Monmouth County Hunt.  website by Fourth Creek Design.  Photography by Meghan Valnoski.

Mr. Amory Haskell, MFH on his horse Nero (right).  Woodland Farm, Red Bank, New Jersey in 1957

A TRADITION OF EXCELLENCE 

Peter F. Collier, an Irish Catholic, emigrated to the United States from County Carlow, Ireland when he was 17 years old. Mr. Collier was also identified with cross country sports and in 1885, he built a kennel and stable on property he came upon during a hunting excursion in the Marlboro Hills territory, Marlboro Township, New Jersey. He named it Rest Hill and built a mansion, a replica of Mount Vernon that still stands. Meets were held from his property and surrounding areas of the eastern portion of Monmouth County through the late 1960's.

Mr. Collier was in the habit of traveling to Ireland every year during the hunting season and was said to be as well known with the Meath in Ireland, as he was in his own country. It was therefore natural that he should draft hounds from the Master of the Meath, Mr. John Watson. Mr. Collier was lucky indeed to have Mr. Watson as a mentor, as he was highly regarded for his knowledge of hound management, having practical control of the Meath pack for more than forty years.

 

Mr. Collier also imported his horses from the Meath country which were regarded as some of the best of their time. At this time the Monmouth County was a drag pack and when the weather did not suit, Mr. Collier was known to take his hounds to hunt with the Chevy Chase pack in Washington. Since the Monmouth County was a private pack, Mr. Collier was also known to take hounds to Newport for about six weeks per year for several seasons. In the spring of 1900, Mr. Collier also helped four gentleman from New York Messrs. Harriman, Griswold, Townsend and Green when they conceived of keeping a pack of draghounds in Orange County, New York. Mr. Collier, who was then hunting his own pack in Monmouth County loaned ten couple of hounds, huntsman, whipper-in, a kennelman and six horses to mount the Hunt Staff thus enabling the Orange County Hunt to become a reality.

 

In 1904, Mr. Foxhall Keene resigned the Mastership of the Meadow Brook in Long Island. Mr. Collier was elected to take his place but did not feel that he could shoulder the responsibility of two packs of hounds. At this time he persuaded his son Robert J Collier to take over responsibility for the Monmouth County pack. In 1909, Peter Collier died - the headline in the New York Times read "Falls Dead in the Riding Club Early This Morning". A sportsman to the end.

 

Robert then inherited Rest Hill and became chief executive of the Collier firm. He kept the hounds in memory of his father but took very little interest in them. Robert, a sensitive man devoted to his family, was married to Sara Van Alen, granddaughter of Lady Caroline and William Astor. Robert J. Collier, a charismatic publishing magnate and aviation enthusiast, was the principal investor of the Wright Company and the first man in America to own a Wright-B bi-plane for private use. His airstrip, which also doubled as a polo field at Rest Hill, was the first private airfield in New Jersey.

 

Collier was said to have hosted a party attended by 2,500 guests at Rest Hill. The huge party was supposedly given to make amends with neighboring farmers, whose cornfields had been buzzed by his planes and crops trampled by his foxhounds and horses. Besides the farmers, the guests included wealthy financiers, local politicians, and England's young Sir Thomas Sopwith, founder of the Sopwith Aviation Company, the company which produced the key British aircraft, the Sopwith Camel, the airplane that would shoot down the Red Baron in World War I.

 

Robert Collier did very little hunting but kept the hounds through World War I. Expenses were paid by subscription and H.L. Herbert, Howard S, Borden and W. Strother Jones acted as Masters at various times. After Mr. Collier's death, the hounds and horses were bought by General Howard Borden. It was at this time that the men that had been hunting through the previous years, held a meeting and formed a Club, and elected General Borden Master. General Borden carried the horn for one season then resigned. At that time, W. Strother Jones, Thomas Field and Rufus Finch formed a committee of Joint Masters for one season. Mr. Finch carried the horn and was elected to sole Mastership the following season. He held that position through the 1920's. Mr. Finch was very interested in building his pack up and had some well regarded English hounds in his kennel, many descended from Kilkenny Frantic 1919, a winner at the New York Hound Show in 1924.

