The Old Pedestrian Rivalry

A Note to My Readers:  In search of my Frear family ‘comings and goings’ in central New York I am back to reading old newspapers and found an intriguing article in a June 1913 edition of the Auburn, New York Democrat Argus. The story revolves around a promotional photograph purchased by Auburn and Union Springs jeweler, WILLIAM STANSELL LAWRENCE FREAR (1849-1930), the first cousin of my great grandfather, HENRY A. MARTIN (1857-1932) and the rivalry of two old ‘athletes’, Edward Payson Weston and John Ennis.

Newspaper Auburn NY  Democrat  Argus 1912 - 1913 - 1243. WSL Frear Headline

Auburn NY Democrat Argus Headline June 1913

The present “hike” of Edward Payson Weston, the veteran pedestrian, who is now plodding his way Westward along the Southern Tier on his way from new York to Minneapolis, Minn., where he is to lay the cornerstone of the new Minneapolis Athletic Club building, recalled to W. S. L. Frear, the Market Street jeweler, the fact that he had in his possession a photograph of the aged hiker when he was a youngster in the game half a century ago. The Citizen herewith presents the picture, and as many Auburnians are familiar with the striking physique of the Weston of today they will be astonished to note the similarity of carriage despite the effects of 50 years on the famous walker. As he walked through Port Byron two years ago on his “Frisco-to New York hike he bore himself in the identical erect manner and his short cane was carried in the same stiff manner, convenient for an occasional automatic smite on his right flank.
Bought Picture in 1867.
Mr. Frear bought the picture from Weston’s agent who accompanied him on his first important “hike,” from Albany Edward_P_Weston_1861to Chicago, in 1867, as Weston was passing through Newark (Wayne county New York). Then as on his walk across Cayuga County two years ago, Weston went through Port Byron and Weedsport, following the old New York Central lines and the Albany-Buffalo turnpike. At that time Weston walked alone, but his agent rode in a buggy and besides selling photographs of the walker, the drive carried articles to be used in an emergency. Today Weston is accompanied by an automobile. Then he was 22, today he is 76. The original picture has been put on display in the window of the owner in Market Street.
Corning gave a hearty welcome to Weston and John Ennis, 71, who has set out to beat the easy schedule set by Weston, when they passed through Corning together yesterday.
Have made 300 Miles.
“Corning marked the completion of the first fifth of the 1,500 mile journey which the two men have undertaken on foot. It is 292 miles from Corning to New York City by the lines of the Erie Railroad which the walkers are following along parallel highways. Before leaving New York City the pedestrians had walked seven miles, so that they had walked 299 miles when they reached Corning. Weston, despite his delay of the past two days, reached Corning a full day ahead of schedule he mapped out before leaving New York City and he was in an optimistic mood. Ennis, too, was highly elated. He had predicted that he would pass Weston before Buffalo was reached although Weston had 24 hours the start of him, and he had succeeded sooner than he had anticipated, thanks to Weston’s poor limb. The four or five years difference in age is also in favor of Ennis.
Not a Race, Says Weston.
Ennis is bent upon forcing the public belief that there is a race on between the two men. This Weston denies and he refuses to be forced into a race with Ennis. Weston mapped out a schedule and published it long before Ennis was heard of in connection with the trip. Weston states that he is simply following the schedule and not attempting to extend himself.
“Although I have allowed 60 days for the trip to Minneapolis, I could cover it in 45 days if I wanted to extend myself,” said Weston to a Corning reporter.
“Ennis has been my competitor only once – that was in England in 1879 when we were competing for a belt offered by Astley for a 100 mile walk,” said Weston. “Ennis was in the race one day and then dropped out. I take Ennis’s action in starting out on this walk after I had planned as just a joke. He is trying to get a reputation from reputation, and by doing what he calls beating me, he hopes to make money giving lectures on this trip.
“As an instance of how ridiculous he is making himself is the statement that he is reported to have made that in six days he walked 348 miles between North Platte, Neb., and Rock Springs, Wyoming – a route through the worst kind of roads in the United States. This is an impossibility. Ennis also claims that he walked from Toledo, O., to Bryan, O., in one day, a distance Ennis gives as 72 miles. The chief of police of Toledo told me that the distance is but 57 miles. If things turn out as I hope and expect there be some fund for the people here when Ennis and I come back.
“I am making this walk to lay the corner stone of the Minneapolis, Minn., Athletic Club’s new house on August 2. I am not making this walk as a race – and I will not be forced into a race. I am making the walk to show that at 76 I can walk more than half the distance that I could at 50 years. I am now making about 158 miles a week, and I am going to average a little more than 26 miles a day. I am not extending myself to see how far I can walk in a day.  My schedule was made out for 60 days but cutting out the Sundays the walking will be but 52 days.

Calls Walk a Picnic.
“I am being shown such courtesies by everybody along the route that the walk is proving no labor, but a picnic.
“I live very carefully whether on or off the road. We I am off the road I eat but two meals a day – breakfast and supper. On the road I eat but one meal a day, breakfast. For breakfast I generally eat three poached eggs and bread and butter and two or more cups of coffee with occasionally a glass of milk. Along the road about once an hour I am given liquid refreshments of egg and milk beaten together with sugar added. I also have vichy water and milk. Occasionally I take sarsaparilla and ginger ale. In the evening I take ice water and sometimes bread and milk.
“When I left New York’s week ago last Monday noon I had a 36 inch waist line. It is now reduced to 34.”
Weston carries with him a cane that was given him 30 years ago by Lord Algernon Lennox, a son of the Duke of Richmond, while he was in England. Weston also has a belt from the same donor.
Weston walks without a coat or hat. A towel wrung out in ice cold water is worn by him in place of a hat. An automobile proceeds him, and occasionally ice water is supplied him from the auto and he is given liquid refreshments. From time to time he stops during the heat of the day in the shade of a sheltering tree for brief refreshments and rest. At times members of the part traveling with him pace him.

