Flora Temple

Her Life

Flora Temple, the "bob-tailed nag" of Stephen Foster's song, Camptown Races, was born in Oneida County, New York, near the village of Waterville, in 1845. Bred by Samuel Welsh, her dam was Madame Temple, and according to Mr. Welch, her sire was a horse belonging to the Loomis Family of Sangerfield, Bogus Hunter. Tradition has it that she was "docked with a jack-knife before she was an hour old."

At age four, she was sold for the sum of $13.00 to W.H. Congdon of Smyrna, New York. She was characterized as "willful and witchlike," and not much value was placed on her. She changed hands a few times, having been sold by Mr. Congdon for $68. She became a livery stable horse in the hamlet of Eaton, N.Y.

In June of 1850, while being driven to New York City with a herd of cattle and three other horses, Flora, hardly 14 hands high with a rough bay coat, caught the eye of Jonathan Vielee of Dutchess County. After examining her teeth and feet, and realizing the promise the little mare showed, he bought her for $175. After only two weeks she was taken to New York City and sold to George Perrin for $350. It was in the hands of Mr. Perrin that Flora was transformed from a flighty, intractable animal into a true-stepper. She began winning informal road races, and after winning two races on the Union Course on Long Island, she was sold to G.A. Vogel for $600. In 1852, after a two-year layoff due to an injury, and renamed Flora Temple, she was entered in a race against Brown Jim at the Centerville Track.

In defeating Brown Jim, her legendary racing career was formally launched. Over the next nine years, until the early 1860s, Flora Temple won 92 races, and placed second 14 times. She equaled or lowered the world record 6 times, and was the first horse to break the 2:20 mile. By 1858, her sale price was $8,000. She raced on tracks from New Orleans to Michigan, from Maine to Chicago, and also throughout New York State. She was heartily cheered in Saratoga, Watertown, Elmira, Utica and Rochester. She was so popular that babies were named after her, and Currier & Ives immortalized her on dozens of lithographs. She was dubbed "Queen of the Turf" by the N.Y. Times.

When Flora Temple died on December 21, 1877, she had earned her place in racing history - the "bob-tailed mare" from Oneida County had proved to be a truly extraordinary horse.

Maintained by Sue Greenhagen. E-mail: greenhsh@morrisville.edu