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Consider this quote from Abe Lincoln

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."



And now...the rest of the story...

If you read through this column last week I noted that growing up in Dexter there was an urban legend that the little mound in the depot park just south of the grain elevator across the railroad tracks contained the remains of the famous trotter Dexter.

I had often wondered what exactly happened to the final resting place of this horse. Certainly if Dexter was as famous as he was reported to be, and folks I'm telling you he was and still is. Next time you are driving through the countryside and see a weather vane with a horse remember Dexter....he's the horse they are all patterned after.

Foaled in 1858, Dexter saw a series of owners during his time as a world champion trotter eventually breaking a fourteen year old record for the mile with a time of 2:19, the previous record being held by Lady Suffolk, who we know as the "old gray mare". He would eventually break his own record later and would hold it until the record was lowered to 2:13 in 1873. The ownership of Dexter is an interesting tale in itself, but one that is too lengthy to discuss in this piece but we must take a moment to explain how Robert Bonner, then owner of the New York Ledger came to own the most famous son on Hambletonian. Dexter had been owned by Cornelius Vanderbilt and a number of individuals had tried for years to persuade him to sell the horse. Vanderbilt refused and eventually turned to his arch rival on the track, Bonner, offering the horse to Bonner only because he knew that Bonner would treat the horse with respect and not race him too hard. Bonner paid $35,000 for Dexter, a huge sum for the day, and Dexter was moved to Eastview Stock Farm at Tarrytown New York. Dexter would become Bonner's prized road horse and would often make the trip into the city.

As the Civil War ended and life returned to normal a grizzly general from Illinois was to be elected President of the United States. Embroiled in a scandal between the election and his oath of office, Grant turned to Bonner as a leading newspaper man at the time for help. It was during this time that Grant drove Dexter in the famous print "Taking the reigns" (a copy of which hung in Adkins Grocery for years). Grant was so enamored with Dexter that he asked Bonner to give the horse to him as a "gift for the new President". Bonner flatly refused saying that he loved that old horse so dearly he would never part with him.

As his legend grew and his fame, Dexter was seen in many prints and pictures of the time, and his picture would also be used in advertising everything from cigars to insurance to snake oil. Dexter would remain on the farm at Tarrytown until his death at age 30 in 1888.

His sister Maud S. who would become a champion in her own right lead me to a clue as to the final resting spot of Dexter. In the New York Ledger it is noted that when she died she was buried beside her brother, the famous trotter Dexter on the Bonner farm at Eastview.

Tarrytown, New York, home of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, is just up Broadway Ave. from Manhattan and from the time period of 1860 through the early 1920s was the home of many of New York's most prominent citizens. So I began searching through maps and Google to find aerial photos in an attempt to located where Eastview farm was. After a couple of road blocks and a couple sleepless nights I stumbled across the name an address of a local historian in the area and fired off a letter.

In less than a week I had the reply and the answer to the mystery surrounding where Dexter's final resting spot was. The author of the letter, a long time resident, remembers the Bonner Farm as a boy. He stated that although he never remembers a monument for either horse that the farm stood for many years east of Tarrytown in the lush hills. The farm was eventually sold and house and stables torn down in the 1970s. Today all that remains is a stone fence that was once the entrance to the property, that now houses the Westchester County Correctional Facility and somewhere underneath one of the buildings or prison yard, lay the final resting spot of two of the most famous offspring of Hamiltonian and the namesake of our small town.

See you next week...remember, we're all in this together.