Our County History
by County Historian Marion W. Coplen

On June 6, 1879, the Independent Hose Co. No 1 of Warsaw sponsored a walking match at the county fairgrounds in East Warsaw. The distance to be covered was five miles--ten times around the half-mile track. A 17 year old boy from Pierceton, Ira Makemson, won the first price of $20 by walking the distance in 34 minutes and 54 seconds. Frank Clark was second and Eli Kelly third.

This contest seemed to be the beginning of a series of walking marathons which swept our county. Indeed, the craze may have been nationwide because it wasn't long until men who claimed to be state pedestrian champions began making the rounds. Local organizations would hire these men to compete against local entries as a money making venture for the organization.

The coming of winter didn't stop the contest either. When it became too cold to have outdoor matches, a track was marked off at the Opera House. the track was made of sawdust and was five feet wide and 32 laps to the mile. Matches held at the Opera House during the winter of 1879-80 were 28 hour go-as-you-please-contests. Usually the marathons would start at 6:00 on Friday evening with a band present to start the festivities. At 10:00 the next evening the contestant who had walked the greatest distance would be declared the winner. The men could rest as they pleased; they usually ate on the walk.

In January of 1880 a match was held in which Makemson, Clark and two men from Ohio took part. One of the men from Ohio was advertised as that state's champion; the other was an Indian by the name of Putz. The contestants dropped out before the 28 hours and 54 minutes. About a week later another match was held in which both the Ohio and Indiana champions took place. The Ohio champion won by walking 102 miles in the prescribed time.

The walking mania even spread to the juveniles of our county. On once occasion the boys fixed up a track on the back of a lot on High street. Only boys from 10 to 14 years of age were eligible for the match. The late Logan Williams walked 11 miles in two hours, won the first prize of 50 cents.

Warsaw Times-Union Sat. Jan. 17, 1953