Winnetka Fox Hunt
Gazette Article by: Bean Carroll
Appeared in the Gazette: Spring 2002
The sport of fox hunting has recently been in the spotlight in the United States and the United Kingdom. But did you know that Winnetkans participated in the sport in the early to mid-1900s? The Longmeadow Hounds, a foxhunt in Northbrook, was originally started in Winnetka in 1923. It was known as the Indian Hill Hunt. The name was changed in 1927 and the hunt was moved to Northbrook in 1934.
Freeman Wood was the last Master of the Hunt. His term began in 1953 and ended in 1955 when the hunt was disbanded. The Winnetka Historical Society received from Mr. Wood’s daughter-in-law his hunt riding clothes as well as other memorabilia. According to tradition, the Masters of the Hunt wore a black velvet riding cap, white hunting stock with gold safety pin, single breasted pink frock coat with colors of the Longmeadow Hounds. He carried a braided silk cracker as a hunting whip and wore a yellow vest, brass buttons engraved with hunt insignia, white breeches, regulation hunting boots and gloves of heavy wash leather.
Once the hunt moved to Northbrook, it was located off of Lee Road. One of the events hosted by the Hunt was the Longmeadow Hunt Trials. The trials were held on Lee road north of Dundee Road. We are fortunate enough to have a diagram of the course on which the teams of hunters competed. A hunter trial is a competitive exhibition over a small course that is similar to the country and the obstacles usually encountered in the hunting field. Though competition brought people to the trials, the social aspects were important as well. As quoted in the Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday, September 27, 1949, “Socialite equestrians competed for ribbons and later settled down for picnic lunches on the Longmeadow grounds and under the sun.” The Silver Cup that was awarded to the winning team still exists and is housed in a display cabinet at the Dunham Woods Club in Wayne, IL.
Longmeadow Hounds also rode with other hunts in the area such as the Mill Creek Hunt and the Wayne Hunt, both of which are still in existence. Due to the rapid urbanization around them, most hunts in this area, including Longmeadow, are “drag hunts.” This means that a bag with the scent of a fox is dragged before the hunt begins in order to define a course. The hounds are then set loose to follow that scent. Permitting access to their property, landowners were a very important part of the hunt. The Landowner Party was another big event held annually at the Shawnee Club.
Though the Longmeadow Hounds no longer exists, the Historical Society is grateful to have its history in its archives. A tradition that may be disbanded in England is alive and well in pockets of the United States. It is wonderful to know that Winnetka has been a part of that tradition.