I noticed an interesting road at the Oklahoma State Fair Park called Black Gold Drive. I thought it was interesting how they’d intertwined their state history into the fairgrounds, with Black Gold of course representing that natural resource found abundantly within the state. Other avenues included Land Rush Street and the less-than-politically-correct Red Mans Path.
Black Gold Dr., Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
This was going to be a riff on streets called Black Gold to see if I could correlate them with places important to the petroleum industry. Problem was, I kept finding ties to thoroughbred horse racing and famous equine champions instead, like a themed neighborhood in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
I guess maybe if I’d been more interested in horses as a child I might have known about the 1957 Black Gold book by Marguerite Henry who also wrote "Misty of Chincoteague" (12MC visit to Chincoteague), or maybe the 1947 Black Gold movie starring Anthony Quinn. I’d heard of neither.
Black Gold at the Fair Grounds Race Course
SOURCE: Wikipedia, in the public domain
Black Gold was a horse. I ditched the oil angle. This Hall-of-Fame thoroughbred was much more interesting.
There were many great summaries of the Black Gold story including a nice one on the Colin’s Ghost site. I decided to focus on the beginning and the end while mentioning a few sprinkles in the middle, like how Black Gold won the 50th Kentucky Derby in 1924. Other sites already describe those events in detail so I didn’t really need to repeat them.
St. Paul (Osage Mission), Kansas
Black Gold was owned by Rosa Hoots. She was born of mixed French and Osage ancestry in Osage Mission (now St. Paul), Kansas, a daughter of Peter Augustus Captain (his Osage name was "Ogeese" Captain) and America Jane Moore. Osage Mission was literally just that, a Jesuit mission that had been established in 1847 to bring the Catholic religion, culture and eduction to native inhabitants of the plains. As described by the Osage Mission – Neosho County Museum:
The Mission schools and the influence of Fr. Schoenmakers provided the Osage with the education and political savvy to deal with the white man. In 1869, after an intense political struggle with the L.L. & G. Railroad, the Osage ceded their Kansas lands to the government for $1.25/acre. They moved to their reservation in northern Oklahoma… with $8,536,000 (1869 $) [and] the U.S. Treasury paying interest to all members of the tribe.
The Captain family moved along with their Osage brethren to Oklahoma, to the current Osage County that is coterminous with the Osage Indian Reservation. The Osage Nation noted that Rosa was recorded in their rolls as Original Allottee #1356.
Hominy Falls & Captain Cemetery, Skiatook, Oklahoma
The Oklahoma Historical Society’s Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture included an article on the Hoots Ranch. The property came from Rosa’s side of the family through their Osage allotments. This was where her father Augustus had constructed a trading post "at Hominy Falls on Hominy Creek" and where he built "the first stone house on the Osage Reservation." The original trading post was located where the Captain Cemetery now exists.
The Indian Pioneer History Project for Oklahoma interviewed Rosa Hoots in 1937. The Indian Territory was still the "Old West" when she was a child.
… there was located on the spot, where now is the cemetery, a thriving little store which was the trading post for the Osage Indians and some Quapaws, and early white settlers who lived in the vicinity… Often when the Osages came with their buffalo hides to trade with “Ogeese” Captain, they made camp for several days, and often he allowed them to hold council in his home.
Rosa Captain married Al Hoots in 1886 and they began to breed racehorses on Hoots Ranch as the years passed. Eventually they raised the filly Useeit (aka "U-See-It"), a fast horse that was only beaten consistently by her rival and nemesis, a Hall-of-Fame quality horse named Pan Zareta. Useeit bred to Black Toney, resulting in Black Gold in 1921. Black Gold was often referred to as the "Indian Horse" because of the Osage connection.
There were many more tragic twists and turns to the story already covered ad nauseam elsewhere so feel free to consult the book or the movie or the dozens of accounts on the Intertubes if you’d like the details. Essentially: Al died before Useeit was bred and Black Gold born; Rosa managed the horse to phenomenal racing and financial success to fulfill Al’s dream including the Kentucky Derby victory; and Hoots Ranch was renamed Black Gold Ranch and and still exists (albeit subsequently owned by a different family). And so on.
Please realize I skipped past some of the best part of the story using very few words. I’m interested in the more obscure facets. Let’s fast-forward to the end.
Black Gold & Pan Zareta Monuments, New Orleans, Louisiana
Does the 12MC audience remember the horse Barbaro from a few years ago, specifically the media frenzy when Barbara was injured in the 2006 Preakness Stakes and then had to be euthanized in 2007? The death of Black Gold struck a similar cord with the public and also ignited a media firestorm although about three-quarters of a century earlier.
Black Gold should have earned any easy, rewarding life as a stud after his Kentucky Derby victory. Except he was sterile. With stud fees impossible, Rosa decided to salvage whatever revenue should could by placing Black Gold back on the racing circuit. However he was not nearly the same horse as he was before, and raced poorly. Rosa then entered Black Gold in the 1928 Salome Purse in New Orleans, Louisiana — now the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots which mentioned Black Gold in its historical timeline — and he broke his leg during the race. He was euthanized on the track.
Visitors to the Fair Grounds Race Course sometimes wonder about two white markers on the infield. Those are the graves of Black Gold, buried near where were he was put down, and ironically Pan Zareta, the horse that bested his mother.