Tag Archives: Saratoga County

1963: A North Country Racehorse Makes Good


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With the Kentucky Derby fast approaching, here’s an item from 1963, when a horse whose name had North Country ties nearly won the coveted Triple Crown (Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont). The owner was John W. Galbreath, well known nationally and a frequent visitor to the Adirondacks. While his wealth was notable, it was in the world of sports that Galbreath earned his greatest fame.

He owned baseball’s Pittsburgh Pirates from 1946–1985 (one of his partners was Bing Crosby), winning the World Series in 1960, 1971, and 1979. He was also a graduate of Ohio State and a longtime supporter of the school’s athletic program, one of the most successful in the nation.

Galbreath became fabulously wealthy as a real estate developer, owning major properties in Columbus, Los Angeles, New York, and Pittsburgh. In 1986, the family fortune was estimated at $400 million. Despite his substantial fame in baseball and real estate, Galbreath’s favorite subject was horseracing. Perhaps the name of his birthplace (in 1897) was a good omen for a future in the sport: he was born in Derby, Ohio.

Among other things, Galbreath’s great wealth allowed him to indulge his passion. He became involved in horse racing in the 1930s, eventually serving as chairman of Churchill Downs in Louisville (where the Kentucky Derby is run). Near Columbus, Ohio, he developed the famed Darby Dan Farm into a 4000-acre spread, producing many outstanding racehorses.

He had never won the Kentucky Derby, a goal of all major owners, and in 1963, none of Galbreath’s horses seemed particularly promising. Then, shortly before the Derby, one of his colts captured three straight races, including the Bluegrass Stakes. Suddenly, anything was possible.

The horse’s name was Chateaugay, and despite the sudden success, most of the media hype went to several other competitors prior to the Triple Crown races. Never Bend was the leading money-winner, and Candy Spots and No Robbery were the first undefeated horses to face off in the Derby in 88 years.

In front of 120,000 fans at the Kentucky Derby, Galbreath’s favorite horse went off at 9-1 odds. There appeared to be little chance for success. After running at mid-pack for much of the race, Chateaugay moved up to fourth. Near the final stretch, future-hall-of-fame-jockey Braulio Baeza steered his horse through an opening to the inside, and Chateaugay strode to the front, topping all the pre-race stars to win by 1¼ lengths.

In race number two, the Preakness, the same strategy was employed. This time, Chateaugay came roaring to the front but fell just short, finishing 3½ lengths behind winner Candy Spots. In the Belmont, the results were very similar to the Preakness, but this time, Chateaugay’s charge to the lead was successful, overtaking Candy Spots to win by 2½ lengths.

Only a close loss at the Preakness prevented Chateaugay from winning the Triple Crown, but Galbreath’s colt had proven nevertheless to be a great racehorse.

During this time, the excitement in the North Country was fairly palpable, especially in the town of Chateaugay (in the northeast corner of Franklin County). Many residents were fervent supporters of Galbreath and his horse, and the famed owner expressed his appreciation in a letter that appeared in local newspapers:

Dear Mr. Peacock:
It was certainly nice of you to write me a letter about Chateaugay winning the Kentucky Derby. Several people have asked me how we happened to name this horse as we did.

As you perhaps know, we have some interest in Lyon Mountain and Mineville, New York [the iron mines], and while I was up there several years ago, I saw the name Chateaugay. I made the remark at the time that I thought it was a pretty name for a town, and also thought it would be a good name for a horse.

Since Chateaugay’s older sister, Primonetta, was our best filly to date, we naturally hoped this colt would be a good one, and for that reason, we applied the name to him.

It has been very gratifying indeed to have so many nice letters from people of your town, and I hope you will thank the members of the Chamber of Commerce for their nice telegram which they sent under your name last week. I am going to have some pictures made just as soon as we receive the proofs, and I will eventually send you a picture which you can use for publishing in the paper.

