“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.” – George R.R. Martin, Game of Thrones

Scroll Down to Find PHRA’s Horse & Racing Book List


Out of the Woods: From Deerfield to the Grand Circuit by Ellen Woods

Travel Back in Time to Post-Civil War Harness Racing!

Amidst post-Civil War optimism and the construction of improved and invitingly smooth roads that beckoned the light road horse to enjoy fast and fun travel, race tracks, and racing clubs opened. New York, Long Island, and the Hudson River region made up the core of the trotting enthusiasm before the Civil War. However, the horse racing enthusiasm proved alluring with 40,000 fans attending races at tracks in far northern Pennsylvania and the adjoining New York counties.

In 1861, a recently acquired two-year-old colt named Dan (Wood’s Hambletonian #572. AKA Old Dan) traveled from Orange County, New York with his aged (60+ years old) owner Oliver Livingston Wood. The entourage included horses, sons, (daughters followed later), wife, farm livestock, and possessions with all moving northwest into a sparsely-settled lumber territory in Northern Pennsylvania arriving at a small farm near Knoxville.

There, for almost thirty years, the dairy farmer who produced honey and butter to sell in NYC also held at stud—Old Dan. Ironically, the farmer with a religious-based aversion to gambling stood the siring stallion whose progeny repeatedly produced phenomenal racing successes.

The stud sired some of Pennsylvania’s and New York’s best harness racing performers. With enviable strides and speed, the stallion’s offspring were sought after, stolen, and purchased by paupers, thieves, and wealthy icons.

This well-researched book tells fascinating stories of seven of Old Dan’s offspring and references numerous horses whose bloodlines influence today’s races. Included are anecdotal adventures of elegant, quirky, and opinionated horses, wily trainers, savvy drivers, common and uncommon owners, and arch-rivals on and off the track.

Inside the Book
Hooligan Horse:

“Scapegoat or often simply just the Goat. He was fast, but when hitched for trotting, he would stubbornly pace instead, and when rigged for pacing he was determined to trot. The Goat showed a scheming, tricky disposition. His favorite stunt was to bolt from the pack he was trotting with, veer off toward the rail fence, get down on his belly, and crawl underneath, dragging the sulky along behind.” 


“After it became noised about that I would drive Kate Hall, I was offered fifteen hundred dollars [equivalent to about $38,000 in 2020] to pull the mare and lose the race. Of course I refused, although I needed the money. Another party offered me two thousand dollars [equivalent to about to about $50,700 in 2020] to turn the same trick. I had no difficulty in winning, much to the satisfaction of Mr. Hamlin and the other judges and the owner, Mr. Hamilton. I was awarded one hundred dollars [equivalent to about $2,530 in 2020] for driving.”

E.F. Geers driving Nightingale sometime after 1892 Image courtesy Harness Racing Hall of Fame

“Geers did not make a spectacular figure in the sulky. Wearing a black cap and jacket he sat rather low, leaning forward. As a rule all of his horses were good mannered and raced from behind. A shift of the bit or a light tap of the whip appeared to be all of the encouragement given to any of them in a close finish but like good ball players they looked for the signal and gave him all that they had without being punished.

The mutual understanding which existed between Geers and his horses was one of the mysteries of the turf and made him in reality the Silent Man from Tennessee.”

“He knew all the tricks of the trade and it took a wary driver to out-general him in the handling of a horse in a race. Geers was the first to let his rivals make the pace and break the wind for him. He got the idea from riding a bicycle.”


“Work [partnered with the Vanderbilt family] loved horses as pets, objects of affection and beauty as well as speed and pride. Regina [filly] went to her new home, a luxurious stable on Fifty-Sixth Street near the music theatre that would, in a few years, become Carnegie Hall. The stone stable was an expensive work of art in itself: no cushy detail was spared, from glass dome skylights to massive oak doors [swinging on 150-pound hinges] and beveled glass windows. It was heated by steam and lighted by interior gaslight fixtures mounted in the walls.”

Table of Contents
  • Chapter 1 How the Wood Family Came to Deerfield
  • Chapter 2 Kilburn Jim: Brookfield to Big Time
  • Chapter 3 Nancy Hackett: Advertising Expense
  • Chapter 4 Railroads, Rivals, and Thieves, 1878-1884
  • Chapter 5 Mamie Wood: Pride and Politics
  • Chapter 6 Nightingale: Going the Distance
  • Chapter 7 Scapegoat: The Face of a Convict
  • Chapter 8 Regina: Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous
  • Chapter 9 Snow on the Railroad
  • Chapter 10 The Road from Farmington: Harry Kemp
  • Chapter 11 The Woods’ Turn of the Century
  • Epilogue Legacy Horses, Outliers and Ed Geers

Out of the Woods: From Deerfield to the Grand Circuit is a must-read/fascinating read and collectible for racing enthusiasts, followers of sulky harness racing, horse lovers, and horse genealogists. Ellen Williams’s writings include deep, research-based insights into the rich regional history and racing history of Pennsylvania and New York during the post-Civil War era forward through the Gilded Age and beyond. 

Classification: Historical narrative


Out of the Woods at Amazon.com $11.99 to $14.99

Out of the Woods at Walmart.com $13.09

Out of the Woods at AbeBooks.com $11.83

Harness Racing Read Recommendations from the desk of Janet Terhune, Director of the  Harness Racing Museum Hall of Fame

Note! Janet has a long list of books available for purchase (new & gently read).

To name a few:

  1. Adios: The Big Daddy of Harness Racing
  2. Care and Training of Trotters and Pacers
  3. Complete Guide to Harness Racing
  4. Dan Patch 1:35
  5. Drivers Up
  6. Harness Racing Gold
  7. Hooked on Harness Racing
  8. Meet the Horse
  9. The American Sporting Scene
  10. Training the Trotting Horse
Hey Kids! Join Horace the Harness Museum’s horse in reading books!
Books are available for all ages!


For more information, recommendations, and to purchase email JanetTerhune@gmail.com


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.