Don Pedro Introduction

DON PEDRO

The land Wilmington Country Club resides on has a long history with country sheep farming, and a prominent connection with a famous stud Merino ram. Some members may know that the barn on Hole 13 North has been called the “Sheep Barn” by staff for many years. Officially known as the Clover Hill barn, the Clover Hill farm was a working farm until 1969, almost a full 10 years after our courses opened. In that final year of operation 147 sheep and two rams were listed in the farm inventory. 1 A long-time member recalls that a hooked tee ball over the fence was in danger of being eaten by a pig. The story, however, begins much further back, in 1810. In that year E.I. duPont purchased 181 acres from the estate of Nathan Simmons to create what he named the “Merino Farm” (later increasing to 445 acres). Mr. duPont intended to establish and maintain a flock of 500 Merino on this new farm. 2 The original Merino Farm included almost the entire South Course, along with eight holes of the North, the Clubhouse, golf practice facilities, tennis facilities and pool. The Merino Farm was literally at the heart of what would later become Wilmington Country Club. E.I. du Pont ’ s interest in merino wool was of long standing. His father, Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours, along with French banker M. Delessert, imported the first and most famous full-blooded Merino ram, Don Pedro, to America in 1801. It was said he was one of the finest Merinos ever imported. 3 “ Mr. duPont de Nemours, then in France, had persuaded Mr. Delessert, a banker of Paris, to send to this country some of these valuable sheep. He, having been at the head of a commission appointed by the French government to select in Spain 4000 Merino which, by the treaty of Basle, the Spanish government had stipulated to present to France; it is natural to suppose those which he selected for his own flock were among the best. Four fine young ram lambs were accordingly shipped, two intended for Mr. Delessert’s farm on the Hu dson in New York, one intended for Mr. duPont de Nemours who was at the time settled near New York, and the other was to be presented to Mr. Thomas Jefferson. Mr. duPont embarked in the ship Benjamin Franklin, on board which ship the four lambs were shipped, and his passage to the United Sates was long and boisterous, in consequence of which three of the sheep died, and it was with the greatest difficulty that Mr. duPont preserved the fourth. The ship arrived at Philadelphia in July 1801. ” 4 Don Pedro, the only surviving Merino ram, spent four years at Mr. Delessert’s farm in New York before being put up for sale in 1805. E.I. duPont eagerly seized the opportunity to purchase the fine ram who had travelled to America in his care. Family tradition has it that he drove from New York to Wilmington in his gig holding a struggling Don Pedro firmly between his knees. 5 Mr. duPont was not disappointed in Don Pedro. Upon moving to the Brandywine, he was offered to stud gratis to the local farmers, where he greatly improved the local flocks. Don Pedro was regarded as the true basis of E.I. duPont’s flock , and the patriarch of the Merino Farm. E.I. duPont’s flock ultimately increased to 1200 Merino, mixed Merino and common sheep living on the farm, the largest and finest flock in the United States. 6 In 1837, the farm was sold to Antoine Bidermann, whose son James Bidermann sold it to Henry duPont, father of Col. Henry A. duPont. Eventually the land became a part of Winterthur, before being acquired as the property for Wilmington Country Club and our golf courses and facilities. The number of Merino decreased after the merino mania of the early 19 th century subsided. However, for almost 160 years, sheep were a part of our landscape as a result of the most famous stud Merino ram, Don Pedro. 1. Clover Hill Barn Inventory. (January, 1969) . Courtesy of the Winterthur Library, Box WF5, WF6, WF48, WF83,WF85, WF86, WF88, WF488, WF454 . 2. Boatman, R.M. (May, 1961). The Agricultural Establishment at Eleutherian Mills, 1802-1834, p. 14, 29 . Courtesy of the Hagley Museum and Library. 3. Connor, L.G. (1921). A Brief History of the Sheep Industry in the United States , Agricultural History Society Papers, p. 101. [Online] www.jstor.org. 4. Mease, J. (1811). Archives of Useful Knowledge , p. 104-105. Philadelphia: David Hogan. 5. Hagley Museum and Library (1970). Don Pedro and the duPont Textile Mills. 6. Gibson, G. (June, 1963). The Delaware Woolen Industry , p. 59. Courtesy of the Hagley Museum and Library.

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