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Result: Flashback--A Profile from the Past Part One -- Alford's John Oct 18, 2021

Post Date: Mar 23, 2022


Alford's John (in foreground).
IT is not possible for the bird dog and field trial enthusiast to appreciate the present-day success and popularity of the field trial pastime without knowing "how we got here." That is, the dogs and personalities that played significant roles in the promotion of the sport and the improvement of the pointing dog breeds so essential to the game.

Albert Frederick Hochwalt provided a great service to the sport with his books, "The Modern Setter" and "The Modern Pointer," two invaluable sources of information and analysis of these two breeds, and their patrons, as the background for a present-day understanding of the sport.

A. F. Hochwalt highlights and credits two dogs with the rapid rise of the pointer as a preeminent field trial performer and producer -- Alford's John and Fishel's Frank. He tells the story of Alford's John here. Fishel's Frank will follow.

* * *

WE now come to the twentieth century and the period during which the pointer made his most rapid strides toward attainting the position which the breed occupies in the field trial world.

What Brockton's Bounce, Statter's Major, Garth's Drake and Whitehouse's Hamlet were to the breed in its formative period, what King of Kent and Mainspring, Malt and Hops were at the dawn of the new era, Alford's John and Fishel's Frank are to the pointer of the present.

These two dogs both sprang from comparatively obscure origin, but they have done so much for the breed, as performers and sires, that their names (in that day and age) are practically household words with everyone who is even remotely interested in the bird dog. They have achieved things that have placed the breed far out front and they have awakened setter breeders to the full realization of the pointer's possibilities and powers.

Rip Rap, Jingo and Lad of Rush made the beginning -- paved the way, so to speak -- but Alford's John and Fishel's Frank have more than followed the lead of their illustrious predecessors.

There was a time, and it was not so very long ago, when a handler came to a field trial and put down a pointer with half a apology. But is entirely different now. Nearly all the professional have come to depend on one or two short-hairs in their string as a necessity in order to capture the purses.

The two dogs that have, in a great measure, brought this about, especially in the last twenty years, are Alford's John and Fishel's Frank.

ALFORD'S JOHN was whelped January 12, 1901. His breeder is given as W. D. Hassenfuss of Warren, Indiana (a small town south of Fort Wayne). It seems that when he was a very young puppy he became the property of Thomas Alford, also of Warren. Thomas Alford had no field trial aspirations and it was his intention to raise the puppy and make a shooting dog out of him. That Alford's John came before the limelight was purely an accident and it occurred in a rather unique manner.

Various stories have told about the puppy days of Alford's John, but W. J. Baughn of Ridgeville, Indiana is undoubtedly the man who is responsible for the dog ever appearing in field trials.

Early in the spring of 1902 Mr. Baughn sold a pair of setter puppies to C. H. Foust of Warren who bought them ostensibly as field trial prospects. Later, Mr. Foust invited Mr. Baughn over to his place in order to see the puppies in action as the latter gentleman having sold him the puppies, he was naturally much interested, and accept the invitational with alacrity.

The old mare was hitched to the buggy, the two setter puppies carefully stowed away in its bed and away they went to the country. Mr. Baughn casually noticed that a leggy, ungainly pointer puppy followed them out and remained with the buggy until the setter puppies were released when he invited himself and joined them.

Naturally both men were absorbed in the work the setters, although trained field trial man that Mr. Baughn was, he could not keep his eyes of the ungainly hobbledehoy pointer puppy which seemed to have the outside course at all times, found nearly all the bevies and hunted independently of the other two.

On the way back Mr. Baughn told his patron that he did not believe the setters would do for field trials. Mr. Foust was disappointed, but not convinced. That afternoon he insisted upon taking them out again and once more they heid themselves to the fields. Once more the ungainly pointer pup followed the buggy out.

The afternoon performance was a repetition of the morning. The pointer pup not only out-hunted the setters, but our-birded and out-stayed them. Again Mr. Foust asked for an option, but the setter breeder from Ridgeville did not change his first decision. He stated positively that the two setters would not make field trial dogs, "but," he added, "if you want a field trial dog buy that pointer if you can."

