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Grand Haven Driving Park

From:  “Grand Haven – Day by Day” project

 By Bob Beaton     March 10, 2009




At the Driving Park last Saturday the following races took place:


First heat—D. Cutler’s Jr.’s Priscella, 1st; G. Savidges’s Victor, 2nd; Covey’s Rob Roy, 3d. Time 1:34.


Unfinished race of Saturday, May 16th, 2:30 trotting, three half mile heats trotted today. Won by Rob Roy. Time, 1:29, 127½, 125¾.

Exhibition running by Savidge’s California Bell, ¼ mile. Time, 28½ seconds, 2d heat; 29 seconds, 1st heat.

One-half mile exhibition, Savidge’s Beulah. Time 1:26½.

Crepe McNett exhibition ½ mile, no time taken.


First heat, ½ mile—Robbins 1st; Sprick 2nd. Time 1:41½.


Race, 1/8 mile—Dead heat between Shippey’s Sprig, Wyman’s Black. No time taken.

Starting Judge, Thomas Savidge; Associate Judges, Jno.

Forrest and N. Robbins, Jr., D. Cutler, Jr., Secretary.



   Excerpt from “Hi Potts – On the Road” feature article about Spring Lake in the Grand Rapids Democrat:

  “Among the foremost business men and citizens of Spring Lake are: William Savidge, lumberman; the Hon. J. B. Perham, merchant; Martin Walsh, merchant, farmer and horticulturist; A. Falls, merchant; Aloys Bilz, hardware and furniture dealer; P. A. DeWitt, druggist; Fred Berchy & Co., brick manufacturers; L. Lyman, architect; C. P. Brown, M. D.; Pruim A. Buckley, hardware and furniture dealers; R. B. Cobb, manufacturer; C. M. Kay, village recorder; John Mulder, dealer in flower and feed; L. D. Heath, real estate; Thomas Hammond, marshal; Thomas Savidge, stock breeder and lumberman; Mr. Savages is proprietor of the famous floral stock farm and owner of twenty-nine head of horses of the best strains of blood; he is also owner of George St. Clair, H. J. S. and the famous brood mares, Bulah and Curiosity; H. Millard, meat market; S. S. Rideout, postmaster and proprietor of the Rideout House; L. O. Perham, druggist; H. P. Herbeck. lumberman; Otto DeWitt, wagon-maker; A. Wood, blacksmith; M. Shoemaker; George Hammond; A. DeRulter; H. Start, fruit grower; A. Vandermolen; C. Hann; George Seagrove; Fred Tasche, fruit growers; J. Staal, B. Messmon, Dr. Newell, C. P. Thomas. Martin Walsh has two of the finest farms in Spring Lake township; the Hon. J. B. Perham has been twice a member of the Michigan legislature, and his name has been recently mentioned as a candidate for Congress. Dr. C. P. Brown is a member of the Medical Board of Pension Examiners that meets at Muskegon on Wednesday of each week. Judge Lowell, a prominent resident of Ionia, is making extensive improvements upon his real estate located on Spring lake. Martin Walsh was quartermaster of the Eighth Michigan during the war. A. Bilz has large real estate interests at different points along the lake. Dr. Newell moved to Spring Lake recently from Chicago. During the war he was medical director of the Second division of the Twelfth Army corps. L. O. Perham held the Spring Lake post office for twenty-five consecutive years. P. A. DeWitt was postmaster during the Cleveland administration.

See complete article at:



   Hon. Thos. Savidge is the owner of a very valuable three-year-old colt named Geo.Sinclair [Geo. St. Clair]. We hear today that this colt made his mile trotting in 2:21½ at Sturgis yesterday. This is very fast time for a three-year-old and especially one that has not been on the course but a few weeks. Forty years ago 2:19¼ was the fastest time on record, if we remember rightly.



A Challenge.

   I will agree to meet any three-year-old stallion on earth with the colt Geo. St. Clair, owned upon Floral Stock Farm, Spring Lake, Mich. The race to take place on the West Michigan track, Grand Rapids, on or before October 10th, and the opposing horse to come to the wire under the same circumstances as St. Clair. Address all communications to Thos. Savidge, Floral Stock Farm, Spring Lake, Mich.



