King of the Turf
The American Kentucky Derby of May 9,1889 will always be remembered as the most controversial yet famous race ever run in the history of the Derby. Nearly 125 years later, the time and distance record set by its winner, "Spokane" remains the fastest race at this distance ever run. "Spokane" an unknown Chestnut Colt owned by Noah Armstrong from the gold fields of Montana Territory, came into the picture with much criticism from the racing community yet demanded the attention of race goers from all over. The expected victor of this race was the notable and more famous "Proctor Knott". Here was a horse who had proven himself worthy and in 1889 all money bets were on him. So, when this unknown horse "Spokane" from out west stole the race, it hurt the pride and bent the pocket books of many race enthusiasts.
Spokane's owner, Noah Armstrong, was no stranger to horse racing. In the mining camp of Glendale, Montana, horse racing was a favorite past time to relieve the stress of boredom. The main street of town was converted to a makeshift track where men would cast their bets on their favorite horse. The locals were smart to watch their steps as it was not an uncommon occurrence that someone should get trampled. During the 9th Kentucky Derby of 1883, Noah took 3rd with Lord Raglan. It was this near win that gave Noah a taste at winning which only furthered his desire to produce the best race horses in America. He spared no expense in his quest to breed the finest thoroughbreds. Noah was a man of many talents, horse breeding and racing being among them. His financial ability to breed and race horses was made possible by his early years engaged in the mining industry. He was among some of the earliest Pioneers arriving after the gold discovery in Alder Gulch in the summer months of 1863.
Much has been written about Spokane and his Derby victory but not much is known about his owner, Noah Armstrong. He was born in Kingston, Ontario, Canada in January, 1823 and information about his early childhood has yet to be discovered. It isn't clear whether Noah had any siblings and any records of his parentage are yet to surface. Noah was a student of chemistry, economics, and banking who left Canada and arrived in Minnesota around 1853. Armstrong then moved to Blue Earth County where in August of 1859, was deeded 122.95 acres of fertile farmland. He married Hannah Howd in 1855 by Rev. Thompson at Le Hillier, a small community in Blue Earth County near the confluence of the Blue Earth and Minnesota Rivers. The name Blue Earth is a translation of the Dakota Indian word “Mahkato,” meaning “greenish blue earth.” The city of Mankato would be known as “Mahkato” today had it not been for a spelling mistake made when the name was chosen. The name has remained Mankato ever since. The town of LeHillier is in Southbend Township bordering Mankato. Noah and Hannah had three children born at Lehillier, Emma, born May 27,1856, Charles W., February 27,1858, and daughter, Ida, born August 5,1860. Ida died August 13,1864 at the age of four years. Noah left his family in Minnesota while he traveled west to the gold fields of Montana. Hannah and her children stayed with her sister's family, the “Pecks” who, at that time, were listed as hotel operators in Lanesburg, Le Sueur County, Minnesota. Records indicate that Noah arrived in Madison County, Idaho Territory (later Montana Territory) some time around 1862 or early 1863. It was not uncommon for men to leave their families behind while they came west to establish themselves. This made sense for Noah as he had a formal education in Chemistry and Assaying. This was his chance to make his fortune and provide for his family. This was a gamble that proved successful for Noah as he aligned himself with business partners who, together, would develop one of the largest and most successful mining enterprises the west has ever known.
In 1873, Noah went east and formed a partnership with Elias Atkins of Indianapolis. This firm was established with their main objective being to scout and develop new mines in the gold fields of the west. They secured the services of B. S. Harvey and Dr. S. C. Day as prospectors. Atkins being a wealthy saw manufacturer and philanthropist of Indianapolis along with having deep pockets and a good business head would serve as the financier behind the firm of "Armstrong, Atkins & Co". Noah would offer the partnership his mining, chemistry, and assaying expertise. The "Company" part of their firm consisted of prospectors, Harvey and Day. This new enterprise had the combined resources to successfully locate and purchase mining properties and acquire ore at reasonable prices from the local miners. Many of the mines located in and around the Bryant District had ore building up which proved costly and difficult to ship.
In early Montana, hauling ore by the wagon load to the nearest railroad at Corinne, Utah was both costly and took a considerable amount of time in realizing their profits. The ore was forwarded to San Francisco where it was loaded onto ships bound for Swansea, Wales where it was refined. To remedy this, Armstrong would form yet another partnership with a wealthy Montana banker, Charles Dahler of Virginia City. This newly formed company would be called, "Armstrong, Dahler & Co. Sampling Works." Their objective was to build an assay office and furnace at Glendale which enabled them to smelt the higher grade ore locally. Hauling the ore from the mines to Glendale where it could be smelted lowered their costs and provided much faster returns on their investments. They filed on this site for their smelter on August 10,1874. It was recorded on the 28th at Bannack City, Montana, the Territorial Capital at that time. A community of mill workers quickly sprang up and in 1875, a 40-ton lead smelter was built to process the growing production from the district. Armstrong, Dahler & Company continued to enlarge their smelter at Glendale to achieve greater efficiency and profitability. The expanded smelter equipped with a couple water jacket cupola furnaces, one reverbatory furnace and another being built, a couple of 40 ton stamp mills and a roaster oven, all purchased from the Fraser, Chambers & Co. of Chicago, Illinois. The Glendale Smelter would later burn down in July of 1879. The smelter reconstruction began immediately.
Between 1873 and 1877, Armstrong had entered into two partnerships, Armstrong, Atkins & Co. and the Armstrong, Dahler & Co. In 1877, with the growing demand for finances to expand operations at Glendale, Armstrong would go back to Indianapolis and consolidate these two smaller enterprises into one company which he would call "The Hecla Consolidated Mining Company". At this time, many wealthy men were brought in as investors and the Hecla Consolidated Mining Company was born. This marked the beginning of Armstrong's ability to amass the fortune he would later use to finance his breeding and racing enterprise. One could say that it took money to make money and that "Montana mining paved the way for the winning horse that would take the country by storm in 1889".
When the Board of Directors of the Hecla Company reorganized in 1881, installing Henry Knippenberg as the acting General Manger, Noah took a step back to focus his attention on his own personal affairs. He remained engaged in banking, assaying, and small scale mining throughout Montana Territory. He owned and operated a mercantile at Glendale but turned the keys over to his son Charles who continued to operate the business until the Hecla Company bought them out in 1886, forming the Hecla Mercantile and Banking Company, a subsidiary of the larger Hecla Mining Company.
By late 1881 to early 1882, after extensive travels throughout the east scouting thoroughbred stock, Noah settled on some rich farmland on the outskirts of Twin Bridges. Noah named his new ranch "Doncaster" after his favorite horse “Doncaster” an English Thoroughbred racehorse (1870-1892). This ranch once owned by John Mannheim, Montana's first brewer, left it to his wife Veronica which then passed to her daughter Elizabeth. Ironically, Noah's son Charles would marry Mannheim's daughter so the ranch would come into the Armstrong family increasing Noah's interests near Twin Bridges. Noah and Charles settled on a valuation of $5000 for the ranch where he was to build his future barn and expand his breeding business. Noah also acquired adjoining land from early settlers Jacob and Sarah Wyrouck for a reported 15.00. He went to work building a magnificent structure to house his prize horses. The unusual barn would be round and contained an indoor racing track. This is where Spokane would be foaled in the years to come.