 

During Mr. Finch's mastership, Mr Amory Haskell served as an Honorary Whip and in 1932, the avid sportsman, became master, with hounds hunting across his Middletown estate, Woodland Farm. Mrs. Annette Haskell was also a hunting enthusiast and one Christmas she gave her husband a pack of harriers imported from England accompanied by the kennel huntsman, Albert H. Smith. "Smitty" was the kennel huntsman from 1932-1964. Mr. Haskell went on to import from many English Harrier packs and also from Mr. Reynal. Some of the imported hounds were from the "West Country" packs. At their peak, this famous US harrier pack had 50 couple hunting Belgian hare. Mr. Haskell's hounds won the "Best Pack of Harriers" at the 1937 New York Hound Show.

 

Mr. Haskell purchased the hare from Belgium and released them in pairs into corn and hay fields, farmland that lent itself to the habitation of hare. "Kansas Jacks" were also given a try as an alternate to the Belgium hare but since the Belgium could point three miles or so and the Jacks would just run in big circles the Belgium hare were the preferred quarry. The harriers were sized between beagles and foxhounds and suited to hunt hare and fox in the flat farmland. Mr. Haskell's daughter, Margaret, fondly remembers the days of harrier hunting. "The fences were big and not for the faint hearted, mostly post and rail, some coops.

 

Mr. Haskell was prominent in other horse sports, becoming president of the National Horse Show in 1938 and in 1939, led the fight to legalize pari-mutual wagering in New Jersey. The Haskell Handicap, still one of the most prominent races of Monmouth Park, is named for the first president and chairman of the Monmouth Park Jockey Club. During the 1950's, Mr. Mark McClaine was the field master during Mr. Haskell's mastership. His daughter, Bonnie Wood, a well respected horse woman and devoted member of the hunt from 1951 through 1988, served on the Board and as President. Mary Kay Arliss, another highly respected member for over 35 years, served as Honorary Secretary for 25 of them. It was also during this time, that Mrs. Mary Jane Carey, our current joint Master, first came out as a member of the Monmouth County hunt field.

 

Following Mr. Haskell's death in 1966, the pack of harriers was converted slowly to foxhounds. The traditional harrier green for gentlemen with colors is still upheld today, although staff switched to scarlet for safety sake in the early 1990's.

 

A dilemma prevailed within the hunt club organization with the transition from decades under the mastership of Mr. Haskell. Nancy King, a well-known horsewoman of the Rumson area of Monmouth County and hunt member became Master. Unwilling to do it alone she coerced a knowledgeable young friend and member, Arthur "Bud" McConnell, owner of the McConnell Fuel Company to become Joint Master. The Masters hired the professional huntsman, Gordon Markus from Genesee Valley Hunt. In 1968 the Masters and Board recruited the personable Leonard Duffy as Joint Master, waking him from a deep slumber one evening after midnight to offer him the position of Master. Leonard was a well-liked knowledgeable man with a staunch commitment to the traditions of foxhunting and he would lead MCH for over 25 years into the 1990's. No matter how high the fence or how wide the ditch, Mr. Duffy and Irish were the first over. If you were in the field, you could also be sure that Leonard would find every ditch in the hunt country to test your courage. Leonard was a great field master who especially enjoyed Junior Days when he could introduce children to the joys of hunting. He had the gift of being able to build the field's confidence to do what they thought was beyond their ability.

 

In the late 1960's when Mrs. King, Mr. McConnell and Mr. Duffy were Joint Masters, the hunt country on the eastern side of Monmouth County became more developed in Navesink-Middletown area it became apparent that new country would need to be found. In 1969 the hunt found the perfect solution on the western side of the county. This area was far less developed with a heavy concentration of farmland. The "new country" was opened largely due to the efforts of Mr. Duffy's and member Harry OMealia. Mr. OMealia, owner of an advertising company, was able to secure a suitable situation for the kennels and open the first block of hunt territory in the new location. The articulate Duffy, fondly dubbed, "Old Golden Tongue" would go on to establish relationships with the landowners and form bonds in many-a-farmers country kitchen. Today, the Monmouth County still enjoys hunting over 10,000 acres of territory, extending into the farm country of Burlington County much of which was established under the mastership of Mr. Duffy.

 

During this time at the Monmouth County, Gordon Markus hunted the hounds, he was followed by Jim Reagan who was known for his horn blowing skills and Colin Randall who served as professional huntsmen until 1983. During this time, the pack transitioned from Mr. Haskell's harriers to foxhounds with influences from the Essex, Middleburg, Mr. Jefford's, Rocky Ford Hedly and the Amwell Valley. Mr. Duffy had spent a fair amount of time hunting at Foxcatcher with Mrs. Jean Dupont McConnell Shehan and other private packs. It was here that he was introduced to the PennMarydel hound.

