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Vigo County Bicentennial: the four corners track and the legend of Axtell

Memorial Stadium is one of Vigo County's most recognizable landmarks. Before that though, it was the site of a famous horse racing track known around the United States. As well as the home of the last race for Axtell.

Posted: Aug. 29, 2018 6:33 PM

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI)- Indiana State Universities’ Memorial Stadium is one of Vigo County's most recognizable landmarks. In the late 1800s though, it was the site of a famous horse racing track known around the United States.

It was called the Four Corners Track where more than 10,000 people would gather to watch the races. Local historian Mike McCormick says Terre Haute hosted some of the biggest horse races in the nation.

"William Iams and that group put together the Terre Haute Futury, which was one of the richest horse races in the United States in 1894, and they had purses of 94,000 dollars, which was kind of amazing," said McCormick.

Perhaps the most notable thing about the four corners track is that a world's record was broken by a horse named Axtell.

"He (Axtell) was obviously a very promising two-year-old. Then he comes to Terre Haute on August 11th of 1889 and breaks the three-year-old record and the stallion record for trotters in the same race.” Said McCormick

Axtell's performance was so impressive, he was portrayed by none other than the world famous printing firm Currier and Ives. But even before that race, local investors set out to buy Axtell. they achieved their goal, for $105,000. Something that was unheard of at the time.

"In the history of horse racing of any kind thoroughbred harness racing…no one had ever paid anywhere near as close to that for a horse," said McCormick.

After the purchase, there was only one problem. Axtell developed a bad leg. That record-setting race was the last he ever ran, but that wasn't the end of Axtell in the world of racing.

Axtell would end up being one of the greatest sires that ever lived. In 1890, Axtell made $40,000 alone by siring.

So where did Axtell live and die after his racing career? it was at a horse farm called Warren Park Farm which was located at what is now Honey Creek Mall

According to much historical speculation, somewhere beneath the asphalt rests one of the greatest horses in the history of racing, Axtell.

News 10 is still seeking history stories for many of the townships of Vigo County for our Bicentennial Celebration. Those townships are Fayette, Nevins, Paririeton, Prairie Creek and Harrison.

If you have a story about your township you would like to be shared email Garrett Brown at garrett.brown@wthitv.com with your story.

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