The Lost Trotting Parks Storyboard Archives

The Lost Trotting Parks Storyboard Archives

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Thompson Homestead circa 1905 -- Arthur Herbert and Eldelia Noyes Thompson -- When horses were proudly displayed as part of the family portrait.

After World War II my mother and father, Keith and Doris Dexter Thompson, settled in Presque Isle, Maine. My Dad became one of the department managers at Maine Potato Growers. My sister Susan was born in 1946. I was born in '48.  However, in 1949, they moved to Limestone. Dad purchased a farm on the corner of the Bog Road and Sawyer Road in Limestone on the Caribou-Limestone town lines. My parents purchased the Daniel Getchell house on Main Street. From our picture window, we could look out and to the East see the farm buildings built by by grandfather and grandmother, Roy and Laila Thompson. The farmhouse and barn were built in the early 1930's. The storyboards below depict the farm home of my grandfather's parents, Arthur and Eldelia Noyes Thompson. These pictures were probably taken around 1905. At this time the horse still played a prominent role in the lives of the Thompson's. The family chose to pose for this photograph with their horses. My grandfather did farm with horses into the early 1930's. However by the time I came along the horses were gone. By the time I was five all I remember seeing were dairy cows and chickens. The horses was important to family life and work life. It is this idea that needs to be remembered! 

This photograph was scanned from the photographs of George and Elsie Thompson Hamilton.

Your comments are welcomed!

The Nelson Bloodline -- Living History Project -- Contributors

Back in the 1920s, John R Braden was the king of paces in Aroostook County. A community club from Presque Isle purchased the horse. Little did they know that the horse had talent. Braden's success brought out the competitive spirit of two other communities. Investment groups were formed in Caribou and in Houlton. The purpose of each group was to buy a horse that would beat John R. Braden.

The Nelson Bloodline Living History Project intends to follow the community club model from back in the day. The concept is to purchase horses that are descendants of Nelson, the Northern King. Today only the maternal line exists. To set this project in motion, "The Sunnyside Historic Stable" will be registered with the USTA and in Maine. This proposal asks for 50 to 100 individuals who have an interest in Maine's agricultural heritage and the Standardbred to contribute up to $500to bring a horse in to Maine The current intention is to negotiate with the owners of a colt whose dam is Gravel Gertie. The long term plan would be to breed this colt in the Nelson bloodline to Maine brood mares so that the horses could become part of the Maine Sire Stakes. The horses would be trained and hopefully would become excellent performers.

Another aspect of this project is to promote high-wheel sulky match races that would become demonstrations at racetracks throughout the Northeast. Two high-wheel sulkies would be built using materials that are used to build today's bicycle wheel sulkies.

The goal of this project is to return Maine people to their agricultural roots and to encourage this with interest to raise standardbreds for the support and perhaps enter the harness racing industry. Maine's standardbred traditions go back to the 1800s. It is time for contemporary Mainers to get involved and participate in activities that were once the talk of Maine and the nation -- the age of "When the Horse was King." The contributions would be made to a Maine-based nonprofit. 

Step up and take the challenge -- if interested call Stephen Thompson at 207-242-7774 or e-mail Steve at

Your comments are welcomed!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Blue Skies and Once A Famous Horseman

Blue Skies -- The financial panic of 1893 was closing trotting tracks and reducing the number of Standardbred breeders throughout the United States. This song presents the Maine Spirit of the Horseman.

Once a Famous Horseman -- The Story of C.H. Nelson and his champion trotting stallion, Nelson

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The March Issue of The Maine Spirit of the Turf Available Online -- Bringing the Past to Present

This issue includes . . .
Vintage images of lost trotting parks
Ice racing at Poland Springs
Stable Tweets from Pinehurst, NC -- Sidney, ME
A Tribute to Jimmy Jordan
A Tribute to George T. Robinson,
and more!

Your Comments are welcomed!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Gordon Corey's Institute of Equine Erudition -- Pinehurst, North Carolina

Today, Phil Choate and I drove from Cary, North Carolina to Pinehurst to visit Gordon Corey and Alison Hynes. We got a chance to talk about the horses in training and I even got to jog a horse around the historic mile track. An extra bonus for this trip was meeting Wendell "Red" Wathen, a member of the Wathen family from Fort Fairfield who owned and raced harness racing horses beginning in the 1930's through the 1970's. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

1893 Sunnyside Farm Catalog Featuring Nelson 4209

The success of C.H. Nelson allowed him to publish a catalog featuring his sires, dams, and horses for sale. This was Nelson's eighth catalog. The 1890 catalog contained engraving images of his horses. This catalog features extended narratives on his sires and dams. There are no images. During this time period Nelson partnered with Samuel Currier of Hallowell, Maine. In 1890 Currier had purchased the Bodwell Farm from the estate of Governor Joseph Bodwell, who died in office. Nelson and Currier formed a partnership and renamed the farm the Pine Grove Stock Farm. The farm was originally owned by the Vaughan family of Hallowell. In 1900 the Vaughan brought the property back into the family. Today the sign by the farm is the Elm Hill Farm. 

The 1893 catalog lists horses for sale from the Pine Grove Stock Farm. By 1893, Nelson 4209's racing days had come to an end. If paid, Nelson would exhibit his horse at tracks across Maine. From the 1895 Wallace Yearbook and newspaper accounts we learn that Nelson exhibited his horse at McFaul Park in Eastport, Maine. Nelson exhibited his horse frequently at Bass Park in Bangor, Maine. The last exhibition involving the horse Nelson was at the Central Maine Fairgrounds in Waterville, Maine. In September C.H. Nelson organized a parade of horses -- the get of Nelson and Wilkes. The parade consisted of sixty horses. Nelson 4209 trotted around the track in grand style. The horse Nelson died in 1909. Nelson the man died in 1915.

The colors on the cover of the 1893 Sunnyside Catalog
may have been C.H. Nelson's racing colors.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Your Copy of The February Issue of The Maine Spirit of the Turf

The Maine Spirit is also supported by a Lost Trotting Parks Blog:

The Maine Spirit Blog

The March Issue of The Maine Spirit of the Turf will be released on
or before March 31,2012. This issue will feature:

Vintage Views of Ten Lost Trotting Parks
A Tribute to Jimmy Jordan
The Lost Training Track of George T. Robinson, Hermon, Maine
A Profile of Starter/Presiding Judge, Roger Smith
The Role of the Race Director, William McFarland
The Dixfield Historical Society, Once Home to a Lost Trotting Park
Finding the Posts for the Grandstand at Merrill's Park
Dates of Maine's Agricultural Fairs
Dates for Harness Racing 2012
And More!

The March Issue can be downloaded at
The Maine Spirit
Become an E-Mail Subscriber!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Trotting in Calais -- Circa 1912 to 1915

Today's View -- An Early Morning at the Kite Track in Old Orchard Beach

Copyright 2012 -- Lost Trotting Parks Heritage Center

In 2010 I visited the location of the Kite Track in Old Orchard Beach. The track was last used for harness racing around 1950. The State of Maine now owns the land as a wildlife preserve. With the natural outlets to the land cut off, the kite track, once home to grand circuit racing, is now a marsh. You can walk through the woods and find the cement post that once support the grandstand. Now one can only remember! Built in 1892 as the Breeders' Mile Track, the horse Nelson once attempted to set a world's trotting record. If you look closely at aerial views of the property you can still see the outline of the track.

Images Courtesy of the Harmon Museum, Old Orchard Beach, Maine

Aerial View of the Kite Track

The Home Stretch
Images Courtesy of Glenn Gibbons