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Prairie Dell Farm

Prairie Dell Farm, 1930Not all successful race horses have come from the green grass of Kentucky. Kansas can claim its share of equine stars.

The Prairie Dell Farm, located west of Topeka, once stood among the top stables in the nation. In 1873 Boston-born Robert Ives Lee purchased land formerly held by the Baptist church for use as a Potawatomi mission. Following losses in the cattle market after the Chicago fire of 1871, Lee established the farm and married Abbie Kimber, where they raised three children and a number of horses.

Prairie Dell FarmThe farm constituted 320 acres in what was to become Shawnee County, much of it was fenced with stone. Lee remodeled the old Potawatomi mission into a barn and stable for his racehorses. He later added a half-mile racetrack. Up to 20 stallions and 50 to 150 mares were maintained during the farm's peak. The farm's best known horse was Robert McGregor, said to have been the greatest trotting sire ever produced. Other horses in the Lee stable included Creaceus, one of the fastest trotting stallions in the United States, (sired by Robert McGregor), Monroe, Evan Dhu, Coriander, Glenwood, Magnolia, McLeoud, Jackdraw, Jack Cade, Fergus McGregor, The Shamrock, Aladdin, Pansy McGregor, and the lead stallion Hiram Woodruf. Lee's mares were said to be the best racehorse dams of the time.

The Lee family home also drew attention. Constructed of stone, the T-shaped house had two stories and a basement. Built into the south side of a bluff, the house featured a wrap-around porch supported by pillars and overlooked the stable and old mission complex.

Lee sold most of his horses at a dispersal sale in 1908. He died in 1911 and the farm remained in the family until 1925. In 1973 the Kansas Historical Society acquired the 80 acres, where today its headquarters are located.

Entry: Prairie Dell Farm

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: April 2009

Date Modified: August 2014

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.