Midway Black History
February is Black History Month and I will be featuring a Midway Black History article each week of this month in The Woodford Sun.
My friends and I often sit on the patio at the Goose and Gander and watch visitors to town walk up and down the sidewalk in front of this restaurant. After several years of observation, we all still laugh at the people walking by who begin reading the historical marker that is posted next to the sidewalk. Many of these readers laugh out loud as they read the marker. Others giggle while putting their hand over the front part of their face to hide their embarrassment. They weren’t laughing at the list of accomplishments stated on the marker. (Maybe you can figure out why the readers responded as they did as you read this amazing story.) The name on the marker tells about a Midway native who was well known on a national level in the world of race horses and a Hall of Famer. Edward Dudley Brown made his mark as a jockey, horse trainer and horse owner who was born into slavery. He was born in Fayette County in 1850 (some records say 1848). When he was seven years old, he was bought by R.A. Alexander, owner of Woodburn Farm, which is now part of Airdrie Farm on Old Frankfort Pike just a few miles outside of Midway. Early on, farm managers noted that Brown had a way with horses and at a very young age, he began training as a horseman. Those working on the farm noticed that he was, like the horses that surrounded him, very fast afoot as he was the winner of the many foot races between the farm workers. It was jokingly said that he was so fast that he could outrun a horse called Brown Dick, a racehorse that had set a record for three-mile heats in 1856. It’s when he became a jockey that that the nickname “Brown Dick” stuck.
Brown became a free man after the abolition of slavery. However, he chose to continue working for Alexander and began training as a jockey riding many of Woodburn’s top racehorses. He rode the undefeated Asteroid in all nine of his starts in 1864 and 1865, as well as standouts Maiden and Merrill.
When Alexander died his farm manager, Daniel Swigert, left Woodburn to establish his own farm, Stockwood Stud. He also convinced Brown to join him and be his jockey. While riding for Swigert in 1870, Brown rode Swigert’s Kingfisher (a horse bred by former boss R.A. Alexander) to victory in the fourth edition of the Belmont Stakes at Jerome Park. After a short and successful career as a flat jockey, he had to switch to riding steeplechase horses because of his increasing weight. Eventually he turned to training horses in 1874.
The very next year, 1875, Brown saddled King Alfonso (a horse that was bred by Warren Viley, owner of Stonewall Farm) and beat the mighty Ten Broeck (a horse bred by John Harper who owned Nantura Farm near Midway. A stone marker still marks Ten Broeck’s grave at the farm’s old location.) Brown also trained Baden-Baden, winner of the third Kentucky Derby. He also helped train Hindoo, also a Kentucky Derby winner.
He went on to train for other racehorse owners. In 1881, Brown won 53 documented races, including 15 wins at Saratoga. Brown later owned and developed future Hall of Famer Ben Brush and Plaudit, both of whom won the Kentucky Derby after Brown sold them. Ben Brush was regarded as the top two-year-old of 1895 when he won 13 of 16 races, including the Champagne Stakes, for Brown and co-owner Eugene Leigh. It is easy to say that Brown had an amazing career in the horse industry as many famous racehorses in that time had his name attached to them as a trainer, developer or owner.
Because of Brown’s success in the industry he became a wealthy man. It has been reported that he would sometimes carry a bankroll of $75,000. According to the Lexington Herald, Brown’s generosity eventually led to financial problems as he “lost many thousands of dollars in loans to turfmen and trainers.”
It was at the close of the 19th century that Brown had to cease his activities because of bad health. He had worked through his last years suffering from rheumatism and had to walk with a cane. After contracting pulmonary tuberculosis, he died May 11, 1906, while living in Louisville, Kentucky at the age of 56. He was returned to Midway for burial. His funeral was held at the Midway Pilgrim Baptist Church, and he now rests in an unmarked grave at the Sons and Daughters of Relief Cemetery on Wausau Street behind the Midway Presbyterian Church.
Lexington had their Isaac Murphy and Midway had Edward Dudley Brown. Edward Dudley Brown aka “Brown Dick” was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1984.