   The people of Grand Rapids are wild over the coming great race between Allerton and Nelson, two of the fastest horses ever seen on the turf. Everybody speaks of the event, which will come off Oct. 9th, and money is freely put up on the respective animals. Allerton is claimed by some to be 3 to 2 over Nelson, and hundreds of dollars have already been taken on this basis. Wherever a group of men gather on the streets, the discussion on the respective merit of the horses grows into animated debates. You can hear them talk Nelson and Allerton in the hotel, stores, offices, public buildings, private residence, in short everywhere. It will be an interesting race under such conditions.



   Francis Lilley, formerly of Spring Lake, but now living in Grand Rapids is an ardent horseman and is very much interested in the coming big race. Mr. Nelson presented him with one of the shoes worn by the stallion Nelson, when he made his record of 2:10 ¾ at Cambridge City, Ind. The day of the race he will run a special train from Lilley, Mich., for the benefit of his mill employees.



   Hon. Thos. Savidge, of Spring Lake, will have his celebrated colt, Geo. St. Clair, trot an exhibition mile at Grand Rapids Thursday.



   Alexander Hamilton was one of the lucky ones to get reserved seat tickets to the Nelson Allerton race, he having purchased four.

   Mr. Williams, the owner of Allerton, is not favorably impressed with the Grand Rapids track and does not think that faster time than 2:12 will be made at the great race tomorrow. Pool selling begins at the Morton House today under the management of a Chicago bookmaker.



   A goodly contingent from this city at the races in Grand Rapids today. May they all, if they bet, bet on the right horse.

   Editor Kedzie has not been seen about town today, and it is rumored that he also is attending the races.

   At 3:45 this afternoon the great race in Grand Rapids stood as follows: 1st heat won by Nelson, 2:13; 2nd heat won by Allerton 2:14 ½.

    4:20 p.m., 3rd heat won by Allerton in 2:15.



  Thomas Savidge trotted his great three-year old stallion Geo. St. Clair against his record of 2:20¼ at the West Michigan track yesterday but failed in the time of 2:22¼.


Allerton vs. Nelson.

  Allerton made his title good as king of the stallions at the great race in Grand Rapids yesterday. 25,000 people, representing every state in the union, were on the grounds when the race began. The first heat was won by Nelson in 2:13 but he proved himself a quitter by losing next three heats and the race. Allerton won the last three heats in 2:14½, 2:15 and 2:16½ respectively. Mr.s Williams, the owner of Allerton, said last night: "Nelson has the greatest speed of any horse in the world, there is no other horse in the world that could have gone around me as he did in the third heat when he took the pole. He easily went at a 2:04 gait and several times he showed flights of speed that no other horse in the world can equal. He can trot three-fourths of a mile faster than any other horse living or that will live for some time to come." This will bring some consolation to the heavy backers of Nelson.



   T. Savidge of the well-known lumber company of Cutler & Savidge, Grand Haven, was registered in the Clarendon yesterday. Speaking of the great horse race he said: Nelson is the speediest horse in the world, though Allerton is the better race horse. Nelson showed a 2:04 gait once or twice. The trouble with the horse was the driver.—Grand Rapids Democrat.



  B. Zwaagman purchased a blooded stallion of A. DeWitt, of Muskegon, yesterday. The horse is half Clyde and half Arabia and weighs 1,100 pounds. He offers to sell it at a low price.



   Hon. Thos. Savidge has shipped from Spring Lake a car load of from seven to ten of the grandest mares ever raised in the north, to Dowagiac to be bred to Geo. St. Clair, Michigan’s champion three-year-old, 2:20¼, at $250 the season.  This is the third shipment there.  Have you ever heard of anything of that kind since Michigan became a state in the counties of Ottawa and Muskegon.  The name of Tom Savidge is linked with that of the principal bred horse raisers in the country, and Floral Stock Farm is gaining the reputation it deserves.  Geo. St. Clair, the most famous of his string, electrified Michigan by going a mile in 2:20¼ at Sturgis last year, thereby winning the three year old championship of the state.



