The Basset Hound Rabbit Hunt -VA - Christina Power Photography

History of the National Beagle Club's Institute Farm Property

The National Beagle Club's headquarters is located on a tract of 508 acres located in Aldie, Virginia in Western Loudoun County. This property was purchased in 1916 by five men who were members of an organization which had been founded in Boston in 1887, named the National Beagle Club. These same 5 men formed a corporation named the Institute Corporation to purchase and own the land.

The land is still owned by that same corporation which leases it to The Institute Foundation, which, in turn, subleases the property to the National Beagle Club. The land is known as The Institute Farm because in the late 1850s the owner of the property, John Hixon Gulick, whose great-grandfather had purchased the land at the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, joined with a local educator named Benjamin Hyde Benton and a local builder named Harmon Bitzer; and they founded the Loudoun County Agricultural and Chemical Academy. To accommodate the activities of the Academy, Mr. Bitzer built the structure which is the present main building at the Institute farm. According to an advertisement in the June 15, 1855, issue of the Washingtonian, the Academy offered courses which were "varied to suit the farmer, the merchant, the engineer." (Nothing wrong with trying to appeal to everyone. ) The Academy appears to have been highly regarded, but the panic of 1857 and the subsequent depression ended its brief life.

When the Civil War broke out, John Hixon Gulick joined the Confederate Army and was killed at the Battle of Upperville on March 27, 1864. The heirs of John Gulick eventually sold the farm to Isabella Skinner and The Institute Corporation seems to have purchased the property from her estate, although an interesting comment by C. Oliver Iselin, Jr., one of the five original founders of The Institute Corporation, raises a question about who the owner was at the time of the purchase.

In a 1971 interview, Mr. Iselin said, "We were lucky, in a sense, to obtain the Institute, which we purchased from the estate of a man who had planned to use it for a Hunt Club. He went to England and purchased a pack of hounds there. On his way back, he went down with all his hounds on the Titanic." The deed conveying the property to The Institute Corporation lists J.R.H. Alexander, an Aldie, Virginia, lawyer as substitute trustee for Isabella S. Turner (nee Skinner) as the seller. According to Eugene M. Scheel, who in 1988 prepared A Conservation plan for The Institute Property, Loudoun County, Virginia, and did some historical research in the process, there was no one named Skinner or Turner on the passenger list of the Titanic. Perhaps the unfortunate man who went down on the Titanic had contracted to buy the property, and his death cleared the way for the Institute Corporation to obtain it. In addition to C. Oliver Iselin, Jr., who was a college student at the time of the purchase, the other four original purchasers were George P. Post, a New York stockbroker and partner in the firm of Post & Flagg; Edward "Ted" W. Clucas, a New York stockbroker; Chetwood "Chet" Smith of Worcester, Massachusetts, who was the brother of Harry Worcester Smith who instigated the famous International Foxhound Match held in the Middleburg- Upperville area in 1905; and John S. Phipps, a gentleman farmer with several large farms in Fauquier County, Virginia. James W. Appleton, who at that time was president of the National Beagle Club, was one of the original incorporators of The Institute Corporation, but apparently did not contribute $7,500 to the undertaking as did the others. When the Institute Corporation first took possession of the property, the buildings were in poor repair. When the trials were held, the men initially stayed in Middleburg, then in tents on the Institute grounds. According to Mr. Iselin, "We spent two or three weeks here in Middleburg before the trials.

We would put our hounds in crates in the early morning, drive over to The Institute, hunt all day, and drive back in the dark . . . We financed the repairs and the building of the kennels by selling stock. Cattle were using the basement for shelter. The poor state of the building led to the erection of cabins for members to stay in when they came to the trials.

The first three cabins were built in 1917 for George Post, Chetwood Smith and James W. Appleton, who continued to serve as President of the National Beagle Club until his death in 1942. Mr. Appleton, a proper Bostonian, felt it was not right for women to camp out in such rough surroundings with men, so he decreed that women should not stay on the property during the trials. He was eventually overruled and "Squaw Cabins" were constructed some distance from the main building and the other cabins. Later, other "Squaw Cabins" were built near the original cabins. Nowadays, men, women, and children who are members of the National Beagle Club come to the Institute Farm and stay in any of the available lodging places.

Today, the Institute Farm is used as the site for many activities of the National Beagle Club, including the annual Spring and Fall Pack Trials for beagles and for bassets, AKC licensed and sanctioned field trials, every third or fourth year the AKC licensed Specialty Show for beagles put on by the National Beagle Club, and the annual Triple Challenge Trial for all types of beagles.

For more information please visit the website listed below.