Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Merry Comet's long-lost grave

Sunday was the 130th anniversary of the death of Merry Comet, age 31, and in his time one of the most widely acclaimed Clydesdale stallions in Iowa. The advertisement at left is taken from The Chariton Democrat of May 1, 1875, early in his procreative career.

The Chariton Patriot of Sept. 30, 1891, reported his death 16 years later as follows: "The famous old draft stallion, Merry Comet, owned by S.H. Mallory, died Sept. 26th. Merry Comet was the pioneer draft stallion of Lucas county. He was foaled in 1860 and brought to this county by Mr. Mallory in 1870. He lived to a good old age, 31 years, and did more to improve the draft stock than any stallion brought into this state. His faithful groom, Mr. John Kay, feels the loss of his old friend more than anyone else, having attended him most of the time during the last 21 years."

Merry Comet was native to Ontario and of noble Canadian lineage. For the first 15 years of his life in Lucas County, 1870-1885, his home was Maple-Wild farm, a 500-acre livestock operation on the west edge of Chariton on either side of what now is U.S. 34 and incorporating the south part of Lakeview Golf and Country Club plus 240 acres to the immediate south where the stables, barns, manager's house and other outbuildings were located.

Maple-Wild was owned by Smith H. Mallory but operated in partnership with John Howard --- a partnership known as Mallory & Howard --- until 1885 when Howard's health failed and he was no longer able to manage the operation. It then was sold. Merry Comet was incorporated into the Brook Farm Stud and moved to the stables at the Ilion in north Chariton, headquarters for Mallory's Brook Farm.

John Kay was Merry Comet's groom --- we featured John during the 2019 Chariton Cemetery Heritage Tour, that script is here --- and John still was caring for the aged stallion when he died.

The Chariton Herald of Oct. 1, 1891, reported upon Merry Comet's  burial, as follows: "Merry Comet is no more. Few horses have been as valuable to a community and as valuable to the owners as Merry Comet, and many will regret to hear of his death, although his usefulness has been impaired for several years and new favorites have come in to contest for his place in public favor. His body was placed in a huge box and buried beneath five feet of Lucas county soil, a deserving tribute to what remained of a grand and noble beast. He was over 31 years of age, and boys and girls have grown up into men and women since his entrance into the county."

From this we learn that Merry Comet received a proper burial --- and that his grave must surely be the largest counted among the lost in Lucas County. Where do you suppose it is? Somewhere on Brook Farm, most likely, but that was a 1,000-acre operation stretching north from the Ilion grounds in north Chariton (now the location of Ilion Acres subdivision, the old armory site, the Vredenburg Aquatic Center, Reynolds Field and Chariton Middle School). If the grave has not already been disturbed, it seems highly unlikely that we'll ever locate it.

1 comment:

Bryon Weesner said...

Appreciate your articles as always Frank! Your piece reminded me of time I spent a few years ago chasing the burial site for the trotter "Dexter" who had been buried on the Bonner Farm in Terrytown, New York. That once proud spot is now somewhere under the county jail complex out there and locals were amazed to know that a famous horse had been buried there.