others in the 2:30 list; also sire of the dam of Ulster Belle, pacer, 2:221/2, Coriander, 2:203/4, and Josephine, 2:241/4. Thus you see that Roe’s Abdallah Chief was the sire of a horse whose numerous progeny were celebrated for speed in their day and generation.

I was one of the pall-bearers, so to speak, at the funeral of the Kent mare. I don’t remember any mention having been made by writers on Hambletonian and his forebears about the death of his dam and the disposal of her remains. Her end came as befitted the mother of a royal line, well housed and well cared for. She died early in the fifties, about the same time, I remember, that old Abdallah, sire of the same line, came to his ignominious death. I helped to bury the Kent mare in a meadow now on the Tuttle farm, at a spot long since forgotten, perhaps, by everyone but myself. The grave of Hambletonian’s dam was unmarked, but it is a few rods from and overlooked by the imposing granite shaft that marks the grave of her illustrious son, on the Rysdyk hill at Chester.

“The last days of that grand old sire, Abdallah, were pathetic in the extreme, for if there ever was an aristocrat in the horse kingdom, it was old Abdallah.

He had a royal pride and air about him that refused to be humbled even in adversity and want. After his days of usefulness in the stud were over he was sold to a fish peddler of Hempstead, Long Island, N. Y. The first time he was hitched to a fish wagon he positively refused to draw it, and promptly proceeded to kick it to pieces, and would not permit his owner to approach him afterward. Although he was a remarkably docile and easily handled stallion, his owner had to give up trying to conquer him and he was finally turned out to die on Hempstead Plains of exposure and neglect. The, crows picked the bones of this sire of a line of royal, magnificent animals, whose progeny today is the pride of the American trotting turf.”

Alexander’s’ Hambletonian

This horse, familiarly known in Orange County as Edsall’s Hambletonian, was one of Hambletonian’s first get, having been foaled in the year 1852, out of a mare by Bay Roman, and he by Messenger. He was purchased when quite young by Major Edsall, of Goshen, and was kept by him until 1859, when he was sold to Alexander, of Lexington, Ky. During the time he was owned by Major Edsall he proved himself not only to be very speedy, but also one of the finest stock horses ever produced. It is said that during the Civil War he was stolen by the Confederates, and that Alexander offered a reward of $1,000 for his recovery. Stimulated by this reward, parties immediately set out for his recapture and one of the pursuant’s, mounted upon a thoroughbred mare, succeeded in overtaking the thief, when a conflict in arms commenced, during which the stallion was accidentally shot. He was returned to his owner, the reward paid, but either from the effects of the wound, or from over exertion, he died very soon thereafter. He was the sire of Goldsmith Maid, in her day, the acknowledged Queen of the Turf; of Major Edsall, a very fast stallion, and of many other good ones not so well known.

Edward Everett

This horse was first named. Major Winfield. In consequence of the achievements of his colts he became celebrated as a stock horse. His dam is said to have been Imported Margrave, and was formerly owned by the late Thomas George, of Orange County. He bred her to Hambletonian. Everett was the sire of two noted horses, Judge Fullerton and Joe Elliott. He was purchased by the late Robert Bonner for $20,000.


The stallion Volunteer, owned by Alden Goldsmith, of Washingtonville, Orange County, N. Y., was one of the earliest foals of Rysdyk’s Hambletonian. He was foaled in 1854, his dam being Lady Patriot, by Patriot, a son of Patriot, by Blucher; second dam, the Lewis Hulse mare, who was a speedy trotter and runner as well. Volunteer trotted to a wagon record of 2:37. He was a remarkably handsome horse, but it is said he was rough-gaited, though what he accomplished as a sire of fast trotters will make him long remembered.

One of his first great trotters was Gloster. This horse was a bay gelding. His dam was Black Bess, by Stockbridge Chief, second dam by Mambrino Paymaster. He trotted in 2:17 at Rochester, N. Y., August 14, 1874, and this feat made him celebrated throughout the trotting world. He died in California October 30, 1874.

Among the other noted trotters sired by Volunteer were Powers, 2:21; Huntress, 2:20%; Driver, 2:191/2.; Bodine, 2:191/4; Alley, 2:19; Domestic, 2:20. St. Julian, who once divided honors with the celebrated Maud .S., was the speediest of Volunteer’s get. He was a large, handsome bay gelding, dam, Flora, by Harry Clay, 45; second dam, by Napoleon. He was driven to a record of 2:111/4 at Hartford, Conn., August 27, 1880. The producing record of Volunteer was 38 trotters and one pacer, and 41 sires and 54 dams of speed. Volunteer was a bay horse of commanding appearance, stood 15.3, and possessed unusual strength and courage. He died at Walnut Grove Farm, Orange County, N. Y., Dec. 13, 1888.

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