They'll Be Riding to Hounds at Weymouth
By Ray Owen
Special to The Pilot
The sound of the horn will again be heard at Weymouth as the Moore County Hounds gather at their place of origin to begin a hunt in honor of the Boyd family and the Southern Pines equestrian heritage.
The Friends of Weymouth invite the public to attend the free event, which starts at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 18.
The carriages of the Moore County Driving Club will enter the property from Ridge Street, proceeding up to the Boyd house.
The Moore County Hounds will ride from the kennel at Mile-A-Way Farm, up Sheldon Road, across Youngs Road and up Ridge Street to the north gate of Weymouth. They will meet the field of riders in the large meadow of the Weymouth Woods state park east of the estate, where the hounds go off at 9 a.m.
Best known as the home of writer James Boyd, Weymouth is the birthplace of the town's equestrian heritage with the founding of the Moore County Hounds by James and his brother Jackson in the winter of 1914.
As the Vanderbilts were to Asheville or the Tufts to Pinehurst, so were the Boyds to Southern Pines. Their arrival in the early 1900s marked the turning point when the town began to overcome its turpentine and sawmill industry past.
They named their estate Weymouth, after a forest they had visited in England, opening the grounds to the public sometime after 1904.
James Boyd said Southern Pines was the most beautiful land he had ever known, calling fox hunters "nature's noblemen."
He often spoke about this love of the sport, saying: "...the feel of a horse's lifting shoulder, the swing of hounds across the grass, the sweep of a horse country. These things are among the beauties of this earth; and they are reinforced by a thousand minor joys. By the quality of leather and melton and cord, by soft, late-August day-breaks and hard bright mornings of November..."
A sportsman at heart, but a lover of the land, Boyd and his family were pioneers in the American preservation movement. His aunt, Helen Boyd Dull, saved the Carolinas' last great stand of virgin longleaf from destruction in the early 1900s, with three generations of the family acting as guardians of the forest.
Today the estate is home to the Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities. For a great many residents, Weymouth remains the great park first envisioned by the Boyds, contributing to the country life atmosphere and quality of life we have come to enjoy.
Currently, the largest contiguous block of ecosystem remaining in North Carolina is found within the Sandhills region, primarily at Fort Bragg Military Reservation, the Walthour-Moss Foundation and Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve, which adjoins the Boyd estate.
The Moore County Hounds is one of the oldest hunt clubs in the United States. It is managed by joint masters Richard Webb, Cameron Sadler, Michael Russell and Effie Ellis.
Riders wear traditional equestrian dress of breeches, boots and riding coats, following the protocols of a fox-hunting tradition that dates back to early 19th century England. The Moore County Driving Club, with more than 200 members, is the oldest in America.
The Boyds and their friends made horses part of the Southern Pines landscape, so much so that a primary directive for the Southern Pines Long-Range Plan, completed in October 2009, was the preservation of "Horse Country."
Linked to the community through its heritage, economy and recreational functions, sustaining Horse Country was seen as critical to sustaining the identity and economy of the town.
The Friends of Weymouth plan on doing their part to keep the equestrian tradition alive, hoping to undertake the restoration their historic stables sometime in the near future.
Spectators are advised to come early in advance of the equestrian procession. The estate is located at the corner of East Connecticut Avenue and Ridge Street in Southern Pines.
Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities is a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the site and the legacy of the Boyd family.
For more information, call (910) 692-6261.
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