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Crab Orchard in Lincoln County, Kentucky — The American South (East South Central)
 

The Legacy of Sportsmanís Hill at Crab Orchard

 
 
The Legacy of Sportmanís Hill at Crab Orchard Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Tom Bosse, April 12, 2017
1. The Legacy of Sportmanís Hill at Crab Orchard Marker
Inscription.  Before his death in 1813 at the Battle of the Thames, Whitley suspended the highly competitive racing at Sportsmanís Hill when he discovered evidence that a nail had been put in the hoof of his prized horse. However, evidence in family history and beyond, shows that the love of horse racing in this area continued well into the 1860ís and was lost only then during the American Civil War. Famous trainers and jockeyís of the time, like trainer Col. John Chinn (1849-1920) and jockey Norman Argo (1807-1913) would recall many years later the races held at Sportsmanís Hill, even after the death of Col. Whitley.

About 2 miles from Crab Orchard was a mineral spring, well known to travelers on the Wilderness Road. Seen in the 19th century as being of medicinal benefit, a large health spa industry developed around these mineral springs. In 1827 Jack Davis built the first local spa, the Crab Orchard Springs Hotel. Southern, antebellum aristocracy who owned plantations in Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi would come in the summer to Crab Orchard Springs to escape the heat, yellow fever and cholera of the deep south. Holding gala balls, dinners and

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social affairs, the fox hunting and horse racing traditions of Sportsmanís Hill was an attraction to these visitors.

The local racing traditions continued in 1836 when Henry Farris built Spring Hill Race Course on the southeast edge of Crab Orchard south of the city cemetery. The spring and fall racing meets, the mineral waters and the addition of five resort hotels made Crab Orchard the center for racing being referred to as the “Saratoga of the South”. One of the most prestigious races was the Crab Orchard Derby which was run in the spring. Once race prize was a coin-silver wine set consisting of a tray, two goblets and pitcher filled with silver dollars.

Suspended during the Civil War, the Crab Orchard Derby began to fade as the deep southerners ceased to visit. In 1875 a very similar race was held the first time in Louisville and called the Kentucky Derby. In the 1890ís, with the development of “patent medicines” as a “Guaranteed” health cure, the popularity of mineral water spas declined. After several destructive hotel fires, creditors began foreclosing and by 1922 horse races ceased at Crab Orchard.

Colonel John Chinn, breeder, author of Kentucky Racing Regulations and owner of the 1883 Kentucky Derby winner, Leonatus, stated, “When the South lost the Civil War it wouldnít be farfetched to say that it lost the Derby

William Whitley image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Tom Bosse
2. William Whitley
to Louisville. What was the equivalent of the Derby beforeÖwas the Crab Orchard Derby.”
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: AnimalsSports. In addition, it is included in the Kentucky, Sportmanís Hill series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1813.
 
Location. 37° 28.108′ N, 84° 32.782′ W. Marker is in Crab Orchard, Kentucky, in Lincoln County. Marker can be reached from William Whitley Road. Marker is located on Sportsman's Hill across from William Whitley House. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Crab Orchard KY 40419, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Where Racing Turned Around (within shouting distance of this marker); A Little Bit to Eat at the Race (within shouting distance of this marker); Celebration (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Beginning of Horse Racing in Kentucky (about 500 feet away); A View from Sportsmanís Hill (about 600 feet away); Sportsman's Hill / Whitley House - 1785 (approx. 0.2 miles away); Sportsman Hill (approx. 0.2 miles away); Sportsman's Hill (approx. 0.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Crab Orchard.
 
Sportsmanís Hill Marker Locations image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Tom Bosse
3. Sportsmanís Hill Marker Locations
Crab Orchard Springs Hotel image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Tom Bosse
4. Crab Orchard Springs Hotel
Sportsmanís Hill image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Tom Bosse, April 12, 2017
5. Sportsmanís Hill
William Whitley House image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Tom Bosse, April 12, 2017
6. William Whitley House
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on July 15, 2017. It was originally submitted on July 14, 2017, by Tom Bosse of Jefferson City, Tennessee. This page has been viewed 1,043 times since then and 237 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on July 14, 2017, by Tom Bosse of Jefferson City, Tennessee. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.

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Nov. 28, 2023