Race Track at Ryeland
Only the oldest residents of western Berks will remember the horse races which once were held under the auspices of the Womelsdorf Park Association. Some time ago we came upon a racing program for the “Grand Opening, October 19 and 20, 1871.” The location of the track was learned by C. Kahler Hackman, of Womelsdorf, in conference with Simon P. Moyer, one of the oldest residents of that borough.
At the bottom of the down-slop, directly across the tracks to the north of the railroad from Womelsdorf station, locally known as Ryeland, is a natural spring. This spring was one of the reasons for locating the park on that spot.
Now that we have determined the location of the track it may be of interest to study the 71-year-old racing form.
The first race, for horses that “have never beaten 2;05.” This race was won by a mare name “Lady Trouble,” owned by E. Barnhold of Lancaster. The time, written into the program in lead pencil, as 2:51 and 3/4.
The second race was open to all pacers. It was won by a sorrel gelding, owned by A. Miller, of Rittersville, “Yankee Tom,” and the time was 2:42.
Race number three was open to all entries. Marcus Behm, of Reading, entered “Topsy,” his black mare and won a purse of $300. The time was 2:43.
“Lady Trouble,” the Barnhold entry, won the fourth race which was open only to horses that had “never beaten 3 minutes.” Presumably the entry was based upon records prior to the Womelsdorf meet.
John A. Sheetz was president of the racing association and W.G. Moore was its secretary. The Seltzer House, in Womelsdorf, was the headquarters of the association. It was then conducted by Levi Oberly. In the course of our investigation we learned an interesting anecdote about Levi Oberly. One of his sons moved to Sinking Spring and changed the spelling of his name to Oberlin.
The father complained:
“So bald das mer sie aus em Dreck hen, welle sei eem ferschtose.” No sooner do you raise the out of the dirt than they seek to disown you.
Simon P. Moyer added another choice bit of folklore. A Mrs. Diehl lived near the town square in Womelsdorf. IN her back yard she kept a flock of geese and then clacking gleefully, the flock paraded downt he slope to the creek which now flows through the Town Park.
The name “Ganz Hiwwel” was derived from this circumstance.