The following is an account written by Charles Armstrong of his father's career as a miner, horse breeder and racer.
Of the thirty pages, I have edited it to include only those that pertain to Doncaster, the barn, and Spokane.
“Doncaster Ranch, Madison County, Montana, is throughout the northwest at least, celebrated as being the birthplace of several of the most famous race horses of recent years. The horses which first saw the light of day upon its domain and which have won name and fame upon the running and trotting tracks of the United States, can be counted by the score, and the most noted of them have even attained a reputation for speed and powers of endurance which has extended wherever these attributes in the equine race find recognition and encouragement. Few, indeed, are the followers of turf events throughout the racing world who have not heard of and marveled at the great performances of the splendid "Spokane" who was foaled here in 1886 and whose famous victories in 1888 and 1889 crowned him the king of the turf. To all such people, Doncaster Ranch will be regarded as a place of historic interest.
The site is, beyond compare, one of the most favorable localities for fashionable horse breeding purposes that is to be found in all the famous inter-mountain region. It is beautifully situated in the picturesque valley of the Jefferson River and embraces within its limits, something over 4000 acres of land lying along and adjacent to the noble river of that name. To be accurate, the owner can read his title clear to four thousand and eighty acres of (if we may be permitted the use of a trite western-ism) "the best land that lies out o' doors" Its soil is a deep alluvial loam, the accumulation of many generations of wash from the neighboring foothills, and it is of remarkable fertility. In its native condition, it bears a prolific growth of the rich and nutritious grasses which have made Montana so famous as a pasturage and feeding ground for horses and stock cattle of every kind.
Under cultivation, the various imported grasses such as Timothy, Redtop, Bluegrass, Lucerne, and the different varieties of clover are produced in such profuse abundance on its rich meadow lands that the statement of their yield would be received with incredulity by many who have not actually witnessed the results obtained from successively recurring hay harvests. So patent were its advantages from an agricultural point of view, that, when the discovery of gold in Bannack, Alder Gulch, and other mountain regions surrounding the great basin drew thousands of adventurers into the then trackless wilderness in search of the yellow metal, the country about the Jefferson River was the first to attract the attention of the farming portion of that immigration, and on the Doncaster Ranch and its neighborhood were located the first farms by the pioneer husbandmen of the embryo Territory of Montana.
In the 1870s, The great mining camp of Butte, which lies about thirty miles northwest from the ranch, was as yet in embryonic condition, and few, even of the most enthusiastic , had any idea of the wondrous proportions which she was destined to attain within the next few years. The first log cabin had not yet been erected in the great Smelter City of Anaconda. The Mammoth Mine of that name, which now supplies the mills and smelters with hundreds of carloads of copper ore per day, was an underdeveloped prospect hole, and there was little to indicate that an industrious, thriving population of thirty or forty thousand souls were soon to establish their homes and habitations in the near vicinity of the valley. It was during this period that Mr. Noah Armstrong, General Manager and Superintendent of the Hecla Consolidated Mining Company of Glendale, became interested in the matter of breeding and raising fine horses, a pursuit for which he had a natural affinity. He foresaw, with that sagacity and prescience which were serving his distinguishing characteristics, that the time was approaching when there would be a constantly increasing popular demand for a better class of horseflesh than was common to the Territory in those days.
To supply this demand and to fill this long felt want, became one of his chief ambitions. Being a man with whom to think was to act, he was not long in getting to work on plans for the consummation of his project. After careful study and much consideration, he became firmly of the opinion (the correctness of which has been fully demonstrated by ensuing results) that the conditions existing in Montana were eminently favorable for the rearing, in superior form, of representatives of the most distinguished and fashionable equine families. His observations, extended through several years of personal and patient investigation, convinced him that in point of climate, soil, pasturage, and the other natural accessories to his purpose, Montana was the equal, if not the superior of the best known horse raising districts of the United States, not excepting even the highly extolled "blue grass region" of Kentucky. The experience of others in a similar , though less ambitious direction strongly fortified his estimate of the soundness of his judgment, and he determined to go into the business on a scale which would ensure a brilliant triumph if successful, but great financial loss should failure attend the enterprise. The first important thing to do was to find a suitable location. For this purpose, he made many journeys to several parts of the (at that time) Territory, but nowhere could he find a place which impressed him so favorably with its desirability as the farming region of the upper Jefferson Valley described above. Here was, par excellence, the ideal location for the carrying out of his conception, and here he determined to establish the farm”.
By location, purchase, and the expenditure of many thousands of dollars, he founded a horse breeding establishment which in magnitude and superiority of equipment is not excelled between the Mississippi River and the Pacific coast. It was a daring venture, but the success which has been achieved has proven that Mr. Armstrong was in no wise at fault in his estimates of the feasibility of his scheme. From its inception, the details of the management of Doncaster Ranch have been followed with strict adherence to its founder's predominant idea, viz: that the introduction and cultivation of the finest and purest strains of horse blood, intelligently and honestly pursued, would be a profitable investment, and the results have far exceeded the anticipations. With this as the prime mover in the the enterprise, the stocking of the ranch was begun by importing representations of the most notable running and trotting horse families in the country. To these, only such others were added as were proven by blood and birth to be indisputable pedigree and uncontestable merit, and by faithfully pursuing the method thus established, the stables of Doncaster Ranch have become noted all over the country for the number and superior racing qualities of their product, of both trotters and thoroughbreds.
It is not the purpose of the writer to here present and individual history of the numerous sires and dams of fashionable breeding which are and have been in service on the ranch. Horsemen and others who are interested in such history will find in the catalogue of pedigrees in this volume evidence sufficient to establish full warrant for any eulogy which may be indulged in the general description. But this sketch would not be complete without reference to one or two of those who might appropriately be termed the "horse fathers" of the farm. Just pride is felt that among the first inhabitants of the Doncaster Ranch Stables was that noble son of a noble sire, the unconquered and invincible son of the never to be forgotten Lexington-"Tom Bowling", a beautiful bay stallion, 16 1/2 hands high and foaled in 1870. As already stated, Tom Bowling was got by Lexington, his first dam being Lucy Fowler, by imported Albion; 2nd dam by imported Leviathan, 3rd dam, by Pacolet, 4th dam, by Topgallant, 5th dam, by Gallatin, 6th dam, by Grey Diomed. Truly a more aristocratic line of ancestry than this would be hard to find trace of.
