Hoofbeats: The Mosses' Vision: Walthour-Moss Foundation -- The Heart of Horse Country in Southern Pines
A Southern Belle from Savannah, Ga., who as a teenager started a riding school for children during the Depression in order to afford to keep her show horses, and a horseman from Durham, N.C., met at a horse show, fell in love, married in 1934, and moved to Southern Pines. They ran a livery stable on the corner of Connecticut and Broad Street (where the BP station is located today).
In 1937, they purchased Mile-Away Farm, so named because it was a mile from the train station in Southern Pines. They lived in a two-room apartment over the stable. Together, Virginia (Ginnie) Walthour Moss and William (Pappy) O. Moss trained, bred and showed Thoroughbred horses.
Pappy took over the Moore County Hounds, one of the oldest hunts in North Carolina (recognized in 1920), from James and Jackson Boyd in 1942.
That began a life-long passion for the sport of fox hunting and the dream to acquire enough land to ensure the future of the sport.
A favorite expression of Pappy's, according to people who knew him, was: "I don't want to own all the land, just the land next to mine."
Pappy would put any earnings made on horses toward purchasing land.
"Aunt Ginnie used to tell me that 'just when I was starting to get ahead, Pappy would buy another piece of land,'" recounts Ginny Thomasson, a great niece of the Mosses.
Pappy Moss continued to purchase land, which eventually became the Walthour-Moss Foundation -- the heart of horse country in Southern Pines.
The year 2008 marked the 30th anniversary of the Walthour-Moss Foundation, which was created after Pappy Moss died through a bequest from Pappy's estate of 1,739 acres of land. Over the next three decades, Ginnie Moss gave hundreds of acres more from her own holdings, and additional acres were purchased by the Foundation with the generous support of the community. Today, the Foundation consists of 4,042 acres bordering the Youngs Road, Furr Road and Lake Bay Road area of Southern Pines.
Not only do horsemen have the use of the 4,000 acres of the Foundation to ride and drive, they also have the privilege of riding through other horse farms. This is what sets Southern Pines apart from other equestrian communities like Aiken and Tryon.
"Ginnie was adamant about people giving a right-of-way through their private property to other people," says long-time friend Dottie Greenleaf. "She expected that land owners would provide an easement for riders and drivers. The purpose was so that everyone could get to and from the Foundation. She loved every piece of land in the Foundation."
The Grand Dame of Horse Country
Ginnie Moss was the force behind the Foundation, the Moore County Hounds and Southern Pines horse country for nearly seven decades until her death at age 97 in January 2006.
Mrs. Moss was an astute business woman, an accomplished horse woman (National Show Hunter Hall of Fame) and someone who enjoyed a good party. Horse people would gather at Mile-Away Farm for parties that became legend.
"Aunt Ginnie would invite people over for her joke parties based on their joke-telling ability," says Cameron Slade, a great-niece of Ginnie Moss who inherited The Pastures (Mrs. Moss' house). "The more people drank, the funnier the jokes were. Some were too risqu to repeat. Aunt Ginnie would also have costume parties at times other than Halloween. Maybe it was because, growing up, her family would make elaborate costumes for the children and their ponies."
The entire horse community would receive an invitation to Mrs. Moss' Halloween parties, Christmas parties and Fourth of July picnics.
"Aunt Ginnie had a special way of bringing people together. People have told me that whenever they were around her, she made them feel welcome. Usually friends convened in the kitchen at Mile-Away," says Slade.
Mrs. Moss never forgot her experiences during the Depression. When the late Nancy Sweet-Escott, who was a horse trainer and a friend, needed a place to live, Mrs. Moss put her up in a cottage Moss owned, rent-free. There are numerous other people in the horse community Mrs. Moss "gave a leg up" in tough times.
Mrs. Moss was Master of the Moore County Hounds from 1976 until her death in 2006. She rode until she was 91.
"I feel better sitting on a horse than on my own two feet," she would say to Slade in later years after sustaining a broken hip and undergoing knee surgery.
The Moss' vision of a place dedicated to preservation of open land, protection of native wildlife and the pursuit of equestrian sports provides the community with a natural resource that is fast becoming extinct. Today, there are very few, if any, large tracts of open land left adjacent to the Foundation. Like Will Rogers once said, "Buy land. They ain't making any more of the stuff."
The love of horses was the overriding theme in Ginnie and Pappy's lives. In fact, the start of their married life together was spent doing what they loved best -- riding. "Horsewoman Spends Horseshow Honeymoon" was the headline in the Savannah newspaper in 1934, when Ginnie and Pappy were married.
"My mother was horrified. She didn't think it was proper. We went to five horseshows on our honeymoon," said Ginnie Moss in an interview for the publication "A Southern Spirit," co-authored by Dottie Greenleaf and Deborah Greenleaf Lawson.
The Southern Belle from Savannah and the horseman from Durham set in motion what has become one of the preeminent equestrian communities of the East Coast. The Walthour-Moss Foundation is to horsemen what Pinehurst is to golfers.
While perhaps not as well-known outside of our community as Pinehurst, the Moss' legacy is one of the great jewels of the Sandhills.
Contact Patricia Smith at email@example.com.
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