   Hon. Thomas Savidge received the following letter yesterday from C. E. Bidlack, Dowagiac.  The letter shows the value of the got from Mr. Savidge famous three year old Geo. St. Clair.

Dowagiac, Mich., May 19, 1892.


   Dear Sir—Beulah, 2:29¼, trial in 2:21. foaled this morning at four o’clock a horse colt, bay, small star, hind feet white, by Geo. St. Clair, Michigan’s champion three year old, 2:20¼.  Have an offer of $1,000 for colt in cash.  Shall I sell it?  Answer me at once by wire.

Yours respectfully,




   Foaled in the morning of the 22nd a grand horse colt by Geo. St. Clair, Michigan’s champion three year old, 2:20¼, dam by Louis Napoleon, second dam by a son of Culver, 3rd dam the dam of Charlie Hilton, 2:17½, the property of T. Savidge, Spring Lake, Mich.



   Foaled on the morning of May 24th, a grand horse colt, by Geo. St. Clair.  Michigan’s champion three-year-old, 2:20¼, first dam Curiosity by Enquirer, dam of Beulah, 2:29¼, second dam Mollie Higgins by Joe Downing 710.



Dr. McNett’s racer, Crepe McNett was entered in the Kalamazoo races.



   Crepe McNett, the famous Grand Haven trotting horse arrived here on the Valley City this afternoon.  Crepe is not in the best of condition and Dr. McNett, her owner, says he is not yet decided upon having her trot again this year or not.



   Hon. Thos. Savidge’s wonderful four year old horse Geo. Sinclair, trotted three miles in his work the other day.  He went the first mile in 2:30, the second in 2:22, the third in 2:18 and the last half of the last mile in 33 seconds, which would be a mile in 2:12.  He goes into training for the race course this week.  We expect to see some fast time from the famous horse before this season closes.



   The fastest three consecutive mile heats ever trotted by a four-year-old stallion; viz: 2:16¼, 2:18, 2:16¾ was made by Geo. St. Clair, at Independence, Iowa, last Friday, Aug. 26th.  Geo. St. Clair is owned by Thos. Savidge of Spring Lake.



   Hon. Thomas Savidge’s great stallion [Geo. St. Clair] has entered in several big races in Indiana the past week.



   Thomas Savidge’s great trotter Geo. St. Clair is entered in a race at Lexington today.



   Thomas Savidge trotted his great three-year old stallion Geo. St. Clair against his record of 2:20¼ at the West Michigan track yesterday but failed in the time of 2:22¼.



Geo. St. Clair 2:15¼ !

   Hon Thomas Savidge now owns the fastest four year old in Michigan and one of the fastest in the world.  Geo. St. Clair won the deciding heat of the great Blue Grass stakes in Lexington yesterday in the fast time of 2:15¼ and winning for his owner a purse of $1,000.  The purse is insignificant compared to the name and fame his great horse has earned. 

   Geo. St. Clair has shown great speed on several occasions, and Mr. Savidge has prophesied that he would sometime startle the racing world.  St. Clair is virtually a Michigan horse, though from Kentucky blood.  May he make 2:10 this season is the wish of many friends of Mr. Savidge.




   Hon. Thomas Savidge arrived home last night fresh from the racing at Lexington, and the scene of the great victory of his still greater horse Geo. St. Clair,  to say that Mr. Savidge felt good, would be putting it lightly and every man he met received a warm hand shake.

   The race for the Blue Grass Stakes at which his horse won honors was hotly contested.  There were four entries, Geo. St. Clair took the first heat, Sternberg the next two and St. Clair the fourth.

   One of the largest crowds that ever attended a Lexington race was on the grounds.  St. Clair made the first quarter in 33 seconds and the first half in the remarkable time of 107.  Coming down the home stretch he was not urged in the least because of the superior lead he had over Sternberg.  Nevertheless without the least urging and nothing to inspire him to move faster, he came in under the wire first in 2:15½.  The last half was made in 1:08.