During his career on the turf, Tom Bowling achieved an unbroken series of victories, and though his races varied in distance from one to four miles, his owners colors were always to the fore at the finish. His record of three successive mile heats in 1:42 each, has never been equaled by any other horse. He was a magnificent animal and when on Doncaster Ranch was kept solely for stud. His progeny on the farm are notable for the virile power, stamina, pluck, endurance, and speed which characterized their famous sire. Among the earliest trotting stallions on the ranch was the celebrated "Doncaster". He, also, was kept solely for breeding purposes. Doncaster was a splendid black 16 hands high. He was foaled in 1878, and was got by Dictator, sire of Jay-Eye-See, record 2:10 1/2. Phallas, record 2:13 1/41, and the director, record 2:17. His first dam was by Blackwood, sire of Proteine, record 2:18, Suitor, 2:21, Blackwood Jr. 2:22 1/2, Ravenswood, 2:27, and several others equally noted. His second dam was by Alexander's Abdallah, sire of Goldsmith Maid, record 2:14, Rosaline, 2:21 3/4 and Thorndale, 2:22 1/2. These two sires are samples of many others from which the young thoroughbreds and trotters of Doncaster Ranch derive their pedigree.
The results of their introductions are such as any horseman may well be proud of. a long list of horses that have gained a national reputation have been bred and trained on the Ranch. The single fact that the great son of Hyder Ali and Interpose "Spokane", the vanquisher of Proctor Knott and the acknowledged king of race horses found his birthplace here would seem to be honor enough for one farm to receive. But the roster of winners from Doncaster Ranch stops not with this champion of champions. Many others of national reputation spent their early days upon the ranch, and their powers were developed upon its excellent training grounds. Grey Cloud, full brother to Spokane, who, after a brilliant season of success as a two year old, in his three year old form in 1885, put twenty eight prizes in his owners pocket, was also foaled upon Doncaster Ranch. Monarch, Hermine, Lavina (half sister to Spokane), Montana Maid (nee Lottie Throw), Anna Wilkes, Thorn Boy, and Sue Hayden are names familiar as household words among horsemen. Noted leaders at present, among Montana horses are Barbour's Florida, sired by Montana Wilkes; dam Alberta, by Dalgamo; and Montana Wilkes; sired by Red Wilkes, dam Eva, by Lumber. All these hail from Doncaster Ranch and others of equal merit, if lesser fame, are to be counted by scores among the present occupants of the farm. They not only represent many thousands of dollars in cash value, but are in direct lineage with the most noble horse ancestry in the country.
Summed up in brief, it may be said without exaggeration or fear of successful contradiction, that no racing stud farm in the northwest can exhibit a grander record of splendid results achieved than can the subject of this sketch. The farm, as before stated, embraces four thousand and eighty acres within its boundaries. Of this amount, sixteen hundred acres consist of fine, level, bottom lands, contiguous to the river, with a deep, rich, alluvial, black soil of great fertility, and matted with a thick growth of the nutritious native grass which is indigenous to the valley lands of Montana. Partial irrigation is necessary to insure the best results in uniformity of crops. To supply this in part, the sinking of an artesian well has been begun on the adjoining bench and the bore is now made to a depth of six hundred and sixty six feet. This is lined throughout with nine inch steel tubing. The bottom is, and has been for some distance, in a bedrock of limestone. at this depth, a ten inch vein of excellent water was tapped which flowed to within ninety feet of the surface. It is the opinion of the best experts in artesian well boring that an abundant and steady flow of water will be reached by very little further sinking. While this well is in no wise necessary for the present needs of Doncaster Ranch, its successful completion will have a beneficial result in the reclamation of the valuable bench lands of the property. It goes without saying that, as a pre-eminent requisite to the successful operation of an establishment like this, equipment, furnishings, and appurtenances must be provided on a scale commensurate with its magnitude. In this respect, considering the multifarious character of the business enterprises of its founder, stupendous progress has been made.
A good sized fortune has already been expended in erecting the buildings and accommodations essential to the proper housing and handling of the valuable animals which are domesticated on Doncaster Ranch, and for their care and maintenance in a manner befitting their lofty equine station. No provision for their well being and comfort is lacking; the buildings are convenient and substantial; the sanitary condition of the barns and stables have been the subject of due consideration and constant attention, and the employees of the place are chosen with primary regard to their intelligence and perfect familiarity with the routine of duties which they are expected to perform. A notable feature of the equipment of the ranch is the magnificent circular barn, which was constructed and fashioned after an original design of Mr. Armstrong. This structure is so novel in its conception, so convenient in its economy, and withal so admirably adapted to the purposes of its creation, that a description of it cannot but be of interest to the readers of this sketch. The data upon which it was founded was obtained by the writer on the occasion of a visit to the ranch shortly after the completion of the building. The barn, which may truly be called a model of architectural beauty and convenience, is circular in form and three stories high. The inside diameter of the lower floor in one hundred feet, of the second floor, seventy six feet, and of the third floor, thirty six feet. It stands upon stone abutments which are built upon piles driven some twelve or fifteen feet below water level to the hard pan bedrock beneath. In the construction of these abutments, twelve cords of stone, quarried from the neighboring Hell's Canon were used.
The walls of the barn are formed of three thicknesses of plank, each layer being sandwiched with double sheets of building paper, an arrangement which secures complete warmth in the interior during the most severe weather. The roofing of each story is of similar material and coated thickly with fire proof mineral paint. The outer tier of apartments on the ground floor comprise the large box stalls for the horses, the offices, and the dormitories of the employees, the commodious offices being at the left of the entrance, and the sleeping rooms to the right. The stalls are twelve feet square, the division between each being of plank to the height of about four feet, and from thence to the ceiling they are of railing, giving each horse a chance to see his neighbors for about half way around the building. It is claimed that this promotion of neighborly companionship greatly relieves the monotony of indoor horse life, and is very beneficial to the animals which are so kept. The writer confesses his ignorance of this branch of horse-ology; but is willing to admit that there may be something in the theory which was advanced to him with every appearance of sincerity. The stalls open inward to a track, or drive-way, twenty feet wide, which extends all around the building. This is utilized for the handling, breaking, and exercising of the young colts, as well and the driving of the horses during stormy weather. It also affords ingress to the grain and hay elevators, the entrance being so large that a ten horse wagon, laden with hay, can easily be driven into the interior of the barn. The drive way can also be made available in severe weather for the sheltering of loose stock. It will afford room for three hundred head of horses, without crowding, whenever such an exigency arises. On the inner side of the track is another circular structure. This contains the harness closets, two commodious hospital stalls, the hay and grain elevator, the spiral stairway to the upper floors, and the well pipe, which runs up through the center. In the middle of this structure is the well, which has been sunk to the bedrock, twelve feet below water level and affords a plentiful supply of water for all purposes.
