The Lost Trotting Parks Storyboard Archives

The Lost Trotting Parks Storyboard Archives

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cream Brook Farm -- Stetson Maine


Cream Brook Farm, recognized as a historic site through Maine's Trotting Horse Heritage Trail, was a 640 acre farm owned by Greenville J. Shaw. Shaw moved from Hartland, Maine to Stetson, Maine. Here he established Cream Brook Farm in 1880.

Excerted from Maine's Trotting Horse Heritage Trail by Clark P. Thompson --

" Most stock farms like Cream Brook had two or more stallions they tried to support with the best broodmares they could afford. In 1881 Shaw added four broodmares from Kentucky to breed to his young stallion "Gen. Withers" (Great Grandson of Hambletonian)." He also purchased the stallion Gideon. "Gideon's fame was about to be secured for all time as his daughter Gretchen had just foaled a June colt at Sunnyside Farm called "Nelson."

For more information regarding Cream Brook Farm and the Trotting Horse Heritage Trail you can purchase Thompson's book by e-mailing clarkprice@msn.com.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

North Berwick's Lost Trotting Park


Now privately owned property and used by many as a walking path, North Berwick's lost trotting park is located off High Street, formerly the Sanford Road. To learn more about North Berwick, visit the web page of the North Berwick Historical Society.

Excerpted from the history of North Berwick:

"In the late 1800s, several townspeople founded an agricultural association and an annual fair was held in early September.

The fairgrounds were located on the west side of Route 4, high Street, about a mile out of town. The grounds had a half-mile trotting track, called Pine Grove Trotting Park, for harness racing, complete with a grandstand. it is said that Dan Hurd raised and raced some of the fastest horses there. The remnants of the track may still be seen some fifty yards from the highway. In the 1950s a take out restaurant called the Pine Grove Take Out was located at the edge of the old track.

Premiums were given for crops and livestock the local farmers had produced.

Judge Nathaniel Hobbs, Daniel Hurd, and others were principals in the organization. The fair ran for a number of years, but no recorded information on its demise could be found.

According to Harold "Mundy" Grant, "The Gypsies were trading horses at the fair, but were not allowed into the fairgrounds. They did their business under the pines just off the premises."

Click to enlarge the image!

The Sanford Springvale Historical Society

Harland Eastman was a most gracious host when I visited the Sanford Springfield Historical Society. (Museum Photos) Harland provided me with access to photographs, newspapers, and other memorabilia related to Sanford's and Springvale's lost trotting parks. From his personal collection, he allowed me to photograph fair programs dating back to the 1890's. He also had programs from fairs in Buxton and North Berwick!

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Last Lost Trotting Park on Long Island, NY!



Jack Smith of Terryville, New York e-mailed me a few days ago. Jack told me of his mission to save the last lost trotting park on Long Island. If you have any information that would be helpful to Jack e-mail him at jsmithrs3@aol.com.

"Just like the state of Maine, New York and especially Long Island, where I am from, was the home to numerous trotting parks. On Long Island they were referred to as driving parks. My interest in all of this is the result of having a driving park still in existence in our community. As president of our local historical society, the Cumsewogue Historical Society, I have made it a mission to not only research the park, but also to have it preserved and saved from development. It is, to my knowledge, the last driving park left on Long Island. It is an amazing survivor on an island where aggressive growth and, at times, unbridled development are the norm.

The track is located in the hamlet of Terryville, where I live. Terryville is a couple of miles south of Port Jefferson, on Long Island's North Shore and Long Island Sound. The track was part of an eighty acre complex called the Comsewogue Training Stable and was owned and operated by Robert L. Davis. He was a well known trainer and conditioner of trotting horses on Long Island and was featured in an article published in The Horse Review in 1895.

My research is in the preliminary stages. So far I have discovered several newspaper articles describing races held at the track, as well as a couple of letters written in 1954 by a man who was familiar with the track during its heyday. A local historical memorabilia collector has an original ticket to the park from July 4, 1892. That was an amazing find! I have a scanned copy of the ticket. I am trying to find other sources who might have some information on this track and would like to find a photo or two. Local libraries do not have anything and neither did the Harness Racing Museum. But I am not discouraged. I will keep looking. I just know some info is out there - somewhere."

