Old Dominion Hounds has a history that now spans 2 centuries. The early part of that history was uncovered by one of ODH’s own, Gordon Smith, to whom the Hunt is indebted for his diligence and transcription of events from the very beginning of the hunt until the start of World War II in late 1941.
The History of Old Dominion Hounds
As remembered by first Master of ODH - Sterling Larrabee, MFH.
"In 1923 the Warrenton Hunt had a row with the Masters of Foxhounds Association and resigned from that Association, and from the NSHA and in consequence was an unrecognized hunt for several seasons. The hunting in Warrenton at that time was so poor as to be almost non-existent. I had offered my place (Arborvitae Farm) for sale and was planning to buy either at Middleburg or in the Orange County Country. Whilst discussing this proposition with Louie Beard, he said: “Why in hell don’t you go up in Rappahannock—that’s the best country in America today, and Joe Thomas has left it and gone to Millbrook, NY. I spent the summer and fall of 1923 riding over Rappahannock and Upper Fauquier in a Model T Ford, and on horseback (as regular cars couldn’t take the roads in those days).
During the season of 1924, I rented the Joe Read property near Flint Hill, and got six couples of hounds together. We lived at the Ricketts Hotel and hunted every day (weather permitting) until Christmas. In the fall of 1925, I rented the stone houses and barn in Orleans, and we hunted the season of 1925-1926 from there. During those two years we had many difficulties: Joe Thomas and his huntsman, Carver, had managed to get many of the farmers down on what the natives call “hunt clubs.” Foxes were scarce, and we didn’t know where they lay or how they ran. We had many blank days and we lost hounds frequently. The hounds were lousy and few in number.
However, I felt much encouraged with the potential possibilities of the Country and applied for recognition in 1925 which was granted by the MFHA. In 1926, I bought the Kennels Farm (Corner of S. Poe’s Rd and Crest Hill), considering it the very best location possible, being in the heart of the best of the country. No sooner had I gotten the barn started than Joe Thomas tried to get the country back. We had the hell of a fight, but my rights to the country were sustained.
Mother gave me the farm and the barn and I had working capital of some $25,000 and the proceeds from the sale of “Arborvitae.” Farming at that time was fairly lucrative and horses sold well – for good prices. Madge and I started this entirely as a private pack and we paid all expenses ourselves and wanted no subscriptions and received none. Madge and I generally hunted by ourselves, with a few farmers and some of our friends, who used to road their horses from Middleburg and keep them at the Kennels for a few days.
After the establishment of the Kennels, things began to improve. The pack improved, our relations with farmers and landowners picked up and we got to know the country better and we put out foxes and preserved foxes in every way possible.
By the spring of 1931, Ned Chadwell, who had been hunting the hounds, left and I got Will Putnam. When he first came, he couldn’t ride much and knew nothing about hunting in the orthodox manner. But he tried and turned out alright.
By 1930, the “depression” was in full blast. I lost most of my working capital in the stock market and spent a lot to keep hounds going and borrowed a lot for the same purpose. I did, however, get some good subscriptions and in 1931 changed the name of the pack from “Mr. Larrabee’s Hounds” to “The Old Dominion Hounds;” as I felt it was no longer strictly a private pack…in as much as we received outside help.
In 1933, in view of his considerable financial aid and of the fact he had bought a large farm within the Country and seemed interested, I invited Bill Doeller to be Joint Master with me. This didn’t work out too well and by 1936…I told him I would carry on alone – some way. We effected some considerable economies after he left, our financial situation brightened somewhat and my friends rallied around me and sent in a lot of subscriptions. So, Madge and I managed to carry along alone for four years, with the help of our friends and sport improved immeasurably.
During the 16 seasons since the inception of this Pack, we have endured many difficulties: land has been closed to the Hunt at various times; we have had considerable trouble with “outlaw” packs; we have suffered two major attacks of distemper in the kennels, and two serious outbreaks of influenza in the stables’ Northerners have induced some of our best trained men to quit on the offers of higher wages and we have had the normal number of cases of ophthalmia, bowed tendons, injuries, etc., incident to the hunt horses and the various losses to hounds, some stolen, some lost and some injured- as falls to the lot of any hunting establishment. We have, however, managed to weather these obstacles and carry on in some fashion.
In all modesty, I may say that ODH bore a reputation for showing first class sport when it was turned over to the new Master in 1940.”
In June of 1941, Mr. Larrabee sold the hounds and the rights to the country to Albert Hinckley who immediately sold them to the ODH, Inc. for one dollar. Both Larrabee and Hinckley were preparing to go off to war. Mrs. John A. Hinckley was named MFH, and Bill Doeller became the President of the Board.
Mrs. George Cutting served as MFH from 1940 to 1945. Mr. Doeller returned as MFH in 1945 to 1947, at which time Colonel Albert Hinckley commenced upon a long and honorable term as MFH.
After the war, the kennels remained at the Hinckley’s Henchman’s Lea farm, with the old kennels becoming the Old Kennels farm, still a regular fixture for the pack. Bill Brainard became Master in 1966 and brought in a few crossbred and English hounds to the formerly all-American hound pack. By 1969-1970, there were 22 couple of American and 19 ½ couple of English, which, eventually and naturally, led to Crossbreds in kennels as much as American. Brainard stepped down in 1976, with Melvin Poe, then Jim Atkins, then Charlie Brown carrying the horn.
Gerald Keal arrived in 1994, hunting ODH until 2013. Ross Salter (2013-2015) and Jeff Woodall (2015-2019) hunted the hounds through 2019 when English-born Steve Farrin came on as huntsman. As of 2022, Josh Bentley is our huntsman, and we are thrilled to have him!