The second story, which is seventy six feet inside diameter, contains the granary and the hay lofts. The latter are arranged next to the outer walls of this story, while the grain bins occupy a large circular room around the well tube. At the time of the writers visit, fifty tons of hay were stored in the lofts and they had an apparent capacity for receiving as much more. The grain bins will hold about twelve thousand bushels of corn. The granary floors slope toward the outside of the apartment. This is for convenience in drawing off the supply for the stables, which is conveyed by automatic appliances to the mangers in the box stalls below. The third and topmost story is thirty six feet in diameter. The water reservoir has been built upon this floor. It consists of a large circular tank, the storage capacity of which is eleven thousand gallons. The supply is obtained from the well in the center and is elevated to the reservoir by a windmill which surmounts the tower at the top of the building. The stables are supplied from hydrants placed at convenient pints on the lower floor, whence the water is conveyed through troughs to the animals in the stalls. The precautions against fire have not been omitted, and each hydrant is fitted with hose by which water can be carried to any part of the building in case of necessity arising from any cause.
The main building is forty eight feet high from the ground to the ceiling of the third story, which is surmounted by a tower twelve feet high, the windmill crowning the whole. The height over all is about seventy feet. One hundred and ten thousand feet of lumber were consumed in the construction of the barn; but this only represents a very small figure in the sum total of the expense incurred in its construction. On this point, Mr. Armstrong maintained a modest reserve which was impenetrable to the writer. But, what ever the cost may have been, a triumph has certainly been achieved. In the entire building, while every foot of space seems to have its appropriate function, there is ample room for everything; the light is all that can be wished for, and the ventilation is excellent, the peculiarity of design securing perfect circulation of air and at the same time, maintaining a comfortable degree of heat, no matter what the frigidity of exterior temperature might be. In the matter of convenience, it cannot be excelled, all supplies of hay, grain, water, etc, coming from above, and being automatically conveyed to the stables without intermediate aid. The stalls around the building are each lighted by a large window at the outside, and an outer door gives each horse exit into his own separate paddock. This is another special feature and a good one. It is accomplished by enclosing a large area of land around the building, from which fences radiate, fan shaped, to the outer fence, giving each horse an individual paddock of about two and a half acres in which to exercise, without interference with his neighbors. As a whole, it is the handsomest, most unique, and complete establishment of the kind in the west, if not in the whole country.
Newspaper Accounts of Armstrong's racing and breeding interests
Information regarding Noah's early interest in horse racing and breeding is somewhat limited. Local papers kept a very close eye on Noah and occasionally published short mentions on his whereabouts and business dealings. Noah, after all, was a well-respected and prominent businessman throughout the Territory and the subject of horse racing was of the utmost importance. I surmise from these newspaper accounts, it is likely that Noah became actively involved in purchasing and breeding as early as the spring of 1881.
The January 14, 1882, Helena Independent mentions, "Mr. Noah Armstrong, of Montana Territory, has recently purchased of Mr. P.W. Hudson, Lexington, Kentucky, the bay filly "Hermine", foaled 1879, by "Alarm", dam "Paris Belle", by "Lexington", out of "Ella D", by "Vandal". This is a high bred filly, and ought to be heard from. Price paid not reported". -Turf, Field, and Farm, Dec. 30, 1881.
The April 4, 1882 column of the Helena Independent mentions, "Noah Armstrong of Glendale has eleven thoroughbred two and three year olds in training at Lexington, Kentucky. "Tom Plunkett" heads the list. J. Hannigan is trainer." "It has been wildly asserted in the east that Noah Armstrong's (of Glendale) horse, "Tom Plunkett" is in reality Mr. Keene's celebrated Gleneig-Minx's colt, "Romeo". The rumor is, of course, without foundation."
The May 18, 1882 Helena Independent mentions, "Noah Armstrong, of Glendale, Montana, entered a couple of fleet animals in the Lexington, Ky. races, in the mile and a quarter dash, for the Distiller's stakes. "Tom Plunkett" came in third, and in the St. Nicholas Stakes for two year olds, Armstrong's black filly, "Ebony", also came in third.
On August 4, 1882, The Butte Daily Miner stated that, "Noah Armstrong, it is believed, will come over from the Jefferson with his stable of fine horses which he purchased in the east last spring; some of his horses have good records.
During Derby Day at Louisville, the Courier Journal dated May 20 1883 reported that "Lord Raglan performed fairly well at Lexington, and the report is that he is in grand form just now".
Lord Raglan competed again successfully at the Covington Races in June and was also a winner of the Equity Stakes at Saratoga.
Prior to proving himself valuable, Armstrong had brokered a sale of this valuable horse to H.A. Montgomery, President of the Memphis Jockey Club in January, 1883. Lord Raglan would then compete in the 9th Kentucky Derby and take third place, increasing his worth on a considerable scale. As a result of an injury sustained in a race during the summer months, Noah had a surgeon brought up from Salt Lake City to attend to his valuable horse. The surgery did not prove successful and in December, Lord Raglan died. He was regarded as one of the fastest horses on the American Turf. Lord Raglan was buried in the small mining camp of Glendale. It is not clear now whether money changed hands on the sale of Lord Raglan or Armstrong had a change of heart after seeing the potential this horse had to offer. In any event, the death of Lord Raglan was a financial loss and blow to Armstrong and the breeding community. Noah must have felt very defeated and overwhelmed with the loss of his prized horse in addition to the death of his three small grandchildren at Glendale.
The October 2, 1883 column of the Helena Independent writes, "A Lexington, Kentucky dispatch under date of September 24, 1883 says; It is understood here that Noah Armstrong of Montana, who in the spring of last year bought stock of the Preakness Farm in this vicinity, has now raised for the turf, three of his yearling thoroughbreds. He left here today for Montana to be joined at Cincinnati by "Annie Louise" and "Monarch", and at Omaha by "Lord Raglan", now at Saratoga. Lord Raglan will be put in the stud and Mr. Armstrong will probably confine himself to breeding thoroughbreds and trotters.
The October 17, 1883 Helena Independent reports that, "An eastern sporting journal says that Noah Armstrong, owner of Lord Raglan, Monarch, and other animals, has retired from the turf. He has returned to Montana where he will have a breeding establishment, and Lord Raglan, who was so badly cut down at Saratoga, will be placed in the stud. At the time of the accident to Raglan, Mr. Armstrong was very much incensed, and stated that this season would wind up his turf career.
The November 2, 1883, Helena Independent mentions that, "Noah Armstrong has returned to Glendale and says he is through with horse racing.
The December 30, 1883 Helena Independent reports the following, "Lord Raglan", Noah Armstrong's race horse which was so badly hurt in an eastern race last summer, was brought to Glendale and a few days ago, a surgeon was brought up from Salt Lake City to perform an operation upon the valuable animal. The operation, however, was only successful in the Herald acceptation of the term. Lord Raglan died. He was reckoned as one of the fastest horses on the American turf. Lord Raglan would race during the 1883 Kentucky Derby and place 3rd.
The March 29, 1884, Helena Independent reports, "Noah Armstrong, who has just returned from Kentucky, writes to Secretary Pope that he will attend our July race meeting with three running horses and one or two trotters. While east, he purchased the celebrated thoroughbred race horse, "Tom Bowling" by "Lexington". He also purchased of Dr. L. Herr, of Lexington, KY., the bay colt "Thornburg" (1882) by "Mambrino Patchen" dam, "Lady Ayres" by "Redmonds Abdallah".
