The following article appeared in the Fall 2012 Percheron News, the official publication of the Percheron Horse Association of America.
Percheron Park to Honor Horses’ First Importations
You who love Percheron horses will be pleased to know that they are about to be recognized in a unique way. In 1839, Edward Harris II made the first importations of Percheron horses to the USA to his farm in Moorestown, New Jersey. To commemorate these significant shipments and to celebrate its agricultural heritage, Moorestown is planning to transform the site of a former gas station into Percheron Park. The 60’ x 75’ plot will provide an inviting space in the Town Center.
Moorestown was founded by Quakers in 1682. Originally a farming community, this suburb of Philadelphia now sports a residential population of about 20,000 people. Some former residents include Samuel Leeds Allen (1841-1918), the developer of the Flexible Flyer Sled; Eldridge Reeves Johnson (1867-1945), co-founder of the Victor Talking Machine Company (later RCA); and Moorestown native Edward Harris II (1799-1863), a gentleman farmer, natural scientist, philanthropist, and ornithologist who accompanied John James Audubon on two of his expeditions to observe birds and mammals of America.
In 1839, when Harris traveled in France, he was struck by the strength, stamina, speed, spirit, and calm temperament of the Percheron horses that pulled the stage coaches (diligences)—so different from the English-type horses then used in road work and farming in the USA. Harris made several importations of these French horses with the intent of improving the work horses in America and began a breeding program with his stallion “Diligence”.
Other men and horses followed, and by 1930, there were almost three times as many registered Percherons in the USA as all the other draft horse breeds combined. The upgrading of the country’s work horses provided by the imported Percherons had made a monumental impact on the farming and hauling businesses nationwide before the use of gas-powered machines.
Harris lived on his farm in the house now called The Smith-Cadbury Mansion, at 12 High Street, headquarters of The Historical Society of Moorestown. Percheron Park sits just steps away at 1 High Street.
Having housed a gas station for approximately 100 years, the park site requires soil remediation, currently taking place. The method being used takes several years to accomplish, so the Friends of Percheron Park, the steering group for the project, have ample time for thoughtful planning of the compact spot. Funding will be provided primarily by private donations and park grants; the group is a 501(c)(3) non-profit with tax exempt status.
~ Article by Margo M. Foster