Organized in 1887
Although Foxhunting has existed in Fauquier County since the late eighteenth century, the Warrenton Hunt was officially organized in 1887 and is recognized by the Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA) as the third oldest hunt in America.
Today, the Warrenton Hunt continues to maintain its original “purpose of hunting foxes in the county of Fauquier and adjoining counties.”
The 20th Century
In 1930, Fortune published an article about foxhunting in Virginia titled “Jericho Turnpike”, wherein the Warrenton Hunt was described as “made up principally of hard riders…who worship their horses passionately.”
In the same piece, mention is made of Clovelly, North Wales and Clovercroft. The Warrenton Hunt is blessed that these properties remain open within the perimeters of its “home country” and the description of the riders still applies almost a hundred years later.
Beginning in the first third of the 20th century, the Hunt was invigorated by the arrival of many families from the Northeast and Midwest of the United States who were attracted by the challenges and camaraderie of the splendid sport offered, as well as its proximity to the nation’s capital.
Before World War II, General George S. Patton often was found in Warrenton’s Field and later General Lemuel Shepard, Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps hunted regularly with Warrenton.
Warrenton’s First MFHs
Mrs. Viola Winmill, the first lady MFH of the Warrenton Hunt, was one of several daring women who hunted aside. She was also a renowned coaching enthusiast whose skill was recognized far and wide when she hitched her ponies to drive a Wells Fargo stagecoach in President Eisenhower’s 1952 inaugural parade.
James Maddux served intermittently as Master for a period of over 20 years and as huntsman of the pack of English and American hounds for many of those seasons.
Since then, the Hunt has been shaped by a number of devoted MFHs who worked side by side with legendary huntsmen to produce the best pack suited to provide the finest sport in the face of ever-changing conditions and terrain.
Dick Bywaters was one such huntsman who, over a span of 35 years, carried the horn for Amory S. Carhart, Russell M. Arundel, William M. Wilbur, D. Harcourt Lees and Margaret “Bambe” Wilson.
The enthusiasm and devotion to the sport by each of these individuals complemented the innate talent of Mr. Bywaters, whose surname is eponymous with an important strain of American foxhound.
In 1981, under the Joint Mastership of Mrs. Wilson and Sally Spillman Tufts, Michael Power was engaged as huntsman. Following the resignation of Mrs. Wilson, Mrs. Tufts was joined by Francis Laimbeer and William Allison as Joint Masters in 1985.
Revitalizing the Hounds & Kennels
It was during the tenure of this energetic Irish huntsman, that English hounds were once again entered into the kennels and this time the transition to the Crossbred seems to have stuck.
After the tragic death of Michael Power in a hunting accident, the MFH triumvirate (Tufts, Laimbeer, Allison) lured the experienced James Atkins out of retirement to hunt the hounds for Warrenton along with his wife, K.T., who served as his professional whipper-in.
The couple further refined the pack with the introduction of a number of American and Crossbred hounds, drafted from numerous packs throughout the U.S. thus revitalizing the kennel and, consequently, the sport.
Where We Are Today
Jim’s influence continues today, as the current huntsman, Matthew van der Woude also whipped-in to Jim and K.T. Atkins is a Joint Master.
Both Dick Bywaters and Jim Atkins have been honored posthumously with their induction into the Huntsman’s Room of North America’s Museum of Hounds and Hunting.*
*For further history of the Warrenton Hunt, please refer to A Century of Foxhunting: A History of the Warrenton Hunt 1887-1987: and Jericho Turnpike: copyright 2005 by the Warrenton Antiquarian Society.