Thank you again for your nice letter and wire.
Sincerely yours,
John W. Galbreath

In honor of the victory, Galbreath named one of Darby Dan’s buildings “Gay Chateau” (well before a new meaning for “gay” entered the vernacular).

A few years after winning the Derby, Chateaugay was retired to stud service, first at Darby Dan Farm, and later in Japan after his sale to racing interests there. He died in 1985.

Galbreath died in 1988 at the age of 90. Besides a grand legacy in the sporting world, he left behind the John W. Galbreath Company, America’s third-largest real estate developer. A second Darby Dan horse, Proud Clarion, won the Derby in 1967, but it was Chateaugay who first made Galbreath’s long-held dream a reality.

Photos: Top―Chateaugay after winning the Kentucky Derby (1963). Bottom―Chateaugay after winning the Belmont Stakes (1963).

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 20 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

Tories Return to Saratoga Battlefield May 5-6


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Royalist Americans—commonly known to us as “Tories”—will take over the Breymann Redoubt on Saturday and Sunday, May 5th and 6th, each day from 10am to 4pm at Saratoga Battlefield, located on Route 32 and 4 in Stillwater.

Encamped on an original loyalist campsite from the 1777 Battles of Saratoga, men and women portraying Royalist American soldiers and followers will demonstrate some aspects of 18th-century military life including preparation of authentic military camp food, musket drills, and army clothing sewing demonstrations. They will also tell stories of the wartime sufferings of the Americans who chose to remain loyal to King George III during the Revolutionary War.

The event is free and open to the public, although an entrance fee to the auto tour road is charged. Passes are $5 per carload of people or $3 per adult to bike or hike. A one-year pass to the Battlefield costs $10. For more information on this and other events at Saratoga National Historical Park, the National Park, call the Visitor Center at 518-664-9821 ext. 1777, check the park website, or follow the park on Facebook.

Photo: Interpreters portray Loyalist militia at Fort Ticonderoga. Courtesy Fort Ticonderoga.

Company Wants to Mine Fort Anne Battlefield


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A battle is brewing in Fort Ann, Washington County. Troy Topsoil has purchased part of Battle Hill, the site of the Revolutionary War Battle of Fort Anne. The company hopes to mine the battlefield, where an estimated 100 to 200 men were killed, wounded, or captured.

A group of historians and volunteers has planned a day of events to highlight the history of the Battle of Fort Anne, including an afternoon roundtable discussion on the current threat to the battlefield this Saturday, April 28th at Fort Ann Central School.

“This place has remained undisturbed for over 235 years, then Troy [Topsoil] obtained the property and has cleared out trees, built roads, installed culverts and drilled wells, in order to operate a sand and gravel pit,” Fort Ann Town Historian Virginia Parrott, who opposes the project, told me, “To most people in town including the Fort Ann American Legion Post 703, this is a desecration of sacred ground as people have fought and died here in the name of freedom, and are buried on Battle Hill.” [You can read more about the history of Battle Hill here].

“That whole hill is a battle site,” Parrott had previously told the Glens Falls Post-Star. “There was thousands of troops there. We’re not talking about a little group of soldiers … like Roger’s Rangers that went out with 10 or 12 people. We’re talking about Burgoyne’s entire army.”

Anthony Grande, speaking for the mining company, said an archaeologist report commissioned by his company showed no one was buried in the area targeted for the open pit mine. “The battlefield is south of me where there is an issue,” Grande told the Post-Star. “It’s definitely south of there, probably 3,000 to 4,000 feet. I’m not exactly sure.” The company is seeking to open a 30 to 40-acre mine on Battle Hill.

Several historic sources report that at least six men are buried at Battle Hill according to Parrott, who has been town historian since 1975. The site has never been listed on state or national registers of historic places, although the Town of Fort Anne installed a plaque at the site in 1929 and the American Legion places flowers on one of the graves each year. The lack of established protection for important American battlefields is common. “Of the nation’s 243 Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields, 141 have been severely impaired or destroyed” a recent report by the Department of Interior’s American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP) concluded (2007).