The April 8, 1884 Helena Independent mentions, "The blooded stock recently purchased by Noah Armstrong in Kentucky arrived in Dillon the first of last week. The famous racer, "Tom Bowling", by Lexington, Dam, "Lucy Fowler", by imported "Albion", was much admired by horsemen in that section. This thoroughbred stallion is noted for the number of premiums he has taken in Kentucky, and during his racing career of three years, no horse that ever ran against him got away with the race. A two year old bay colt, by "Membrino Patchen", the sire of "Membrino Diamond", and some fine thoroughbred young short horn cattle comprised the lot."
The May 23, 1884, Helena Independent reported, "This summer will be the presence of Mr. Noah Armstrong's stable. Mr. Armstrong gained considerable experience and money the last two years he was on the eastern turf, and has now settled down on his home farm, Doncaster Ranch, near Twin Bridges, Beaverhead County, and proposes to show this fall that he is entitled to a fair share of race money hung up in Montana. He has ten horses in training.
The September 16, 1884, Butte Miner reports, "It is safe to say that no finer collection of blooded horses was ever seen in any State or Territory in the Union. The Norman, Clydesdale, and trotting stock from the stables of Noah Armstrong, were represented by superb animals. whose direct descent and close connection with the best horses of the country gave to the exhibition increased interest”.
Other notable horses bred and raised at Noah's Montana Stables included; "Grey Cloud", "Monarch", "Hermine" "Lavine", "Montana Maid", "Anna Wilkes", "Thorn Boy", "Montana Regent", "Sue Hayden", Barbour's Florida", "Lord Raglan", and "Montana Wilkes" to name a few.
Pride ran high in Montana Territory during the year 1889 for two reasons. 1889 marked the year Congress would enact Montana Territory as the 41st state and a horse from Montana would capture the hearts and attention of race goers from all over. Racing horses along the main streets of early Montana Mining Camps was a favorite past time. From this love of racing was born "Spokane", a chestnut Thoroughbred foaled in 1886 and one of the most famous Derby winners of all time.
Of course, no Montanan in that year believed that Spokane was a normal horse. They were all convinced that Spokane was a "Spirit" Indian horse. Such a horse was believed to run with wings of speed bestowed by the Great Spirit. The Virginia City, Montana Madisonian published this article on June 1, 1889;
Originally published in the Nashville American:
"He is named after a tribe of Indians in Washington Territory, now almost extinct, after whom was named Spokane River, at the cascades of which is situated the thriving metropolis of the Valley of the Columbia, Spokane Falls.
Now to delve into history and romance, On the banks of the Spokane River, a few miles above Spokane Falls, is what is known as Wright's bone yard. It was there that Col. Wright, some forty years ago, concluded the campaign against the Spokanes, the Calispels, the Coeur d' Alenes, and San Pouelle Indians, and taught the red men in the great Columbia Basin that the Caucasian race would rule. There, the colonel fought a battle and captured many thousand head of beautiful, sleek, bunch grass horses, that the Indians had with them in their retreat from the lower country. When the red men saw they were whipped, each mounted a fleet horse and fled, calling back to Col. Wright that he could have their other horses, that the white men were horse thieves, anyway, rather than soldiers. Col. Wright taught them better, for the next day, he surrounded and shot every horse the Indians had left."
"There is a tradition among the Spokanes to the effect that in the evening, when the plain was covered with the dead bodies of their beautiful horses, lying with keen limbs and shapely necks extended on the ground, the Great Spirit spoke to a wounded warrior, who was overlooked by the white men as he lay among the heaps of slain, and told him that all was not lost, but that the spirits of the free horses of the bunch grass hills had blended itself into one, and even at the time he was speaking, this spirit horse was snorting and kicking, neighing and holding his head aloft among the cloud capped mountain peaks.
"One day,' said the Spirit, 'the spirit horse will return with the speed, the endurance, and the pluck of all the horses dead on the battle field. He will enter into the body of a colt, and that colt will be called "Spokane", and will go forth to conquer all the horses of the earth." The article concludes: "The prophecy is fulfilled."
The following narrative is a more "official" explanation of the events:
"On September 8, 1858, U.S. Army Col. George Wright ordered his troops to slaughter more than 800 horses belonging to the Palouse Chief Tilcoax. The strategy was to deprive the tribes of the use of their horses against the military. Horses represented both the wealth and military might of the tribes. Soldiers also destroyed Native American lodges and storehouses of grain. Col. Wright was engaged in a punitive military expedition against the Yakama, Spokane, Palouse, and Coeur d'Alene tribes. The slaughter along with the destruction of the food supply devastated the tribes resulting in many deaths of the young and old throughout a very difficult winter.
Wright's campaign stemmed from the defeat of Lieutenant Colonel Edward J. Steptoe and a small force of mounted soldiers on May 17-18, 1858, near what would later become Rosalia. Steptoe was attempting to punish the Palouse tribe for the killing of white settlers. From his base at Walla Walla, Wright launched a campaign against the tribes north of the Snake River. He prevailed at small engagements at Four Lakes (September 1, 1858) and Spokane Plains (September 5, 1858) and established a camp on the Ned-Whauld River. From this headquarters he demanded that the tribes surrender or face "extermination"
Two companies of soldiers were detailed to shoot the animals and destroy the structures. Shooting the horses took an entire day and most of the next. Wright spared nearly 150 animals for his own troops, but the untrained stock proved useless and was destroyed as well. The carcasses rotted into piles of bones that marked the site that became known as Horse Slaughter Camp near what will later become Aturdee, east of Spokane. Wright would sign treaties with the Coeur d' Alenes and the Spokanes in late September and returned to Fort Walla Walla, Washington. Wright would later serve during the Civil War and died from drowning off the coast of Northern California aboard the steamer, Brother Jonathan.
Spokane is often referred to as the Kentucky Derby winner that was "bred in Illinois, foaled in Montana in 1886, and trained in Tennessee." Hyder Ali, Spokane's Sire was standing at The Meadows in Illinois when Interpose, Spokane's dam was bred to him in 1885. Noah purchased Interpose, her unborn foal, and her suckling filly, "Madelin" for a reported $1000 from General Richard Rowett of Illinois and the horse was sent to Noah's ranch in the Northwest Territory that Noah would call "Doncaster". Civil War Veteran, Richard Rowett would die in 1887, two years prior to Spokane's rise to fame.
During the last week of March, 1886, while Armstrong was in Spokane Falls, Washington Territory tending to business and mining interests near Colville, he received a telegram advising him of the colt's birth. A name was needed to record in the breeding books so Armstrong would choose "Spokane."
