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Hidden Heroes - Charley B

In late 1800's, Charley B, champion race horse, was to Union Springs as Secretariat is to America today. In 1869, Charley B was bred by Charles Burlew, thus his name. When three years old, he was purchased by James Burlew. In 1884, part ownership of Charley B was transferred to Glenn B. Flinn, who together with Burlew, would go on to own the Champion Stock Farm, located south of Union Springs and noted for breeding many winners of the day.

Charley B was described as a large, handsome bay, imposing in form and of superb individuality. He was a prize winner in the show ring, defeating many competitors and very well known beyond Cayuga County. When 20 years old, he achieved a score of 97 3/4 points on the Wallace Scale, the highest score every achieved and a record he held until his death in 1896. On the turf, Charley B was most successful trotting in 27 races achieving 23 first place wins, two seconds, one third and one fourth. Burlew maintained that Charley B could defeat any horse that did not have over him 5 seconds in speed because he had the credentials of a race horse: head, heart and handiness. Most notable, his winnings were achieved without every having a workout on any track. Fortunately Charley B could swim like a duck.

As there was no race track in this area, his training consisted mainly of working in the stone quarries and swimming. After a day's work, Charley B would swim to Frontenac Island (almost a mile away) and when he felt rested, he would make the return swim. Once he swam the entire distance across Cayuga Lake, a feat never repeated as it was too tiring. Despite his lack of the blood of a Hambletonian, the standard breed of many American trotters, Charley B sired 27 offspring with many of whom grew to become champion racers with national recognition. At the time of his death, Charley B received a two column obituary in the Syracuse Herald. His remains were interred on the Champion Stock Farm and marked by a large obelisk quarried from the stone where he worked. Today the marker is preserved on a farm near his grave, no longer visible from Route 90 south of Union Springs. The Herald reported "Another of the few good sires that was owned in central New York passes into oblivion and the chances are that no one of his sons can equal, not to say excel, the showing made by their dead sire which, in the writer's estimation, is to be regretted."

James Burlew was a well-educated man who taught school before coming to Union Springs in 1862. He started a livery stable located at the foot of Homer St. and also bought a 200 acre farm, where he raised the finest horses which were devoted exclusively to fast trotters.

Glenn Flinn, born in Springport in 1860, formed a full partnership in the farm with Burlew in 1888. Together they specialized in raising the finest racing horses. Their partnership continued until 1893 when Flinn assumed full responsibility for Champion Stock Farm. Both achieved national prominence in the field of horse breeding having almost 100 horses in their stable at any one time, many of whom were brood mares.

Flinn trained and raced his own horses and even developed a race track at the southeast corner of Ridge and Number One Roads. Races held there in 1895 included competitions for trotters, pacers, a running race and even free-for-all races for trotters and pacers. Purses ranged from $50 to $100. Flinn was also one of the founders of the New York State Fair. Burlew died in 1905 and Flinn in 1932 leaving many descendants in the area.

Note: Visit the Video Section on the museum's website to view audio recordings and recollections of growing up in Union Springs by Harry Flinn. Harry, born in 1925, was the grandson of Glenn Flinn.



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