Saturday, January 21, 2017

Ephraim Clow: Professional Pedestrian

Masthead of newspaper that had article about race Ephraim took part in, then resigned from under suspicious circumstances

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain — and back in rain.
I have out-walked the furthest city light.... 
~Robert Frost
Ephraim Clow was a cousin of mine on my grandmother's maternal line.  Family oral history said he was a long distance runner and had run in the Boston Marathon and won.  I had to find out if this was true or not.

I first found out that the Boston Marathon began in 1897.  Ephraim was born in 1854.  In 1897, he would have been 43.  Above-average age to be doing a marathon.  So I wondered, could this be a situation where the family oral history had a nugget of truth, but it wasn't quite how it was remembered?  In fact, it was.

First, I checked to see if Ephraim had ever been in Boston.  I found that he had.
Ambrose Clow, and his brothers, Charles, George, and Ephraim, went to Boston to seek their fortune. Around 1878-1880, he received word that land was available in Minnesota. Charles was sent to check out the territory. What he saw (in Kittson County) pleased him so he advised his brothers to join him in this new venture. Ambrose brought his new wife, Mathilda Crewye, who was also born on Prince Edward Island. Ambrose had a house built in Humboldt where he and his wife lived the rest of their lives. They had a son, George Victor, who was born 19 Nov 1880.  
 - From George Clow family lineage on Red River Valley website
A racing Pedestrian, being avidly
observed by spectators mid-race
I found out that during the early 1880s, Ephraim was a competitor in pedestrian  races, or "go-as-you-please" races. I've found him mentioned in newspaper articles during the right time period, and in Boston.  I had found my cousin.  And I had confirmed that the family oral history was true - just a bit wrong in the details!

To find out more about what race walking was like in its 'Golden Age', check out this podcast that features the author of the book - Pedestrianism: When Watching People Walk Was America's Favorite Spectator Sport – Matthew Algeo.

A passage from the book mentions Ephraim, alleges a possible scandal he may have been part of:
Early on the morning of the final day of the race, the Boston Globe reported, “...an utterly unexpected and exciting incident occurred...” - Ephraim Clow of Boston, who had been backed heavily to secure second place, and who stood third on the score-sheet, with every prospect in his favor, as he was undoubtedly the freshest man on the track, suddenly left the track and went to his room.  Inquiries were at once made as to the reason for his action. He gave various excuses, all of a flimsy character.  
I could find nothing else about the matter, or how it was resolved.

Ephraim eventually came to Kittson County as his brothers had done.  He and his family settled in the Humboldt, Minnesota area, where Ephraim farmed for some years.  By the time of the 1910 and 1920 censuses, the family is living in St. Vincent. Evidently they moved there from their farm, in their later years.

This article mentions Ephraim Clow in the middle of the final paragraph; he is
included among those with the best records in the O'Leary International Belt,
held in the old Madison Square Garden in New York City, in January 1881...

[Source:  New York Tribune, May 23, 1881 - chroniclingamerica.loc.gov]