JUSTIN MORGAN - FIGURE OF GREATNESS
The founding sire of the Morgan breed was a legendary horse named Figure, who later became known by the name of his breeder and first owner, Justin Morgan. Morgan, from West Springfield, Massachusetts, was a well-known and respected singing master and composer during the 1700 and 1800s. Morgan also owned a tavern and maintained stallions at stud to supplement his income. In 1791 Morgan relocated his family to Randolph in the independent Republic of Vermont.
Figure spent his early life, beginning at age two, standing at stud in West Hartford, Connecticut at the farm of Samuel Whitman. In May 1792, Morgan took his colt to Vermont where he stood him at stud, and leased him out for farming and logging in 1793, 1794, and 1795. In his advertisements Morgan, a pious man, hinted at Figure’s lineage, “Figure sprang from a curious horse owned by Col. DeLancey of New York…” The DeLancey horse was an English Thoroughbred named True Briton, also known as “Beautiful Bay,” that Morgan leased and bred to one of his mares sired by Diamond at his Massachusetts farm.
In 1796 Morgan raced his colt against the speedy New York horses Sweepstakes and Silvertail in a match race along the road known as “the Morgan Mile” in Brookfield, Vermont. Morgan?s horse defeated both racers for a $50 stake. At some point during that year Morgan either traded or sold his horse. He was advertised at stud by Jonathan Shepard, Montpelier, Vermont, who also raced him with great success. As the horse’s reputation grew, he changed hands many times until Robert Evans purchased the horse in 1801. Evans used the horse hard on his own farm and hired him out to other farms. Evans was later sued for a debt he could not pay, and in 1804, Colonel John Goss secured Evan’s debt with the Justin Morgan horse.
Col. Goss sent his new horse to his brother, David, an accomplished horseman, in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. There he stood at stud and was used on the farm. Col. Goss also used his horse, now called the Goss Horse, as a mount in military reviews attracting much attention. David Goss so admired the bay horse that he traded a mare and some money to his brother for him, and kept the horse until the fall of 1811 when he was sold. Justin Morgan would be sold and resold many more times and was used hard for farming, hauling freight, and for logging. Finally the still sound and blemish-free grand old horse was sold to Levi Bean in Chelsea, Vermont where he continued to be used in a six-horse freight team. It was while he was in the Bean farm’s winter yard that a kick from another horse lead to his death in 1821 at the age of 32.
Tales of Justin Morgan’s strength, speed, endurance, and ability to produce sons and daughters bearing his likeness have cemented his place as the founding sire of America’s first breed
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