Thursday, August 06, 2009

Harris Olney and James Dalton - 1894

Middletown Daily Argus (Middletown, New York)
1894, October 18

Probably a Double Suicide

Harris Olney and James Dalton were found dead in a room at the Metropolitan hotel, Kent avenue and Grand street. They had retired leaving the gas turned on full head. Olney, who was 2[8?] years of age and resided in Brooklyn was at one time a jockey, and Dalton was connected with race tracks.

Southeast corner of Kent Avenue, Brooklyn today.
In 1894, this was the location of the Metropolitan Hotel
where Olney and Dalton took their lives.

New York Times (New York, New York)
October 18, 1894

Asphyxiation Ended Two Lives

Cyrus Olney, twenty-eight years old, at one time well known as a jockey, and James Dalton, twenty-five years old, who was a frequenter of race tracks, were asphyxiated in their room on the third floor of the Metropolitan Hotel, corner of Kent Avenue and Grand Street, Brooklyn, yesterday morning.

The two men had been to the Maspeth race track on Tuesday, and did not return to the Metropolitan Hotel until late at night. Both were under the influence of liquor. Olney rode Pierre Lorillard's famous horse Pontiac when he won the Suburban race.


Further research here has shown that Harris Olney won the "Suburban Handicap" in 1885 at Sheepshead Bay Race Track at the Coney Island Jockey Club in Sheepshead Bay, New York. He rode a four year old horse named "Pontiac" owned by the Rancocas Stable and trained by Matthew Byrnes. Rancocas stable, located in Jobstown, New Jersey, was a well known horse training stable owned by Pierre Lorillard IV.

Pierre Lorillard IV - Harris Olney's employer - circa 1885.

Harris Olney (along with his brother - "Walter" Olney) were listed among the guests at the 2nd annual "Red and Blue Social" held by the Red and Blue Social Club at Toni Dugan's Assembly Rooms at the Brooklyn Jockey Club Hotel on Ocean Parkway in Sheepshead Bay, New York. This was in 1884.

The book "Cherry and Black: The Career of Mr. Pierre Lorillard On the Turf" by W. S. Vosburgh gives the following description of Harris Olney:

"Harris Olney, who rode so many races for the Lorillard stable, was born at Manchester, Iowa, in 1865, and learned riding under Jacob Pincus. He, Olney, rode his first race for Hon. Perry Belmont on Ada, 82 lbs., in 188o, and came to Mr. Lorillard in 1881. In 1882 he won 6 out of 35 races; and in 1883 he won 17 out of 68. His light weight gave him plenty to do in the stable riding exercise, trials and races."

In 1881 Harris was living Newmarket All Saints, Cambridge, England as a "servant" for Jacob Pinkus, age 42. He was listed as "Olney, Harris, Servant U 16 born Iowa, US Jockey". Harris was one of 12 servants - all grooms and jockeys. Mr. Pinkus was a horse trainer.

In 1889 the Olney's were listed in the Clifton District for the Passaic, New Jersey City Directory. They were listed as follows:

Olney, Harris - horseman bds opp Erie station
Olney, Waldo - horseman bds opp Erie station
Olney, Mrs. C. D. - h opp Erie station

Various genealogical records show that Harris was the son of Edward and Colestra Olney of Manchester, Iowa. That he was born in 1865. He older brother Waldo was born in Iowa in 1863 and they had one younger sister Mary, born in 1869. Their parents were both from New York.

The Metropolitan Hotel #22-24 on the southeast corner of Kent, opened in 1871 and was remodeled in 1886. Dieterich Allers & Sons were the proprietors. It was demolished several years ago, but I do not have the date yet - possibly not long after the suicide in 1894 as I haven't yet found a record of the hotel more recent then that, and the current building on the site (which couldn't be the same as it is only 1 story) seems to be quite old itself.

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