Tag Archives: transportation

The Case of the Missing “Norman” (or, Some Dead Horses)

24 Apr
by Emma Earnst


A local resident recently donated a collection of Daily Progress newspaper clippings to the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society.  As we sifted through them, we came across a slew of rather interesting articles, most notably one on the horses of the Belle-mont Mansion.  Digging deeper, as so often is the case, I’ve uncovered a wealth of fantastic resources and stories that would force me to write a book, if only I had the time.

Well, it would be a short book, but it would still be a book.

The article, which you will find below, grabbed our (macabre) attention with the opening line,

Virginia’s first Percheron-Norman horses sleep in the Belmont section of Charlottesville.

These horses, now referred to as simply “Percheron” (the latter name, Norman, being dropped in the 1870s), are a French breed, first exported to the United States in the 19th century as work horses.  They were often used to pull buses until horse-drawn transportation waned in the 20th century, when the horses became revered as a major draft breed for both work and show.

In 1852, Slaughter Ficklin, owner of the Belle-mont Mansion in southern Charlottesville, brought the first group of Percheron-Normans to Virginia just after the Civil War ended.  The horses, as the article states, were truly quite apt at working, taking up heavy pulling that was previously reserved for oxen.  The Ficklin farm was a stock farm, and many of the Percherons eventually made their way to other farms around the country.

In the 1870s, after a decade and a half of breeding and national distribution, the first two of Ficklin’s horses kicked it, and Ficklin gave his beloved stud horses a proper Christian burial, marking the spot with a stone.

A decade later, Ficklin died at the age of 70, and after his wife’s death, the property was subdivided into smaller lots that today make up the Belmont section of Charlottesville.  That’s another story for another time, though.

But, if you are curious, check this out to start.


Today in Rip Payne

27 Mar
by Emma Earnst

Today in 1960, Rip Payne attended a demonstration flight by the Albemarle Soaring Club at the Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport.  According to a national Soaring Club publication,

A new group known as the Albemarle Soaring Club is starting operations this spring at the Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport, Charlottesville, Virginia.  The Club members, about 5, bought two L-K’s in November of 1958 and spent the winter, spring, and summer rebuilding one of them… Finally, in March of 1960 a beautiful weekend came and 10 aero-tows were made.  The longest flight lasted 1 hour and 1 minute.  On this weekend, many new faces were introduced to the growing soaring movement in the U.S.A.

The Albemarle Soaring Club was especially significant, as it sharply differed from the images of air travel that were shown in the media at this time.  In October 1959, Charlottesville citizens were rocked when a Piedmont Airlines plane crashed in the area, killing all but one of its passengers.  The Soaring Club’s special weekend, just a few months after the crash, served to remind their friends that flying is still fun, and in spite of dangers, it can be a breathtaking leisure activity.

Or, they were just a bunch of crazy thrill-seekers…

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