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Picture – The Boot Family with their race horse – Courtesy of Gale McClean
Back row, left to right: John Monroe, Tom Boot, Fred Boot, William Boot.
Front row: Ann Boot, Thomas Boot, Engel Boot, Frances Boot (sitting on ground). The race horse was named Crescent.

Trotting Horses and the Wilton Fair

By Curtis Frymoyer

Transcribed by Elizabeth Casillas, February 5, 2016

     Records show that the first Wilton Fair was held in the fall of 1871. The first surviving newspapers account of a Wilton Fair is found in the Sept. 4, 1874 issue of the Wilton Exponent. Mention is made of the fine exhibits of livestock and farm produce and the speed on the race track. “During the first and second days there was close and exciting races if no fast ones.”

     Horse racing was always of great interest at the fair because the trotting horse was about the only means of transportation for the . . .

Pg 56
Picture – Seni Om Sed, Race Horse – Courtesy of Gale McClean
A pedigreed horse owned by the Boot family.

. . . general public and everyone wanted a driving horse that could make good time. There were a number of breeders of trotting horses in the Wilton vicinity. These men trained their best horses at the Wilton race track and raced them at the fair as an advertisement of their product. A horse might be raced for a few years and then sold to a local man for a driving horse. A good many country boys drove old time race horses when going to and from Wilton High School.

     The Wilton fairgrounds had an unusually fine race track and horsemen liked to train their horses there. It has been said that the track was built up of layers of clay and squares of sod and had a springy surface which made it a fast track and easy on the horses’ legs.

     Some famous horses were owned by Wilton men and trained on the local track as shown by the following accounts in the Wilton Review: . . . .

     July 17, 1879- “Death of Brown George (of Wilton) – The race at the (Davenport) Fair Grounds on Saturday bid fair to be to a good one. The horses were in fine shape, and many remarked that Brown George never looked and worked so well. . . The horses were some time in scoring, they being called back 7 or 8 times. At last they got off, Brown George a little in the lead, Lucy crowding him close, Oats way behind. The mare and George were neck and neck until they turned the home stretch, when George commenced wobbling and broke some thirty yards from the score. He staggered under the wire and dropped dead just beneath it. . . Brown George was an eight year old brown gelding. . .

Pg 57
Picture – Race Horses at the Wilton Fair – Courtesy of Gale McClean
The second man from the left is thought to be Tom Killian, race horse trainer of Wilton.

Picture – Home and Horse of Dr. D. Smith – Courtesy of Olga Port
Dr. Smith, holding the horse, was equally proud of his home at 219 W. Sixth Street and his horse Neta-O. Children in the picture are Olga Smith, Bertha Bacon and Frank Bacon. The hitching post beside Dr. Smith still stands in front of the home of Elizabeth Martin.

. . . (and) this was his second season. He was owned by Ott and Blanchard of (Wilton) Muscatine county but had been worked by George Kelly. The horse was a valuable one and its owners had recently refused $2500 for him. . . Mr. K. thought as much of him as a man can of an animal and the loss was almost greater to him than the proprietors who had reason to think his record would soon stand down in the twenties.”

     July 14, 1881 – “A Racer’s Record – Josephus. . . trotted an exhibition heat at Ford Dodge on the Fourth, making a mile on a half mile track without a skip in 2:18. It was the fastest time ever made on a half mile track in Iowa. We remember well when Josephus was purchased by Ott and Blanchard of Wilton; it was in 1879, just after those gentlemen had lost their slick Brown George who dropped dead on the Davenport course while racing for a $500 purse on a hot afternoon. They immediately started off for Tipton and purchased Josephus from a livery firm giving $900 for him. He was taken in hand by Clark McAllester of the fairgrounds here and trained to lively work. Clark brought him up to what he is; drove him to several records in the low. . .

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. . . twenties last fall, after which Ott and Blanchard sold him to the Marsh Bros. at Jessup for $10,000 cash in hand.”

     Other men who raised or owned race horses in Wilton were W. G. Griffith with his trotter “Never Fret”; J. Bockman with “Masoba”; Tom Killian with “Miss Ada”; T. Henley with “Jack Dempsey”; W.A. Cooling with “Red Maleon” and “John Hervey”.

     Dr. Smith raised the filly “Nita O” from his mare “Effie” and one season entered her in the races at the Wilton Fair.

     Several members of the Boot family were racing men and one of their outstanding horses was “Crescent.” More race horse owners and trainers were Tom Applebee, William Angel and Herman Jarr. When the Wilton Fair closed down the trainers left Wilton and went to other tracks.

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Page created February 5, 2016 by Lynn McCleary