Friday, December 11, 2009

Buxton & Hollis Agricultural Society -- Annual Fair 1893



On December 10th I visited Harland Eastman at the Springvale -- Sanford Historical Society and Louis and Lucille Emery from Buxton. In Springvale, I would find both newspaper accounts, photographs, and fair programs for events held at Oak Grove Park in Springvale, Mousam River Park in Sanford, The Society's Park in Buxton, the North Berwick Trotting Park, and the Acton Shapleigh Agricultural Society's Parks. My time with Harland was wonderful. He is a masterful teller of local history. My visit to Buxton took an interesting twist. Lou Emery and my spouse, Nona Libby Thompson, are distant relatives. Nona's great grandmother was Nancy Emery who married George H. Libby prior to the Civil War. Nancy Emery was the youngest of nine children. The images included with this post include the cover of the 18th Annual Fair of the Buxton and Hollis Agricultural Society (1893) and a png file of the Emery Family. Click the image of this family to enlarge it for viewing. The Emery family and the descendants of this family have lived in Buxton since 1796. My assumption is that as you look at the images of the Emery family, you are looking at the faces of family members who attended the annual fairs at the Buxton Trotting Park.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Maine Trotting Horse Heritage Trail Places Marker for Nelson

Clark Thompson, founder of the Maine Trotting Horse Heritage Trail and Bernie Butler place an inscribed granite marker at the Sterling Street Playground honoring the life of the horse Nelson. The playground is part of what was once Sunnyside Farm, the home to Nelson, a champion trotting stallion. The marker was placed almost 100 years to the day of the death of the horse on December 3, 2009. See the following posts for more information.

For more information regarding the Maine Trotting Horse Heritage Trail, e-mail Clark Thompson at clarkprice@msn.com.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Hod Nelson and His Famous Trotting Stallion Nelson

Image courtesy of the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame, Goshen, New York

Finding Sunnyside Farm -- The White Farm -- Belmont Avenue Property

Hod Nelson advertised in his catalog that his farm was 1.5 miles from the Maine Central Depot. We have yet to locate this piece of property. What we refer to as Sunnyside or the Nelson Farm on the Oakland Road, now Kennedy Memorial Drive, is more than 2 miles away from the depot.
Click this image and it will expand so that you can easily review the material!

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Maine Horse Breeders' Monthly -- Publisher and Editor, John W. Thompson


J. W. Thompson, Editor and Publisher of The Maine Horse Breeders' Monthly; terms, $1.00 Per Annum. Circulation Larger than any Paper in Maine, outside of the Cities; write for Advertising Rates and Sample Copies; Cauton. The wonderful improvement which has taken place in American horse-flesh within comparatively few years, is not the result of accident, by any means, but the legitimate outcome of bard, persistent and intelligent work, and the expenditure of large sums of money. American trotting stock is, as every ordinarily wellinformed person knows, the best in the world, and the steady lowering of the mile record from year to year, proves that the limit of speed and bottom is not yet reached. That the results attained have been brought about by judicious breeding is also generally understood, and that those engaged in this work should be encouraged by the public, is as obvious as that the general average of horse-flesh is continually being raised by such operations. The horse breeders of this State are among the most advanced in the country, and that they form a numerous as well as an influential class, is proved by the circulation of the Maine Horse Breeders' Monthly—their representative paper —being larger than that of any other publication in the State, issued outside the cities. The paper in question was founded in 1879, by Mr. J. W. Thompson, a gentleman who is a recognized authority on all matters pertaining to horses and horse-breeding. He is a native of Turner, Maine, a member of the Free Masons, and is widely-known—aside from his journalistic capacity—as the author of that standard work, " Noted Maine Horses," which was published in 1874. In 1S86, in response to an earnest and pressing demand, a second volume was issued, and the reception given to it has been cordial and flattering, the edition being already nearly exhausted. Mr. Thompson was, for several years, President of the Canton Driving Association, and was unanimously re-elected at the last annual meeting, and to him credit is largely due for the fine Driving Park, conceded to be one of the fastest and best tracks in the State. The Maine Horse Breeders' Monthly is indispensable to all engaged in that industry, and is both interesting and valuable to every lover of the delights of the road and track. It is published at S1.00 per annum, and for obvious reasons is one of the best advertising mediums in New England, especially for goods designed for the use of horsemen. Mr. Thompson acts as Editor" and Publisher, and is ever on the alert to furnish the latest and most reliable information to his readers.

Excerpted from

The Leading business men of Lewiston,

Augusta and vicinity:

By Mercantile Publishing Company, Boston

J.W. Thompson of Canton, Maine

J W. Thompson, Canton, Veteran Musician of Civil War Band

"One of the Best-Known Horsemen in New England. Author of "Noted Maine Horses" and Publisher of Magazine "Maine horse Breeders' Monthly. First President of the Androscoggin Valley Agricultural Society.