   Sternberg is a pure blooded Kentucky horse raised within 80 rods of the famous Lexington track, hence, it was a race of Michigan against Kentucky and Michigan won.  Twenty thousand dollars changed hands this race.

   From the fact that he won so easily and in such fast time in something remarkable and stamps him one of the fastest horses one the American turf.

   Geo. St. Clair is now the fastest four-year-old stallion in Michigan and the third fastest in the world.  The previous Michigan race record for his age was lowered by him 2½ seconds.

   Next week Friday St. Clair will enter into a free for all race at Anderson, Ind.  This is credited as being one of the fastest tracks in the west.  He will have as a competitor a horse with 2:12 record and several other good ones.  Nevertheless if in good condition St. Clair may surprise the old stagers and show them what a Michigan horse can do.

   Grand Haven and Spring Lake are now mentioned in turf papers as one of the trotting centers of the country, due to Geo. St. Clair’s victory.



   Geo. St. Clair has won more money this year than any other Michigan stallion.  Next year he will go for the world’s stallion record.

   Sternberg, the Kentucky stallion beaten by Geo. St. Clair in the Blue Grass stakes won the 2:27 trot at Lexington Saturday.



   Hon. Thos. Savidge’s great stallion. Geo. St. Clair 2:15¼ arrived home this morning from Park Ridge, Chicago.  He will remain at Mr. Savidge’s private barn in Spring Lake.



   Horsemen of Western Michigan, do you know that the fastest stallion in Michigan is right here at your door and is in service for a very short season to a few approved mares?  We mean the famous Geo. St. Clair of Floral Stock Farm, Thos. Savidge, Prop.  Our farmers and stock men should not miss this opportunity as you may never see it again.  The season closes Dec.15.



   Forecast Official Moore announces that wind signals for the season of 1892 will be discontinued at all lake ports except Milwaukee, Grand Haven, Manistee and Ludington, on the following dates:  On Lakes Pepin and Superior, including Sault de Ste. Marie, Dec.1, 1892; on lakes Michigan, Ontario, Erie, St. Clair and Huron, December 10, 1892.



   George St. Clair, 2:15 owned by Thomas Savidge of Spring Lake, stands at the head of the four-year-old Michigan stallion performers and third in the world.



   “Geo. St. Clair now has a record of 2:15¼ ,” said Thomas Savidge of Spring Lake, owner of the well-known stallion, in the Clarendon yesterday.  “he might just as well have a mark of 2:12 as to be marked where he is.  He went the fifth heat in the race in Lexington in 2:15¼ , lowering his record just five seconds, and as I say he could have done the mile easily in 2:12.  There was not a horse within thirty yards of him at the half, which he made in a 208 gait, and when the driver reached the flag he saw that he had everything shut out probably, and then he did just what I did not want him to, he pulled the horse up and went under the wire in 2:15¼ at a 50 gait.  You see, I didn’t control the horse last season.  He was controlled by a man named Murphy of Chicago, who plays the pool box pretty strong.  St. Clair was entered in the Southern circuit, and if he had made the mile in 2:12 he would not have been a good box horse during the remainder of the season.  He can trot in 2:10 easily enough.  I have not formed plans yet for next season, I shall make a short season and then do not know what I will do.”―G. R. Democrat.



Racing and Regatta Days of Grand Haven.

   It was only fifteen or twenty years ago that Grand Haven rivaled with the metropolitan cities in sporting matters.  In the early 70’s a fine mile track was built in Peach Plains, and Grand Haven was placed in the circuit.  Many of the fast ones of that period including Bodine (a then very famous horse) have sped around that track.  But the sport degenerated here and what was once the race track was a field of rye last summer.

   Also about that time Grand Haven through the personal efforts of one man became one of the principal centers of the oarmen and rowing and sculling fraternity of the country.  Frank Yates resided here then and was as fast as any of them.  For several summers regattas were held on Spring Lake and Grand River and those who remember, still delight to tell of the throngs of people from here and abroad who thronged the banks to witness the races.  Cortney and many others of world wide fame in rowing circles were there.  But the people in this vicinity went to see Frank Yates win and he generally kept good the trust.

