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.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Serious Carriage Accident and Many Tumbles During the Country Club of Pelham's Riding to Hounds Event in November 1889

Recently I have been trying to document the sport of "riding to hounds" hosted by the Country Club once located in Pelham during the 1880s. See:

Wed., April 15, 2009: More About the Country Club Sport of "Riding to Hounds" During the 1880s in Pelham.

Tue., April 14, 2009: 1889 Account of the Sport of Riding to Hounds by Members of the Country Club Located in Pelham.

The sport seems to have been part of a fad that swept the region in the 1880s and early 1890s. See, e.g., A Dozen in at the Death; Brilliant Riding to Hounds on Staten Island, N.Y. Times, Oct. 3, 1889, p. 5; An Exciting Hunt; A Great Day for the Richmond County Country Club, N.Y. Times, Oct. 6, 1889, p. 5; The Essex County Hunt; Following the Hounds Over a Heavy and Rough Course, N.Y. Times, Dec. 4, 1892, p. 3; A Lively Hunt at Lakewood; Large Field of Riders and Many Spectators in Carriages, N.Y. Times, Dec. 22, 1895, p. 7.

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes a report published in 1889 that describes a hunt hosted by the Country Club located in Pelham during which there was a serious carriage accident and numerous tumbles.





Although the weather was unfavorable for riding to hounds, the Country Club of Westchester has seldom known a more enjoyable time than that which it experienced yesterday. Major James C. Cooley, a prominent member of that organization, gave a hunt breakfast at his pretty country place just outside West Chester Village, and almost the entire membership of the club responded to his cordial invitation to be present. The guests were so numerous that the commodious house was overcrowded, but that fact only heightened the pleasure of Major Cooley and Mrs. Cooley, who are never so happy as when entertaining their friends.

Among the many present were Mrs. W. H. Sands, Sir Frederick Franklin, Mr. and Mrs. James M. Waterbury, Mr. Frank Watson, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Pelham-Clinton, Mr. and Mrs. Story, Mr. Louis Haight, Mrs. Jacob Lorillard, Mrs. McDonald, Mr. William Chapin, Miss Carey, Mr. Dwight Collier, Mr. M. V. B. Davis, Mr. Henry Watson, Mr. and Mrs. Howard Potter, Mrs. Zerega, the Messrs. Thorne, Mr. and Mrs. E. C. Potter, Col. and Mrs. DeLancey Kane, Mr. and Mrs. William Iselin, Miss Campbell, Mr. John Davis, Mr. Robert Potter, Mr. Frank Johnson, Mr. and Mrs. Oliver Iselin, Mr. and Mrs. Hoyt, Mrs. Taylor, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Hunter, Mr. and Mrs. Blois, Mr. and Mrs. Wissmer, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Carter and Miss Carter, Mr. Henry Adee, Mr. Ernest Adee, Miss Pinchot, Mr. Clarence Sackett, Mr. Theodore Havemeyer, Jr., the Messrs. Harriman, Mr. Boyle, Mr. Lee Taylor, Mrs. McDougall, Miss Camilla Moss, Mr. Cram, and many others prominent in Westchester society.

The exterior of Major Cooley's residence was almost as interesting during the breakfast as the interior. The grounds were filled with gay traps, while directly in front of the main entrance more than a score of spirited hunters were paraded. Outside in the roadway were many vehicles of farmers, who had taken advantage of the holiday to watch the sport, even though they were not invited to be present. In the yard to the rear of the house the hounds were penned, and they kept up a constant and impatient accompaniment of yelps to the laughter of the gay throng indoors. The whole scene was striking in its color and its life.

When the breakfast had ended, Mr. Theodore Havemeyer, Jr., who has taken Mr. Pelham-Clinton's place as master of the hounds, announced that the chase was about to begin. Instantly the house was emptied of its occupants, and there was a general scurrying for horses and carriages. Among the ladies having mounts were Miss Carey, Mrs. Howard Potter, Mrs. Collier, Mrs. Story, Miss Pinchot, Mrs. William Iselin, Mrs. E. C. Potter, and Miss Camilla Moss. The gentlemen who started out to follow the hunt numbered at least twenty-five, while Master Cooley and Master Iselin brought up the rear on ponies, and another little boy was grotesquely mounted on a big-eared donkey.

The order of the gay cavalcade as it filed into the highway was as follows: The hunds, the horsemen and horsewomen, the gay traps of the invited guests, and promiscuous assemblage of farm vehicles that had never before been put to such use. The entire line was flanked on either side by a hilarious throng of urchins and half-grown boys on foot, who found some amusement and infinite exercise in trying to keep up with the swiftly-moving train.

The throw-off was in an open field about 200 yards from Major Cooley's residence. Unfortunately for the riders, this field was guarded by a high stone wall. The result was that about half of the pack broke away from the huntsman, climbed this wall, caught the scent, and were away with a chorus of yelps before the riders realized what had happened. Then the remaining dogs followed suit, and all the hounds were in imminent danger of being lost in the thick underbrush, toward which they were rushing with startling speed.

A majority of the riders stood immovable with astonishment when Mr. Havemeyer led the way at the formidable fence. His horse refused, and not another animal would take the obstacle. It was a critical moment, but the master of the hunt was equal to the occasion, and with a whoop and a rush, plying both whip and spurs, he got over. Major Cooley followed, with Miss Carey and Mr. Robert Potter at his heels, and the doubt as to the pack being lost was dissipated. Away these few riders went splashing through a bog and then climbing a rocky hill until they were lost in the dark brown cover of the woods.

The other riders made no pretense of following, but hurried away with the carriages up the road to the place where it was known that a check would be held. Here they had the satisfaction of getting into line and parading through Westchester Village and past the grounds of the New-York Jockey Club to the resumption of the drag. In this parade a very painful accident happened. Mrs. McDonald and Mr. William Chapin were driving in an open wagon. As they were turning the corner of the street in the village, a heavy six-seated vehicle was driven recklessly behind them. It caught the rear wheels of the light wagon, and in an instant the whole thing was a jumbled wreck in the gutter by the roadside. Mrs. McDonald fortunately escaped, but Mr. Chapin sustained serious injuries. His forehead and cheek were cut open and both eyes were blackened. He was knocked senseless by the shock, but recovered sufficiently to bind a handkerchief about his head. Then he was taken to the clubhouse attended by several friends, who refused to follow the hunt after witnessing the accident.

A majority of the people, however, were happily ignorant of Mr. Chapin's misfortune, and they continued pell-mell after the hounds. The going was remarkably rough and at times dangerous, not only on account of the stiffness of the country, but by reason of the soggy and uncertain condition of the ground. With the exception of a half dozen daring spirits the riders decided that discretion was the better part of valor and kept to the road.

But the others kept up with the pack, and after a hard run of about ten miles had the satisfaction of coming in at the death, or at least of being in at the place where the death would have been if there had been a fox instead of an aniseed bag. Miss Carey was the only lady who succeeded in following the hounds, and she would have succumbed to the perils of the going had she not possessed remarkable pluck and skill. As it was, she had two heavy falls, but remounted after each and dashed away in the lead of Mr. Havemeyer.

Mr. Sackett also got an ugly fall, but suffered nothing beyond a shaking up. The master of the hunt, the Messrs. Potter, and Major Cooley escaped accident, but the run was generally considered the most exciting and, consequently, the most successful that the Country Club has yet had. Major and Mrs. Cooley were awarded most cordial thanks for their entertainment and Miss Carey was deservedly the heroine of the day."

Source: Tumbles Were Numerous -- But the Country Club Had a Fine Run, N.Y. Times, Nov. 6, 1889, p. 3.

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