Cockfighting in Northumberland County

During the 19th century, residents of Northumberland County sought entertainment anywhere they could find it, as a temporary escape from the drudgery and dreariness (and inherent danger) of working in coal mines and on the railroads. While baseball games and boxing matches were popular throughout the Coal Region, so was the sport of cockfighting.

The following, which colorfully describes the carnival-like atmosphere of a cockfight, is a newspaper story from the Mount Carmel Daily News from June 8, 1893.

The Stakes were $150 a Side and the Battles Were at Times Extremely Exciting- Lots of Local Sports Won Big Amounts.

The most important cocking main since the famous time at the Weigh Scales last year occurred five miles from Herndon today, stakes being $150 a side. The birds were from Shamokin and Sunbury, sports from all the leading towns in the region, the greatest crowd of course being from this lively city. Shamokin won most of the battles and captured the money and the local sports picked up a big pile of greenbacks and silver dollars by making lucky side bets.

About one month ago the match was made during the visit of a couple of Sunbury chicken fanciers to this place. While in west Shamokin the county seat sports came across Ed. Castetter and a few more bird handlers. During a spirited argument the Sunbury people agreed to put up $150 that they would furnish seven birds to knock out anything in Shamokin. A prominent sport was called in and made stake holders. The agreement was drawn up in due form and battle ground selected as above described.

Early this morning many carriages and tally ho's left this place for the battleground and at 7:35 when the Herndon train left it had aboard quite a number. Herndon was the rendezvous and during the wait for all the sports to arrive Gus Wald sold many dollar's worth of sparkling beer and lots of dollars were put up on the final outcome of the fight. At 11:00 the drive to the ground commenced, a couple dozen farmer's wagons being pressed into service.

On reaching a level shady plot of ground on the Snyder-Northumberland county line everything was placed in readiness for the contest. The ground was marked off and put in good condition, referee and timekeepers were elected and the birds carefully put in trim. They were all "stags" and looked powerful and speedy. The Shamokin birds seemed to be in somewhat better trim than the Sunbury ones and as Ed. Castetter was booked to handle them the fact seemed to infuse courage into our sports and made bets freely.

During the battles that ensued the excitement at times was great. Some lasted from fifteen to twenty minutes and others ended after five or six drives of the spur. The Shamokin birds were particularly fortunate in placing the steels at the right time. When the main ended the list of victories credited to Shamokin was gratifying in the extreme. The day was perfect for the fight and no interruptions happened.


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