In the spring of 1861, as the nation balanced on the brink of the Civil War, a farmer from the Hudson Valley brought a pedigreed colt to his new home in the Cowanesque Valley of northern Pennsylvania. What were his intentions for the young stallion? For the next three decades, the stallion was controlled by various members of the Wood family and passed from father to sons. From the Civil War through the Gilded Age and into the era of the Great War, horses sired by the Woods' Hambletonian stallion became four-legged celebrities during the peak of harness racing. The Grand Circuit was the highest level of this American spectator sport before NASCAR, the NFL, NBA or major league baseball. Piecing together public records, news archives, family diaries, scrapbooks, and artifacts, the author reveals the true stories behind the legend of the horse known as "Old Dan". The stallion's offspring were purchased, loved and raced by congressmen, capitalists, and common farmers of the region along the Pennsylvania and New York border. Fully-documented with annotations, details of the Wood family and social history of the region augment this narrative of real horses - from Wall Street to Kentucky and Farmington township - who connected this remote lumber territory to the mainstream of America's journey through the Industrial Age.
Author Ellen Williams is a 5th-generation descendant of Oliver L. Wood.
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