Tag Archives: Sir Archie

The Celebrated Horse: Sir Archie

25 Oct

Deep Run Sir Archie POSTER blog

On Sunday, October 14, 2018, Goochland County Historical Society and Deep Run Hunt Club came together to remember Goochland’s native son, the race horse, Sir Archie. With more than 60 in attendance at Deep Run Hunt Club, guest speaker James Payne Beckwith, Jr. delighted everyone with his talk “All in the Family: Diomed, Sir Archie, and Henry from the 1780 Epsom Derby to the Great Match of 1823.”

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James Payne Beckwith, Jr.

Famed racehorse Sir Archie is considered to be one of the greatest foundation sires in America. Foaled in 1805 at Ben Lomond farm in an area known as Rock Castle, the great horse went on to great racing success in his day. His career ended when no opponents could be found to race against him for fear of losing. He spent his last 17 years at stud at Mowfield plantation in North Carolina.

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Mr. Beckwith brought his personal collection of etchings and paintings of Diomed, Sir Archie and others to display and the Society also put on an exhibit on the life of Sir Archie that will move to other exhibit spaces in the coming months. A wonderful spread of ham biscuits, cookies, pastries and punch followed as everyone talked about Sir Archie.

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The Society would like to thank Deep Run Hunt Club for partnering with us for a wonderful event. We would also like to thank James Payne Beckwith, Jr. for a wonderful and informative afternoon. Thank you also to thank our Board of Directors for helping with the set-up and take-down of the chairs, tables and sales table. Thank you also to our Hospitality chair, Ginny Olson for a wonderful array of food.

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Lost Goochland – Ben Lomond

25 Jan
ben-lomond-1976-before-restoration

Ben Lomond in 1976 during the fateful restoration.

Goochland’s Ben Lomond is named after a mountain on the banks of Loch Lomond in Scotland. The name Ben Lomond comes from the Scottish Gaelic Beinn Laomainn which translates to Beacon Mountain. In 1736, Isham Randolph, Sr. of Turkey Island in Henrico County, was granted a Royal Patent for 3,000 acres in Goochland County. It was on a part of this land that he built his mansion, Dungeness. Isham’s grandson, Archibald Cary Randolph bought the property that comprises Ben Lomond from the Dungeness estate in the late 1700’s and built his own house. An 1801 insurance policy shows that the original house was roughly the size of the central portion of the house as shown in the picture above. One of Randolph’s passions was horses and it was on this farm that famed racehorse Sir Archie was foaled in 1805.

The ruins of Ben Lomond

The ruins of Ben Lomond

In 1806, Archibald Cary Randolph was forced to sell Ben Lomond and his horses to pay debts. Archibald was also known to be particularly bad with money.  In a case heard before the Supreme Court, Archibald along with his two brothers, were said to be “notoriously insolvent” and had wasted their father’s estate. Archibald sent Sir Archie went to his partner William Tayloe and Ben Lomond was sold to Benjamin Watkins. The property passed down through the Watkins family for several generations and then went through a succession of owners: Van Mater, Schuett, Hazelwood, Rutherfoord, Bremner, Lewis, Hicks, Woodruff and Liebert to name a few.

The house has been described as a two-story, central passage plan house that was popular in the eighteenth century. Houses built in a similar style in Goochland include Tuckahoe, Rock Castle. In the 1970’s, Ben Lomond was undergoing an extensive restoration and renovation  project when it caught fire. Neighbors could only stand in awe as the historic structure succumbed to the intense heat before the fire department could arrive. All that remains today is the western chimney, brick foundation and the steps. Strewn amongst the ground cover are fallen bricks from the massive eastern chimney, broken glass and pieces of metal. Two beautiful magnolia trees and scattered boxwoods give evidence of the park-like grounds that must have once existed. A few crumbling outbuildings stand as reminders of the once magnificent farm are slowly following the manor house into oblivion.

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Past the decimated structure and just beyond the edge of the wood line is a square stone wall, the age of which is unknown. Inside this enclosure is speculated to be the grave of Sir Archie (1803-1833). He was the greatest racehorse of his day and sired many champions in his years at stud. His line went on to produce Man O’War, Seabiscuit and Secretariat to name just a few. Part of the mystery surrounding Sir Archie is his burial place. Sir Archie spent his last 17 years at stud at Mowfield Plantation, just west of Jackson, North Carolina which also lays claim as his place of burial. For decades, this has been a heated debate.

