The Andrews Bridge Foxhounds (PA), established in 1917 and originally registered with the MFHA as Mr. Jefford’s Fox Hounds, is a long-respected pack and one of the earliest to extol the virtues of the Penn-Marydel foxhound. The hunt began as a private pack owned by Walter Jeffords of Andrews Bridge, Pennsylvania.
Mr. Jeffords was a party to the incorporation of the Penn-Marydel Fox Hounds, Inc. in 1934. The corporation was founded by Masters of packs hunting the so-called “Eastern Shore foxhound,” bred for many years in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware. The organizers wished to preserve the look and distinctive traits of their foxhound through the purity of their bloodlines, and to distinguish the Penn-Marydel from the “Virginia-type” hound. At the time, both types were included under the common umbrella of “American foxhounds” in the hunting field and in the show ring.
Sadly, this venerable pack is now mired in conflict and litigation.
In 1954 Walter Jeffords turned his private pack, Mr. Jefford’s Fox Hounds, over to his son, Walter Jeffords, Jr., who, like his father before him, was Master of the Rose Tree Foxhunting Club (PA) at the time. In 1968 Walter Jeffords, Jr. transferred the Andrews Bridge Foxhounds—the hunt and the hounds—to Robert H. Crompton.
As Master and huntsman, Crompton kenneled the hounds on his farm in Christiana, Pennsylvania, and hunted the pack until he retired from the field. Crompton’s brother-in-law, George Strawbridge, joined Crompton in the Mastership in 1970, as did Mrs. Crompton, the former Diana Strawbridge, in 1994. In 2008, after his retirement, Crompton entered into an agreement with Stephen Harris who became a Master that same year.
Under an agreement entered into by the parties in 2008, the existing Joint-Masters—Bob Crompton, George Strawbridge, and Diana Crompton—were to continue in the Mastership along with Stephen Harris; Harris and one J. Stephen Hill agreed to rent the hounds and the kennel from the Cromptons on a year-to-year basis and be responsible for the hounds’ maintenance and that of the kennels and kennel staff; and the agreement states that the Andrews Bridge Foxhounds and the kennel are owned by the Cromptons.
On March 12, 2017, about nine years after execution of the agreement and while the Cromptons were in Florida, all but two of the Andrews Bridge foxhounds were taken from the kennel without their knowledge or permission. For the next six months, until the court intervened, the Cromptons didn't know where the thirty-five couple of hounds had been taken. So Bob and Georgia Crompton filed suit against two of their Joint-Masters—Stephen and Betsy Harris—to locate and recover the hounds. The hounds had, in fact, been taken across state lines to Virginia.
Bob Crompton died on March 8, 2018, but Georgia carried on with the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs—now consisting of The Estate of Robert H. Crompton, III, and Georgia R. Crompton—filed for summary judgement, which was granted. The judge decided that the Andrews Bridge Foxhounds’ hounds were privately owned by the Cromptons, and Stephen and Betsy Harris were ordered to return the hounds to the plaintiffs.
The defendants, however, immediately appealed the judge’s ruling, with Harris arguing that thirteen couple of the hounds were either drafted to him or are born of hounds drafted to him. The judge stayed his ruling on those hounds, and on February 8, 22-1/2 couple of hounds were returned to Crompton’s kennel in Pennsylvania.
An additional question that falls under MFHA jurisdiction is, Who now has the right to hunt hounds in the territory granted to Andrews Bridge Foxhounds by the MFHA? The plaintiffs and the defendants in the ongoing litigation are obviously on opposite sides of this question as well. The MFHA finds itself in a quandary over the issue, since the association has no precedent for how to deal with a leased pack of foxhounds.
According to Sara Cavanagh writing for the Horse of the Delaware Valley, Sean Cully, MFHA director for the Pennsylvania region, said the MFHA plans to place the Andrews Bridge Foxhounds into reorganization status.
As of now, the dispute is not yet totally resolved by either the court or the MFHA.
The material in this report comes in part from the Sara Cavanagh article of February 12, 2019; comments to that article by Samuel McMichael, attorney for the plaintiff; and the judge’s opinion and order in The Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, entered and filed on January 28, 2019.
Posted February 21, 2019