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  • Yvonne Giles

Fathers and Sons - United States Colored Troops and Horsemen of the Bluegrass

Having spent the better part of twenty years researching the lives of the men and women laid to rest in African Cemetery No. 2, I would think that I could not find much that would surprise, delight and enlighten me. But I do.

Austin Harris died in August 1902 at the age of twenty-eight. His obituary noted that he had been a trainer for Ed. L. Graves for eleven years and that he was the eldest son of Walker Harris who had died the month before.

What? What? What?

I had just confirmed and added Walker Harris to our database of United States Colored Troop Veterans. His obituary and military record stated he had served in Co. C, 122nd Infantry. He died July 1902 at about the age of sixty-two.

Were there other fathers and sons whose manpower, talents and skills had made a difference in the Union’s winning of the Civil War and in the immense success of the equine industry in Kentucky?

Yes, of course!

The order for Squire Stout’s military grave stone in 1891 confirmed his service as Corporal, Co. C, 123 rd Infantry and burial in our cemetery. He, too, was father to a man in the horse industry. His son, Alexander Stout’s death certificate and obituary confirmed his parentage and long experience with horses.

George Morton, a native of Louisiana, married Matilda Seals of Lexington in 1891. His occupation was trainer. One of their sons, Austin, stated on his marriage record of 1916 that his occupation was ‘race horse man’; his death certificate listed ‘horseman’. Another son James, identified from census records, worked as an exerciser/groom.

Then there are veterans of the United States Colored Troops, who following their hard fought freedom from slavery, joined the ranks of those working with horses. Jackson Brown worked with trotting horses; Oliver D. Chambers was a trainer/groom and Franklin Clay was a hostler.

The men of the Perkins family had significant impact on the equine industry. John Jacob Perkins, father to Frank, William and James “Soup”, was a trainer of trotters. His eldest two sons became thoroughbred trainers and the youngest set records as a jockey at the age of eleven.

Are there others? More than likely but only continued research will reveal who they are. In time, no telling what amazing connections and life stories might be uncovered about father and sons who served in the military and were employed in the racing industry.

Visit the cemetery and join us for our programs to learn more.

Yvonne Giles

May 2019

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