Looking Back


Horsemen Frank Jackson and Ronald Cornwell

By John Leland - For the Record-Herald



Doc McMillen

Doc McMillen


At the Clinton County Fair, Aug. 7, 1952. Frank Jackson receives a trophy after his 4-year-old trotter Darnling won a $500 trot. Left to right: J. M. Darbyshire, Frank Jackson, and his grandson, Jackson Hedges. Driver Eddie Havens is in the sulky.


Ronnie Cornwell and Modockin at Lexington, October 1965


Judith Ann and Ronald Cornwell


Frank S. Jackson graduated from Washington High School in 1904. After earning a degree from Western Reserve University, he returned to Washington C.H. and became one of the city’s leading and most philanthropic citizens. In 1908, Jackson began his long career as a manufacturer of work gloves by becoming a partner in the Inskeep Manufacturing Company, a local firm. In 1923, he established the Jackson Glove Company on E. Temple Street near the old high school.

Jackson became an owner of harness horses in 1949 and operated a small but capable stable of trotters and pacers for the rest of his life. He got into the horse business by purchasing four horses at the auctions of the Standardbred Horse Sales Company, held each fall at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Hanover Shoe Farms, America’s leading Standardbred nursery, sent their yearling colts and fillies to be auctioned at the Harrisburg sale.

Frank Jackson purchased Ambrose Hanover, a yearling pacer, at the Harrisburg sale in 1949. He bought Lou Hanover, a yearling filly pacer, and Darnling, a 2-year-old trotter, at Harrisburg in 1950. He purchased Conway Hanover, a yearling trotter, there in 1951.

Ambrose Hanover was trained as a 2-year-old in 1950 by Robert Vallery, who operated a public stable at the Fayette County fairgrounds. In 1951 and 1952, Ambrose Hanover and the other three horses Jackson brought back from Pennsylvania were conditioned and raced by Eddie Havens, an experienced horseman, who had relocated to Washington C.H. from Elmira, New York.

Driven by Robert Vallery, Ambrose Hanover won a race at the Fayette County Fair in 1950 as a 2-year-old. He returned the following year to share first-place honors in the fair’s 3-year-old pace, this time with Havens in the sulky. Ambrose Hanover was a skittish colt, plagued by injuries. He was retired from the racetrack in 1952 after winning 11 heats lifetime and pacing a 2:02 mile in a time trial at Lexington, Kentucky. He then performed stallion duty at the farm of Harry Hughes, a Fayette County horseman, who lived on the Wildwood Road. Ambrose Hanover sired most of the horses subsequently campaigned by the Jackson Glove Company’s stable.

The Ohio Colt Racing Association (OCRA), to which the Fayette County Fair belonged, named Conway Hanover its outstanding 2-year-old trotter of 1952.

Eddie Havens left Fayette County in late 1952, and Ronald Cornwell—-Frank Jackson’s son-in-law, treasurer of the Jackson Glove Company, and later its president—-began training the company’s horses at the Fayette County fairgrounds. The horses Cornwell conditioned in 1953 were Darnling, Lou Hanover, and Doon Prince, a 4-year-old pacer acquired in a private sale. Clayton Cox, a Wilmington, Ohio, horseman who trained at the local fairgrounds, drove the Jackson Glove Company’s horses in their races in 1953.

Darnling was Frank Jackson’s best horse. The gelding trotter raced from 1951 through 1958 with a year off in 1956 to recover from injuries. From 1954 onward, Darnling was trained and most often driven by William “Doc” McMillen, the veteran London, Ohio trainer, who is enshrined as an “Immortal” in the Harness Racing Hall of Fame at Goshen, New York. Darnling’s career summary shows 29 heats won and a first, second, or third-place finish in 43 percent of the 173 heats he contested. His fastest career time came in his 4-year-old form when he trotted a race mile in 2:02.3 at the Indiana State Fair in 1952; his lifetime earnings totaled nearly $29,000.

