Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Three-Legged Horse of William Lair

I would imagine he didn't get the family to town very quickly, but the three-legged colt belonging to William Lair, of Princeville, Illinois must certainly have caused quite a stir in the small town. I wasn't terribly surprised to find this postcard in a large and dusty collection of old postcards kept over the years by my great-grandmother's family, but what did surprise me was finding two other copies of it on eBay!

William Lair was the younger brother of my gr-gr-gr grandfather, Lawson Lair. William spent the bulk of his life in the Princeville area, working as a farmhand until his enlistment in the Civil War. Described as nearly 6'2", with dark hair and gray eyes, he and twelve of his comrades were known as the "Lucky Thirteen" - all local boys who fought in the war and returned to their homes and families; William had served three years, and then re-enlisted as a veteran. After his return to Princeville, he married Susan Hammer Givens, a widow with a young daughter. In addition to this girl, he and Susan took in a boy in need of a home.

Despite being one of the "Lucky Thirteen," William was not quite as "lucky" as the name implies. His health suffered greatly from his years of service in harsh conditions, often spending days at a time in dark, cold marshes, breathing less than the purest of air. William's lungs were never the same after his service, and this "lung disease" eventually took his life twelve years after his military discharge, at the young age of 35.

I have often wondered what became of this "famous" three-legged horse, and why so many pictures of it have survived the ~140 years since this photo was taken.


  1. If you ever find out what happened to the horse, please post; I'm curious now, too!

  2. I just found your blog through a link. And I have enjoyed very much reading your stories. You have a great gift for writing. I'll be back.
    Nancy Hurley

  3. I'm also wondering what happened to make him three-legged? It's amazing he survived.

  4. Newsflash on the Three-Legged Horse of William Lair... my mother said she always heard the horse was born that way, and that they traveled around to fairs with it, which could explain why there were so many postcards made. Souvenirs, perhaps.