Horse trotting seems to have been a favorite winter sport,1ocal1y, in the olden days but died quite suddenly in the late 1890’s and in the nineteen hundreds we saw them no more.
Time was when such sportsmen as Ben Carleton, Luther Crockett, Sam Randa11, Henry Patterson, A1 Mudgett, Joe Ty1er, Silas Trundy, Jim Armbrust, 0.G. Weeks, Ben Graffam, Joe B1ack, Herb Sanborn, Fred S. Walls, Frank Calderwood, Arthur Dutch, Herman Robbins, Dr. B.H, Lyford, James 0. Carver, Fred Snowman, Bert Vinal, Emery Ladd, James Carlin and others took it upon themselves to see that Vinalhaven did not lack for this sport just as soon as the ice was strong enough to permit it.
In the early years it mattered not whether it was a driving horse or a work horse that was entered for [he race; in fact, the chances are that there were but few horses in town that were kept for driving purposes only.
It is recorded that at one time Sam Randall borrowed Mr. O.H. Lewis’ horse James, a horse that was used for hauling Mr. Levis' tin pedlar's cart about town, entered him in a race and won three straight heats.
The above was not James’ first race, however, for he had won many arace in times agone when driven by his owner, Mr. Lewis, whose urge to the horse for greater speed was a very light touch of the whip and the softly spoken command, "Proceed, James" and to which, 'tis said, the faithful old James never failed to respond.
Horse trots were very popular affairs during the 1880’s and every community of any size had its trotting park or race track.
Vinalhaven’s Trotting Park
The Trotting Park, 1884 to 1909, was the work of the young men of Vinalhaven, who after working nine or ten hours at granite cutting, fishing and other work, built a trotting park on the road to North Haven opposite the watering trough. They smashed boulders, huge rocks, cut bushes and cleared the land for a race track. There was great enthusiasm for harness racing from 1884 – 1909. In the winter the same men raced with sleights on Carver’s Pond and Old Harbor Road. Occasionally sleigh racing was held on the main street, as far as the “Block at the Fountain.”
Young women sometimes participated in the Main Street sleigh races driving their own horses.
Note: Many of the finest sleighs were manufactured at the State Prison in Thomaston. The November 1893 “Prison News” stated, a half-dozen covered sleighs are being manufactured for the winter demand.
At the Vinalhaven Trotting Park, the purse in the 2.45 class was $75.00. Entries were from Belfast, Rockport, Hope, Lincoln and Vinalhaven. There was a $50.00 purse in the 3.00 class and in the free-for-all the $185.00 purse was divided. Entries were from Rockland, Camden, Belfast and Bangor. The fare for the trip including admission was $0.75.
The last race in Vinalhaven was held in 1909 with J.S. Black presiding as a judge.
Vinalhaven Town Census: In 1891 there were 110 Smiths, 59 Areys, 51 Hopkins, 47 Vinals, 38 Carvers, 33 Lanes and 31 Roberts.
In 1892 there were 67 Calderwoods, 69 Browns, 44 Dyers, 38 Coombs, 49 Youngs, and 40 Vinals.
Image downloaded from Microsoft Terra-Server.