All eyes in the horse world may be directed towards Churchill Downs this week for this year’s Kentucky Derby, but Kentucky isn’t the only state with a rich horse history. Horses have played an important role in Virginia history ever since the first horse arrived in Jamestown. Secretariat, the 1973 Triple Crown winner and arguably the greatest horse to ever race, was born on Meadow Farm in Doswell, Virginia. Genuine Risk, one of only three fillies to win the Kentucky Derby, called Virginia home. Robert E. Lee rode the well-known Traveller into battle. And, Misty of Chincoteague is one of the most beloved horses in children’s literature.
Here in Local Records the horses we find aren’t always as famous or majestic. Horses are left in wills and deeds, argued over to settle debts, objects of theft in criminal cases, and even causes of death in coroners’ inquisitions. Two instances of horses being caught up in matters of debt were found in the Fredrick County Judgments and Frederick County Chancery Causes. The judgment, Colmes vs. Ford, 1858, contains a broadside advertising the stud services of Young Dread, a “celebrated young Stallion” said to be the “noblest specimen of the horse kind ever known.” A beautiful blood bay in color said to have excellent movement and an exceedingly gentle temper, Young Dread, with the English blood of Eclipse, Wellington, and Durock in his pedigree, was advertised for ten dollars for the season and fifteen to insure.
Advertisement for Jack Sopus
Frederick County Chancery Cause Admx. of Abraham Johnson vs. Nicholas W. Hancher, 1823-174SC. (Frederick County Chancery Causes Oversize, Barcode 1027767)
Farmers and others wanting to improve their breed of horses were invited to call and examine Young Dread, “the model Horse of America.” Young Dread was not the only impressive horse found in the Frederick County court records. A similar broadside for the “elegant horse” Young Jack Sopus can be found in the Frederick County Chancery Cause Admx. of Abraham Johnson vs. Nicholas W. Hancher, 1823-174SC. Compared to Young Dread, the grandson of Old Jack Sopus was a bargain standing at the moderate price of three dollars and fifty cents for the season. The owners of Young Jack Sopus found it “unnecessary to give a further pedigree, as his appearance will recommend him to all good judges.”
The pre-1866 Frederick County chancery causes are available on microfilm at the Library of Virginia; however, the post-1866 chancery causes are currently closed for processing. Please see the Chancery Records Index for a listing of the available locality chancery collections.
-Bari Helms, Local Records Archivist