 

In 1981, Mr. Duffy appointed Mrs. Joan Bergmann, a horse enthusiast and member of the hunt since 1971, as Joint Master. Mrs. Bergman had whipped in to Colin Randall and when he left Monmouth County in 1983, she became one of the first women Master's to carry the horn with Leonard's support and encouragement. Mrs. Bergmann hunted the Monmouth County hounds from 1983 until 2001. She shared Leonard's enthusiasm for the PennMarydel but the pack has always been a crossbred pack with both American and English bloodlines. Joan was also supported by Bill Read, a past Master and Huntsman of the Amwell Valley who gave her a solid crossbred hounds and Jack Dougherty, the Master and Huntsman of Lewisville Hunt. Jack was instrumental in her success as huntsman, giving her good advice and honest hounds, one she particularly was fond of, a PennMarydel named Pokey. Much of the Monmouth country is sandy with some coverts being impenetrable on horseback, in this country Pokey served as a barometer to inform the huntsman when her hounds had found.. Another of Joan's very favorite hounds was Joyful, a pretty crossbred bitch with a heavy PennMarydel influence from Mr. Jefford's and Rocky Ford Hedley. She was successful was a good hunter who also enjoyed success in the show ring. Another influential hound from this time was Hopeful, she was out of a Windy Hollow bitch, Bridle by a Monmouth County dog Hubert. Hopeful went on to be Champion listed PennMarydel at the BrynMawr hound show and her influence is still seen in the pack today. Mrs. Bergmann was dedicated to the hunt and served with Leonard throughout the 1980's and continued through the 1990s. Mr. Richard Wroncy, an educator and musician, also served as Joint Master from 1983 until 1991 when he retired to Virginia. At a time when responsibility was well distributed between the masters, Joan hunted hounds, Leonard and Dick served as field masters Dick was responsible for the country and Leonard, as senior master, maintained relationships with the landowners.

 

In 1993, Mrs. Bergmann appointed, Mr. Justin Segal, a real estate developer, to be her Joint Master. Justin has been a member of the Monmouth County since 1982 and served as Board Member, President and Honorary Whipper-in. He has hunted with packs in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, England and Ireland. His dedication to the sport the sport of foxhunting has ensured the continued survival of Monmouth County Hunt. Justin served as Master through 1999 and then again from 2000 until 2006. He continues to serve acting as Honorary whipper-in and also field master and his commitment to the Monmouth County has been steadfast over the years and he continues to be an active and integral component of the hunt as an ex-MFH today. He is a true foxhunter driven by his love of the sport and hounds.

 

In 2000, Ms. Margaret "Meg" Valnoski, was appointed Joint Master by Mrs Bergmann and Mr. Segal resumed the position of Master. Meg has been a member of the Monmouth County since 1982. Her first introduction to hunting was as junior when she capped with the Spring Valley Hounds in the New Vernon country. But most of her early years with horses were focused on horse showing, her career in pharmaceutical research brought her to Monmouth Ccunty in the early 1980's, and there, horses brought her to the hunt field. After a few seasons in the field, it was clear that she would be better suited to be a whipper-in. During her time with MCH, she has served a member of the Board of Directors, President of MCH as well as managing the annual hunt horse show. During those years, her interest in hounds grew and for the past eight seasons, she has managed the kennels and hounds and has carried the horn since the 2006 season. Her all consuming dedication and commitment to MCH has enabled the club to rebuild the breeding program which in turn has led to fine quality of sport enjoyed today. Her tireless efforts are truly bearing fruit which comes from her special bond and love for her hounds and enjoyment of true foxhunting.

In 2014, Mrs. Thomas Carey was appointed as Jt-Master.  Mrs. Carey has been a member of the Monmouth County Hunt for more than 40 years, serving as Honorary Secretary and Field Master during the 1990s and early 2000s.

In 2018, two Jt-Masters were appointed, Mr. Doug Raynor and Mrs. C. Kirk Donaldson.  Doug serving as a Board Member and President of the Monmouth County Hunt since 2010, and also as a Whipper-in and Field Master.  Mrs. Donaldson serving as Honorary Secretary since 2016 and as a Whipper-in.