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

Fletcher Harper, MFH (1874-1963) was Master of the Orange County Hunt for 33 seasons, from 1920 to 1953. In 1900, the Hunt was originally organized in and named for Orange County, New York, but was relocated to Fauquier County, Virginia, in 1903. A set of Orange County Hunting Diaries from 1936 to 1969 are held in the NSLM archives.

Fletcher Harper, MFH, National Sporting Library & Museum Photographs Collection.
Fletcher Harper, MFH, National Sporting Library & Museum Photographs Collection.

Mr. Harper was married to Harriet Wadsworth (1881-1975), whose father, James W. Wadsworth was cousin of William Austin Wadsworth, the Master and founder of the famous Genesee Valley Hunt in New York. Mrs. Harper rode sidesaddle on the off side, due to an injury.

Mrs. Fletcher Harper, photograph by Ira Haas, NY. National Sporting Library & Museum photographs collection.
Mrs. Fletcher Harper, photograph by Ira Haas, NY. National Sporting Library & Museum Photographs Collection.

Together, the Harpers worked tirelessly to open the land around The Plains, Virginia to foxhunting. Fletcher became renowned as a thorough and attentive Master, carefully repairing all damage to property from hunts and keeping in close contact with the farming community. Mr. Harper is generally credited with putting Orange County on the map as a premiere American hunt.

“For the past seven years Mr. Harper has carried on the traditions of the Hunt in the most able manner, his tact and great charm working wonders with those landowners who were sometimes difficult to deal with. Mr. Harper found that the greatest evil with which he had to contend was wire, and this difficulty he has successfully combated by paneling the country in some places and putting in ‘chicken coops’ in others, until he now has as rideable a territory as could be wished for.”

From Hunting in the United States and Canada, by A. Henry Higginson and Julian Ingersoll Chamberlain, 1928.

Along with George L. Ohrstrom, Sr., Alexander Mackay-Smith, and Lester Karow, Harper founded the National Sporting Library in 1954 as a public resource on equestrian and field sports. Mr. Harper served as President of NSL from its founding in 1956 until his death in 1963. In 1972, Mrs. Harper donated a painting of Mr. Harper to the NSL. This painting is a study for a finished portrait completed in 1931.

Ellen Gertrude Emmett Rand (American, 1875-1941) Study for Portrait of Fletcher Harper (1874-1963), c. 1931, oil on canvas, 45 x 34 ½ inches. National Sporting Library & Museum, gift of Mrs. Fletcher Harper, 1972.
Ellen Gertrude Emmett Rand (American, 1875-1941) Study for Portrait of Fletcher Harper (1874-1963), c. 1931, oil on canvas, 45 x 34 ½ inches. National Sporting Library & Museum, gift of Mrs. Fletcher Harper, 1972.

The artist, Ellen Emmett Rand, was an accomplished portrait painter who studied at The Art Students League of New York with William Merritt Chase and Kenyon Cox. She is known for her portraits of artists, writers, socialites and politicians, including President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Fletcher Harper Memorial Trophy: Foxhunters Timber Race, sterling silver, diameter: 12 inches, Collection of Orange County Hounds, on loan to the National Sporting Library & Museum
Fletcher Harper Memorial Trophy: Foxhunters Timber Race, sterling silver, diameter: 12 inches, Collection of Orange County Hounds, on loan to the National Sporting Library & Museum

After his retirement as Master, Harper assisted Orange County in its hound breeding program until his death in 1963. He and Harriet are buried at the Georgetown Cemetery, Church of Our Savior, Broad Run, Virginia.