Amusements and Sports,
page 10 of 12
Another famous race-course of colonial days was the one-mile course around Beaver Pond in Jamaica. This was laid out before the year 1757, for on June 13 of that year a subscription plate was won by Lewis Morris, Jr., with his horse American Childers. Another course was at Newtown in 1758, and another at New Lots in 1778.
I find frequent allusions in the colonial press to the Beaver Pond course. The “New York Mercury” of 1763 tells of a “Free Masons’ Purse” — for best two in three heats, each heat three times round Beaver Pond — freemasons were to be “inspectors” of this race.
At the time of the possession of Brooklyn and western Long Island by the British during the Revolutionary War, there constantly went on a succession of sporting events of all kinds under the direction of the English officers and a notorious tavern-keeper Loosely, already named, who seemed to devote every energy to the amusement of the English invaders. An advertisement in “Rivington’s Gazette” November 4, 1780, reads thus:—
“By Permission Three Days’ Sport on Ascot Heath formerly Flatlands Plain on Monday. 1. The Noblemen’s and Gentlemen’s Purse of £60 free for any horse except Mr. Wortman’s and Mr. Allen’s Dulcimore who won the plate at Beaver Pond last season. 2. A Saddle, bridle, and whip, worth £15 for ponies not exceeding hands. Tuesday. 1. Ladies’ Subscription Purse of £50. 2. To be run for by women, a Holland smock and Chintz Gown full-trimmed; to run the two in three quarter-miles; first to have the smock and gown of four guineas value; second, a guinea; third half a guinea. Wednesday. Country Subscription Purse of £50. No person will erect a booth or sell liquor without subscribing 2 guineas to expenses of races. Gentlemen fond of fox-hunting will meet at Loosely’s Kings Head Tavern at day break during the races. God Save the King played every hour.”
It will be seen by this advertisement that the rough and rollicking ways of English holidays were introduced in this woman’s-race. The women who ran those quarter-miles must have been some camp-followers, for I am sure no honest Long Island country-girls would have taken part. At other races on this freshly named “Ascot Heath” hurling-matches and bull-baitings and lotteries added their zest, and on April 27, 1782, there was a three hundred guineas sweepstakes race. These races were held at short intervals until October, 1783, when English sports and English cruelties no longer held sway on Long Island.