Sunday, April 19, 2009

Kentucky Derby, Goins, Boggs and Mint Juleps

"Thunder Over Louisville" is a sign that it is indeed Spring in Kentucky. Thunder kicks off two weeks of events/ parties that lead up to the Kentucky Derby.

It’s time to read up on the horses or if you bet the jockey (like I do), check to see who has the most wins, and if you like the color of his silks, that’s a plus. I’m sure others use a more calculated reason to bet on a horse, but this seems to work for me.

The thoroughbred industry in Kenntucky really took off during the Civil War, when horse breeders in Maryland, the Carolinas and Virginia moved their horses "west" for safety. They discovered that their horses thrived in the Bluegrass, thanks to the rich lime content of the soil, the gently rolling terrain and the favorable weather conditions.

The Thoroughbred is a breed of horse whose ancestry traces back more than 300 years to three foundation stallions -- the Darley Arabian, the Godolphin Arabian and the Byerly Turk. Named for their respective owners -- Thomas Darley, Lord Godolphin and Captain Robert Byerly -- these stallions were imported into England from the Mediterranean Middle East around the turn of the 17th century and bred to the stronger, but less precocious, native mares. Yes thoroughbred race horses can trace their lines to three stallions, amazing if you figure how many there are now.

So what does this have to do with Melungeons?

Mary T. Brewer in her book, Rugged Trail to Appalachia, writes that Eli Boggs was living in Wise County, Virginia, and, “tradition has it that he was implicated in the murder of Alexander Goins, a man of the Melungeon people of southwest Virginia and Tennessee.” According to which side was doing the telling, Alexander Goins was either a horse thief, and worse, who deserved killing (mountain justice), or he was a respectable trader, dealing in fine horses, which he drove from Kentucky to South Carolina to sell. He supposedly lived in what is now Lawrence County KY and operated a race track and breeding farm in Louisa. He also had $9,000. with him the day he was killed, according to some of his descendants. This tragedy occurred around November 1844 at a place on a ridge of Nine Mile Spur of Black Mountain, known as Goins’ Ridge, about 300 yards northwest from where Mud Lick Creek empties into Callahan Creek. Gabriel Church, born 1814, backing Goins’ side, memorialized the event in a ballad named “Poor Goins.”

I can’t trace Alexander Goins, or Eli Boggs back as far as these thoroughbred race horses can be traced, but when Thunder Over Louisville kicks off Derby week, I think of these men. Goins, with his race track must have known Kentucky raised strong horses but I doubt if he knew it was because of lime soil. Boggs was never convicted or even indicted with the murder of Goins, but it had to have a big influence on his life, whether he did it or not.
So this year when you attend or watch the Kentucky Derby on television, and while trying to gag down a Mint Julep, tip your hat to Goins and Boggs!

Penny Ferguson, in Kentucky


Amber said...

Eli Boggs was my great, great, great, great grandpa. I love reading about him, I have heard stories about how he was such a religious man, I would like to believe he didn't have the man killed out of meanness.

Mary said...

Eli Boggs was my 3rd Great Grandfather. Still looking for new information on my family. Stangley enough. My Great Grandparents were William Boggs and Rachel Hays Boggs. The Hays side is realated to the Goins. Still trying to find exactly how. Rachel Hays's Mother was Nancy Curch it is said the Churche's are realated to the Goins. So I am related to both lol. Thank You for the Reading.