On the Edge of Common Sense by Baxter Black: Black’s Hambletonian
December 25, 2013
Did you ever wonder if being horsey is hereditary? Twenty five years ago a fellow veterinarian invited me into his office and showed me a picture in a livestock book copyrighted in 1882. It was a drawing of a bay stallion. It was labeled "Black's Hambletonian. One of the finest and best blooded trotting stallions of the day. Property of S. Baxter Black, Compassville, PA. Cost when a weanling colt, $3,500. Sired by Rysdyk's Hambletonian; dam, Kitt, out of Long Island Black Hawk."
I was taken aback! Aunt Effie always told me that my great grandfather, James Black (b. 1833) was Pennsylvania Dutch, from Erie County Pennsylvania. His son, my grandfather, was E. Baxter Black. (b. 1866). According to the U.S. Trotting Registry Black's Hambletonian was foaled in 1868. It's beginning to look suspicious.
The ancestry backtrack for James Black (b. 1833) ends with him. S. Baxter Black was born in Pennsylvania in 1825, 8 years before James. S. Black's father was listed as foreign born. The census in 1850 shows S. Baxter Black to be living in Lancaster County Pennsylvania and was listed as a farmer.
It is my belief that James named his son E. Baxter Black after S. Baxter Black. They were across the state from each other and the ancestry doesn't connect them as brothers, but they could easily be cousins. E. Baxter had a son named Robert who named his son Baxter A. …which is me. And we are all horsey. Grandpa E. Baxter was horsey. The same could be said of my father Robert, Uncle Bert, cousin Jim (James), daughter Jennifer and me.
Now, $3,500 had to be a lot of money in 1868. But it appears S. Baxter was doing pretty well for himself. Black's Hamilton is sired by Rysdyk's Hambletonian (b. 1849) who happens to be the one of the most prominent sires of the breed.
My contention is supported by the dearth of Baxter Blacks who have walked the earth. When I Google myself I find only one or two but they have different middle initials. I figger if I checked their ancestry back four or five generations we'd all be named after the same character that S. Baxter was named after. After all, who would make up a name like that?
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James moved through Wisconsin and Texas then finally Oklahoma. His son E. Baxter was in the Oklahoma Territory Land Run of '89 and staked out the home place where my dad was born in 1918. In 1880 S. Baxter moved to Lexington, Ky, bein' in the horse business and all, and in 1888 he had a sale. Sold the place, the livestock and all the horses except two; Greenfield and Black's Hambletonian.
I have on my wall an original litho of Black's Hambletonian that was portrayed in the livestock book 150 years ago. How I got it is another story.