An article published in the Spokane Morning Review on May 29, 1889 gives more in-depth detail of the event;
Mr. W.B. Taylor, President of the Board of Trade, was interviewed. Mr. Taylor stated, "Since my return, I have learned that there has been a discussion as to the manner in which the famous race horse, Spokane, received his name, some other place claiming the honor. I can give you the straight of it, for I was present at the christening. About three years ago, and while Mr. Armstrong had the Hidden Treasure under bond, the same property that afterward I bought, he came down from the Coeur d'Alenes with George Hardesty. There was no railroad to the mines then, and it was a very rough trip. I went with them to the post office, where Mr. Armstrong received a letter from the foreman of his Twin Bridges stock ranch. He read the letter aloud, and it stated that one of his favorite mares had given birth to a fine colt. Mr. Armstrong remarked, "I have had such a rough trip, I will just name that colt Spokane in remembrance of the event. This, certainly ought to settle all disputes as to where the honor belongs."
Noah Armstrong also responded to reporters regarding the issue of naming Spokane by saying, "I suppose naming race horses is a hobby with me, although I like to get good sounding names, not too hard to remember or pronounce. I have horses named Spokane, Olympia, and Umatilla for western towns where I am known and interested. In naming Spokane, I had two reasons in view, first to honor Spokane Falls, Washington Territory, and secondly, because of an old Indian tradition of that locality which very much interested me."
In a Seattle Post Intelligencer interview with Noah Armstrong dated January 16, 1890, Noah states;
"The Kentucky Derby which Spokane won in May was one of the best races ever witnessed. The horses, including Proctor Knott, who was the favorite in the betting and who eastern horseman said was sure to win, were all in prime, all reports to the contrary. I was not sure that Spokane would come out first, for no man of course, is absolutely sure of his horse until he is tested. I was certain, though, that he would win second money if not first. I did not back my horse with money, thinking that the purse, which was very large, would do it I should win. Well, you all know Spokane won, with Proctor Knott second. It surprised knowing ones I assure you.
"The same month Spokane won the Clark Stakes, notwithstanding the statements made by different ones the Proctor Knott was until at the Kentucky Derby, and would retrieve his lost laurels by winning the Clark Stakes. These two races are considered the most important ones in America simply because every breeder in the country enters his best blood for them. The stakes are not large, but the reputation a horse gets is valued more highly than mere monetary considerations. I have reasons to be proud of Spokane's winning both of these, for it has been accomplished but once before. When Spokane won the American Derby at Chicago, soon after, we had more reason than ever for being elated over his wonderful performance, for never before has three races been won by one horse."
"The American Derby was run on a muddy track, and although my horse won, I sometimes wish he had not started, for it strained him so that he was not in condition for running for the rest of the year. His defeat by Proctor Knott a short time after fully demonstrates this fact. Proctor is a great horse when he is right; but Spokane is still greater. Immediately after his first race, I took him to Louisville where he soon began to pick up and is a sound dollar now."
"You want to know how much his winning amounted to for the seasons. well, let me see, I can easily tell. Counting everything, it amounted to just $28,000. That's a larger sum of money, to be sure but it would have been greater had not my horse gone lame."
The reporter asked Noah the question, "There are many sections of the US that lay claim to being Spokane's home. Where is Spokane's home?"
Laughingly, Noah answered, "Kentucky, Illinois, Tennessee, Washington, and Montana all put in claims to be Spokane's home, but in fact, Montana was his birthplace and home. He never saw any other state until last year."
Mr. Armstrong was asked where his home was, he said, "Seattle, and if a colt I have now proves to be as I expect, I'll call him Seattle, but I don't want to give any colt the name until I am sure what he can do. If he don't come up to my expectations, I will wait for a colt that my mare foals in the spring. I am positive it will be the one that I am looking for, for his sire Tom Bowling, the greatest race horse in the world, has bred all my good colts. So if Seattle don't beat the world next season, he will two year hence in the Futurity Stakes, in which I expect to enter the colt I expect in the spring."
At two years, Spokane won two of his five starts, including the Maiden Stakes at Latonia and 4th place at Hyde Park Stakes.
At three years, Spokane won second at Sheridan Stakes, Peabody Hotel Handicap at Memphis, 3rd place at Pelham Bay Handicap, and ultimately winning the Kentucky Derby, American Derby, and Clark Stakes making Spokane the first horse to ever accomplish this. Spokane was reportedly 16 hands tall and stood at 118lbs.
The famous race...
On Thursday, May 9th, 1889 at the 15th Annual Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, the largest crowd that had ever assembled numbered 25,000. The day was intensely hot and the large crowds gathered primarily to see Proctor Knott who was their favorite. Though most bets were on Proctor Knott as the front runner, Frank James of the famous "Frank and Jesse James Gang" was reportedly among the betters in the crowd and was putting his faith and money into the Montana Stables horse. When Frank asked the bookie on the "price" for Spokane, the bookmaker replied, "10 to 1 and the sky's the limit." Frank reportedly bet an astronomical sum of 5000.00 in addition to waging heavily on Spokane at the Clark Stakes and American Derby. Whether this legend is true or not, it definitely lends to the old west romance of it. Frank and Jesse James were no strangers to Glendale, Montana or the Horse's owner, Noah Armstrong. It is reported that the James Brothers visited Glendale and were sheltered away by fellow Missourians during their early days as public outlaws. An early day historian, Marguerite LaMarche wrote of the visits by Frank and Jesse James to Glendale, home of Noah Armstrong at that time. Is there possibly a connection or sense of loyalty on Frank's part to support Noah's horse Spokane? We will never know for sure!
An interesting footnote:
The author of this piece has in his collection, an actual photograph of Frank James that was passed down to him by family members who lived in the Glendale, Montana area. Was Frank James a family friend going back to the James Brothers stay in Glendale? Frank James walked away having won an estimated 50,000. Though not as interesting, another reported backer was Matt J. Winn, President of Churchill Downs and eyewitness to a reported 75 Derby Races.
Among the Derby lineup was; Spokane who finished at 1st place, Proctor Knott, 2nd, Once Again, 3rd, Hindoocraft, 4th place, Cassius, 5th, Sportsman, 6th, Outbound, 7th, and Bootmaker, 8th place. Prior to the race, enough money came in on "Spokane" that the odds were changed from 10-1 to 6 to 1. It was also said that if Montanans had sent enough money back to Kentucky in 1889 and placed it all on "Spokane", it would have financially devastated the racing fraternity.
It was reported that Proctor Knott broke away twice before the race, almost unseating his jockey, Shelby "Pike" Barnes. Each time he broke away, he galloped an eighth of a mile. Hindoocraft was the early leader, with Bootmaker second, and Spokane third. Near the first turn, Proctor Knott was rushed to the front, and led by three lengths entering the backstretch, with sportsman, second; Hindoocraft, third; and Spokane fifth, under a careful ride. All through the backstretch, Proctor Knott was fighting for his head. Leaving the backstretch, Proctor Knott was five lengths in front, with Hindoocraft; second, Spokane had moved into 3rd place, and was gradually increasing speed and ground. Taking the turn for home, Barnes, who was atop Proctor Knott, was losing control and lost many lengths by moving to the outer rail. Though Barnes succeeded in regaining control of Proctor Knott, he chose to remain on the outer rail rather than race towards the inner fence to gain ground.
