Perhaps it was the change in seasons that got me thinking about horses once again.
The Delaware County Fair last week was under way with the Little Brown Jug horse race. And soon the Quarter Horse Congress will be under way in Columbus. And these events are simply reminders that a lot of people have been riding a lot of horses in central Ohio for a very long time. In an era before trains and cars and airplanes, people traveled by horsepower out of necessity.
One’s wagon could be pulled by oneself, one’s ox or one’s horse. Of the three, the horse could certainly pull a load more quickly – the horse usually looked better than the other two as well. But even after the power of steam and the internal combustion engine began to take the place of horsepower in America, the equestrian life still had its attractions.
People have been riding for pleasure as well as purpose for as long as people and horses have been living side by side. And it often did not take people long to learn how. There apparently were no horses in the Western Hemisphere until Cortes and his conquistadores brought some ashore in Mexico in 1519.
Some of those horses apparently became lost, strayed or stolen. Within a few years, Native Americans were riding as well. The people of the plains came to excel in horsemanship. People have been riding for pleasure in central Ohio for many years as well. The original trails of central Ohio were not only the paths of pedestrians and the occasional herd of buffalo.
They were also horse trails. With the coming of settlers from the newly formed United States, those trails became the roads that we use today. Most people who rode for pleasure in the early days of central Ohio rode by themselves or with friends, relatives or acquaintances. It was only as Columbus and central Ohio grew in size, diversity and sophistication that more organized forms of riding came to be popular.
Americans were seen by traveler Alexis de Tocqueville to be remarkable in their propensity to form organized groups to do all sorts of things. Among those things was horseback riding. In 1925, local resident Frank Tallmadge wrote a brief history called Horse-Riding In and Around Columbus 1775-1924. Tallmadge noted that in 1892 a local “bit and bridle club” found itself in need of a place to serve a base for horse riding, horse racing, carriage riding and the occasional fox hunt. A place amenable to such proceedings was the 1,000 acre farm of James Terrell Miller and his family north and west of Columbus.
At that time there was not much other than farms north and west of the city. But there soon would be. The communities that now constitute Grandview Heights and Marble Cliff began to come into being in the 1890s because of their location on the heights overlooking nearby Columbus. One of the people involved in these venture was a local entrepreneur named George Urlin. Urlin’s wife reputedly looked out from her new home and said “What a grand view!”
And a new town had a name. While Urlin, a bit of a horseman himself, was building that home with a view he was living in a temporary structure on the site. It was in that house that the “Bit and Bridle Club” – reconstituted as the “Riding and Driving Club”– gathered on Oct. 12, 1892. Meeting in various locations on and near the Miller farm, by 1896 the group had come to be called the Arlington Country Club and commissioned noted local architect Frank Packard to design a clubhouse.
The club house was located on a bluff overlooking the Scioto Valley near what is now Arlington Place. Yes, the first country club in central Ohio had nothing to do with golf. But it soon would. By 1896, many Americans were developing a liking for golf. In fact, that liking in some parts of the country almost became a mania. In Columbus it was more of a genteel fondness. In 1896, the Arlington Country Club acquired twelve acres and put in place a nine-hole golf course.
The Columbus Country Club followed a few years later with its own club house and course. The Arlington Country Club remained a well-used golf course until the Scioto Country Club opened in 1916. By that time much of the nearby area had been platted and developed. The Miller farm had been sold and the planned community of Upper Arlington was underway.
The Arlington Country Club became the Aladdin Country Club until 1925 and had a number of uses in the years that followed. It was removed with the construction of the Aladdin Woods housing development. And the riders moved on to other locations.
Most notably they moved to the far east side to the Rocky Fork Hunt and Country Club. And there, among other places, they still ride today. The Grandview Heights Marble Cliff Historical Society and the Upper Arlington Historical Society both provided valuable information for this story. My thanks to them.
Ed Lentz writes the as it were column for ThisWeek.