by A. Henry Higginson & Julian Ingersoll Chamberlain, 1928
About the time that Messrs. Skinner and Donahue were hunting their hounds at Hackensack, New Jersey – in the late seventies – another group of sportsman formed what eventually developed into the Essex County Hunt at Montclair, New Jersey.
The hunting began with beagles, and a little later a pack of harriers was procured and hunted up to the end of 1879, under the Mastership of Mr. F.M. Wheeler. This proved so satisfactory that in 1880 a permanent organization was effected; kennels were built at West Orange, New Jersey, and a draft of English foxhounds was procured from the Montréal Hunt. The supporters of the Hunt being men of limited time, drag-hunting was the form of sport chosen, and, in fact, the country was hardly suitable for the best results in foxhunting, as much of it was absolutely unrideable; and then, too, the coverts were very large, and the supply of foxes limited.
Mr. H. N. Munn was elected Master of the Essex County Hunt, and remained in office during 1880 and 1881, when he was followed by Mr. C.A. Heckscher, who held the country until 1883. From 1884 to 1888, Mr. E.P. Thebaud was the ruling spirit, and finally Mr. J.A. Stewart was elected and remained in office until 1890, when the hounds were taken over by Mr. Charles Pfizer, the latter continuing his Mastership until 1913. Mr. Stewart was the last and M.F.H. to hold office under the original organization; for when Mr. Pfizer took the hounds they became his personal property, and while he accepted a small subscription from the Field, the Essex Hunt was practically a private pack. Speaking of the hunt at that period, Mr. Pfizer says, in a letter written to the authors in 1907:
"When I took over the hounds, I dropped the word "County" from the fixture card and called it the 'Essex Hunt,' as I gave up the former territory in Essex County and hunted in Morris and Somerset counties. My present kennels are at Gladstone, New Jersey, and the county line between Morris and Somerset Counties runs through my place. During the first five years of my Mastership, I change my base of operations several times, and the pack has always had a good, active following, but the present location is a really satisfactory one, and I hope to stay here for many years. The country is not too far from New York and is an attractive locality for suburban residences. Our Fields average some twenty-five on regular days, with perhaps ten or fifteen more on holidays and gala occasions. Sometimes there are a few ladies in the Field too, but we have no regular followers of the fair sex, as the country is too trying and the distances to the meets and back to the kennels, or to their respective homes, too far to warrant their active participation in the sport."
These hounds began as a drag pack and, as we all know, no draghounds can show really good sport at hunting fox. So, when the need for real foxhunting began to be felt, Mr. Pfizer began to keep a regular pack of English foxhounds, for hunting native foxes, which were becoming more plentiful each year. His prediction that the country around Gladstone would gradually become popular for country residences was fulfilled. More and more people settled in the country, and many of them followed the hounds. The fox-hunting grew in popularity, and presently the supporters of the Hunt met and organized themselves into a corporation, under the name of the Essex Fox Hounds, taking over the hounds from Mr. Pfizer, who resigned his Mastership at the end of the season of 1913. It is perhaps worth while to quote here from the by-laws of the Hunt Club, as follows:
"The name of this Club is the Essex Fox Hounds, said name having been adopted with the consent and approval of Charles Pfizer, Esq., to whose efforts and liberality as Master of the Essex Hunt for many years past, the community has been indebted for the maintenance of hunting.
The object of the Club is to promote fox-hunting in Somerset and adjoining counties, including the territory hunted by Charles Pfizer, Master of the Essex Hunt, through whose cooperation the formation of this Club has been brought about; also to encourage riding and other country sports."
Messrs. William A. Larned and Grant B. Schley were elected Joint Masters, to succeed Mr. Pfizer; and Mr. George Brice, who for many years had hunted his own hounds on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, was persuaded to bring his pack of thirty-eight couples into the country in 1913. The members of the Essex Hunt were most of them American hound men, and the English pack which Mr. Pfizer had used was disposed of as soon as it was found that Mr. Brice's hounds showed more satisfactory sport. So successful was his first season that in 1914 arrangements were made for the purchase of the Brice hounds, and Mr. Brice himself was engaged as huntsman, a position which he has filled ever since, to the satisfaction of everyone. These hounds, which had been bred by Mr. Brice's family for many generations, differ in several respects from the ordinary type of American found used in Maryland or Virginia. In colour they are mostly "blue tick"; good-looking, big-boned, sturdy hounds, with very beautiful deep voices and excellent noses, but lacking somewhat in drive and speed. The country, which has been very carefully pannelled, is full of foxes, and is very seldom that hounds have a blank day. Neither of the authors has hunted with the Essex Fox Hounds, but, from what we can learn, this pack, which now number something over forty couples, has no equal for cold trailing and persistency in sticking to a fox, once found, until he is either put to ground or killed.
