Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Educated Horse - Camp Acton, Acton MA

This rock is out in the woods back there.


JimP said...

Very interesting! Upon seeing this post I had a vague recollection of something I had read ages ago and I did a little digging on it.

There was an ex-slave from Tennessee named Dr. William Key who trained a horse he called Beautiful Jim Key and toured the country with him under the name The Educated Horse. The horse performed between 1897 and 1906.

I wonder if this engraved stone was perhaps promotional and commemorative for the day Beautiful Jim Key performed in Massachusetts. It's possible, isn't it? Boy, it would be something to learn that there is a connection.

JimP said...

I'm in touch with some folks who can probably help. I'll keep you updated if I learn anything.

pwax said...

I read that an "Educated Horse" is a horse that can do tricks like counting. Presumably there were several during the Vaudeville years. But I like your story and, if you can find out any more about Acton's "Educated Horse" grave, then let us know.

JimP said...

I've spoken with, "Beautiful Jim Key," author Miriam Eichler Rivas. She is unsure if there is a connection but wouldn't rule out the possibility.

If the stone is marking a grave, then it obviously has no connection. Beautiful Jim Key died in 1912. But I'm inclined to believe that there is a possibility that it may not be a grave. It sits not in the ground but on a base stone with 107 years of detrius built up around it -- and still the base stone is above-ground. It looks like it could be a grave, certainly, but it also looks like it could be commemorative.

Ms. Rivas told me that Dr. William Key was indeed in the Massachusetts area around 1900. She further stated that if there was an Indian connection to the land upon which the stone sits, that would be a lead.

Dr. William Key was one of the most famous African-Americans of his time. A self-taught veterinarian, ex-slave, civil war veteran -- he helped launch an animal rights movement.

Beautiful Jim Key could read, spell, do math, and more. The Educated Horse became known internationally. Certainly he was not the only educated horse of his time, but he was be far the most famous one.

So, I think at this point the odds are probably 70/30 against there being a connection. I think that's good enough to warrant further investigation. The next step would be for someone to locate any press clippings about a performance by Beautiful Jim Key in the area.

pwax said...

Good info. I am not sure it is a grave since the headstone is loose. It could easily have been moved and could be easily stolen. Luckily it is in an out of the way place.

JimP said...

If there is a connection to Beautiful Jim Key, it is a very important marker. Dr. William Key was not only a prominent African-American of his time, but one of the leaders in an animal rights movement that continues to this day. This is really something that deserves some research.

Bill T said...

I looked at it yesterday. I am persuaded that it was "liberated" and relocated here from elsewhere. Too far deep into the woods, too far from other former/present dwellings and too easy within a boy scout's range.

I'm not convinced the base stone has sat there for 100 years either.
Forest debris is under the rock, not earth as I would have expected.

There were many "educated horses" in various traveling carnivals 100 years ago. I doubt it was the "Beautiful Jim" horse.

It was observed there in 1970 according to a BSA leader.