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Pic courtesy of bobbled67
Pic courtesy of bobbled67

by Dal Johnson (1917)

Fashion is a eccentric in the course it takes and goes chasing through a labyrinth of paths most unheard of and ridiculous, but once steadied and on the serving back to reason ever turns first to some past object of popular and meritorious favoritism, hence it is not surprising that the fancy of game chicken men is turning just now to the two greatest families if fighting fowl ever sent ot America from the British Isles. Manifestly the reference is to the Whitehackles of North Briton and the Stone Irish or Warhorses of Ireland.

Of the former there are others much better qualified to speak, nor do I pose as an authority on the Warhorse, or claim to know their history better than many, but I do know the facts regarding their name, their ancestry, and the only known true source from which the pure stock could have been obtained.

To begin, I will go back to the year 1855, when John Stone of Marblehead, Mass., came south and fought and defeated Col. Tom Bacon a main of cocks at Columbia, S.C. Stone used against Bacon two styles of cocks evidently of different families and distinctive in appearance. One portion of them showing bright red plumage, black or mottled breast, orange hackle, yellow beak and moccasin legs stripped on the outside with flesh colored red. These he called Gliders or Claibornes and I am informed that occasionally one showed a tassel and some few a round head with pea comb. The other cocks he showed were brown and mahogany reds. All smooth heads and single, straight comb with black faces, comb black or sooty looking, eyes dark red or hazel brown (not black) and lead or dark legs. These he called his "Irsih Brown Reds."

After the main there were several cocks purchased of Mr. Stone by the Southerners and when he returned to Marblehead, shipped at least two coops of fowl back to parties in Georgia and South Carolina. Col. Bacon purchased a Glider and an Irish cock out of Mr. Stone's coops at the pit and later received a shipment of six hens from Marblehead, three wheaton colored Gliders and three whippoorwill brown Irish hens. Maj. Burnett Rhett purchased the finest cock Stone showed in his main, a 6.00 lbs mottle breast brown red with moccasin legs, said to be a cross of Glider and Irish. B.S. Dunbar of Augusta, GA., purchased of Mr. Stone and had shipped him from Marblehead a trio of each familiy. Mr. Dunbar went to Marblehead and selected these trios in person. The Gliders, Dunbar sent over to Tom Wilson at Beach Island to breed. These afterwards became famous under the name of "Gailor Legs." It was of this family that Dr. Morgan got from Wilson and were afterwards known as Morgans. Also Maj. Rhett purchased hens of Tom Wilson and bred his Stone cock over them producing the celebrated Rhett fowl of which it is said there was never a runner.

The trio of "Irish Brown Reds" Dunbar sent out to Tom Seiley's place and Mr. Seiley kept them one year and gave them up. Then Dunbar carried them out to old man Bladwin's place on Horse Creek, where they were kept and bred for Dunbar until he quit fooling with cocks and gave them all to Joh Foster. Later on Foster quit pitting cocks on account of his corpulency and gave every feather over to Peter Sherron, with the understanding that latter would take Foster on as partner in all battles fought with these cocks.

Sherron was an Irishman, a cocker on the sod and again in America. He claimed to have known this stock in Ireland and that they were invincible in the old country, but unobtainable from the estate on which they had been bred by a line of Irish Earls for more than a century. He believed the tale Mr. Stone's Irish agent told when he procured a trio of birds from a flock that had been carefully and zealously guarded for a century or over: that they were the best in Ireland and so far as known not a feather had ever gone out of the possession of the owners of this particular estate. He claimed to have carried a coon and opossum over from America and that one of the wardens on this estate was so infatuated with the animals that he stole a trio of these sacred chickens and gave them in exchange for the American rodents. Be this as it may, Sherron at least, believed it and certainly it is thousands of subsequent importations from Ireland have shown no such game fowl as the Stone Brown Reds.

