Amusements and Sports,
page 8 of 12
Good active bulls and strong dogs were in much demand. The newspapers of the times contain many advertisements of the sport. One in poor rhyme begins:—
“This notice gives to all who covet
Baiting the bull and dearly love it.” etc.
I frequently recall, as I pass through a quiet street near my home, that in the year 1774 a bull-baiting was held there every afternoon for many months, and I resolutely demolish that hollow idol — the good old times — and rejoice in humane to-day.
As early as 1665 Governor Nicholls announced that a horse-race would take place at Hempstead, “not so much for the divertissement of youth as for encouraging the bettering of the breed of horses which through great neglect has been impaired.” In 1669 Governor Lovelace gave orders that a race should be run in May each year, and that subscriptions should be sent to Captain Salisbury, “of all such as are disposed to run for a crown in silver or the value thereof in wheat.” This first course was a naturally level plain called Salisbury Plains, and was so named after this very Captain Silvester Salisbury, Commander of Royal Troops in the province, and an enthusiastic sportsman. Its location was near the present Hyde Park station of Long Island.
Daniel Denton, one of the early settlers of Jamaica, Long Island, wrote in 1670 thus:—
“Towards the middle of Long Island lieth a plain sixteen miles long and four broad, upon which plain grows very fine grass that makes exceeding good hay; where you shall find neither stick nor stone to hinder the horse-heels, or endanger them in their races, and once a year the best horses in the island are brought hither to try their Swiftness and the swiftest rewarded with a silver Cup, two being Annually procured for the Purpose.”
The “fine grass” was what was known as secretary grass, and, curiously enough, this great plain was abandoned to this growth of secretary grass for more than a century after the settlement and cultivation of surrounding farms; this was through a notion that the soil was too porous to be worth ploughing.