   Capt. Yates is in Chicago now and the Chicago Times of Sunday had a very fine sketch and portrait of him.  We take the following form the sketch:

   “Capt. Frank Yates is a splendid example of what a man who takes good care of himself may become.  The captain took to athletics as naturally as he did his meals, but that was ‘way back yonder.’  Frank did very little fencing, but was first known nationally as an oarsman.  It was old ‘Bill’ Curtis, now editor of the Spirit of the Times, and so aptly named ‘Father of Athletics,’ who first induced Yates to try sculling, and so proficient did he become at the game that inside of  a year he had won the American Championship.  That was in 1874.  He and Charles Courtney, then an amateur, doubled up and their mile and a half time made in centennial year at Philadelphia is still the best on record.  After winning upward of fifty trophies on the water from 1874 to 1878 Capt. Yates became convinced that amateur rowing was devised more for men of means than for those who had to work for a living, and he took up fencing and was able to gratify his taste for the sport by constantly meeting the best men all over the country.  In 1889 he went to Paris and studied the French system from al the leading instructors.  He is now reputed to be a past master of the art, and despite his 45 years is as active as any of the youngsters.  He taught fencing at the board of trade gymnasium for a number of years, and succeeded in making experts of many of the members of that institution.  At present the captain has a large school at arms on the South side.



   Nearly fifty horses are being used at the Muskegon trotting park.  Driver C. E. Bidlack of Spring Lake has a large string.  Among them a 4 year old green pacer belonging to Henry Sprick; Crepe McNett, 6 year old record 2:28 belonging to Dr. McNett; Chas. Ellis, 5 year record 2:27½ owned by Chas. Higgins of Coopersville; Frank Ryadyk, nine year old record 2:32½ belonging to D. W. Ainsworth of Spring Lake.  Also colts Sweet Air and Robby Adair belonging to Thos. Savidge; a 3 year old mare by Empire belonging to H. F. Harbeck of Spring Lake, and a 3 year old of his won aired by H. J. S. Bonnie M. George 2:30 and Geo. St. Claire 2:15½ will be added to the string in June.  Mr. Bidlack is the possessor of a pneumatic sulky weighing 52 pounds, which he uses on the track



   “Look out there, I’ve got a stiff neck,” growled Thomas Savidge, the Spring Lake lumberman and horseman in Sweet’s yesterday afternoon, as a friend grasped him by the hand and gave the member a vigorous jerk.  “It makes me as cross as a she bear in black-berry time, never had anything to bother me so in my life.”  Mr. Savidge had just come in from Pontiac where he had been to look after his great colt, George St. Clair, who is in the harem at the Rising Sun stock farm.  “Spring Lake looks rather shabby now since the fire, continued Mr. Savidge, with a wince on his face, as he thoughtlessly gave his neck a twist.  “But we are not the kind of people to stay down and the town will rise from the ashes more beautiful than before.  The village has never had a cent of bonded indebtness, and with the $4,000 or $5,000 insurance money, work rebuilding the high school and engine house will begin at once.  Mulder Bros. are already putting in the foundations for a two-story business block, and both the churches will be rebuilt.  Some of the back streets will not be built upon again, not for the present at least.”―G. R. Democrat.

 Thomas Savidge’s Geo. St. Clair will go into training for the fall races about July 10.



   Dr. McNett’s, Crepe McNett and Dr. Bates’, Maud were brought from Muskegon driving park Saturday.



   Geo. St. Clair is opening his campaigning season in an auspicious manner at Ionia.

      In the free for all trot at Ionia races yesterday, Geo. St. Clair, owned by Hon. Thos. Savidge of Spring Lake, carried off the purse of $200 in three consecutive heats in the following time:  2:21¾, 2:22, 2:23.



   Geo. St. Clair is entered in the Milwaukee races with a number of other fast ‘uns. 



   Clark’s Horse Review of Chicago is speaking of the race at Milwaukee in which Geo. St. Clair took part says that St. Clair was held back in the first and second heats with the intention of coming to the front after that.  Unfortunately in the third heat he cast a shoe and was shut out.