Thomas Kiley, Spokane's Jockey, was running the stretch on the inner rail all the while "Pike" Barnes was running Proctor Knott along the outer rail. It was obvious that Proctor Knott was a tired horse while Spokane seemed fresh and strong. As the finish wire was crossed, opinions of the spectators were divided as to the outcome. The judges, Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark, Gen. James F. Robinson and J.K. Megibben deliberated for quite some time before Col. Clark Stood and gestured for the crowd that had gathered around to be silent. Col. Clark, the derby's creator declared that "it's Spokane" and awarded the victory to the Montana Stables horse. Spokane won the Derby by a nose setting a new Derby record that remains unbeaten today. The race was run at 2:34 1/2 at a track length of 1 1/2 miles. The record remains unbeaten for all time as in 1896, the track length was reduced to 1 1/4 mile. The breakdown of Spokane's time and distance while running the Derby as communicated by Noah Armstrong are as follows;
First Quarter: 24- 1/2
Half Mile: 48- 1/2
Three Quarters: 1.14- 1/2
Mile and One Quarter: 2.9- 1/2
Mile and One Half: 2.34- ½
Armstrong won a reported 4,850 in winnings from the Kentucky Derby.
Many believed that Spokane's victory over Proctor Knott was an accident or a "chance" win. Much to the surprise and embarrassment of race enthusiasts on eastern turfs, Spokane went on to beat Proctor Knott again at the Clark Stakes at Louisville and again at the American Derby in Chicago. Here was a horse that came from the west, "no-where" as far as the eastern turfmen were concerned, and raced victoriously against some of the more famous racers of the day, all the while setting a new derby record.
It was said that "Spokane broke the hearts and bent the pocket books of a great many Kentuckians." Many Montanans would argue that given Spokane's training in the high altitudes of Montana Territory, his lungs were much more adapt to the track than those trained at a lower elevation. Even today, Olympic athletes choose to train in the mountainous regions of the west in order to condition and strengthen their lungs. Spokane would fulfill his owner's predictions the year prior and race victoriously in the Derby. Armstrong had stated that, "he was going to take this, the highest honor of the west."
On May 14, 1889, five days after his Kentucky Derby win, Spokane would match up against Proctor Knott at the Clark Stakes and would be victorious once again with a time of 2.12-1/2.
On June 22, 1889 at the American Derby at Chicago's Washington Park, Spokane would again declare victory over Proctor Knott with a time of 2.41.1/4 in front of nearly 47,000 spectators.
Chicago, June 22 1889: Forty-seven thousand people paid their money at the gates of Washington Park today and then saw Spokane win the American Derby worth 18,000. Spokane was a hot favorite at six to five, although large sums of money were also got on nearly every other horse in the race. Nearly 1,000,000 changed hands on the result. The race was an exciting one because the tremendous crowd made it so. The official time of the derby was 2:41 1/4. When Spokane reached his stall, he was almost mobbed by the Montana Stables frenzied attendants who clung about his neck and would not allow him to rest until his trainer had shouted himself hoarse. He was rubbed down and lightly fed, and as the sun went down the stable boys gathered under his shed and told of the great horse's prowess.
A "lusty darkey" placed a big pot on the fire and filled it with small white leaves taken from a bag. It was the Medicine Man's life-giver, and it was being prepared for Spokane's next meal. Shortly, a tall red-faced man with a brown beard and his hands thrust clumsily in his pockets trousers pockets, sauntered along the stable path. It was Sam Bryant, on his way to his own stalls. As he passed the Montana Stables, he was attracted by laughter and loud talk, and turning in that direction, saw the "big darkey" stirring the steaming mass in the pot. His mouth stretched into a broad grin, and as he stirred and added the white leaves he sang, the only intelligible words being "Spokane, my Spoke." Sam Bryant sighed, a tear glistened in his eye, and he continued his way to join Proctor Knott.
Spokane's record of winning was no longer a matter of "chance". He was a bona fide racer and fans were taking notice. Though a Montana horse, the businessmen of Spokane Falls, Washington Territory expressed their pride in their city's namesake horse by presenting Noah Armstrong with a sky blue velvet blanket of Gold brocade and lettering which measured 41 inches by 61 inches, a head piece, and a gold belt in commemoration of Spokane's Derby win The blanket was made possible by public subscription and cost the men of Spokane Falls a reported $5000.00. The man who reportedly headed up the effort to commemorate Spokane's victories was Col. George "Spokane" Clarke who held some interest in the winning horse along with the Horse's owner, Noah Armstrong.
Other reports state that a man by the name of "Dope", "Smith", and "Jake Goetz" decided that their city's namesake horse needed a blanket so they took their hat off and passed it around.
Another man by the name of "Mr. H. Bolster" a Spokane Falls Community Leader wrote a letter to Noah Armstrong;
"In appreciation of the good taste and sense of propriety displayed by his owner in the selection of this appropriate name and in recognition of the merits of the horse, the many friends of the owner send greetings and have requested H. V. Bemis, to purchase for the young racer, the finest equipment he can secure on the eastern market."
Lastly, A newspaper dating May 23, 1889 from the Morning Review in Spokane makes mention of a Mr. A.J. Ross having turned in his ten dollars and subscription to President Newberry of the Fair Association to be applied to the fund for decorating the famous racer which bears the name "Spokane".
On Wednesday, June 19, 1889, the blanket was presented to Noah Armstrong while in Chicago on behalf of the citizens of Spokane Falls, Washington Territory. The following Saturday, Spokane would run in the American Derby and again, prove the citizens of Spokane Falls proud. The blanket remained in the family and was then gifted to the Long Acres Track in Seattle, Washington where it remained on display for many years before being donated to the Spokane Chamber of Commerce in 1941. Since that time, the items have been transferred to the Eastern Washington University where they are part of their permanent collection. The only known official painting of Spokane to exist was painted by 19th century equestrian artist Henry Stull (1851-1913) and was purchased from a private collector by Jacob Lowney. It was originally commissioned by Noah Armstrong following Spokane's victorious win at Louisville in 1889.
The Madisonian Newspaper of Virginia City, Montana published this poem in 1889 displaying the pride Montanas felt: The author was reportedly a "Hackman" by the name of "Fat Jack."
Spokane! Spokane! You are a dandy flyer and you go from Montana where the grass grows higher. There came from the Rockies far away in the west, a steed called Spokane that of racers is best. Of all the gay flyers that ever was seen, for he came from Montana where the grass grows green. Spokane! Spokane! you are a dandy flyer, and you go from Montana where the grass grows higher.
The Morning Oregonian dated May 10,1889 states, "Spokane", the winner of the Kentucky Derby is the sole property of Mr. Noah Armstrong, of Seattle. He was foaled in Montana three years ago, on the Doncaster farm. His sire was "Hyder Ali", and his dam, "Interpose" by imported "Intruder". The employees of the Seattle Transfer Company, of which Mr. Armstrong is President, are somewhat desirous of painting the town red tonight.
