This is the story of two race horses- a fast one from Almonte and a slow one from Renfrew that were expertly retouched to look exactly alike. From that succesaful “operation” they went on to make history in Canada and the United States and became the object of search in the two countries until they vanished completely after making their owner a fortune.
For this amazing episode in ‘the history of horse racing’ in the Ottawa Valley the writer has drawn on the records of Bob Boal, dean of Lanark County, politically and municipally on whose father’s farm at Pakenham these two famous horses were kept when not racing. The man who owned both was D. G. Macdonell popularily known as “DG” brilliant Almonte lawyer who rose to prominence in the Canadian political arena.
In the reckless nineties, horse racing and politics were absorbing preoccupations in the Ottawa Valley. “D.G.” excelled In both. He had his private paddock in Almonte alongside the CPR tracks and spent time “cleaning up” at all the fall fairs in the Valley. Macdonell, in partnership with John Kelley, decided to enter his horses in the “big” circuits In the United States. While competing on the United States tracks, “D.G.” bought 5 branded horse which had been outlawed as a “ringer.”
He brought this horse, which had three horse shoes branded on its side, to skilled Almonte veterinary. Dr. Young. After several months of expert work. Dr. Young succesfully removed the brands on MacDonald’s imported horse. There was no secret about it and all the racing fraternity In the district followed the ‘experiment’ with keen interest. Thus disguised with the brands removed Macdonell took It across the border where it resumed its spectacular win on all tracks. However, the American Judge became suspicious and threatened to disqualify the horse if it was ever entered again.
So Macdonell and Kelley returned to Almonte with the horse. That year at the Renfrew Fair they were impressed by another horse that closely resembled their once branded winner except for its legs. The Renfrew horse was ‘ considerably slower but it would do. So they bought the Renfrew horse and painted its legs to match their racing marvel.
Then they returned to the race tracks of the United States with the two horses looking identical to each other. When they wanted to lose a race they ran the slow Renfrew horse, and when they wanted to win they entered the ex-branded horse. Finally the big sweepstakes race came up in Kentucky. Macdonell, after a succession of losses with his slow horse (to build up long-odds) entered his fast horse. Going all for broke, be bet his shirt on It and cleaned up $50,000.
But the jig was up, the American Judge with a long memory somehow identified identified the outlawed horse, seized it and put a guard over it. That night Macdonell bought off the guard and escaped with the horse. An American detective followed hot on his trail across the border to the home pasture on the Boal farm outside of Pakenham. But they, or anybody else, never saw the famous horse again. They just disappeared.
Not only did D. G. Macdonell outsmart the American horse racing “sharpers” “D.G.” decided to enter the lists as North Lanark as a brash Liberal candidate in 1898. He was not the favored political son of Lanark –then and since – consistently Tory. But Macdonell had other potent assets. He was a native son of Glengarry and to the Scots of Beckwith, Ramsay and Dalhousie township that outweighed every other consideration.
Accordingly to the story “D C.” turned up unsupported at the nomination convention, wearing a Glengarry bonnet to thethe dismay of party line Liberals and Tories. His fiery election speech and “the Glengarry” captured the Scottish delegates from the concession. He won the nomination but not the election.
Donald Greenfield Macdonell was born in Morrisburg, Ontario, on July 2, 1849. His parents were Alexander Greenfield Macdonell (1817-1889) and Helen Sophia (“Ellen”) Doran (1826-1871). Alexander Macdonell was a lawyer.
Donald became a lawyer in 1874. He lived for a time in Almonte, Ontario, a town of textile mills on Canada’s Mississippi River, about 20 kilometres southwest of Ottawa.
Marriage to Margaret Rosamond
On June 30, 1875, in Almonte, he married Margaret Rosamond. She was born about 1858 in Carleton Place, Ontario. Her parents were Bennett Rosamond (1833-1910) and Adair Mary Roy. Bennett Rosamond was a prominent manufacturer and politician in Almonte.
Margaret died in Almonte on August 28, 1877. Read more here CLICK
An organization in Carleton Place with these newer ideas for the conservation of practically all main forms of wild life was formed in 1884. Under the title of the Carleton Place Game, Fish and Insectivorous Birds Protective Society it continued to operate for some years. Original officers of the group were William Pattie, president ; Jim Bothwell, vice president ; Walter Kibbee, secretary-treasurer, and committee members John Cavers, Tom Glover, John Moore, Jim Morphy and Jim Presley ; elected at a May meeting in the old fire hall on Bridge Street, when a constitution drawn up by Robert Bell was adopted. Other members pledged to support the rules of this pioneering wild life protective society were William Beck, Peter Cram, Jim Dunlop, John Flett, David Gillies, Charlie Glover, Tom Hilliard, Archie Knox and Tom Leaver ; Hugh McCormick, William McDiarmid, Hiram McFadden, Jim McFadden, Jim McGregor, George McPherson, William Neelin, Robert Patterson and William Patterson ; Dr. Robert F. Preston, Alex Sibbitt, William Taylor, William Whalen, Will R. Williamson, Alex Wilson and Joe Wilson. Out of town sportsmen among the first members were Duncan Campbell, John Gemmill, D. G. MacDonnell and Tom Mitcheson, all of Almonte ; Jim Rogers of Montreal and R. W. Stevens of Ottawa.
At this time fishing on Sundays was illegal here as well as hunting on Sundays. Only about five of these men were said to be still living in 1928 when a story recalling the formation of the Carleton Place wild life protective society of 1884 was published.