The Life and Times of Figure
Figure was the founding stallion of the Morgan breed of horses and is the horse to which all Morgans are related. He was foaled in 1789 and a few years later became the property of Justin Morgan. Justin Morgan was a teacher, composer, businessman and horseman who lived in Randolph, Vermont
As Figure grew his compact, muscular body and stylish way of moving impressed many of the pioneer farmers and settlers. Soon tales of his strength, speed, endurance and ability to produce sons and daughters bearing his likeness spread amidst the small New England towns. His stud services were offered throughout the Connecticut River Valley and in the course of his 32 years he became known as “The Justin Morgan Horse”.
- 1789 – Figure was born in southern New England; said to be sired by True Briton (a.k.a. Beautiful Bay) out of a mare of Wild air breeding that was bred by Justin Morgan.
- 1792 – Advertised at stud in West Hartford, CT. by Samuel Whitman until late May then was taken to Randolph, VT. By Justin Morgan.
- 1793 – Advertised at stud in Lebanon, N.H. and Randolph, VT. By Justin Morgan.
- 1794 – Advertised at stud in Randolph and Royalton, VT. By Justin Morgan.
- 1795 – Advertised at stud in Williston and Hinesburgh, VT. By Justin Morgan he is believed to have been leased to Robert Evans, Randolph, VT. In fall 1795 to clear land for Mr. Fisk for $15.00 per year; the horse was traded to Justin Morgan for land in Moretown, VT. To Samuel Allen, Williston, VT.
- 1795 (?) – raced against New York horses Sweepstakes and Silvertail in Brookfield, VT. (The road is still known as ‘Morgan Mile’) defeating both for a $50 stake.
- 1796 – Advertised at stud by Jonathan Shepard, Montpelier, VT.; Figure became known as the Justin Morgan horse; Shepard often used him in match races with great success.
- 1797 – February – traded with blacksmith shop by Jonathan Shepard to James Hawkins, Montpelier, VT. For a farm.
- 1797 – 1801 – whereabouts not known.
- 1801 – 1804 – owned by Robert Evans, Randolph, VT.
- 1804 – Evans sued for debt; Colonel John Goss secured his debt with the Justin Morgan horse; Evans was unable to pay; John Goss sent the horse to his brother David Goss in St. Johnsbury, VT.; John Goss traded the horse for a mare to David Goss in 1805.
- 1804 – Justin Morgan won a pulling bee at General Butler’s Tavern, St. Johnsbury, VT.
- 1805 – 1811 – owned by David Goss, St. Johnsbury, VT. He was worked on the Goss farm except 2 months in spring when he was on a stallion service circuit; he was known as the Goss horse.
- 1807 – Advertised at stud by John Goss in Randolph, VT. And Claremont, N.H.
- 1811 – Fall – after the breeding season the horse was sold to Jacob Sanderson then to Jacob Langmade who used the horse to haul freight between Windsor and Chelsea, VT.(?); then to Joel Goss and Joseph Rogers, Claremont, N.H.
- 1814, 1815, 1817 – at stud with Joel Goss and Joseph Rogers, Claremont, N.H. (whereabouts in 1816 not known).
- 1817 – Sold to Samuel Stone, Randolph, VT.; exhibited at Randolph, VT. Fair.
- 1817 July 22 – parade mount for President James Monroe in Montpelier, VT.
- 1819 – Sold to Levi Bean, Chelsea, VT.
- 1821 – Died of injury from kick of another horse on the Levi Bean Farm.
Figure is said to be sired by True Briton, a horse widely respected for his excellence and known as a sire of quality horses. He was said to have been “of the best English blood”. John Morgan (in 1846) stated that he was sired by the imported horse Traveller. Whether it was Thoroughbred blood or another breed (such as the Welsh Cob) or a combination of types remains open to debate.
Figure’s dam was bred by Justin Morgan. She was, as described by John Morgan in 1846, “…of the Wild air breed, of middling size, with a heavy chest of very light bay color, with a bushy mane and tail – the hair on the legs rather long, and a smooth, handsome traveler…” Her sire was Diamond, a son of Church’s Wild-air by Wild-air (Delancey’s) out of a mare owned by Samuel Burt named Wild-air.
Others theorize that Figure has the Friesian horse as a possible ancestor. The Friesian horse was bred and developed in Holland. This type of horse was taken to North America by the Dutch. Figure and some of his sons were often referred to as ‘Dutch’ horses. That label, however, could have referred to his being of Dutch breeding or the fact that True Briton was from New York.