The early settlers had only small horses for riding and drawing light wagons and vehicles, while with the oxen, they did all the heavy work in the fields, canyons and on the highways. Their horses were similar to the Indian “Cayuses” or ponies we see among the Indians. A horse which weighed 1,000 pounds was considered extremely large. It was not long however, until the breed was improved and the larger draft horses displaced the oxen.
The first stallion in the Valley worthy of any mention, was the Woolf horse owned by John Anthony Woolf of Hyde Park, and was known as Sampson. Some emigrants were passing through the Bear Lake Valley and they had to dispose of a mare because of lameness. Dr. Ellis of Bear Lake purchased the mare and the owner stated that the mare had been bred to a fine stallion and that when she foaled, if the colt were a horse colt, to be sure and keep it as it would be very valuable. When the mare foaled it was a horse colt and Dr. Ellis took particular care to raise it. Dr. Ellis was well acquainted with John A. Woolf of Hyde Park and had much confidence in his ability as a horseman, so he turned the young stallion over to Mr. Woolf at Hyde Park, as caretaker. Later, Mr. Woolf purchased the stallion and it became known as the Woolf horse, or Sampson. It was without question the best stallion in the Valley for a number of years. His get were mostly roan, short and stocky, and made good draft horses. He was a fast walker, a good trotter and had considerable action. The blood of some of the best draft horses in Benson today can be traced back to Sampson. He was a wonderful horse, especially for those days.
Later, Andrew Bigler of Mendon, imported a gray Norman horse. C. M. Johnson and M. D. Hammond of Providence, and George Merrill of Smithfield, also imported some good stallions. These helped to produce many good draft horses in those days.
Michael Murphy of Mendon helped considerably to improve the horses in the Valley. He imported three stallions from Toronto, Canada. They were a Clydesdale, an English Coach horse and a French horse. Mr. Murphy owned a ranch near Mendon and his stallions were the sires of many good draft horses in northern Utah and southern Idaho.
Perhaps the first purebred registered stallion to come into the Valley was a large English brown shire horse, purchased by Thomas H. Smith and Ralph H. Smith of Logan. This stallion was purchased at Cedar Falls, Iowa, for $1600.00, and he weighed approximately two thousand pounds. This was a large sum of money for a horse at that time and his size and weight were almost unbelievable. He was known as Winnie and attracted the attention of the horsemen all over the state and parts of Idaho. This horse was exhibited at several state fairs and won a number of premiums. This stallion was the sire of many gets and was the cause of bringing many larger and better draft horses into the Valley. The Smith boys performed a real service to the community and this section of the state by their investment and desire to bring in a better breed of draft horses for northern Utah and southern Idaho. This was the beginning of the era which later made Cache Valley somewhat famous for its many fine stallions and draft horses.