James Ben Ali Haggin

James Ben Ali Haggin (December 9, 1822 – September 13, 1914) was an American attorney, rancher, investor, art collector, and a major owner and breeder in the sport of Thoroughbred horse racing.[1] Haggin made a fortune in the aftermath of the California Gold Rush and was a multi-millionaire by 1880.[2]

James B. A. Haggin
James Ben Ali Haggin.jpg
Born(1822-12-09)December 9, 1822
DiedSeptember 13, 1914(1914-09-13) (aged 91)
Newport, Rhode Island,
United States
Resting placeWoodlawn Cemetery
EducationCentre College
OccupationLawyer, Rancher, Investor, Racehorse owner/breeder
Known forRancho Del Paso, Elmendorf Farm
Spouse(s)1) Eliza Jane Sanders (m. 1846)
2) Margaret Pearl Voorhies (m. 1897)
Parent(s)Terah Temple Haggin & Adeline Ben Ali

Those who recounted James Ben Ali Haggin's appearance often noted his short stature and "slightly Oriental appearance handed down from his Turkish ancestors".[3]


His mother, Adeline Ben Ali Haggin, was the daughter of one of the first Turkish migrants to the United States, Ibrahim Ben Ali.

Haggin was born in Harrodsburg, Mercer County, Kentucky, a descendant of one of the state's pioneer families who had settled there in 1775 and a descendant of Ibrahim Ben Ali, who was an early American settler of Turkish origin.[4][5][6] He graduated from Centre College at Danville, Kentucky, then entered the practice of law.

On December 28, 1846, James Ben Ali Haggin married Eliza Jane Sanders of Natchez, Mississippi with whom he had five children. She died in 1893 and on December 30, 1897 the seventy-five-year-old Haggin married twenty-eight-year-old Margaret Pearl Voorhies at her stepfather's residence in Versailles, Kentucky. Miss Voorhies was a niece of his first wife.[7]

In October 1850 he joined a Kentucky acquaintance, Lloyd Tevis, in opening a law office in Sacramento. They moved to San Francisco in 1853. He built a large and impressive Nob Hill mansion on the east side of Taylor Street between Clay and Washington streets, which stood until the earthquake and fire of 1906. It was to decorate the walls of the 61 rooms of this mansion that Haggin began the core of the family art collection that would eventually be housed in the Haggin Museum (named for his son Louis Terah Haggin) in Stockton, California.

Haggin and Tevis married sisters, daughters of Colonel Lewis Sanders, a Kentuckian who had emigrated to California. Haggin and Tevis acquired the Rancho Del Paso land grant near Sacramento. The two invested in the mining business with George Hearst as one of their partners. Hearst, Haggin, Tevis and Co. became one of the largest mining companies in the United States; its operations included the Ontario silver mine in Park City, Utah, the Homestake Mine in South Dakota, and with Marcus Daly, the Anaconda Copper Company in Montana.

The James Ben Ali Haggin Papers, 1887-1914, are kept at the Bancroft Library at the University of California at Berkeley.

Thoroughbred racingEdit

Haggin purchased the Rancho Del Paso horse farm near Sacramento, California in 1859.[8] He made it one of the country's most important horse breeding and Thoroughbred racing operations whose horses competed from coast-to-coast. In 1905, Haggin stopped using Rancho De Paso as a horse breeding farm and concentrated his breeding efforts at his Elmendorf Farm in Lexington, Kentucky.[9] Haggin had acquired Elmendorf in 1897 and until his death in 1914 worked to develop it into the largest horse breeding operation in the United States of its era.[10]

Major racing successesEdit

Haggin owned the colt Tyrant which in 1885 he sent to compete as a three-year-old on the U.S. East Coast where he won the prestigious Withers and Belmont Stakes, the latter becoming the third leg of the U.S. Triple Crown series.[11] The following year his colt Ben Ali won the 1886 Kentucky Derby.[12]

At Rancho Del Paso Haggin bred Comanche and Africander, colts which won the 1893 and 1903 Belmont Stakes respectively.[13]


He is the namesake of the Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington.[14]

Mount Haggin (10,607 ft / 3,233 m), near the town of Anaconda in southwestern Montana, also is named for James Ben Ali Haggin.[15]

Personal lifeEdit

Haggin was the eldest of eight children of Terah Temple and Adeline (Ben Ali) Haggin, the daughter of Ibrahim Ben Ali, a Turkish army officer.[16]

In 1846 Haggin married Eliza Jane Sanders; they had two sons and three daughters,[16] including Louis Terah, James Ben Ali, Jr., Margaret Sanders, Adeline Ben Ali, and Edith Hunter

In 1897 Haggin married Margaret ("Pearl") Voorhies of Versailles, Kentucky.[16]

Haggin died September 12, 1914, at his Newport, Rhode Island, residence and was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in New York.[16]

His grandson, James Ben Ali Haggin III, was a portrait painter and stage designer.

His grandson, Richard Lounsbery, was a businessman and amateur painter who established the Richard Lounsbery Foundation.[17]

His descendants in Thoroughbred racing include Louis Lee Haggin II and William Haggin Perry.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ New York Times - September 13, 1914 obituary for James B. A. Haggin
  2. ^ He was of Ottoman origin. Kleber, John E. (1992). The Kentucky Encyclopedia. University Press of Kentucky. p. 397. ISBN 0-8131-1772-0.
  3. ^ Brackney, Peter (2014), Lost Lexington, Kentucky, Arcadia Publishing, ISBN 1625851286
  4. ^ J.S. Clarke. "History". Linda Haggin Peck. Archived from the original on 2011-07-26. Retrieved 2008-09-30.
  5. ^ Brackney, Peter Brackney (2014). Lost Lexington, Kentucky. The History Press. p. 106. ISBN 978-1625851284. Retrieved 11 September 2015.
  6. ^ Clarke, Adam; Jones, William (1834). Memoirs of the life, ministry, and writings of the Rev. Adam Clarke, LL.D. The British Library. p. 184. Retrieved 11 September 2015.
  7. ^ New York Times - December 31, 1897
  8. ^ "History of the Property at Haggin Oaks". Haggin Oaks. 2014-02-18. Retrieved 2019-09-14.
  9. ^ New York Times - October 8, 1905 article titled "The Passing of Rancho Del Paso"
  10. ^ "Elmendorf Stock Farm". Lexington (Kentucky) History Museum. 2019-09-14. Retrieved 2019-09-14.
  11. ^ "1885 Belmont" (PDF). Belmontstakes.com. 1885-06-06. Retrieved 2019-09-14.
  12. ^ "1886 - Ben Ali". Churchill Downs Incorporated. 2019-09-14. Retrieved 2019-09-14.
  13. ^ "History of Belmont Stakes Racing Festival". New York Racing Association (NYRA). 2019-09-14. Retrieved 2019-09-14.
  14. ^ "1886 - Ben Ali (G3)". Keeneland Association, Inc. 2019-09-14. Retrieved 2019-09-14.
  15. ^ "Mount Haggin". State of Montana Office of Tourism. 2019-09-14. Retrieved 2019-09-14.
  16. ^ a b c d Kleber, John E. (1992). The Kentucky Encyclopedia. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 397–398. ISBN 0-8131-1772-0.
  17. ^ "EARLY ANTECEDENTS". Richard Lounsbery Foundation. 2019. Retrieved 6 December 2020.

External linksEdit

Further readingEdit