Sherron is said to have made stacks of money fighting these cocks against the rich planters around Augusta. He had an old brood cock called "Store Keeper" that had a habit of lounging around inside of the Irishman's store and bar and flopping his wings and crowing when the town clock pealed forth the hour. At the Shades on Ellis street this cock was pitted against a fine cock in the hands of Ike Little. It was a cock fight and both cocks were down unable to stand or press the battle after one tremendous pitting. Neither party would consent to a draw; dark came on, lights were gotten and the crowd stood vigil over the almost lifeless birds. Thus the watch was kept until the town clock, commenced striking the hour of ten. "Store Keeper" roused up, made an effort to regain, till finally he stood upon a pair of wabbly legs and crowed in answer to the bell as was his habit, Old Sherron was wild over the performance and cried out, "Listen to the old Warhorse," No sooner was he thus denominated than he staggered over, grabbed that little cock and shuffled till the bones cracked.

Thus the first name Warhorse, but just a fore-runner of the laurels that were ultimately to crown that name. "The pale light of the morning star before the morning sun." This same cock was destined to add beams to his crown of glory and make the name won beneath the torches imperishable.

During the next season (I have forgotten the year) Franklin, of Columbia, made a main with Bohler, of Agusta to show 21 cocks and fight what fell in for $200.00 a battle and $3,000 on the odd. "Store Kepper" was ordered and shown for top weight on the Augusta side. Fifteen cocks fell in and each side had won seven battles and ready to decide the biggest and hardest fought main ever known till that day. Franklin showed a Chappel Dom that the Columbia contingent thought invincible. Bohler showed "Store Keeper" who had recently won the soubriquet of "Warhorse."

It is said that when this pair of cocks came in the betting was tremendous. Men became frantic in their efforts to place large wagers on the issue, wildly offering their homes, their negroes, bank accounts, big plantations and favorite horses on one side or the other. When the fatal moment arrived and the referee called "Pit your cocks," the Dom as he made a lunge toward the center was caught in a viritable wind storm. "Store Keeper's" flying, rolling, shuffling charge in the Agusta pit on that night while the town clock was striking the hour of twelve is now as famous in cocking history as are the peerless charges of Ney and Picket in the annals of human valor.

"Store Keeper" made a rubber ball out of his big Chappel antagonist, picked him clean; shuffled him into an unrecognizable piece of blood shot metal; fanned the lights out of the hall; frightened half of the spectators nearly to death, closing the world's greatest cocking event in a charge unparalleled in cyclonic dash and spectacular high rolling and shuffling. Above the noise of battle Sherron was heard shouting - "And isn't he a Warhorse?" The crowd took up the cry and by all that vast assembly old "Store Keeper" was for the second time christened "Warhorse" and the news of his magnificent charge and his name went out together and "Old Warhorse' was the most famous cock in all the world.

Peter Sherron bred the Irish fowl under the name of Warhorse 'til his death in 1869. At the sale of his personal property after he died, Bob Lumpkin bid off one cock for $50.00 and the balance of the fowl were bought by Jack Allen,a brother-in-law of Henry Hicks, known as the "plunger and backer of the Warhorses."

Allen bred the Warhorses pure and for the exclusive use of Hicks and himself. In a main between Augusta parties and the Barckley, Brown combination, Decmeber 1875, there was a Warhorse cock ordered for battle that went sick and Jim Thomas, who had him walked from Allen,gave the cock to Hone Ridley. When Allen heard of this he flew into a rage and started home swearing he would kill or sell every game chicken he owned. On his way down Broad street he met Harison Butler and Jim Clark riding horse back. He hailed down them and told the story of how he had been treated about the cock and of intentions to do away with ever damn chicken he owned. Mr. Butler asked how many he had and what he'd take for them. Allen said about sixty big and little and that $300.00 would buy the lot. Without a word, Mr. Butler gave him the money and Allen promised to have the fowl next morning. Mr. Clark rode on home with Mr. Butler and found Col. John Fair and Dr. Pierce Butler, a nephew of Harrison Butler, at the house. All three of these gentlemen spent the night at Mr. Butler's place and they sent for the fowl the next morning (Christmas Eve morning) and all four took them from the coops and put them in new quarters. To each of his guests Mr. Butler presented a trio of Warhorses, to wit: a trio to Col. Fair,a trio to Jim Clark and a trio to his nephew, Dr. Butler.