   Geo. St. Clair is one of sixty-three fine horses which race at Holly this week.  The track is a new one but it is believed that a track record of 2:20 will be established.



   Trotting matinees are held at the trotting park each Saturday afternoon and the local horsemen test the speed of their animals.  Grand Haven is not the horse town it once was but there are a few good horses here.  D. Cuttler Jr’s Priscilla, Dr. McNett’s Crepe McNett, Dr. Reynold’s Arthur R, Marshal Klaver’s colt and a number of others are making good times, considering the poor condition of the track.



Geo. St. Clair, the great stallion owned by Hon. T. Savidge has been brought back to Spring Lake.



   Marshal Klaver now owns a valuable two year old colt the sire of which is Royal George and the dam by Swigger.  The marshal has trained and produced many a valuable piece of trotting horse flesh.  He brought out Crepe McNett and Minion.  Also the fleet mare Priscilla now owned by Dwight Cutler, jr., having a record of 2:29.  During the days when he had more time to devote to horses he owned such famous stallions as Turk and Sam Houston. Turk is now owned in Holland and Houston in Wisconsin.



   Marshal Klaver now owns a valuable two year old colt the sire of which is Royal George and the dam by Swigger.  The marshal has trained and produced many a valuable piece of trotting horse flesh.  He brought out Crepe McNett and Minion.  Also the fleet mare Priscilla now owned by Dwight Cutler, jr., having a record of 2:29.  During the days when he had more time to devote to horses he owned such famous stallions as Turk and Sam Houston. Turk is now owned in Holland and Houston in Wisconsin.



    Thos. Savidge of Spring Lake is in receipt of an invitation from the Horseman’s Association of Grand Rapids to enter his great 3 year old, Geo. St. Clair in the $10,000 stake race.



   One of the richest trotting pedigrees in the covers of the Stud Book is that of Geo. St. Clair, the Michigan champion three and four-year-old performer with a three year-old race record of 2:20¼, drawing 225 pounds to a high-wheeled sulky, and a four-year-old race record of 2:15¼ in a fifth heat and winning race at Lexington, Ky., pitted against the best performers of the year.  His sire, Betterton, is the sire of Prima Donna, 2:09¼ and many others by the great Geo. Wilkes.  His dam, a producer, is by Young Jim, another sire of extreme speed and also a son of Geo. Wilkes, while his second dam is also a producer and by the mighty Hambletonian 10.  Geo. St. Clair earned his laurels in hotly contested races and is a performer of the highest order.  His colts already promise to be his equal, and if you will read his advertisement in the Michigan Horse News, and send for tabulation and full particulars to Thomas Savidge, of Floral Stock Farm, spring Lake, Mich., we think you will be convinced that “half has not been told,” and you will be agreeably surprised to learn that his services can be secured at $100 with return privilege.  Come and look this horse over.



    Thomas Savidge, proprietor of the Floral stock farm, Spring Lake, was in the city yesterday and said that he thought the prospects very good for y season with the trotters.  He recently sold to an eastern buyer a very handsome span of roadsters.  His young stallion Geo. St. Clair, 2:15¼, will be placed in the hands of Clarence Fox who will shape him for the fall races.—G.R. Democrat.



    Thomas Savidge now has four colts on Floral Stock Farm, Spring Lake, foals of ’94, from Geo. St. Clair.



   Pricilla, owned by Dwight Cutler, Jr. and Crepe McNett by Dr. McNett, are now the only horses in this city with a record below 2:30.



   A few of the horse lovers of the city occasionally gather at the half mile track on Griffin St. in the 4th ward, but there is not the interest shown in fast horses there used to be in Grand Haven.  When the track was built some years ago it was the mecca of every man who had a horse considered fast.  The track record is 2:27 made by Charles Hilton in a race.  Marshal Klaver once drove the famous stallion Turk around in 2:31.  After a few years, interest waned and the track was rapidly going to destruction until this spring when it was fixed up a little by a few enthusiasts, who have need of it some this summer.