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The Horseman

Updated: Mar 8, 2021

William "Bill" Buckley Fasig was born on 27 September 1845, in Ashland, Ohio. He was the son of Samuel Fasig, a brick mason, and Lucinda Greenland.

He was 16 years old when the Civil War broke out. He enlisted on 2 November 1861 as a private for a period of 3 years with Company H of the 42nd Regiment, Ohio Volunteers. The commanding officer was James A. Garfield, the man who would become the 20th President of the United States. The regiment participated in multiple engagements. The most notable of which was the siege of Vicksburg. After three years of active service William was transferred to the quartermaster's department where he served another year.

After the war, he moved to Cleveland where, for thirteen years, he was employed as bookkeeper, cashier and corresponding clerk by one of the largest business houses in that city.

He married Elizabeth J. "Lizzy" Dulin on Wednesday, 25 September 1867 in Ashland, OH.

From his boyhood, he had been an enthusiastic lover of trotters (horses bred or trained for the sport of harness racing) and he finally determined to devote himself seriously to the horse business when in 1882, the secretaryship of the Cleveland track was offered to him. He began his sales business, which in a dozen years had grown to such enormous proportions that the great firm of which he was the head was as well known in Europe as it was in every trotting circle in the continent.

William entered into another partnership with the celebrated Tattersalls of London, who were virtually monopolists of the auction sale of race horses in England since 1766 and had formed a scheme for cornering the American auction market as well. Tattersalls of America was organized in New York on a grand scale, with William Easton in charge of the thoroughbred department and William Fasig in control of the trotting department, though on a different basis. Easton was never more than an employee of Tattersalls while William was made a partner; the trotting end of the combination being known as the Tattersalls-Fasig Company.

The experiment, however, was a losing one. Tattersalls endeavored to follow methods and policies which had been successful in England since its founding, but they were not adapted to America. After several years of constantly decreasing business, they abandoned the field.

During this period, however, William, while he worked hard and made little money, had obtained a foothold in New York and when he and Tattersalls parted company, he set up business for himself under the firm name of William B. Fasig & Co. Up to that time the sales business in New York, so far as trotters went, had been largely monopolized by Peter C. Kellogg. Mr. Kellogg was firmly entrenched in the metropolis, with a large following among breeders and owners, both east and west, but he was along in years and his hubris left him somewhat careless regarding the new aspirant in the metropolitan market.

William was a great hustler; active, enterprising and resourceful. He was an aggressive advertiser who was determined to win. In a surprisingly short time he did win, assuming the command of the New York trotting market. He recognized the grand advantages which Madison Square Garden possessed for a horse mart and inaugurated a great series of sales which made the garden the recognized horse exchange in the country. At a cost of $1,000 a day, the project which it was at first freely predicted would bankrupt him, resulted in much of his great success.

In 1899 William reorganized the firm and formed the Fasig-Tipton Company with Edward A. Tipton, former secretary of the Kentucky Trotting Horse Breeders' Association becoming a joint partner. The business was enlarged by adding the thoroughbred sales department which became large and prosperous. It did a business of $1,500,000 in 1901 (almost $48 million today). Fasig-Tipton is now the oldest thoroughbred auction company in North America. It has the distinction of having sold two Triple Crown winners: 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew and 2015 Triple Crown champion American Pharaoh.

William's health broke down in 1901 and his attending physicians gave up all hope and said he could not live 48 hours. A prominent physician was immediately summoned from New York to the William's Bennyscliffe farm. After a thorough examination, the doctor ordered all of medicines thrown away and he placed William on a diet of buttermilk. William improved, but after that he did little beyond advisory work in the conduct of his business. His malady was Bright's disease, with other complications.

Twenty years of ceaseless activity had made William the most widely know trotting horseman in America. There was scarcely an owner or breeder in any part of the country not personally acquainted with him and scarcely a trotter or pacer of note that he did not know equally well.

William was a big man in every sense of the word. His personality was unique, his originality complete. As an all-around harness horseman he had never perhaps an equal, certainly not a superior, as he was a past master at every angle of the game, from the regulation of the smallest detail to the inception and management of immense enterprises.

He died at 6:30 P.M. on Wednesday, 19 February 1902 at his Bennyscliffe farm, in Brewster, Putnam County, New York at the age of 56.

A little over two years later, on Friday 15 July 1904, the mansion at Bennyscliffe burned to the ground. The maid, Annie O'Brien, perished in the fire and Lizzy, William's widow, narrowly escaped the same fate. The house and contents were destroyed and the loss was estimated at $35,000. She would live with her daughter, Edith, and die on 23 June 1922.


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