Now, the reader will have no difficulty in following the history of the Stone Irish through their first twenty years of breeding, nor the Warhorse from "Store Keeper's" time to the morning they landed at Harrison Butler's place. They swapped hands several times during the years but were always confined to one man's hands who thought them too valuable to distribute around even among his best friends. We find in the last days of December 1875, about twenty years after Dunbar shipment arrived that the stock had been kept pure, but remained only in the hands of four careful, appreciative breeders, hence any one wishing to establish the purity of his Warhorse must trace to Harrison Butler's yard or to the yards of one of the three men presented a trio on that Christmas Eve morning, 1875; and prove that no infusions of other blood have been made since.

Of the subsequent history of the flock left in the hands of Mr. Butler, I have never known. Col. A.P. Butler, a brother of Harrison, and father of Dr. Pierce, sent me a Warhorse cock in the early eighties which he said came from Harrison. Also about that time he gave Col. E.R. Mclver, of Darlington, S.C., a trio from the same source, but other than these meager facts I know nothing of them, but they must have been crossed out and lost. Certainly they have faded away and perished or friend Jim Clark would have mentioned something of their history to me in our communications on the Warhorse.

Col. Fair took his trio to Edgefield, S.C., and bred them to great perfection on his plantations in upper Carolina. It was his pleasure to breed fine fowl and present them to his friends. Notable among those to whom pure Warhorses were given by him was the late R.C. (Dick) Johnson,of Union, S.C., and Walter Hopkinson, of Augusta, Ga. Both of these men were famed breeders and the latter, perhaps the best known of all late day Warhorse breeders. I may say that by the vast majority of uninformed, Hopkinson was regarded as the premier breeder and perpetuator of pure Warhorses, the one man owning the stock to which all must trace their orgin. This is not only a fallacy but 'tis a mooted question as to whether Mr. Hopkinson owned a pure Warhorse five years after Col. Fair made him a present of the trio.

The trio given to Jas. Clark were taken to his home and have been bred pure ever since. Mr. Clark is a good and careful breeder and a man of spotless personal character. He is now quite old but still breeds game fowl and follows hounds.

The Dr. Butler trio were shipped to Col A.P. Butler at Columbia, S.C. The Col first put these fowl at the penitentiary, but not being satisfied with the run sought my father, then in the Senate from Marion county and asked if he could not get them a run on his big Donoho plantation in Marlboro County, S.C.. The Donoho was the largest cotton plantation in the state. Some 2,000 acres of cleared land on which 500 bales of cotton, feed for fifty head of horses, for big herd of cattle, and numbers of sheep and hogs was made annually as early as 1869, and which now produces over 1,200 bales of cotton annually. The Dr. Butler trio were transfered to this place in March or April, 1876, and kept and bred in the middle of this big place for eight or ten years. Col. Butler and Dr. Butler got all of the fowl they wanted from the yard and the balance of the stags were walked around the place. Col. Butler was a t the home in Marion frequently and often drove up to Donoho to see the crops, the colts, the cows and the chickens.

To keep the record straight I may say for the information of those not informed that the Bacon fowl are not in a vital sense "Warhorse." In the first place they are not descendants of Peter Sherron's fowl of the old cock. Warhorse, therefore, not from the family of Stone Irish fowl that inherit the name. In the second place Col. Bacon did not breed his Irish fowl pure from Stone as he got them. He crossed the two strains from Stone and later put Wellslaeger blood into them. Col. Bacon was a great admirer of George Wellslaeger's cocks and frquently made the statement that every fowl he owned had Wellslaeger blood in it.

