HORSE RACING IN ANDOVER
TAKEN FROM OLD ANDOVER NEWSPAPERS
COMPILED BY WILLIAM A. GREENE 2005
The first mention of a racetrack for horses was written in the Andover News in June 12th 1901. It says: Speedway Association Formed. “Last week Andover’s leading lovers of horse and track drivers formed an association to purchase ground and construct a driving track. The organization met and elected the following officers: President – C. W. Whiting. Secretary - Treasurer – Crayton L. Early. Trustees – Ed. Kinney, R. L. Parshall, C. B. Lever, Ollie Whitcomb and Benjamin Conley.”
Also in the same paper are articles pertaining to horses. “Henry Garvin and Charles B. Lever drove to Hornellsville Saturday. Henry purchased a bay pacer and will exercise it on our new speedway. C. L. Whiting is the owner of a beautiful black pacer mare, and is enjoying his drives. He will give her a few lessons on the new track as soon as completed.”
We also know that Elm Valley had a racetrack as we have pictures with it in them. I have found no written record of it. (Race track shown in picture beyond the fence and behind dark colored barn in lower 1/2 of picture of Elm Valley.)
So the sport of kings was in its makings here in Andover in mid 1901. The track was located west of the Village on the Wallace Richardson farm, now known as the Norbert Lynch & Frank McCormick farm. If you look towards the right after you go by the farmhouse a little ways you can still see where the track once was by the grove of willow trees.
It was a half-mile track, and among the royalty who participated and owned horses were: C. B. Lever, E. B. Rollins, Ben Conley, Crayton Early, Frank Clark, Doc Parshall, Will Snyder, John Lever, John DeRemer, and Chan Whiting. From Elm Valley, there came Adelbert Hann, Print Burdick with his horse, Lady Pinewood; Ed Breese, who operated the Elm Valley Store and Post Office, with “Tickle Me: and Hi Covel, a local blacksmith.
John Cocoman, a professional trainer of horses, with years of experience at some of the major racetracks of the country, served many of these men as trainer in Andover.
They held what were called the Matinee Races. Anyone having access to a horse that he considered track worthy was welcome to join the fun. Mr. Richardson’s milk wagon was rolled out to the center track area and served as a judges’ stand. A school bell was ding-donged, and the horses were off. It was any man’s race.
There were favorites of the time, however, namely: Kitty Clover, owned by Ben Conley; Susie, owned by Crayton Earley; and Jolly Roger, a pacer, also owned by Ben Conley. This horse was sold to Jesse Phillips and later to Crayton Earley to add the speed of lightning to Earley’s racing band.
John Lever was owner of a fine little trotting stallion, which must have brought pride and glory to his owner when entered into competition with the local horses. Because this horse is have known to run second money at Canandaigua at one time, and did very well at the Bath Fair.
Father Rengal, Andover’s Priest at the time, owned two of three fine horses and followed the racing activities with keen interest.
The tales of Andover’s horse racing could surely provide plots for many fascinating novels it was said. There was the time that “Kitty Clover” was found poisoned. Considering the records, she had set fro Mr. Conley, who would not suspect foul play?
One time John Lever and Frank Clark decided to go to Troupsburg Fair just to see how their horses would show against the entries there. Upon arriving at the Fair, they discovered that all of the horses entered in racing competition were from Andover.
Then there was “Drowsy Maggie” C. B. Lever “got wind” there was a retired race horse living on Greenwood Hill. Up he went and bought the animal. She was so skinny, scrawny, and emaciated a beast, that Mr. Lever hid her away in a shed behind the Livery Stable where he “put the feed to her”.
Eventually he started smuggling her to the track after dark to work her out. She really progressed to the point of being entered in one of the Matinees, whereupon she “cleaned up”.
Lively and colorful was the horse phase of Andover’s history, and sad as it seems to some people that now written record has been set down for posterity. Mr. Earley, at one time, made a good beginning of this task. He had a book containing pictures of the famous racehorses and their post times. When his wife was asked about the said book she regretfully reported that it had become lost.
I have found nothing stating when the speedways became a thing of the past. But I can imagine it was about the time when the horseless carriage came around. Another page in history is turned and another chapter begins.