By Peggy Ford. Originally published in the November 20, 1999, issue of the Weld County Past Times, Greeley Tribune.
At the same time William Ferguson was making great strides in his “heel and tow” sport walking, L. Pierre Federmeyer, “the wheelbarrow pedestrian” arrived in Greeley late Friday afternoon, March 7, 1879, enroute from San Francisco to New York.
According to an article in the March 8 edition of The Sun, “Federmeyer left San Francisco on Dec. 8, 1878, in company with R. Lyman Potter (who last year trundled a wheelbarrow from New York to Frisco) on a bet of $1,500 to be paid to the man who got to New York first. When last heard from, Potter was at Evanston, Wyo., 400 miles behind having been detained by sickness. When coming through Nevada, Federmeyer froze both feet. According to the terms of the wager, he was not to cross any water by means of ferry. So, in the start he made a detour of 300 miles around San Francisco Bay, going through Nevada and striking the Central Pacific at Reno. From thence, east to Cheyenne and Greeley. From here, he travels to New York via Denver, Kansas City, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Pittsburg and Albany, expecting to reach the end sometime in May. Federmeyer is a medium-sized man, apparently about 40 years of age, and wears a heavy beard. He travels about 25 miles a day and with is present advantage in distance over his opponent, seems likely to win.”
Federmeyer left Greeley and arrived in Denver about three days later, having rested on Sunday. Twenty-five years later, another man, D.P. Evans was earning a name for himself by crossing the continent with a wheelbarrow. The Aug. 31, 1904, Greeley Tribune reported Evans stopped briefly in Greeley and took supper with the Hunter family. Evans presented his hosts with a “souvenir stickpin which was a representation of the first pair of shoes he wore on the trip.” Hunter averaged between 30-50 miles per day, with his longest one-day distance 58 miles, logged between Julesburg and Sterling.
Trundling a wheelbarrow across the country was a popular sport “fad” that met an individual’s need for both adventure and media attention.
Today, there are plenty of “off the beaten path” choices in sports for the physically fit and fearless, making the “crazy sports” of the past seem truly pedestrian by comparison!