"That dog running along here with us?" returned Mr. Foust in surprise. "Yes, that pup. Did you notice his work? Did you see how he out-ranged the setters; how he found nearly also the birds himself and how accurately located them? If you want a winner buy him if he can be bought."

Mr. Foust was a setter fanicer, however, and did not take well to the idea, stating that he never expected to spend any money on a common pointer. Mr. Baughn, nevertheless, prevailed upon him to at least see the puppy's owner and Mr. Foust complied, although it must be said he was very lukewarm.

Mr. Alford was a druggist in Warren and, in a strict sense, not a dog fancier, and when he was approached he stated that he expected to keep the puppy for his own shooting; but because of the the fact that he was too wide and too fast he did not think he would ever answer his purposes and for this reason he would take twenty-five dollars for him.

Even this attractive offer did not impress Mr. Foust, and he came back with a counter proposition, offering to the pay the dog's training and campaign expenses and, if he proved to be a winner, to give Mr. Alford half of his share of the winnings of the first, or Derby year.

The arrangement was agreed to on this basis, which subsequent events proved to be a much more attractive one from a financial viewpoint as far as Mr. Alford was concerned than a straight sale.

ALFORD'S JOHN, as the puppy was called, was sent to J. T. Jones then in Baldwyn, Mississippi to be given his education, and he made his first public appearance at Iroquois, South Dakota in September, 1902 where in a field of seventeen setters and eight pointers he won first in the Derby. He was started in this stake in the name of Thomas Alford who was his owner at that time.

The next month he won third in the Monongahela trials at Washington Court House, Ohio (southwest of Columbus), and first in the Ohio Derby a week later. In January, 1903, he won the United States Open Derby at Grand Junction.

The following September he made is first appearance as an all-age contender in the Minnesota-North Dakota trials, where he won first in a field of 36 starters. Coming down to Robinson, Illinois for the quail trials, he won second to Mohawk in the Monongahela Club's all-age stake in a field of 36 starters. The week following he won second in the Ohio all-age stake at Washington Court House, and from there was shipped back to Robinson again where he won first in the Independent Club's all-age. One week later, at the same place, he won first in the Illinois Club's all-age.

In the fall of 1904 he was started in the all-age stake of the Manitoba chicken trials in a field of 24, winning first. A few days later, as the only pointer against eight setters in the Manitoba Championship he won the title of chicken champion.

Early in his campaign the dog became the property of Mr. Foust and R. R. Dickey of Dayton, Ohio. But before his win of the championship Mr. Dickey bought out Mr. Foust's interest. After that event, the dog made his home in Dayton where he was much sought after by breeders. As was quite natural also, his puppies were in great demand.

After some years of retirement, Mr. Dickey started Alford's John in the National Championship in 1909. Alford's John was in his ninth year then, but his race in this classic event was a sensational one.

By the strange irony of fates he was drawn to run in the last brace of the stake which was one of the largest that this club has ever had. His bracemate was the young Manitoba Rap, less than three years of age. That race was spectacular from beginning to end. The oldest and the youngest in the stake were down together. Manitoba Rap won it, but Alford's John ran a heat that was the talk of the followers. Notwithstanding his nine years of age he went the three hours with ease, finished strong and found birds up to the minute of the time limit.

Rap also ran brilliantly and by reason of his youth was the more stylish on his game. It was only because of approaching age that Alford's John had lost some of this character on point, and in this the younger dog beat him but in no other way.

At all events, the last race of Alford's John brought him as much glory, even though he did not win, than many of his earlier performances, for it showed conclusively what manner of dog he was.

He was level-headed at all times and even a child could handle him. In fact, in 1903 when he was doing so much winning, he was handled by three different trainers in as many weeks and yet Alford's John hunted just as well. It was because of his brains, his stamina and is excellent nose that he won so many races.

He was indubitably the brainiest dog, pointer or setter of his time, and few of any other time were his equal. Certainly none his superior.