The Legacy of Sportsman's Hill at Crab Orchard

The Legacy of Sportsman's Hill at Crab Orchard (tmp-6ce9a)

Location: Stanford, KY 40484 Lincoln County
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Country: United States of America
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N 37° 28.108', W 84° 32.782'

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Before his death in 1813 at the Battle of the Thames, Whitley suspended the highly competitive racing at Sportsman's Hill when he discovered evidence that a nail had been put in the hoof of his prized horse. However, evidence in family history and beyond, shows that the love of horse racing in this area continued well into the 1860's and was lost only then during the American Civil War. Famous trainers and jockey's of the time, like trainer Col. John Chinn (1849-1920) and jockey Norman Argo (1807-1913) would recall many years later the races held at Sportsman's Hill, even after the death of Col. Whitley.

About 2 miles from Crab Orchard was a mineral spring, well known to travelers on the Wilderness Road. Seen in the 19th century as being of medicinal benefit, a large health spa industry developed around these mineral springs. In 1827 Jack Davis built the first local spa, the Crab Orchard Springs Hotel. Southern, antebellum aristocracy who owned plantations in Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi would come in the summer to Crab Orchard Springs to escape the heat, yellow fever and cholera of the deep south. Holding gala balls, dinners and social affairs, the fox hunting and horse racing traditions of Sportsman's Hill was an attraction to these visitors.

The local racing traditions continued in 1836 when Henry Farris built Spring
Hill Race Course on the southeast edge of Crab Orchard south of the city cemetery. The spring and fall racing meets, the mineral waters and the addition of five resort hotels made Crab Orchard the center for racing being referred to as the "Saratoga of the South". One of the most prestigious races was the Crab Orchard Derby which was run in the spring. Once race prize was a coin-silver wine set consisting of a tray, two goblets and pitcher filled with silver dollars.

Suspended during the Civil War, the Crab Orchard Derby began to fade as the deep southerners ceased to visit. In 1875 a very similar race was held the first time in Louisville and called the Kentucky Derby. In the 1890's, with the development of "patent medicines" as a "Guaranteed" health cure, the popularity of mineral water spas declined. After several destructive hotel fires, creditors began foreclosing and by 1922 horse races ceased at Crab Orchard.

Colonel John Chinn, breeder, author of Kentucky Racing Regulations and owner of the 1883 Kentucky Derby winner, Leonatus, stated, "When the South lost the Civil War it wouldn't be farfetched to say that it lost the Derby to Louisville. What was the equivalent of the Derby before...was the Crab Orchard Derby."
HM Numbertmp-6ce9a
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Wednesday, July 19th, 2017 at 10:12pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)31N E 166021 N 0
Decimal Degrees37.46846667, -84.54636667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 37° 28.108', W 84° 32.782'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds37° 28' 6.48" N, 84° 32' 46.92" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)606, 859
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 1858 William Whitley Rd, Stanford KY 40484, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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