Doctor Cobb Accompanies Weston.
When Weston left Corning at 4 o’clock this afternoon for Addison, he was accompanied by Dr. W. S. Cobb of that city. When Weston was on a walk 36 years ago from Portland, Me., to Portland, Ore., Doctor Cobb’s father, George Cobb of West Stockbridge, Mass., walked with Weston from West Stockbridge toward Albany. George Cobb is still alive at the age of 85. Doctor Cobb took the walk yesterday to make the acquaintance of his father’s old friend. (NOTE: The article’s writer incorrectly stated that the walk was from Portland, Maine to Portland, Ore.  The route was from Portland, Maine to Chicago, Illinois.  Thanks to reader, Paul Marshall for catching the article’s error.)

John Ennis "King of Pedestrians" advertising card.

John Ennis “King of Pedestrians” advertising card.

Ennis An Irishman.
Ennis was born at Richmond Harbor, County, Longford, Ireland, June 4, 1842. He celebrated his 71st birthday the day after he took the road with the intention of beating Weston to Minneapolis. Ennis’s home is at Stamford, Conn. He served in the American Civil War in the Army of the Cumberland Engineering Corps. He has a record as an athlete. For 14 years he held the world’s long distance skating record and he has also held records as a rifle shot.
“I left the College of the City of New York, Tuesday, June 3, at noon – just 24 hours to a minute after Weston left the same spot,” said Ennis. “I predicted that I should pass Weston by the time Buffalo was reached – and I have more than made good my prediction,” continued Ennis with a broad grin. “My purpose in making this walk is two fold. First, I desire to clean up an old dispute with Weston and shiw him that I am his superior as a walker, as I have previously demonstrated, and second to show people that all a man of 70 needs to do to be able to as active at that age as most men are at 40 is to to keep exercising – keep doing hard work.

An Ocean to Ocean Walk.
“Three years ago I beat Weston’s coast to coast record by 25 days. Weston walked from New York, to San Francisco in 105 days. I made the journey in 80 days. I bathed in the waters of the Atlantic off Coney Island before leaving New York and I plunged into the waters of the Pacific in Golden Gate Harbor completing a truly ocean to ocean walk. I have been in contests with Weston for upwards of 35 years, and I have beaten him or his records on many occasions. It was my intention in seizing upon this opportunity to prove once and for all that I am Weston’s superior. I am not walking to Minneapolis for a prize or anything when I get there – I am walking to beat Weston, and I am going to do it.

Calls Weston “Sly Fox”.
“Weston is as sly as a fox. He has been doing his best to cover his trail and to keep me off the scent, but I have managed to follow his trail all right, and now I’m ahead of him and he will have to follow mine. I am not unfolding my plans as to where I’ll be tonight, and I leave town quietly when I go. Weston wants the whole town to know about it when he leaves a town. You can say I passed through on the way toward Minneapolis. I suppose I shall follow about the same route that Weston has mapped out. I am going through Addison at any rate this afternoon.
“Yesterday I walked from Owego to Elmira -50 miles. I reached Elmira at 8 o’clock last night and stopped at the Hotel Langwell. I left Elmira at 6 o’clock this morning, and came through to Corning without stop. The first man to walk with me from the time I left Elmira was the Leader reporter. No one travels with me. My son goes ahead of my by train with my luggage. He carries a coat which I use on cold days, and also an umbrella which is the only protection I use on rainy days.”
Ennis is a man of very rugged appearance. He walks in his shirt sleeves, with a long swinging stride. He has a sense of humor and a pleasant smile which wins him a welcome anywhere.

The Auburn New York Democrat Argus, June 1913.

W.S.L. Frear Jeweler Ad 1887.  Courtesy of The Frontenac Museum.

W.S.L. Frear Jeweler Ad 1887. Courtesy of The Frontenac Museum.

Author’s Note:  WILLIAM STANSELL LAWRENCE FREAR was born in Arcadia, New York to JOHN LAWRENCE MYERS FREAR and JUDITH O. STANSELL.    In addition to his jewelry and clock repair business in both Union Springs and Auburn, William and his brother, CHARLES HENRY FREAR owned and operated the ASTORIA HOTEL in Unions Springs.   It is so easy to narrow down research focus and forget the history revolving around our ancestors…or to go ‘too big’ and think national or global…wars, economic news, politics.   Every once in awhile I come across a local or regional story that reminds me about the character of the day and my family’s humanity becomes so very real.  Like the rivalry between two old ‘pedestrians’.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2014.  All Rights Reserved

 

 

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2 thoughts on “The Old Pedestrian Rivalry

  1. The reference to Doctor Cobb accompanying Weston ‘on a walk 36 years ago from Portland, Me., to Portland, Ore.,’ is inaccurate.

    It should read… ‘on a walk 46 years ago from Portland, Me., to Chicago, Ill.,’

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