The importance and value of horses in the everyday life of a seventeenth century New Englander and Long Islander is well known and there is no shortage of records of the earliest Daytons in America that reference horses or horse dealing. Beyond Ralph Dayton’s missing colt in 1657, we find his son Samuel Dayton’s appraisal of Deborah Scott’s horse in 1661, Sam’s donation for the services of a blacksmith, and Sam registering horses that belonged to the children of widow Elizabeth Beardsley (she had become Sam’s wife).
None of these references appear to be anything unusual, but as time passed, references become more abundant and seem to suggest the possibility of a commercial interest.
Both Ralph and Samuel had much interaction with the Cooper family, who were raising and selling horses, then one of the principal articles of export to the Barbadoes, and many disputes between the Coopers and the Daytons involved horses. The number of recorded differences imply frequent interaction, possibly even a working relationship or as a rival business.
We learn that Samuel and his son Abraham Dayton each owned five horses at the times of the 1675 and 1683 Brookhaven tax valuations. Might it be surmised that Abraham’s interest in horses at the age of 21 was acquired from his father? Perhaps they were using the horses to haul goods across the island or the men might have been small-time breeders or renters of horses, since there was always great demand for the suitably bred in the colonies and at Barbados.
Examples of various horse trading are recorded between Sam and Simon Hallefax (sp) and between Abraham Dayton and Robert Kellam (sp), but an additional entry suggests that Abraham owned a very special horse, perhaps desirable for breeding. To acquire the horse, Kellam of Huntington NY, willingly traded for another horse, two barrels of whale oil, a pair of good shoes (to fit Abraham), a horse bridle and reins—all “delivered to the beach.”