A newspaper report in the Morning Oregonian dated December 26, 1889 states, "Noah Armstrong, owner of the great race horse, "Spokane" is at Seattle and reports that his famous steed has won for the season clear about $28,000.
According to the Sandusky Daily Register, Sandusky, Ohio dated July 16, 1889 Noah Armstrong values Spokane at $50,000. Also mentioned in the same article is "Gray Cloud", "Spokane's full brother running in the American Derby race alongside "Spokane".
The Great Falls Tribune dated May 15,1889 reports: Spokane is a chestnut colt and was foaled at Noah Armstrong's ranch at Twin Bridges, Madison County, in 1886. He was sired by J. B. Haggin's flyer, his dam being Interpose, a noble mare, which is at present on the Twin Bridges farm. As a two year old, Spokane was taken to St. Louis where he exercised a little and was sent to Memphis to winter. He showed his metal at Nashville a couple of weeks ago where he easily took second place in a mile dash. He was not entered to win, however. When he was considered a winner in the Kentucky Derby, leaving Proctor Knott out, it was not supposed he stood the ghost of a show alongside the famous winner of last year's Futurity. But, Spokane has proved himself the greatest three year old on the American Turf. His race was remarkable in many particulars. In the first place, it beats all previous records made in the Derby. It was remarkable from the fact that at no previous time, were the weights so large as on this occasion. Spokane carried 118 pounds as a three year old, which made his performance of last week, the greatest on record for the same distance-mile and a half. Last year's Kentucky Derby was worth $4,740 to the winner. This year its value is placed at $4,850, but this is insignificant compared to the glory.
Col. W. B. Hundley and Noah Armstrong were present at Louisville to see Spokane stick his nose first under the wire. "It doesn't surprise me in the least," said Green Preuitt in Helena, when the news that Spokane had won the great Kentucky Derby was received. "That horse was put into the field a year ago to win that race," he continued, "and will win $100,000 before the season is over." Spokane is owned by Noah Armstrong, who manages the Montana Stable, which includes several horses owned by Hundley & Preuitt.
In the Daily Northwestern in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, a dispatch was received from the Chicago Tribune on July 12, 1890, that "Spokane", winner of the Kentucky and American Derbys in 1889, and who has been racing at Washington Park with poor success, will never face the starter again. He broke down while working Thursday morning, says the Chicago Tribune, and cannot be cured. His career as a racer reached its zenith in his three year old form, when he won the derbys mentioned and the Clark Stakes at Louisville. After the American Derby, he started four times but did not win any more races. This year he has raced only at Washington Park, and started three times, being defeated in turn by "Wary", "Robespierre", and "Outbound". He was a chestnut colt, by "Hyder Ali"-"Interpose", and belonged to Noah Armstrong.
A local resident of Montana in 1986, who's father worked on the Doncaster Ranch, described the circumstances behind "Spokane's early retirement: "As a four year old, Spokane's racing career came to a tragic ending when 17 year old Montana Jockey, John Dempsey was racing strong at Chicago's Garfield Park when the horse he was riding stumbled and fell, throwing Dempsey and killing him. It was also Spokane's last race. He was never to run again." This was not historically accurate as research shows John Dempsey actually fell from Fauntleroy on August 12, 1892 at Chicago's Garfield Park and was then trampled by 6 horses resulting in his death. An interesting discovery made about Dempsey while researching his genealogy for the purpose of this historical piece on Spokane, I found that his mother was Bright Star, the sister to the famous Chief Tendoy of the Bannock Indian Tribe.
After Spokane's brief but "brilliant" racing career, he was reportedly sold in December, 1898 to William H. May & Sons of Lexington, Kentucky for a mere 170.00. Spokane was put out to Stud, the fee was 50.00, but it has been said that Spokane was not successful at Stud and was eventually sold at auction amid laughs for 170.00. As earlier reported, Hungerford laid claim to having owned Spokane during the last two years of his life so it is possible that Spokane made it back home to live out his remaining years near the ranch where he was born. We will never know for certain whether Hungerford's claim was fanciful or fact but with Spokane's incredible record and place in racing history and through incredible circumstances, would make his way back to the state that laid claim to being Spokane's home in 1886.
The Montana Standard dated August 22, 1974 quoted George Hungerford of Sheridan, Montana as saying, “that he owned Spokane during the last two years of his life. Hungerford also shared that Spokane had reportedly died from an injury sustained in Miles City while being unloaded from a box car but this was not correct. Spokane was taken to a ranch in Miles City where he recovered from injuries sustained from a splinter that ran into his shoulder while in the boxcar”. The Henry Elling Bank had reportedly foreclosed on the ranch in Miles City and took possession of the livestock and brought to the Valley Garden Ranch on the Madison in about 1912-13. Hungerford’s father was the foreman of the ranch and he spent his youth there. Hungerford stated that Spokane died in January of 1916 at the age of 28.
According to Joseph Redfern, Noah hired a man by the name of George Foster to break Spokane to saddle but Foster couldn't cut it. Redfern, who was already living at the ranch and working for Armstrong, breaking horses was given the job. He reportedly broke Spokane without Spur, and with pancake (racing type) saddle. Redfern, then only 16 years old, claimed that the moment he sat atop Spokane, he knew Spokane would be a future Derby winner. There was one thing about Spokane, he was a little lazy. He would run like all get out when he had to, but sometimes he had to be forced.
Stories abound as to why Noah would cease his breeding operations at the Doncaster Ranch near Twin Bridges and focus solely on his interests in Seattle. Noah allegedly gave up the ranch after an attempt to dig an artisan well which had reached a depth of 660 feet for the purpose of irrigating the bench land above the barn. Clearly, someone with malicious intent plugged it by dropping railroad ties down into the well. Some claim it was an act of vandals and others believe it may have been a neighboring rancher. Noah saw this as a signal to move on. Whatever the reason, Noah said goodbye to Montana, a land he loved and helped pioneer. He lived out his remaining years in Seattle where he died in 1907.
The Indianapolis Star dated October 10, 1915 writes, “It was not until the victory of Spokane was more completely emphasized by another victory in the American Derby at Chicago that Kentucky felt its disgrace completely and realized that interlopers had snatched from it the proud distinction of furnishing all the winners on the thoroughbred turf. Also, the writer recollects that in that day of disappointment, a turf scribe with a tendency to rhyming put into rough verse what nevertheless fittingly the sorrow of Kentucky over its lost honors and the fear of further incursions for the dethronement of its established institutions:
“The bold Northwest is getting rather frisky; “twill be producing prettier women next and better whiskey”.
A newspaper account from the Anaconda Standard dated January 15, 1906 mentions a stolen horse of Dr. St. Jean being located and the only way of identification was a small "n" branded on the left jaw which indicated that the valuable horse was from the Noah Armstrong Breeding near Twin Bridges.