Dick Sellman and His Morgans

by A. Hartung – as printed in The Western Horseman, Nov. 1950

SOMETIME PRIOR to 1880, the late Richard Sellman left his birthplace in the state of Maryland and drifted southwest into McCollough county, Texas. Here he acquired a foothold and, being industrious, prospered. In the early days of the present century, when the writer first met him, Mr. Sellman said that he had 40,000 acres of good Texas land, every acre paid for. He was carrying 8,000 sheep, 4,000 registered black polled Angus cattle and 400 registered Morgan horses. In fact, he was, even at that date, the largest breeder of registered Morgan horses in the world.

He was soon able to ship Morgan mares by the carload, with a stallion of suitable Morgan blood to mate with them. He stated in his 1912 catalog that he could show more genuine equine beauty and quality in his herd of registered Morgan horses than any breeder in the United States.

Dick Sellman was alive to the fact that Morgan breeders were rapidly losing the original type of Morgan horse. He informed the writer that the Morgan horse breeders had for years been infusing too much of the larger, coarser blood of the Standardbred. They were thereby losing the original type of Morgan horse, according to Mr. Sellman, who was always looking for stallions of the original true type and blood.

He purchased, in the north and east, the best representatives he could find, shipping them to his Texas ranch for breeding purposes. Among them were the handsome stallions Red Oak, Major Gordon 4924, Gold Medal 4840, Golden 5691, Golden Rod 6674 and Major Antoine 4776.

Then came the Admiral 4871, his top stud. This fine chestnut stallion was sired by Jubilee De Jarnette, then invincible in the show ring. The Admiral’s dam was by the show stallion Winnebago Chief 16585 by Mountain Chief. Admiral’s second dam was Olive by Monegram 1378 by Fearnaught. Admiral’s third dam was a daughter of Drew, a Thoroughbred. His fourth dam traced through Sherman to old Justin Morgan. Benjamin Thurston, who owned old Vermont Black Hawk 5, the great, great, great, grandsire of the Admiral, considered the Admiral as having all the good qualities combined in old Black Hawk.

Dick Sellman raised many fine Morgan stallions from the Admiral, including Texas 5889, The Corporal 5991, Dexter 6004 and Red Bird, who was the top stallion at the Swenson SMS ranch near Stamford, Texas. Other noted sons of the Admiral were: Sunny South, Admiral Gordon, The Raven, Mazeppa, Black Prince, Red Boy, Mountain Vale and many others.

From Gold Medal 4840 came Golden 5691, Medal 6675, Golden Rule and others. His beautiful band of Morgan mares and fillies were by the above stallions. Morgan horses, at this time, became a great hobby with Dick Sellman. He loved the Morgan horse and was then financially able to buy the best representative stallions.

Previous to 1911, the Morgan Horse club of America had selected Hales Green Mountain as nearest to the original Morgan type, giving him the silver cup. About the turn of the century there appeared another outstanding stallion, Headlight Morgan 4863, in the New England states. He was awarded the silver cup as the best living representative of the original Morgan type. Headlight Morgan was sired by Ethan Allen 2nd 406. His dam was by Hales Green Mountain by Gifford by Woodbury by Justin Morgan, founder of the Morgan family.

Hales Green Mountain was the true type of old-time Morgan horse which Dick Sellman was trying to save for posterity. Headlight Morgan was an inbred Green Mountain, and almost an exact replica, in form, of old Justin Morgan.

It was remarkable how the true Morgan type held through the Green Mountain branch of the family. Headlight Morgan was the last winner of the silver cup as the best type of original Morgan. He was often referred to as King of the Morgans.

This famous stallion was purchased by Dick Sellman and taken to the Mountain Vale ranch when 21 years old, but he was well preserved, strong and active. Mr. Sellman then selected a band of his choicest fillies and broodmares for Headlight’s harem, and the next spring was delighted with an excellent crop of fine Morgan foals. At this time the health of Dick Sellman was failing fast, and a short time later, his death ended his efforts to preserve the Morgan breed. His Mountain Vale ranch was broken up, and his fine Morgans were scattered, California absorbing the greater part of them. Today the Golden State produces more Morgans than any other state in the Union. While the Morgan horse family originated in 1789 near the Atlantic Coast, today its its stronghold is on the Pacific Coast, 3,000 miles away. It is reported that Headlight Morgan lived to be 32 years of age.

It was in the early 1920’s that Mr.Sellman passed away. Sad it is that this fine Southern gentleman could not have lived to enjoy the fruits of his many years’ labor. With the passing of Dick Sellman from the ranks of Texas stockmen, the Nation lost an able, far sighted and accomplished ranchman, a man of executive ability. His beautiful Mountain Vale ranch, with its fine Morgan horses and black polled Angus cattle, once the pride of central Texas, is today no more.