Once upon a time, the tiny Virginia town of Middleburg experienced a golden age of enthusiasm for riding and equestrian sport. After The Great Hound Match of 1905 put Virginia on the map as prime foxhunting country, several hunts began operating in the region and the countryside transformed into an optimal landscape for riding.

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“Children and Ponies,” Undated photograph by Dove Hayes. In the Gerald B. Webb, Jr. Archive, National Sporting Library & Museum. Caption reads: “Left to Right: Polly Baldwin and ‘Merry’; Bobby Baldwin and ‘Star’; Barry Hamilton and ‘Jock’; Jimmy Hamilton and ‘Mountain Music’; Eve Prime and ‘Spoogie Woogie’; Christie Thompson and ‘Dummie.'”

Middleburg became a close-knit community in the heart of Hunt Country in the 1920s and 1930s. An excellent first-hand account of Middleburg in this era can be found in The Way It Was: Middleburg in the 1920s and 1930s by Catherine Hulbert Harts (a copy is in the NSLM collection). There really was no age barrier to participation in horse sports: children rode on ponies as soon as they were able to sit up in the saddle.

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The Hunting Diary and Guide, 1930-31. National Sporting Library & Museum, gift of Christopher McClary, 2016. Foxhunting directories often included hunt diary sections for riders to record daily activities. This copy belonged to Jane Stevenson McClary, who was eleven years old in 1931.

A recent donation to the NSLM collection is a British-printed copy of The Hunting Diary and Guide, 1930-31. The entries were made by a young lady named Jane Walker Stevenson, who rode in and around Middleburg. Jane was eleven years old in 1931, and was quite the accomplished rider, foxhunting with the Orange County Hounds and riding with friends from Foxcroft School.

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An afternoon of hide-and-seek, misadventures, and apples. In 1931, children played with their ponies in and around Middleburg.

Jane’s entries are both charming and opinionated. “Nancy and Barbara Iselin, Louise Dillworth came over on ponies,” she notes in her entry on Friday, March 6, 1931. “Played hide & seek on ponies. Barby fell off and I was going to lead Atoka over a jump and he pulled away from me twice. Jumped the four ft. post & sail. Atoka knocked the top rail off. Gave horses apples.”

The following day, Jane was out with Orange County, starting from the No. 18 School House in Marshall, and cutting across country to Rectortown, some five miles away.

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“Number 18 School in Marshall,” 2011. Accessed via Wikimedia Commons. The Orange County meet began at this one-room school house, which still stands in Marshall, VA today.

“I was so mad at Nancy Smith,” writes Jane, “she said she was such a great rider and nonsence [sic] and she fell off on a chicken coop about 3 ft. My! She can boast.”

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A “Collossal Run with Orange County,” March 7, 1931.

The episode didn’t ruin the day, though. “Lovely Mrs. Filly was out and she *is* lovely. GREAT Day and nice,” she writes.

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An impressive roster! Jane lists all her hunting outings, and every horse she rode during the year. She terms it “a truly grand season.”

As for Jane Stevenson, her practice at writing evidently paid off. After attending The Hill School in Middleburg, she went on to marry Robinson McIlvane and write for The Washington Times-Herald and Fortune.

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Jane grew up to be an accomplished journalist and author. Her book To Win the Hunt was illustrated by her husband, Nelson McClary.

After her first marriage ended in divorce, she returned to Middleburg, eventually marrying Nelson McClary and she rode again with the Orange County Hounds. She wrote regularly for Middleburg Life and published over a dozen books during her lifetime. After Nelson passed, his son Christopher donated the family’s books to NSLM. Jane’s childhood diary was included in the donation, and we’re pleased to preserve the stories she recorded from the days where children kept pace with some of the best riders in the country.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail

Many people are surprised to learn just how delicate are the threads of history. Over the Christmas holiday, we uncovered some surprising connections, and it’s all thanks to a case of mistaken identity.

For the past few months, we have selected photographs from our archive collections to share on the NSLM Facebook Page for “Throwback Thursdays.” These photographs have allowed us to interact with our members in new ways, as we have begun to share memories and hear stories through social media. On Christmas Eve, this photo was shared.

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A photo in our collection misidentified the rider on the left as “Fred Walberg.”

The photo is from the Gerald B. Webb Archive collection. Mr. Webb is on the right. Sometime in the past, an attempt was made to identify the other riders.

All we had to go on was a 70-year-old photo, a sticky note, and youthful enthusiasm. Naturally, it turned into an adventure!
All we had to go on was a 70-year-old photo, a sticky note, and library-level enthusiasm. Naturally, it turned into an adventure.

The sticky note in the archive clearly identifies the rider on the left as “Fred Walberg.” We had no idea who that might be. The identifier was unsure if the rider in the center is Dot Smithwick, a prominent foxhunter in the Middleburg area. When the photo was shared on Facebook, we immediately had help from one of our supporters, who suggested “Walberg,” could be a “Warburg” instead.

James Plaskitt made a huge connection for us.
James Plaskitt made a huge connection for us. Could “Walberg” be “Warburg”?

A huge thank you to James Plaskitt for his suggestion!