Ronnie Cornwell began his career as a driver of trotters and pacers in 1954. His winning drive with Doon Prince at the Lions Club Matinee races in May that year sparked his interest in competing at the pari-mutuel meetings with professional reinsmen. He won the first pari-mutuel race he ever drove, the initial win coming with Lou Hanover at Hilliard’s Raceway, near Columbus, on June 8, 1954. Two days later, he won his second race at Hilliards with Doon Prince.

For the next 25 years, Ronnie Cornwell trained two or three horses annually and drove them in their races. His colors were red and black, and the horses he trained belonged to the Jackson Glove Company. Ronnie usually raced his horses at ages 2 and 3, and then sold them at the Blooded Horse Sales held at the Delaware, Ohio, fairgrounds after the racing season. He kept his horses in tiptop condition, and he treated them with a kind and gentle hand in training and in their races.

One of Cornwell’s best horses was Modockin, a homebred pacer by Ambrose Hanover out of Lou Hanover. The colt won eight heats as a 2-year-old in 1965 and finished first in the William Murphy Consolation Pace for 2-year-olds at Lexington, Kentucky, in October 1965. The Ohio Colt Racing Association named Modockin its best 2-year-old pacer of 1965, and the colt brought the top price ($18,500) at the three-day Blooded Horse Sale at Delaware in early 1966.

Among Cornwell’s other notable horses, with respectable one-mile records for the era in which they competed, were the pacers Amber Shadow, 2:02.1; F. S. J., 2:02.3; Ambling Star, 2:03.2; and Ambrose Sprig, 2:04.2. His best trotter was Judy Ambrose, who had a record of 2:05.3 as a 2-year-old.

Besides being an accomplished horseman, Ronnie Cornwell was an outstanding golfer and trap shooter. He was the perennial golf champion at the Washington Country Club. He won the club’s annual golf tournament ten times before he was 45 years old and for many years thereafter. On July 29, 1959, he won a heat of the OCRA 2-year-old trot at the Fayette County Fair with Judy Ambrose and finished second in the race-off. Later that day, he went to the Washington Country Club and shot a par round of golf.

At the Grand American trapshooting tournament at Vandalia, Ohio, Cornwell won the title of best senior shooter (65 years of age and older) in 1982 and 1987. He carded a perfect score in 1987 by blasting 200 of 200 clay targets.

Frank Jackson and Ronald Cornwell’s participation in harness racing is typical of the men and women who operate small, successful stables of trotters and pacers. Horsemen like Jackson and Cornwell have been the backbone of the Standardbred sport since its inception a century and a half ago. Frank S. Jackson and Ronald K. Cornwell died in 1959 and 1995 respectively.

Doc McMillen
https://www.recordherald.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/27/2019/07/web1_Doc-McMillen-in-Middle-Age.jpgDoc McMillen

At the Clinton County Fair, Aug. 7, 1952. Frank Jackson receives a trophy after his 4-year-old trotter Darnling won a $500 trot. Left to right: J. M. Darbyshire, Frank Jackson, and his grandson, Jackson Hedges. Driver Eddie Havens is in the sulky.
https://www.recordherald.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/27/2019/07/web1_Frank-Two.jpgAt the Clinton County Fair, Aug. 7, 1952. Frank Jackson receives a trophy after his 4-year-old trotter Darnling won a $500 trot. Left to right: J. M. Darbyshire, Frank Jackson, and his grandson, Jackson Hedges. Driver Eddie Havens is in the sulky.

Ronnie Cornwell and Modockin at Lexington, October 1965
https://www.recordherald.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/27/2019/07/web1_Modockin.jpgRonnie Cornwell and Modockin at Lexington, October 1965

Judith Ann and Ronald Cornwell
https://www.recordherald.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/27/2019/07/web1_Ronnie.jpgJudith Ann and Ronald Cornwell
Horsemen Frank Jackson and Ronald Cornwell

By John Leland

For the Record-Herald