The Lost Trotting Parks Storyboard Archives

The Lost Trotting Parks Storyboard Archives

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Bethel Agricultural Fair and Riverside Park

The Bethel Agricultural Fair and Riverside Park
by Yvonne B. Nowlin

While the next year's events were undoubtedly similar, even more attention seems to have been placed on horse trotting during the 1892 fair. Indeed, trotting events were to be held during the weeks before the actual opening of the fair in years to come. Announced as "a mark of great enterprise on the part of the managers of Riverside Park Association," trotting races took place on August 18th and 19th which included the famous trotter, "Nelson." Before the races took place "eminent horsemen" from Pennsylvania and New York inspected the track and pronounced it to be one of the best half-mile tracks in New England. Large crowds gathered to witness this sporting event of the season, before the actual fair took place. During the August trotting events, ladies of the Bethel Universalist Society furnished dinner at Riverside Park in their new "pavilion" erected on the grounds. Some forty feet long, and wide enough for two tables running throughout its length, the structure, in later years, housed the annual Universalist Sunday School picnic which was held during the first week of September.

The Bethel Agricultural Fair was held at Riverside Park Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, September 20-21-22,1892. Good purses were offered and the show of stock was large and of a high standard. Most important of many improvements since the previous year's fair was the construction of a large grandstand next to the trotting track. With its expanded facilities and interesting hall exhibits (held for the second time in the former Mayville Church), the 1892 fair passed as a very successful gathering for the promotion of local agriculture.

Riverside Park was located in the top left corner of this 1914 map of Bethel,
opposite Riverside Cemetery and just to the right of the numbers "657"
Map courtesy of Donald G. Bennett

Previous to the fair of 1893, the property on which Riverside Park was located was sold by Moses A. Mason to Charles Ryerson of Upton, Maine, for $10,000. The sale included the Mason homestead, its many out-buildings, and the nearby trotting track, as well as nearly 200 acres of timberland. A lumber operator and hotel owner, Ryerson had purchased the Lake House at Upton in 1875; he and his wife, Ellen, successfully managed this important hostelry for many years. Upon his arrival in Bethel in 1893, Ryerson began the reconstruction of the Mason homestead, which in its expanded form became known as the "Riverside House." Moses A Mason, the former owner, soon left Bethel on a trip that included the Chicago World's Fair and a short visit in Washington, D.C. (Apparently unsatisfied with other parts of the country, Mason soon returned to Bethel where he resumed residence and became a trustee of the Riverside Park Association.) The existing lease arrangement continued between Ryerson and the Riverside Park Association, for announcements of a trot and baseball tournament to be held August 22 and 23 soon appeared in local papers. For a special race held on August 23 between the horses "Griffin" and "Orvaissa" (the latter owned by G. W. Fernald of Bethel), reduced rates were offered to people taking the Grand Trunk to Bethel, and the Bethel Chair Factory shut down to allow workmen to take in the racing.

Riverside Park Opens August 8th 1891

Saturday, August 8th, 1891 -
The Grand Opening Trot of the Riverside Trotting Association opened at Riverside Park with a large crowd, much excitement, and plentiful self-promotion among the owner’s of trotters entered in the biggest Bethel event of the summer. Over $100 was taken at the gate. The Bethel Coronet Band provided fanfare, rhythms of enjoyable music and a lively atmosphere. Along with the trotting races, the Congregational ladies Fair at the Riverside Park were also very successful with over $100 being realized. Entries in the trotting program were as follows.

Green horses: $15.00 purse
General Gideon owned by Dr. Twaddle
John F. owned by Charles Farrington
Lady Chapman owned by Prof. Cjhapman
George K. owned by Geroge King
Sir Pryor owned by Smith Brothers
Butcher Boy owned by C.C. Bryant

2:55 Class Purse $25.00
Ehrlacher owned by L.A. Hall
Tom P. owned by Prof. W.R. Chapman
Redwood owned by H.L. Hastings
Mollie owned by Smith Brothers
Victor C. owned by E. Howe

Free for All. Purse $35.00
Owasso owned by G.P. Fernald
Fanny W. owned by Sheriff C.M. Wormell
Bell Boyd owned by H.L. Hasting
Wilder Patchen owned by Charles Farrington

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Just One of Maine's Lost Trotting Parks

Can you identify the trotting park and its location from the outline of the park on this 1998 aerial photograph?

E-Mail Stephen Thompson at with the name and location of this trotting park!

Fairfield Trotting Park

Land for the Fairfield Trotting Park was purchased in 1874. A track was built and races were first held July 5, 1875. Currently, Anne Gunvaldsen, Vice President of the Fairfield Historic Society, is researching the history of the Fairfield Trotting Park, the trotters, and the people. The Fairfield Historic Society is open every Tuesday from 1 - 4 pm or by appointment. The History House is located at 42 High Street, Fairfield, Maine. The History House can be reach by calling 207-453-2998.

Fairfield Trotting Park Built 1874 - 1875

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Trotting in Belfast -- October 1864

Trotting at the Park

The Republican Journal October 7, 1864

The trials of speed at the trotting park in this city excited unusual interest this year, and drew a crowd of spectators. But for the unfortunate rain of Friday, which rendered any trial impossible, the fair would have been the completest, and most satisfactory in this respect ever held.

