New Market Races


Friday, September 15, 2006

Contact:  Frank S. Collins
East New Market History Team

New Market Races

Recent discovery sheds light on the Horse Racing past of East New Market, Maryland. 

From early newspaper notices and other records, local historians have long been aware that horse races were regularly held in East New Market, Maryland for well over 45 years spanning the late 18th century and early 19th century.  Records found so far show races being held from 1777 to 1821, but physical evidence had long eluded most researchers. In a recent breakthrough, Brian Tolley, a manager for a company engaged in aerial photography and satellite image processing, made a significant discovery using aerial photos from 1938 and 1957.  He believes he has found the New Market Race Track.  Even though nearly two centuries have passed, unique indentations shaped in the oval pattern of a horse race track are clearly visible in the aerial photos (shown below).


In the 18th and early 19th century, this small Dorchester County town was simply known as New Market.  In 1827 the post office added East to the name to distinguish it from a similarly named towns on both the Eastern and Western shore.  Originally settled by colonists at what had become the juncture of several plantation farms, the name of the town comes from a land patent and resurvey granted to James Sulivane in 1776.  When James Sulivane named his resurveyed tract, he most certainly had horse racing in mind as the name he chose was also the name of the most famous horse racing town in England at the time. 

"This is a truly exciting discovery, on a par with locating such early sights as the original stockade wall for Saint Mary's City!", said Kirk L. Hurley former town historian and long time researcher.  "We have known of the racing tradition by oral history and by the various early periodical clippings but this is the first solid physical evidence found with in living memory!  It further underscores the rather extraordinary position held by a very small community in the proud tradition of Maryland racing and in the life of the county, the region and indeed the province and state as the nation was being born."

Frank S. Collins, statistician, historian, and researcher of the New Market land grant, confirms that early land records in Dorchester County would place the location of the New Market race track in the general location where Mr. Tolley has pinpointed it in the aerial photo.  "Some of the other sections of the New Market grant were occupied by structures in 1821.  Other parts were marshy and subject to flooding.  The unique indentation that Mr. Tolley found in the aerial photo is the most sensible location for the horse track.  Mr. Sulivane lived in nearby Friendship Hall and would likely have chosen a location close to his home for the racetrack." 


Two of the early records mentioning the New Market Races are detailed below.

Journal and Correspondence of the Maryland Council of Safety, January 1-March 20, 1777
From Thomas Sparrow - "I intended next to go to New Market as I understood there was to be two days races, but my friends advised me not, as It was expected many of Capt. Andrew's men would be there, and I should be used ill."

Republican Star - Easton - 5 October 1802 – New Market Races
Will be run for over a handsome course, at
New Market, in Dorchester county, on Wednesday, the thirteenth instant, the New Market Jockey Club Purse of two hundred and fifty dollars: four miles repeated, free for members of the club only. On Thursday the fourteenth, will be run for over the same course, a Colt’s Purse of one hundred and fifty dollars, two miles repeated, free only as above. On Friday the fifteenth, will be run for over the same course, a Town’s Purse, the sum not yet ascertained, free for any horse, mare, or gelding, subject to the rules and regulations of the said club. Signed per order, William Marshall, Sec’ry

Notices were also found regarding races to be held in New Market in the Maryland Herald and Eastern Shore Intelligencer in 1797 & 1798 and the Republican Star in 1803, 1806, 1808, 1812, 1815, & 1821.

For interview requests send an email to EastNewMarket@gmail.com.  The Comprehensive Online History of East New Market is well underway at the www.EastNewMarket.org website.

                                                Home - East New Market Page - Search - About - Contact
                                                        Copyright © 2005 CollinsFactor All rights reserved.