Warburg is a distinctive name, and one that has lots of meaning for us at NSLM. In 2008, Mrs. Felicia Warburg Rogan made a significant donation of sporting art to us, and the paintings by John Emms and Sir Alfred Munnings in that donation are a major part of the Museum experience. But was there a connection? With the help of online genealogical resources, a Christmastime investigation was afoot!

John Emms (English, 1841-1912) Foxhounds and Terrier in a Stable Interior, 1878 oil on canvas, 39 x 52 inches Gift of Felicia Warburg Rogan, 2008
John Emms (English, 1841-1912) Foxhounds and Terrier in a Stable Interior, 1878
oil on canvas, 39 x 52 inches
Gift of Felicia Warburg Rogan, 2008

Our first research sweep found a major local connection: our newest corporate sponsor, Goodstone Inn & Restaurant. Goodstone Inn is on the site of Goodstone Farm, just a stone’s throw from the kennels of the Middleburg Hunt. We visited with the staff at Goodstone Inn to learn more about the history.

The property was owned by the Leith family, who settled in the region in 1768. Three Leith sons faught for the Confederacy during the Civil War, and the property was sold to the Goodwin family (who renamed it Goodstone Farm) in 1915. The Goodstone mansion was destroyed by fire in 1939, and only the facade of the mansion remains today. The property was sold to Frederick Warburg in 1943. Mr. Warburg was a member of a prominent banking family; the amenities at the farm were expanded and the Warburgs used the farm as a seasonal residence for foxhunting and riding. The farm was renamed Snake Hill Farm, in part because of the winding road around the farm.

Another photograph of Frederick Warburg.
Another photograph of Frederick Warburg in the Gerald Webb collection.

 

Now that we had the correct name, we were able to positively identify Mr. Warburg in the original photograph. Using genealogical resources, we worked backwards to uncover the rest of the connection. Felicia Warburg Rogan’s father was Paul Felix Solomon Warburg, whose brother was Frederick Warburg (1897-1973).

Frederick Warburg, Dot Smithwick (?), and Gerald B. Webb.
Frederick Warburg, Dot Smithwick (?), and Gerald B. Webb.

 

We can tell a lot from the photo, now. We know the photo was likely taken between 1943 and 1947, since the Warburgs purchased Goodstone in 1943 and Gerald Webb died in 1947. It’s quite likely that the horses in the original photo were Goodstone horses (though we can’t be sure). The location pictured could be Glenwood Park, built in 1932 and today the site of the Virginia Fall Races and the Middleburg Spring Races. We hope to discover if Dot Smithwick is the lady riding in the center. If you can identify any of these elements, please help us unravel the mystery!

Iconic in its simple elegance, Middleburg is nestled in the idyllic countryside filled with horses grazing in pastures bounded by stone walls. For those who’ve never been, Middleburg, Virginia is foxhunting country. It wasn’t always that way; the “Great Hound Match” in 1905 put Northern Virginia on the map as prime hunting country. The following year, in 1906, the Middleburg Hunt was formed and has been active ever since.

Today we only have one image to offer, but it’s pretty special. It’s called “Hunt Scene at Middleburg,” and it’s a photo taken in 1924.

"Hunt Scene at Middleburg," 1924
“Hunt Scene at Middleburg,” 1924

We have cropped the full scan of the image, due to the advanced deterioration of the lower edges and the brittle nature of the original print. So, what makes this image so special? First, I can tell you the exact date this image was snapped: November 27, 1924. The note on the rear of the image says that this hunting party assembled “after Thanksgiving party at Foxcroft, 1924.” But what’s really special is that a note was attached to the photo which lists the names of many of the most visible participants. That is highly unusual when exploring old photos!

Letter from Thomas Atkinson, dated May 26, 1965.  This was written in response to a request to identify riders in the photo.
Letter from Thomas Atkinson, dated May 26, 1965. This was written in response to a request to identify riders in the photo.

The note is stamped by Chronicle of the Horse; many of our photos and albums were kept and maintained at the Chronicle before entering the NSLM collections in the 1960s. Here is our best effort to match up sections of the note to the images.

Dear Miss White: The two front riders are Miss Julia Gatewood...
Dear Miss White: The two front riders are Miss Julia Gatewood…
...and Mr. Taylor Hardin.
…and Mr. Taylor Hardin.
Behind Miss Gatewood is Mr. Harry Duffy Jr.
Behind Miss Gatewood is Mr. Harry Duffy Jr.

Behind Miss Gatewood is Mr. Harry Duffy Jr. In center of first group in a grey coat with a chrysanemum [sic] is, I feel sure, Miss Nancy Penn Smith (Mrs. J Hannum).
In center of first group in a grey coat with a chrysanemum [sic] is, I feel sure, Miss Nancy Penn Smith (Mrs. J Hannum).
Mr. Atkinson evidently had access to a second photograph. That photo apparently showed the second group (in the far background of this photo) much more clearly. Mr. Atkinson writes:

Again I am not sure, but I believe the second lady on a white horse leading the second group is Miss Charlotte N. In the small photograph I can only recognize the Hunstman, Robert Maddux, Mr. Sands leading on the road, with Mr. Jim Skinner on his right, and Mr. Halbert on the white mule.

I am sorry I can’t be more helpful. Sincerely, Thomas Atkinson.

It’s possible that the second photo will emerge someday. Do you recognize anybody in the photograph above?

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