Harper's New Monthly Magazine
William Henry Bishop
New York: October 1883


  "WE Kentuckians are never in a hurry."

  "But your horses are, for you, and they make ample amends," said I.

  "Why, yes, they do not seem to waste a great deal of time, that is true."

  These words were spoken, as the stories are fond of beginning, apropos of some slight delay, at the railway station at Lexington, in the heart of the blue-grass country, and my interlocutor was a courteous ex-Confederate general who was waiting to take me to see one of the great breeding-farms on which the American trotter has been brought to his highest grade of perfection.

  The blue-grass country is reached by traversing central Virginia and Kentucky along the line of the picturesque Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, unless, indeed, one prefers the swift and solid Pennsylvania route to Cincinnati, and drops down to it from the north. On this particular journey, at any rate, it was reached past the battle-fields and springs of Virginia, and up and down the long slopes of the Blue Ridge and gorges of the Greenbrier Wand Kanawha, in the wilder Alleghanies. It is found to be a little cluster of peculiarly favored counties in the centre of the State. Marked out on the map, it is like the kernel, of which Kentucky is the nut; or like one of those "pockets" of precious metals happened upon by miners in their researches. The soil is of a rich fertility, the surface charmingly undulating. Poverty seems abolished. On every hand are evidences of thrift corresponding with the genial bounty of nature. A leading crop in times past has been hemp, and land that will grow hemp will grow anything. This is being more and more withdrawn in favor of stock-raising exclusively, but the tall stacks of hemp, in shape like Zulu wigwams, still plentifully dot the landscape.

  Lexington is its capital. It is a place of some eighteen thousand people, and has five important railroad connections. It is comfortably built of red brick. Its hotel, which has occasion to entertain not a few distinguished people, is on quite a large scale, and unexpectedly well kept. On a prominent knoll is the rusty-looking building of the Kentucky University, alma mater of Jefferson Davis. The old


a fair example of residences of a more modern style. It is the home of the Major McDowell before mentioned as the late purchaser of Ashland, and within it are some of the best portraits of Henry Clay, together with one of "Young Henry," over which hangs the sword he carried to the field of Buena Vista. The Gothic house, of blue limestone, with rustic gates of approach and bridges, might easily pass for one of our villas up the Hudson. The ground hereabouts is boldly undulating. It is well scattered with groves of fine forest trees, and one of these on the place has a great oak which might rival the famous redwoods of California. We come to a point where the mansion, on its knoll, is reflected in a pond. The farther slope is spotted with grazing South-downs, the hither one with a herd of Alderney cattle, upon whose leader tinkles a bell which might have a place in a collection of bric-à-brac, while between them pasture the beautiful high-bred colts. The lines of life under such circumstances as these certainly seem cast in pleasant places. The flocks and herds are all of the most costly and gentle sorts, and might become such a dainty pastoral life as that shown in the canvases of Boucher and Watteau.

  On another part of the estate, a centre for unstudied groupings of the colts, which wander thither from the vicinity of the stables and track near by, is an old house known as Llangollen. It has gone to decay now, and is occupied by a familiar figure in local horse circles, the trainer, "Old Buck"; but it has been in its time the residence of a family of ministers, the Le wises, who brought race-horses hither from Virginia, and later it was a boarding-school. Many amateurs of the curious would still prefer it, with the proper repairs, to those of the newer style.

  But of all the old dwellings which yet survive to typify the ideal of an "old Kentucky home," such as may have been that of the Shelbys of Uncle Tom's Cabin, the most curious is probably that on the Alexander estate of "Woodburn," in Woodford County. This great estate is well known as the home, and one of the earliest breeding-places, of some of the very best American running stock. Of late it is becoming equally famous for trotting stock, into which, like others of the breeding establishments, it inclines to merge its activity in preference to the first. King Alfonso (sire of Foxhall), Glen Athol, Pat Molloy, Falsetto, Powhatan (brother of Parole), and Asteroid, and their progeny, of the one breed, are to be seen about the place, with Harold (sire of Maud S.), Miss Russell (her dam), Lord Russell (her brother), Belmont, and Annapolis, and their progeny, of the other. Lexington was very early purchased by the Alexanders for $15,000. The price was deemed exorbitant at the time, till one son of Kentucky was sold for $40,000, and $50,000 was refused for another, Asteroid.