The present Master, A. Fillmore Hyde, Esq., who was elected in 1914, has been tireless in his efforts to improve the country, and to him, is a great measure, is due the excellent feeling which exist to-day between the Hunt and the landowners over whose holdings they ride. The land is controlled for the most part by freehold or tenant farmers, although, of course, there are many big estates. All the fences have been so carefully paneled that it is now possible to cross the country pretty much anywhere without fear of being held up by the ever-present wire. A market has been made for hay, straw, and oats; real estate values have been raised by the purchase of estates by members of the Hunt, and all this has demonstrated to landowners the advantage of having the Hunt in the country.
With a big Field, such as goes out day after day, one needs a horse with considerable "foot," as well as one possessed with the ability to jump the country if one is to be "up" during runs, and the members have found that thoroughbreds are the best for the purpose. Of course, a great many horses have been brought into the country from the South, but the demand for good hunters has been such that there has been an increasing number bread in the country. At present there are four thoroughbred stallions standing in the vicinity, which are the private property of members of the Hunt.
Each year, at the end of October, a two-day Race Meeting is held, under the auspices of the Essex Fox Hounds, at which the New Jersey Hunt Cup is run for, as well as several other events each day, including flat races and farmers' races. This annual Race Meeting has grown in importance year by year, and under the able management of Mr. Richard Whitney, the New Jersey Representative on the Hunts Committee, it has brought together as brilliant a gathering of entries as any Hunt meeting in the land.
The Hunt Staff and members hunt in the orthodox scarlet, with orange colors, while their evening uniform is scarlet with apricot facings.
The following is from:
"Letter No. 7 - Establishment of the Essex Fox Hounds, 1913"
as reported in Recollections of the Essex Hunt
by Frederick W Jones, Jr.
About 1912, Mr. Pfizer was obliged to cut down his hunting establishment. Finally, being unable to carry on, he turn the country and all hunting privileges over to a committee of those most interested.
On February 10, 1913, a meeting was called at the office of Moore & Schley in New York City. The following were present:
Percy R. Pyne William A. Larned
Clarence B Mitchell. Seymour Cromwell
K. B. Schley Arthur Whitney
George Messervey Fred W Jones
Ogden Hammond. Ben. Nickel
R. H. Williams, Jr. W.S. Richardson
Arthur Turnbull. A.A. Fowler
Seymour Cromwell was appointed to the chair and Arthur Fowler was made secretary. The new Hunt Club was then organized, a constitution and by-laws were adopted, special committees were appointed and all formalities complied with. Freddie Bull was unanimously elected first president. Barney Schley and Bill Larned were made Joint Masters for a term of one year.
I copy the following from the minutes of the first meeting of the Essex Fox Hounds:
"The name of this club is the Essex Fox Hounds, said name having been adopted with the consent and approval of Charles Pfizer to who's efforts and liberality as Master of the Essex Hunt for many years past the Community has been indebted for the maintenance of hunting. The object of this club is to promote fox hunting in Somerset and the adjoining counties, including the territory hunted by Charles Pfizer, Master of the Essex Hunt, through who's cooperation the formation of this club has been brought about. Also, to encourage riding and other country sports."
It is interesting to note that the first action of the Essex Fox Hounds was to lease, with option to purchase from Charles Pfizer, the Miller Farm at Peapack. The old Miller house was remodeled to make a comfortable club. Open fires, big leather chairs and sporting prints gave an appropriate and appealing atmosphere. The farm barns were converted into spacious stables. A new kennel was built and everything done to make the plant complete. The farm consisted of one hundred twenty-five acres, more or less, with good pasture and a stream. It was at the time a popular and well patronized headquarters, and soon listed over one hundred members.
At the close of the first season, the Joint Mastership of Larned and Schley retired in favor of A. Fillmore Hyde of Morristown, who was unanimously elected Master in 1914 and held continuous office for many years. In the great majority of cases, the newly elected Master to an established hunt finds a working organization. He takes hold and carries on where his predecessor leaves off. Such was not the case with "Bert" Hyde. Other than enthusiastic field, he found little to work with, but he dived in and attacked the problem with untiring energy. He brought up George Brice's family from the Eastern shore of Maryland and establish them at the Cross Roads farm; he increased and built up the pack of blue-tick hounds; he planted foxes were none had grown before; he paneled the country and did all that could be done to popularize the sport. Backed up by the generous support of the active members of the Club, he succeeded in establishing fox hunting and gave good sport to a rapidly increasing field for many seasons.