Friday, May 14, 2010

Pluck-em-in ... again

George Church was a brother of Hayden Church and early LDS missionary. Most of the Church family eventually joined as well.  But before they did there was "Pluck-em-in"; a race track built by George Church in the Shady Grove area of Tennessee. It sat near his home along the Duck River, near the modern day community of Duck River on the Maury/Hickman county border. Gambling on horse racing was a widely practiced vice. In 1900, the Spence brothers (Jerome and David) recounted a story about a stranger who came to visit.

One day there came to George Church's race course a stranger riding an ugly, "slab sided" bobtailed bay horse, with mane roached, like a mule. The stranger was shabbily dressed, and the questions he asked about the horses and horse racing showed him to be entirely unfamiliar with the sport then in progress. He drank some and was very anxious to buy cattle, of which he was in search. He learned that thee would be in a few days a big horse race on Josiah Shipp's track near Centerville. By going there he could see cattle ownersfrom all over the county, and, inaddition to this, he was told that he could see a very lively horse race. For this latter he did not care, but, although an additional twenty miles' ride would be rather hard on his horse, he concluded to go on to Centerville in order to buy cattle, of which he was in great need. He went to Centerville the night before the day on which the races were to be run.

The next morning he was one of the large crowd at the track; but by the demon, Drink, the quiet, inoffensive cattle buyer had been transformed into a swaggering drunkard, who wanted to bet on the race money, which his appearance showed he could ill afford to lose. His condition was such that he could scarcely walk, and his faculties were so overclouded that he did not care which horse he backed. He just wanted to bet. He had seen other people bet at Churchs' track, and, so he said, he had as much money as anybody. His own horse was hitched near by, and, mounting it, he, continuing his boasting, announced that it could beat anything on the ground. Remonstrances were in vain, and he, continuing to wave his money, soon found takers. He was, in race-course parlance, "an easy thing," and soon there was a mad rush for his money. Having come for the purpose of buying cattle, he had money to [cover] all money offered him, and, in addition to this, was soon betting money against watches, pistols, overcoats, etc.

When the horses lined up for the start, some of the more observant noticed that the stranger seemed to have become strangely sober in a short time. When three-fourths of the track had been gone over and the stranger and his horse were still well up in the bunch, it was remembered that nobody had seen him take a drink. When the stranger's horse won with ease, beating Griner's horses, the pride of Hickman County it gradually dawned upon those who had bet with the stranger that they had been victimized.

The stranger was Shilo True [see #1 below], the trickiest trickster of them all, and the missionary work that he did the day produced lasting good. Many saw the error of their way and never bet again. Many who that day bet with the professional gambler, Shilo True, afterwards became the most prominent citizens of the county. Two of his converts were Emmons Church and his father [Abraham] Church, who, riding back to Shady Grove without their overcoats, agreed that they would gamble no more. For years, whenever people saw the appearance of fraud, a cheat, or a swindle or when they wanted to halloo, "Enough!" they simply said "Shilo!" and were understood.

No date acompanied the story, but George was born in 1822 and Abraham died in 1851, so this likely happened in the 1840's. The race track was in use in 1841 when Hayden first heard the gospel and went to Nauvoo to learn more. Emmons (Isaac Emmons Church) was baptized in 1871. Neither George nor his father Abraham joined the LDS church.

#1 Perhaps this was William Shiloh True (1819-1853) of Maury County, Tennessee.


Anonymous said...

"the trickiest trickster of them all"

I like that phrase. I'll have to remember to use it sometime.



BruceCrow said...

Glad you liked it Hunter.