-- First to Champion the Pacer --

John W. Thompson, born in Turner, Maine, was an ambitious man throughout his life. Highlights of his life include (1) being a member of the Civil War regiment Company H 32nd Maine. This allowed him to shake hands with President Lincoln just one week before Lincoln was assassinated.

He volunteered for the Civil War as a musician. His first encounter was the battle of Bull Run. John served four terms in two regiments which was "The Regiment That Never Came Back and the Wilderness Campaign."

J.W. Thompson was the author of two books titled, "Noted Maine Horses" and publisher/editor of the "Maine Horse Breeders' Monthly."

He was the president of the Androscoggin Valley Agricultural Association and was responsible for the construction of the Canton Trotting Park. Thompson died in 1940.



 J.W. Thompson in front of his home in Canton, Maine
On the track at the fairgrounds in Canton, Maine

Information courtesy of Norman Vashaw, Canton, Maine

Silas Morse -- Photographer -- Educator -- Entrepreneur

The photographs of Canton were taken by Silas Morse. The images on this web site were developed by Norman Vashaw for his book, "What Was Ain't What is, A Picture History of Canton, Maine."

Silas Rutillus Morse was born in Livermore Falls, Maine on March 12, 1840. Morse was an educator, real estate broker, and a builder, He created New Jersey's educational exhibit for the 1893 Exhibition in Chicago. His success at the exhibition resulted in his being named curator of the New Jersey State Museum.

Morse spent his summers, or rather four month of the year in the State of Maine. He owned the homestead at Brettun's Mills, Livermore; a cottage on Androscoggin Lake in North Leeds, and a nice cottage on Rangeley Lake, where he and his family spent a part of their vacation. He was an avid fisherman.

He resided in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

He died May 23, 1928.

Photography was one of Morse's many gifts and that gift is shared with those who view this blog!

Canton Trotting Park Early 1900's

These black and white images of the Canton Fairgrounds and Trotting Park were developed from glass plate negatives by Norman Vashaw. The photographs were taken by Silas Morse.

Vintage images courtesy of Norman Vashaw.

Canton Trotting Park December 2009

The land where the Canton Trotting Park was located is returning to farm lands. Over the last twenty years, trees have been harvested on the property. When the track was in operation the train would stop at the front gate to let people off to attend the fair, trotting races, or other events at the park. There was a ball field in the center of the park. When Dave Wainwright harvested trees from the park, he could still see the pitcher's mound and the remnants of bleachers. The fairgrounds had several buildings including an exhibition hall.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

At the Canton home of Bob Stevens

Bob Stevens points out to Norman Vashaw the map location of the Canton Trotting Park. When Bob was young, his father drove the first school bus in Canton. Bob remembers his Dad driving the school bus around the track. When Bob was a member of 4-H, he worked with others to turn the grandstands into a boiler house for chickens. This fate was similar to what happened to the grandstands in Monroe.

Antique Map with Canton's Trotting Park

At the end of my visit to Canton, Norman drove me over to Bob Stevens' home. Bob produced this map that shows the location of the Canton Trotting Park.






David Wainwright & Canton's Lost Trotting Park

David Wainwright and Norma Vashaw discuss the location of buildings at the park. They are standing on the opposite side of the track from where the grandstand was located. The woods in the background are at the edge of the far end of the track. The land is approximately 40 acres. David is working the land to return it to producing fields for potatoes.

A Visit to Canton -- J.W. Thompson, Silas Morse, The Canton Trotting Park

On December 1st, my lost trotting park journey took me to Canton, Maine. Canton is the home of J.W. Thompson, publisher of the Maine Horse Breeders' Monthly and author of two books published in the late 1800's on noted Maine horses. Thompson's involvement was key to the development of Canton's trotting park. I first met with Norman Vashaw, who published a book titled, "What Was Ain't What is, A Picture History of Canton, Maine." He also developed in his photographic darkroom, glass plate negatives of Canton that were taken by Silas Morse in the early 1900's. Norman kindly chauffeured me around town. He pointed out where Thompson published his monthly and the house that was once Thompson's home. We then traveled over to Dave Wainwright's farm. Dave owns the land where the trotting park was located. Dave joined us and gave us a tour of the old trotting park. Wainwright is working this land so that in the future he can plant potatoes. After visiting the park, we drove to Bob Stevens' home. Bob is one of the local historians. He shared two maps with us showing the locations of not only the Canton trotting park, but also a trotting park in Buckfield. On the way back to Norman's house, he drove into a field by the river that was once a pony park. Today was a great day! Norman has allowed me to use many of his materials. These will soon be posted to the Lost Trotting Parks blog. I thank Norman, Dave, and Bob for their time!