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Look Back: Parkersburg boasts competitive walking champ

Historical newspaper excerpts from the Wood County Historical Society

Shown above, circa 1890, the Parkersburg City Band provided music for many public and private functions. (Photo Provided)

Our champion walkers

Thomas Cox, of this city, and C. Hendricks, of Lauckport, are at Wheeling, participating in the thirty-six hour go-as-you-please walking match. Cox is the champion of West Virginia and seems likely to win the Wheeling prize. This is the second time that Hendricks was ever on a track, his first experience being at the Rink here. The other starters at Wheeling were E.C. McClelland of Cannonsburg, Pa., Wm. Nolan, of Pittsburgh, George Atwood, of Johnstown, Pa., and John McGrane, of Wheeling. The [Wheeling] Register says:

“At midnight the record stood as follows: Cox, 81 miles; McClelland, 58 miles, 8 laps; Nolan, 52 miles, 3 laps; Hendricks, 60 miles, 14 laps; Atwood, 57 miles; McGrane, 50 miles.

“Cox holds the American record for 36 hours, of 219 miles, and it is his intention to break his own record if he can. He showed remarkable endurance, and won a bet of $100 that he could make 70 miles in 12 hours.

Excerpt from the Parkersburg Daily State Journal

Feb. 22, 1889

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A great walking match

A fifty hour go-as-you-please walking match has been arranged to be held at the Rink in this city, the 7th, 8th and 9th of March. Mr. M. Hearne, of Wheeling will be the referee. The following well-known pedestrians will take part in the contest: Thomas Cox, Parkersburg; Geo. D. Normac, Philadelphia, Pa.; Samuel Day, ex-champion of England; Peter Golden, New York City; James McGrane, Wheeling; Charles Hendricks, Lauckport; Joseph Blanam, Parkersburg; Wm. A. Hoagland, Union Springs, NY; Peter Priddy, well known oarsman, Pittsburgh; Alf. Courts, Cincinnati; J.J. Engledrom, Chicago; Christ. Putz, Middletown, Ohio.

The race will begin Thursday at 8 o’clock p.m., and close Saturday, at 11p.m. Brass band music will be furnished, and the management insures the best of order during the entire time. The admission will be 25 cents.

The Parkersburg Daily State Journal

Feb. 28, 1889

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A failure

The fifty hours go-as-you-please walking match opened last night at eight o’clock. There was a good attendance present and music was furnished by the Lauckport band. The managers were much disappointed, though, at the non-appearance of most of the noted walkers that had agreed to be there. James McGrane, of Wheeling, was the only out-of-town walker present.

The Starters were Thomas Cox, Jas. McGrane, Charles Hendricks, Joe Blanam, Lerow, McClintock, Fitzner and Mullen.

Cox soon showed that none of the rest could give him a contest for first place, making 21 miles the first three hours, with Lerow leading the others. By 12:30 o’clock last night Cox was over two miles ahead of the second best man, and not caring to walk his legs off for nothing he quit. This broke up the race and it suddenly collapsed. Some of the peds however, continued on until 5 o’clock this morning.

The managers made every effort to furnish a first-class contest and it is not their fault that it was a failure.

Excerpt from the Parkersburg Daily State Journal

March 8, 1889

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NOTE: “Race walking” had rules. Though rules varied somewhat from area to area, competition walkers were expected to extend their legs straight at least once in their stride and obey the “fair heel and toe” rule. This rule stated that the toe of one foot could not leave the ground before the heel of the next foot touched down.

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Bob Enoch is president of the Wood County Historical Society. Would you like to help preserve our past for future generations? The society offers informative monthly meetings and an interesting, 20-page quarterly newsletter. Dues are just $20/year. Send to: WCHPS, P.O. Box 565, Parkersburg, WV 26102.

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