The first horses in Monroe County were a
small hardy breed that were crossed with the Indian ponies of the
frontier. The Illinois, Missouri, and Wisconsin horses at that time came
chiefly from the stock mixed up with the horses of the adjacent Indian
tribes. The pioneer settlers of Iowa did not bring many horses with them,
but used oxen for the first few years. When they did begin to bring in
horses, they procured most of them from the adjoining States, above
mentioned. They were horses that weighed from 1000 to 1100 pounds.
They were easily kept, and would subsist on sweet pumpkins if the hay and grain
supply ran short. They would even live through the winter by browsing in
the forest on bark, buds, and twigs of trees, together with what blue grass they
In about the year 1875, Jas. B. Turner and one or two other gentlemen began to import Norman horses from France into Monroe County, and a short time later a large Clydesdale stallion, named Highland Chief, was brought over the water.
The Clydesdales were of ponderous size, but the were a little too coarse for the horse market, and the English Shire or draught horse replaced the Clydesdales. The Shires and Normans are the favorite breeds in Monroe County at the present day, and many fine animals of these classes have been brought to the county within recent years. The old fashioned "plug" horse has entirely disappeared, and most of the horses now raised by the farmers are of a high grade.
Among those who have been active in the importation and breeding of heavy horses were Jas. B. Turner, A. M. Giltner, Jas. H. Love & Son, Wm. Peppers, and Fred Galliers.
While farmers and breeders have been devoting attention to heavy horses for the market, they have also paid considerable attention to speed horses, so that today Monroe County contains some of the best goers in the State. W. B. Griffin, of Albia, in the summer of 1896, purchased a trotting stallion, named Ernest Wilton, which is claimed to be
the fastest animal ever brought into the county. It is
five years old, and has a three year old record of 2:27 3/4. It was
brought from Paris, Kentucky, and those who are competent to judge say the horse
will be able to beat 2:15. Mr. Griffin has another good horse, named
Stewart Eddy, and has over a dozen brood mares, among which is Soprano, a mare
formerly owned by ex Governor Brown, of Michigan, who at one time refused $5,000
for her. This mare is the dam of three 2:30 performers, and dam of
Coldridge, 2:05 1/4, and Choral, 2:09 1/2. Mr. Griffin sells his horses in
all parts of the United States, and even in Germany.
In addition to Mr. Griffin's operations, several other gentlemen have been very successful in the fast stock enterprise. M. E. Hennion & Son have some good Kentucky strains of Wilkes stock. Euxine, a handsome stallion, with a record of 2:25 1/4, is owned by Willis Hennion. It is a fine looking horse, and is very speedy. Walton & Clark own another good horse, named Castleman. It is highly bred and a good goer. A few years ago Jas. H. Love & Son were the owners of Newton, a 2:22 stallion. This horse, which at that time was the best in the county, was sold to a gentleman in Dakota, but he left a valuable progeny in Monroe County, among which a handsome brown owned by Jas. Titus, which promises great speed when its training is complete.