On Thursday afternoon, for the Society’s premium, offered for best trotting by horse four years old, Jenny Brooks, owned by Henry Edwards, of Brooks, took the premium in match against horse of M.W. Frost, Belfast. Time 3.10 and 3.11. In the afternoon, the premium for best trotter of five years old, was competed for by horses owned by Noah M. Gould and Alonzo Drake, both of Lincolnville. Won by Drake in 3.2, and 3 and 3. The Gould horse made the first heat in 2.58, but the driver lost the heat by violating the rules in endeavoring to take the pole from his opponent.
For the best trotting horse of five years old and upwards, animals owned by H. Hayford and Robert Patterson contested. Won by Hayford in three heats. Time 2.55, 2.57, and 2.58.
The heavy rain of Friday obliged a postponement for the Sweepstakes of $100 to Saturday afternoon. The crowd in attendance was the largest ever assembled in the park, and the excitement as the trot progressed was most intense.
The Sweepstakes was contested for by two Stallions names for Gen. McCellan, one owned by Horace McKenney, Esq., of Monroe and the other by George M. Robinson, Esq., of Augusta. Both horses were driven at the first heat by their owners. The trotting was to be decided by the best three in five heats. The Robinson horse is a dark by, of good trotting figure, with great reach of limb, and showing the marks of careful training. The Mckenney horse is a much handsomer and more symmetrical animal than his competitor, with compact muscle and lively nerve, but encumbered by fat and otherwise showing not a trotting conditions.
At the first heat, McKenney won the pole, and after several false starts the horses got off well together, and the heat was a steady struggle and tug of muscle throughout, amid the most intense excitement of the spectators. The Mckenney horse took the lead and maintained it throughout, despite the utmost exertions of his rival; both horses breaking for an instant during the heat, but soon settling back into a trot. Time 2.29 and 2.31. Mr. McKenney not being in condition to drive, from a recent sickness, Mr. Orrin Shaw, of Bangor, took his place for the remainder of the trot. McKenney’s horse was bleeding in one of his fore feet, from a cut, and was slightly lamed. At the second heat, Shaw had the pole at starting, but Robinson took it on the first quarter , the gigs coming in collision at the time. Robinson came in two lengths ahead. Time 2.31 and 2.32. The third heat was the least exciting of any. Robinson taking the lead, and maintaining it to the end. Time 2.28 and 2.29.

The fourth heat was a most exciting contest throughout, horses and drivers doiong their best, and the crowd of spectators strung up to the highest pitch of excitement. The struggle between the horses was a terrible contest of muscle. On the last half mile, the McKenney horse broke, and his competitor shot ahead, opening a gap of two rods. But he recovered handsomely, rapidly closed, and at the pole lapped his adversary half his length. It could only be said that Robinson won, with hardly an inch to spare. Time 2.26 and 2.27.
Mr. Robinson showed great skill in handling his horse, and the animal himself manifested intelligence and careful training. But the splendid figure and action of the McKenney horse enlisted the sympathies of the spectators from the first, and the belief was freely expressed that, in proper conditions and with fair training, he could repeat the trot and win. Several sporting men offered bets to that effect.

The trot was the best contested ever seen, and we doubt if a match ever again takes place here that will be attended with like interest.

Note: This article was provided through the research conducted by Clark P. Thompson of Bangor, Maine

Waldo Agricultural Society Reorganized July 3, 1847

The society was reorganized July 3, 1847; and a fair was held October 20, at Belmont Corner. Since then, the annual exhibitions have been held in Belfast, in the grove on Congress Street, in Bradbury's field, in the Smith field, on Wilson's Hill, and from 1860 in the grounds of the society. Rev. Nathan C. Fletcher delivered an address before the society in 1849, and Rev. William A. Drew, of Augusta, in 1850.
In 1860, a parcel of land on Belmont Avenue was purchased for holding the annual exhibitions, and afterwards surrounded by a fence. Within the enclosure is a trotting-park with a half-mile track. The first exhibition on these grounds was held Oct. 10-12, 1860, when the fees taken amounted to $595.
Excerpted from The History of the City of Belfast in the State of Maine by Joseph Williamson 1877

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Belfast Fairground and Trotting Park (September 1860)

Our thanks to Megan Pinette, President of the Belfast Historical Society, who met with us and shared with us photographs and other information regarding the Belfast Trotting Park. The Belfast Museum is located at 10 Market Street in Belfast, Maine. In the following slideshow, aerial photos of the track, photos of trotting at the track, and the map of Belfast depicting the trotting track were provided to us by the Belfast Museum. Current day photos were taken by Stephen D. Thompson.

Photo Essay of the Belfast Trotting Park

Friday, May 8, 2009

Help Us Identify Horses and People in Photographs Below!

The Penobscot Marine Museum located in Seasport Maine has kindly allowed us to use our blog to identify the people and horses in the photographs below. Kevin Johnston, who works for the museum, believes that these photographs may have been taken at the Belfast Trotting Park. Contact us at 207-242-7774 or e-mail if you have any information regarding these photos.

Your help is greatly appreciated.

Stephen D. Thompson

Click on the picture in the slideshow. Doing this will take you to Photobucket where you can carefully examine each picture.

Can you identify these photos

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Houlton Community Park

The History of Houlton by Cora Putnam describes three trotting parks that existed in Houlton, Maine. The 1872 Colby Atlases places a trotting park at the head of High Street. At the turn of the century a private track existed on the property of Lysander Putnam. This property was just off North Street where Maple and Bowdoin Street are located. In 1912, the Houlton Community Park was developed. The picture at right shows the Community Park in 1947. Today a track nolonger exists on the site. However, a fair is held each year in Houlton.