Burial place of Sir Archie?

Burial place of Sir Archie?

The loss of Ben Lomond was another devastating blow to that part of Goochland. By the time of the fire, the historic area of Rock Castle had already lost Dungeness and Mannsville, both with Randolph connections, and Bolling’s Orapax. Today Ben Lomond survives as a haunting ruin that can only hint at its former glory.

Contributed by James Richmond of the Goochland County Historical Society

To learn more about Ben Lomond: read Volume 3-1 of the Goochland County Historical Society’s magazine.

Sir Archie

13 Jul
Sir Archie by M. Stainforth

Sir Archie by M. Stainforth – Reproduced by Goochland County Historical Society & Museum with the permission of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

1805-1833

Famed racehorse Sir Archie is considered to be one of the greatest foundation sires in America, his influence is so important that he has been named the “Godolphin Arabian of America”.  Foaled at Archibald Cary Randolph’s Ben Lomond farm in Goochland County in 1805, he was sired by Diomed, an Epsom Derby winner and Castianira, owned by Col. John Tayloe III of Mt. Airy in Richmond County, Virginia.  Randolph originally named the foal “Robert Burns” but Tayloe changed the name to “Sir Archie” in honor of his friend Archibald.  Randolph was renowned for financial problems and these forced the sale of Sir Archie at only 2 years of age.

Sir Archie eventually landed in the hands of Col. William Ransom Johnson who trained him into one of the best race horses ever bred in Virginia.  His fame brought about his racing end when no opponents could be found to race against him and Jockey Clubs would not let him enter their competitions.  Sir Archie was then put to stud where he stood for 17 years at Mowfield plantation in North Carolina and made in excess of $70,000 for owner William Amis.

Much controversy surrounds Sir Archie’s birth and death locations.  “The Roanoke Stud” by Fairfax Harrison put his foaling in Cumberland County, Virginia.  This inaccuracy was later picked up by Elizabeth Amis Cameron Blanchard in her 1958 book “The Life and Times of Sir Archie”.   In December, 1970, a search was made of the Cumberland County records and no record of Archibald Cary Randolph or Ben Lomond was found.  Randolph is listed in the Goochland County records and is shown as owning Ben Lomond which is squarely within the bounds of Goochland, thus settling that question.

Ben Lomond – during restoration

The second controversy involving Sir Archie is the location of his final resting place: Mowfield or Ben Lomond?  Blanchard lists his final resting place as Mowfield plantation and a historical marker there attests to this.  It does make a certain amount of sense that an aged horse would be too old to travel back to Goochland to pass away, however, several sources say otherwise.  Some believe that after reading an 1833 article describing the drastic state of the aged horse in the “American Turf Register”, Col. Tayloe purchased Sir Archie and brought him, his groom and canine companion back to Ben Lomond.  This is also written about by Richard Wright in his “The Story of Goochland”.  The “American Stud Book, Vol. II” of 1884 states: “Sir Archy by imported Diomed, foaled 1805: died in Virginia in 1833, the property of Col. J. Tayloe of Virginia: aged 28 years.”

On November 11, 1970, a dig was performed at Ben Lomond by the Historical Society, Masters of the Deep Run Hunt Club and a veterinarian at the supposed Goochland grave of Sir Archie.  Horse, human and dog bones were found, however proving them to be Sir Archie would be almost impossible.  Similar excavations at Mowfield have found no remains.  This mystery will be much harder to solve, however it does still allow both to claim the final resting place of this famous horse.

Digging up bones

In 1955, Sir Archie became one of the first horses inducted into the U.S. Racing Hall of Fame.  He sired 31 champion horses and through son Copperbottom, influenced the American Quarter Horse.  His bloodline can still be found in some of the most famous champions of the day.  Exciting and mysterious in life as in death, Sir Archie will always be one of Goochland’s favorite sons.

Contributed by James Richmond of the Goochland County Historical Society