Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

More About the Country Club Sport of "Riding to Hounds" During the 1880s in Pelham

Yesterday I published to the Historic Pelham Blog an account of a so-called "Drag Hunt" hosted by the Country Club of Pelham in 1889. See Tue., April 14, 2009: 1889 Account of the Sport of Riding to Hounds by Members of the Country Club Located in Pelham.

Today's posting transcribes another account of such a "Riding to Hounds" hunt hosted by the Country Club in 1888. The account appears immediately below.





If the Country Club had had the making of the day it could not have had more perfect weather for riding to hounds than yesterday afforded. An Indian Summer haze hung over the hills of Westchester, and the breeze that blew in from Long Island Sound was as delightful as that of an October afternoon. The sky was cloudless and the slanting rays of the yellow sun produced a temperature that was neither too warm nor too cold. The going was just right, too, not too hard and not too soft. As a consequence the attendance was a large as that of any meet this Fall. Gay and fashionable folk came from all points of the territory bounded on the east by Mamaroneck and on the west by New-York City.

An unusual incentive was found in the elaborate hunt breakfast given at 'Will Mount' by Mr. Frank Watson and his mother, Mrs. William Watson. The palatial country residence was thrown open with unreserved hospitality and the company that did ample justice to the tempting viands was quite as notable for its quality as for its quantity. There were more than a hundred guests, and, as they all knew each other, the cheer was unlimited and the wit was more sparkling than the wine. There were Mr. and Jacob Lorillard. Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Sands, Mr. and Mrs. Livingston Beekman, Mr. and Mrs. George Adee, Mr. and Mres. Howard Nott Potter, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Pelham Clinton, Mr. and Mrs. William Iselin, Mr. and Mres. Edward C. Potter, Miss Charlotte Zeroga, Mr. Richard Zeroga, Miss Carey, Mr. Louis Hiaght, Mr. and Mres. E. Blois, Mr. Luis Onativia, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Sloan, Mrs. Ladenburg, Mr. and Mrs. James Waterbury, Mr. and Mrs. C. O'Donell Iselin, Mr. and Mres. Henry Havemeyer, Miss Waterbury, Master Monte Waterbury, Mr. J. C. Furman, Mr. Jacob, Mr. Henry Watson, Mr. and Mrs. Thorne, Mr. Robert Potter, Mr. Frederick Ball, Major James Cooley, and many others whose names are familiar in social and hunt circles.

The breakfast was so inviting and the company so entertaining that the hunt was almost forgotten in the enjoyment of the repast. It was nearly 4 o'clock P. M. when Mr. Howard Nott Potter, acting master of the hounds, announced that everything was in readiness for the start. Then there was a general scamper for the spacious lawn, and the halls of 'Will Mount' were quickly emptied of the ladies and gentlemen. The pack was at the door and manifested their impatience of the delay in deep-mouthed baying.

The Country Club does not boast of its dogs. They are not imported English foxhounds, but simply a pack of harriers [ed. note: a breed of hunting dogs that resemble small English foxhounds but that were bred for hunting rabbits], a little uneven, but keen of scent and game to follow the trail so long as it lasts. They have no regular master of the hunt, for the club has never yet been able to afford that luxury, but there is an able committee of Major Cooley, Mr. H. N. Potter, and Mr. E. C. Potter, who alternate in discharging the onerous duties of that exalted position. Nor does the Country Club make believe to follow a live fox from start to finish, but they [have] just as much sport as it desires, for the dragman can always choose a course that will test their metal to the utmost. Another advantage of this style of hunting is found in the ability to lay out a course so that the occupants of the carriages and the road-riders can always see and enjoy the sport. Major Cooley was eminently successful in this respect yesterday. He had the dragman go such a course that the pack and hunters were never lost sight of once by those that had to stick to the roads.

The number of gentlemen who turned out yesterday in bottle-green coats, with yellow collars and vests, was a three to one to the number that actually followed the pack over the entire course. Many who went boldly at the jumps when the start was made retired gracefully to the easier going of the road long before the finish. Of the dozens or more ladies who had mounts only one went the course and was in at the death, or rather the place where the death would have been had there been a fox to die. This was Miss Carey, and she rode with a pluck and dash that awakened the envy of many and aroused the admiration of all.

The start was made in a field adjacent to the grounds of the Watson homestead, and after two stiff stone walls had been negotiated the huntsman found themselves in a field of soft plowed land that tested the gameness of their horses and gave the pack a decided lead in the race. The next field afforded better going, and hounds and horses were soon rushing away to the east like the wind. Then came a grand scramble by the carriages and road-riders. More than two score traps of every description and half as many people on horseback had assembled on the hill overlooking the course. There were ladies in jaunty habits, big men on big horses, and little boys on little ponies. The equine display ranged from the big-boned carriage horses to the most diminutive of Shetland ponies, and the diversity in the size of th horsemen was quite as great. As the pack disappeared everybody rushed to the front at once and the skill of the drivers was the only thing that prevented a serious collision. Down the road they rushed pell-mell, kicking up a cloud of dirt and covering each other with dust. They quickly came in sight of the chase again, and thereafter kept nearly abreast of them, picking out the several huntsmen and commenting on their style and pluck.

Over all sorts of obstacles and across every kind of ground the hounds and hunters rushed until the Catholic Protectory was reached, and there a halt was called for a few minutes until the stragglers caught up, and then the trail was resumed with greater vim than ever. And so it continued until the end was reached in front of cheery Major Cooley's residence.

Mr. Howard Potter and Mr. Louis Haight were the first in at the place where the death ordinarily occurs, and plucky little Miss Carey was close behind them. The brush and mask were not awarded, for the simple reason that there were none, but the Country Club is such a family institution that it would probably not have cut off the fox's tail had there been one, so wholly do they deprecate rivalry among themselves. The run had been about eight miles, and as no serious accidents had occurred everybody was delighted. Mr. Louis Onatiyia's horse had refused early in the game and his master had been compelled to retire to the road in deep chagrin; Mr. E. C. Potter had caught a nasty cropper, but had pluckily remounted and ridden the run out; Mr. Robert Potter's mount had fallen in a blind ditch, but had extricated himself; Mr. Freddie Bull had bruised his horse severely, and Mr. Louis Haight had nearly ridden the pack down in his efforts to lead the hunt.

All these happenings and many more were recounted as the pack was whipped in, but they were only ordinary casualties of chasing either a fox or a drag, and did not count. The universal opinion was that the meet was one of the most successful the Country Club has ever held."

Source: Country Club Drag Hunt, N.Y. Times, Dec. 9, 1888, p. 5.

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