Battle Hill was classified as a Principal Battlefield, Priority 2, Class C site in that report, meaning that it was home to a “nationally significant event” and the “site of a military or naval action that influenced the strategy, direction, or outcome of a campaign or other operation.” Furthermore, the report found that “The endangered Class C sites in this category should be the focus of immediate and direct preservation measures by state and local governments and organizations. These sites may not survive without immediate intervention.”

Tanya Grossett, surveyed the battlefield in 2001 for that report and concluded, with help of Jim Warren of NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation and Chris Martin of NYS Archives and Records Administration, that the quarry does fall within the core of the battlefield. Paul Hawke, director of the American Battlefield Protection Program concurred with that finding after a tour of the site last Tuesday.

The land is owned by Gino Vona. According to a story last week in Post-Star, “Vona said he’s offered to donate a small sliver of the site, about 20 or 30 acres, for preservation and he questions whether stalling a project that could create jobs, for the sake of historic preservation, is an appropriate governmental move.”

“These men fought against the king who was taking their things. Many of them were just regular, hard-working people,” Vona told Post-Star reporter Jon Alexander, “Aren’t we talking about doing the same thing?”

The company had applied for a permit to mine the location in August 2009 which did not include a state Historic Preservation Office review and was denied. The company submitted a new application at the end of 2011. The public will be able to comment on the project officially after the application is ruled complete by the NYS Department of Conservation.

The event on Saturday is sponsored by the Washington County Historical Society and will feature Author Karl Crannell, Fort Ticonderoga Chris Fox, Kingsbury historian Paul Loding, and Matt Zembo from Hudson Valley Community College.

The event will begin run from 11 am to 4 pm. There will be a memorial service at Noon; the roundtable discussion will follow at 1 pm at the Fort Ann Central School Auditorium.

New Social Studies Curriculum: The Time to Act is Now


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Bruce Dearstyne’s recent post, Historical Societies: Getting Past Hard Times, raises a number of disturbing issues. The story of the tribulations of the Saratoga County Historical Society is one of concern. The Institute of History, Archaeology, and Education (IHARE) has had several Teacherhostels / Historyhostels in Saratoga County mostly relating to the Battle of Saratoga and also in Waterford. Last summer as part of a Teaching American History grant, a group of teachers from Vermont stayed in Clifton Park while learning about the battle. I have had email exchanges with Brookside’s Executive Director Joy Houle about the possibility of having a Saratoga County History Conference there as was done in the Hudson Valley. Continue reading

Black History Month at Saratoga Battlefield


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In February 2012, Saratoga National Historical Park, located between Rt. 4 and Rt. 32 just north of the Village of Stillwater, will offer a free, month-long highlight exhibit on Agrippa Hull, a black soldier who fought in the Battle of Saratoga. And from 1:30 to 3:30 PM on Sunday, February 12, 2012, the Park presents a special free program, “Men of African Descent at the Battle of Saratoga.”

This special exhibit focuses on the Agrippa Hull, a black soldier who fought in the Battle of Saratoga. Hull, who was a slave in early life, fought in the American Revolution and eventually became a very successful businessman. Historical documentation on his life and family gives us a unique look into an ordinary soldier and extraordinary man.

The program on Sunday the 19th unveils new information about free and enslaved black soldiers fighting in the Battle of Saratoga. Among the fascinating findings is the racial integration in the ranks of the Continental Army, a situation that did not happen again until the Korean War.

For more information about this or other events, please call the Visitor Center at 518-664-9821 or check the park website at www.nps.gov/sara.

Illustration: Agrippa Hull.

Recent Publications: New York Archives Magazine (Winter 2012)


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New York Archives is a beautifully designed quarterly magazine featuring articles for a popular audience by distinguished authors, scholars, and journalists. New York Archives is published by the Archives Partnership Trust primarily as a benefit of membership in the Trust. Visit www.nysarchivestrust.org to become a member.

