Gifford Morgan

Gifford Morgan – AMHA #30

This profile of Gifford Morgan was printed in the 2009 Lippitt Club Directory and was written by Betsy Curler.

Gifford Morgan was foaled on 13 June 1824 in Tunbridge, Vermont. He was a very dark chestnut, called almost black by some and described as almost dark brown by others. He was a son of Woodbury Morgan. Gifford’s dam was described as a cherry red bay and weighed about a thousand pounds. She was then a young mare having been foaled 21 June 1819. A long time resident of Barnard later claimed that she “looked like the Morgans” and he considered her to be “a pretty fair specimen of a Morgan mare.” However, there was some dissension as to her breeding.

She was by a horse called Henry Dundas. A horse by this name was advertised at stud in Williamstown in 1800, then again advertised in 1811 and 1814. His sire was given in Woolsey or Cardinal Woolsey. The latter was considered to be “full blooded by 18th century standards, which was equivalent to what is today called a Thoroughbred. Gifford’s second dam was claimed to be by True Briton and the third dam claimed to be by De Lancey’s imported Wildair.

Gifford matured at 14.2 hands, although one source claims he was a “scant 15 hands” and another says he was “a little over fourteen hands high.” In weight he was said to be a thousand pounds, although one source says 925 pounds. The latter claim should be borne in mind with the proviso of Jonathan Brewer Farnsworth’s statement that “the old fashioned Morgans would tip the scales at greater weights than a casual observor would guess.”

Like his sire before him, Gifford Morgan was a favorite parade horse at militia trainings, musters, and related functions. J. B. Farnsworth opines that “music was his inspiration” as when the militia band played, Gifford was “in his element.” Indeed, his showiness and style, proud demeanor, plus his good looks were what made him such a favorite. Gifford retained these elements into his old age. When exhibited at the New York State Fair in 1847, he “paraded in the van of the cavalcade with all the fine action and gaiety of a horse of six instead of twenty-three years.”

In general appearance, Justin Morgan Jr. likened Gifford Morgan to his grandsire “the [original] Morgan horse.” He says that Gifford was a model of the original in “size, shape, style and action” plus other “particulars,” excepting only color. He was also considered to be the “purist-blooded” Morgan stallion of his generation in Vermont.

The record of Gifford’s owners is a bit vague for a significant portion of his life. He was foaled the property of Ziba Gifford of Tunbridge, Vermont and raised by him for three or four years at Barnard. Coolidge was a member of Barnard militia’s artillery escort and used Gifford during militia related events. The horse then went back to Ziba Gifford about 1830. He is believed to have been in Barnard at this time from 1827 to ca. 1830.

Gifford then went to Ira Gifford of New Haven, Vermont, and was kept in nearby New Haven Mills in the care of blacksmith Joshua Scott. The horse appears to have remained in this area from ca. 1830 to perhaps 1832.

Gifford then appears to have returned to the central Vermont region. For an estimated period of three years he was kept by James Whitcomb and stood at stud in Stockbridge, Bethel and Hancock. During these years he also stood at Woodstock, Vermont;  in 1836 or 1837 he stood at Warren, Vermont; in 1842 or before, he was at Springfield, Vermont; and he may have also returned to Middlebury in the later 1830’s.

He was owned by Ziba Gifford until 1840, but was often in the care of others during those years. On 17 March 1840, he was passed to Russell Topliff and later to Lyman Steward (1844). It was noted that he changed hands several times in the next few years. There is confusion as to who owned Gifford in those next few years, but amoung them was R. Cady and Leonard Fish. Again, there are conflicting reports as to who then took him to Fort Ann, New York. In any case, he was “sold….over the lake.”

Gifford was to remain in the Fort Ann area for a short period of time. Although he was there briefly, he sired several sons that stood at stud in the area for many years afterward. In the fall of 1846, F. A. Weir of Walpole, NH went to Fort Ann to purchase the horse. Wier found the horse being worked hard, either hauling a pedlar’s wagon or drawing slabs from a saw mill. He paid either $60, $75, or $100 for him, which pleased the man he purchased him from ~~getting that much for a horse that old and in poor condition.

Some made fun of Wier for spending that much on an old, and therefore worthless, horse. Gifford had had a hard life and was sore in his front feet from corns at the time Wier purchased him. Physically he had also suffered from hard use and little care, thus “showing his age.” Wier soon proved to have gotten the better end of the bargain, however, when he sold the horse in the fall of 1847 to the F. A. Wier & Stock Company, of which he was a member, for $2,000. Gifford was used heavily in the stud in spite of his age.

Gifford Morgan sired over 1,300 offspring that were sold as far south as New Orleans and it was claimed that several were exported to England. They were noted for their beauty, stamina, good dispositions, and had a reputation as exceptional harness and saddle horses for the road. In these qualities and their appearance, they were very much like the original Morgan horse and noted for being so. According to Solomon Yurann, Gifford’s foals “came checked up and on the jump.” That is, there were just as showy and ready to go as their sire. Yet, they were as suitable for the timid driver as the fully competent one, being a “full hand” for the latter.

Pike’s Gifford Morgan, was considered to be one of his best sons in his day, as was Morgan Hunter. Hale’s Green Mountain Morgan is easily the most noted son. He also sired the Fraser Horse and the Barnard Horse that was the grandsire of Dorsey’s Gold Dust 150, plus General Gifford, Morgan Chief, the Hacket Horse and Morgan Gifford.

Gifford Morgan passed away 30 October 1850 at 26 years of age in Walpole, NH. Wier states that “to the last [he] retained and exhibitied that graceful form, and spendidly energetic and powerful action for which he was so justly and so widely celebrated.” His influence on the Morgan breed would endure for several more generations and he is one of the most venerated of the early ancestors of the family.