Andrews Bridge Huntsman Adam Townsend. Credit Esther Steffens.
The centennial year for Andrews Bridge Foxhounds has been one that is full of changes, but the hunt goes on, looking forward to their second century.
“We are celebrating our 100th year, we are still standing, we are hunting, we have great community relations, we’ve got fabulous country, and anybody who would like to come out and hunt with us - we would love to speak with them and have them give us a try,” Joint Master of Fox Hounds Betsy Harris said.
The hunt’s roots go back even longer than a century. When the Upland Hunt in Chester County was disbanded in 1910, Samuel Riddle started his own pack of hounds, all Penn-Marydel black and tans, hunting Upland’s former territory.
Riddle’s main interest was racing, and he turned his pack over to Walter M. Jeffords, who took over the mastership. The name of the hunt was changed to Mr. Jeffords Hounds, with the kennels on Jeffords’ farm in Delaware County, PA. This change around 1917 is considered the founding of the hunt, and to this day, the hunt buttons carry the letter MJH for Mr. Jeffords Hounds.
In 1927 the kennels were moved to the Andrews Bridge area of Colerain Township, Lancaster County, but the mastership remained in the Jeffords family for decades to come, with Walter Jeffords, Jr., succeeding his father as Master in 1954. He was joined by joint masters Robert Crompton III in 1968 and George Strawbridge Jr. in 1970.
After Jeffords death, his wife Kay and son John continued the tradition with the hunt. When John Jeffords relocated to Wyoming, he took the family name of the hunt and enough hounds to start his own pack. The original pack was then renamed the Andrews Bridge Foxhounds.
According to the Hunt’s website, Crompton retired from active hunting after 40 years, in 2008 while Strawbridge continued as joint master with J. Stephen Hill. Today, Strawbridge is still one of three current active masters along with Stephen B. Harris (since 2008) and his wife Betsy M. Harris (since 2011).
The hunt started its 100th formal hunt season in November and meets three days a week, Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays, for the autumn season. Locations are varied, with spots including the Strawbridge property in Elk Township, PA, near Fair Hill, MD, the Fleischman property near Oxford, PA, and the home country in the Andrews Bridge area.
In recent years, the hunt has also reopened a territory in the southern end of Lancaster County known as Slab Pile, which had been completely overgrown. “It took us about six years to get in there. It was a complete maze, plus all the land owners had changed. We reintroduced ourselves to that community,” Harris said. “We put in a lot of gates, a lot of new jumps, and that has been much easier to maintain because we actually have a lot of the Amish families and kids keeping it open for us.”
The hunt has worked closely building relationships with the Amish landowners in its territory. “We have a lot of farm country.” Harris said. “There is a lot of wire, and we have come up with a couple of interesting innovations. We had to come up with a gate that could be easily put in the Amish wire, so horses and riders can get through. We came up with a prototype and actually have the Amish make them for us.”
In addition to hunting, Andrews Bridge Foxhounds is active in a wide range of events including many hound and puppy shows. They also host spring and fall hunter paces, and clinics as well as social events. “Anybody that comes to any of our social events or riding events, everybody is made to feel welcome,” Harris said. “Old fashioned, country hospitality is what we are.”
The current membership totals about 60 members, with about 15 to 25 riders turning out on most hunting days. “We have some people who have never hunted before, we have families with lots of little kids,” Harris said. “We have two fields - we have a jumping field and we have a second field that follows and goes at a slower pace and will go where there are gates and only little logs.”
A legal action is currently pending over rights to the hounds, however that has not dampened the Harris’s enthusiasm. Looking toward the future, the Harris’s have obtained a permit for the construction of a new kennel in Colerain Township, with groundbreaking soon to come.
“We’ve never been busier, the hunting has been spectacular,” Harris said. “We have a great pack of hounds, we have a great staff, and we have great members. Just being on a horse and looking around at the countryside, it’s just a gift to be out there.”
Anyone interested in learning more about Andrews Bridge Foxhounds may visit the website at www.andrewsbridgefoxhounds.com or see their Facebook page under the same name.