Prof. Crocker & His Educated Horses
One of the world's most successful stage acts, at the end of the 19th century, originated here in Hillsdale County! Esli K. Crocker, known worldwide as Prof. E.K. Crocker, was born on a farm in North Reading in 1859, where he began the training of horses at a young age. On his father's farm, on what is now known as Bankers Road, young Crocker began following the horse trade, showing an aptitude for working with the animals known by few. It was said Crocker could train his horses to almost human intelligence.
For twenty years, Prof. Crocker traveled Europe, performing with his "educated horses, ponies, donkeys, and mules." In 1906, the London Daily News wrote: "The spectators found no reason to question the claim of Prof. Crocker to be the possessor of the most wonderful troop of educated horses that the world has yet beheld."
His home in later years was at 150 West Fayette Street, across from the current Hillsdale County Jail. The small farm consisted of 35+ acres, fronting what is now Barr and Fayette Streets. For a time, he also had an interest in the livery stable on McCollum Street, where the Midtown building now stands.
Professor Crocker returned from a Canadian Tour in October, 1928. Stricken with cancer, E.K. sold his beloved horses. Within two months he was gone, dying a lonely man without his beloved equine companions. Once considered more famous than Hillsdale's Four Oarsmen, Esli K. Crocker is buried in an unmarked grave in Oak Grove Cemetery, Hillsdale.
Carol A. Lackey