There is seemingly quite a divergence of opinion as to the general description of the Warhorse,as to color, color of eyes, legs, etc. Will say the cocks were mostly brown reds, some few mahogany red and occasionally one came very dark, in fact, black except for a few brown or mahogany feathers in hackle or saddle or a dash of red across the wing butts. The hens were mostly whippoorwill brown, with quite a number shading off to jet black. They all showed sooty looking faces and combs, lead legs of light and dark red, some hazel brown having the appearance of being black at a little distance. There seems to be an impression that these fowl should have black eyes - this is not correct - on the other hand those Warhorse that show invariably a jet black eye are as a rule, clustered up with other blood.

They get the black eyes from an infusion of Eslin's black eye stock. Of course, I would not say that this feature is fatal to their purity of blood for I admit many showing an eye almost, or quite, black and might have had black eyes by encouraging the feature, hence could not assert that they are not pure Warhorse because they show black eyes, but do know it to be a fact that certain Warhorses were once bred on Elsin black eye stock and later sold as Warhorses with the claim that the pure stock must show black eyes.

Now, I think, I have written enough. Information I have been able to give has been gotten from time to time from Col. Butler, Col. Fair, Jim Clark, Frank Battle, and Fred Mitchell.

Warhorse by Peter Sherron

By: Peter Sherron

Please notice that there is no mention of any black fowl in this history of the Warhorse breed nor any mention of a "Fardown blood (which is black)" either. IN 1855 John Sherron, of Marblehead, Mass., defeated Col. Tom Bacon in a main at Columbia, S.C. He showed two different strains of cocks in the main both were imported from Ireland and were reputable originally stolen by the warden of a vast estate to exchange them for a coon and opossum that came from America. Here they had been carefully bred and guarded for over a century by a line of Irish Earls. One strain, which he called "Gilders" or "Claibornes", came a bright red color with black or mottled breasts, orange hackle, yellow beak and moccasin legs. The other strain called "Irish Brown Reds: were brown reds or mahogany reds. All straight combed, with black faces and combs, eyes, dark red or hazel brown (not black) with lead or dark legs. After the main Col. Bacon purchased a Gilder cock and an Irish Brown Red cock from Stone and later received a shipment form Stone of them wheaten- colored Gilder hens and three Whippoorwill Irish Brown Red hens. Major Burnett Rhett, of Chareleston, S.C. purchased the finest cock Stone showed in the main, a 6-lb. mottled breasted brown red, one-half Gilder, one-half Irish Brown Red. Later Barney Dunbar, a wealthy game fowl fancier (but not a breeder), of Augusta, Ga., went personally to see Stone and got a trio of each family. Dunbar gave the Gilders to Tom Wilson, at Beach Island to breed and these later became famous under the name of "Gaitor Legs". Dr. Morgan got some of them from Wilson and these were later known as Morgans. Major Rhett also got some hens from Tom (Fowl) Wilson and bred his great Stone cock over them, producing the famous Rhett fowl. These Rhett fowl were three- quarter Gilder, one quarter Irish Brown Red. Dunbar let Tom Seily keep the trio of "Irish Brown Reds" a year, then carried them to old man Baldwin's place on Horse Creek where they were bred until Dunbar quit the game and gave them to John Foster. Later Foster quit pitting cocks due to overweight and gave them to an Irishman Peter Sherron on the condition that he be a partner in all mains fought with these cocks. They had by devious methods finally found their true home for Sherron dearly loved them saying he knew of these fowl in Ireland, and that they were both invincible and unobtainable in the old country. Sherron, who was very impulsive, named a great cock "Warhorse" after a sensational battle and then again the next year after this same cock, here tofore called "Store Keeper", won the deciding fight in a $3,000.00 main in one of the greatest battles known to cock fighting. After that the family was called "Warhorses". After Sherron's death, Jack Allen bought the fowl and he and his brother in law, Henry Hicks, fought them together until Allen got angry one day because of a sick Warhorse being given away after the main and swore he'd kill or sell every game chicken he owned. On the way home he met Harrison Butler and Jim Clark and told them his intentions. Butler bought all the fowl and the next day he gave a trio of Warhorses to Jim Clark, of Dawson, Ga., a trio to Col. John Fair and a trio to his nephew, Dr. Pierce Butler.


  • Johnson's Breeders' and Cockers' Guide \

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