The Winter 2012 issue of New York Archives features these articles: Continue reading

A New Contributer: Saratoga Historian Sean Kelleher


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Please join all of us here at New York History in welcoming our newest contributor Sean Kelleher. Kelleher is the Historian for the Town of Saratoga and Village of Victory in the Upper Hudson Valley. He has a particular interest in colonial history, being active as a reenactor for 34 years and has served as a Commissioner on the New York State French and Indian War 250th Anniversary Commemoration Commission.

Kelleher worked for a decade at a public television station, in addition to assisting on documentaries for PBS’s American Experience and the BBC. As an educator, he was a New Hampshire Council for the Social Studies Executive Board member and the Director of the New Hampshire Teacher Training Institute for Character and Citizenship Education. As a historian, he served as the Director of the Washington County Fair Farm Museum, and has designed a number of interpretive panels in his community. As a consultant, he has worked with a number of Champlain, Hudson and Mohawk Valleys historic sites on grant writing, interpretive planning, and marketing.

He writes about colonial history, the upper Hudson River, commemorations, and history education.

Saratoga Battlefield’s 17th Annual Frost Faire


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The 17th annual Frost Faire will take place from 10:30am to 3pm on Saturday, January 28 at Saratoga National Historical Park, located on Routes 4 and 32 in Stillwater. Popular in the 1700s, a “Frost Faire” eased the effects of “cabin fever” with opportunities to visit friends and enjoy winter activities, refreshments and entertainment.

If there’s snow, participants can bring their snow tube or plastic sled for rides on the “Big Hill.” Even if there is no snow, you can still enjoy horse-drawn carriage rides, winter nature treks, contra-dancing, special exhibits, games, plus cocoa and cookies by the bonfire. The event is free.

At Stop One — snow tubing the “Big Hill” (snow tubes/plastic sleds/toboggans only), bonfire, horse-drawn carriage rides and games including Giant Soldier Puzzle, Ice Bowling and Bottle Fishing, warming tent with cocoa and cookies. 12 noon: Winter Nature Hike with hidden treasures and prizes – open to all.

At the visitor center — contra-dancing, colonial handwriting demonstration, children’s craft room including decorative tin piercing and copper embossing, bonfire, cannon and musket firing demonstrations every half hour. 10:30am – Guided Snow-Shoe Trek by reservation only – call 664.9821 ext. 219 or email: megan_stevens@nps.gov

This event is sponsored by the Town of Stillwater and Saratoga National Historical Park. For more information on this or other events at Saratoga National Historical Park, call the Visitor Center at 518-664-9821 ext. 224 or check their website.

Auto Museum Offers Pinewood Derby Clinic


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The Saratoga Auto Museum will be holding a workshop for area Cub Scouts on the science involved in building a winning Pinewood Derby Car. The event, which will take place on January 7, 2012 at the Museum (110 Avenue of the Pines, Saratoga Springs), will begin at 1:00 pm and include Tech Talk (The physics of speed), Speed Shop, and Track Time.

To participate in the full event, preregistration is required and will be limited to the first 40 registrants. Each registration includes a pinewood derby car kit with regulation axles and wheels which will be assembled during the Speed Shop segment. Once the cars are completed, a weigh in will precede a series of heat races on the SAM’s Garage Pinewood Derby Track.

Registration fee for the event is $10.00 and will include a car kit and Museum admission for the scout and an adult, so participants should come early to check out the “Porsche: 60 Years of Speed and Style in North America” exhibit before the Pinewood Derby event begins.

Participation in the Tech Talk and Track Time segments is also open to Cub Scouts who have previously completed their car and just want to join in the fun.

For registration, visit www.saratogaautomuseum.org and click on the Pinewood Derby link.

Photo: Pinewood Article from 1954 Boy’s Life magazine. Hat tip PinewoodPro.com.