Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Seavers in the News- John Seaver Walks 100 Miles in 100 hours in 1866

It's time for another edition of "Seavers in the News" - a semi-regular feature from the historical newspapers about persons with the surname Seaver that are interesting, useful, fun, macabre, or add information to my family tree database.

This week's entry is from the Mariposa [Calif.] Gazette newspaper dated 3 March 1866:

The transcription of this article is:

"......The Boston Correspondent of the Sacramento Union gives the following account of a man who waled a hundred miles in a hundred hours.  The same feat was performed once before, and a man who undertook to do it in Baltimore, died in the ninety-seventh hour :

"A few days ago, John Seaver attempted it at Portsmouth (N.H.), on a wager of $500. -- The course was Union Hall, forty-two circuits around which made a mile.  He began at five P.M., several watchers being in attendance. -- The first twenty four hours he walked without much inconvenience, but at the end of that time he began to feel sleepy.  He overcame feeling, however, and kept on till Thursday morning, when he was inclined to abandon the enterprise, but was overruled by his backers.  Friday morning found him less drowsy, a powerful nervous excitement possessing him.  His head was bathed with rum and alum frequently, and he drank copiously of strong ea.  Friday was a hard day, Seaver frequently stumbling as he walked.  But Saturday was hardest of all.  He was almost utterly prostrated and had to be supported as he walked.  In the ninety-fifth hour he fainted and fell, and again in the ninety-ninth hour.  Stimulated by the near approach of victory, he shook off his supporters and dragged himself unaided through the last mile, accomplishing his undertaking amid the cheers of the spectators.  From the hall he went directly home and to bed, but was not allowed to sleep long, his physician waking him every hour.  His nervous excitement was so great that he sometimes had to be held in his bed.  When he slept he dreamed of the feat he had just performed -- that he had failed, etc. -- and seemed to suffer terrible agony.  He is now gradually recovering, but it will be some time before his natural health is restored.  He says that no money would tempt him to undertake a similar feat again -- though he made about $800 by his performance."

The source citation for this article is:

"Communicated" obituary, Mariposa [Calif.] Gazette newspaper, 3 March 1866, page 1, column 4, John Seaver article; digital image, California Digital Newspaper Collection ( : accessed 30 August 2017).

Walking 100 miles in 100 hours sounds like it would be easy, doesn't it?  That's one mile for each hour.  If he walked just two miles an hour, he would complete 48 hours in the first day.  If he slowed down to one mile an hour in the second day, that's another 24 miles.  He then needed 28 miles in 52 hours.  He succeeded, but only barely.  

He apparently started on Tuesday at 5 p.m., and ended Saturday at 9 p.m.  The article doesn't state a condition that he perform this without sleeping, but it sounds like that was what happened.  With sleep, a well conditioned person should be able to walk 24 miles in 18 hours and sleep 6 hours each day (or walk 24 miles in 16 hours, and sleep 8 hours, each day), then walk 4 more miles in the last 4 hours.  

I went looking for this John Seaver in my RootsMagic database.  I recalled that there was a John Seaver who resided in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in the 1850 U.S. census.  I found him with wife Sarah in the 1850 U.S. census in Portsmouth, indexed as "Traver" on Ancestry.  John Seaver was born in 1798 in Worcester, Massachusetts, married Sarah Maddox (1805-1895), and they had three children - Ellen Seaver (1833-1915), George Freeman Seaver (1835-1902), and John W. Seaver (1840-1873), all in Portsmouth.  I found no 1860 or 1870 census record for the family, 

I think the 100 Mile Man John Seaver is the John W. Seaver (1840-1873), son of John and Sarah (Maddox) Seaver.  He would be age 26, relatively young and probably fit, and in the right place. 

There may be other articles in the online historical newspapers that describe this feat.  I'll have to look for them.

UPDATE:  I did, and found several.  The one that provides a more complete name - John W. Seaver - was published in the New Hampshire Sentinel newspaper. published in Keene, New Hampshire, on 8 February 1866 (accessed on GenealogyBank):

Now I'm wondering how the second bet turned out, but my guess is that the challenge was never contested.  I found no articles on GenealogyBank about it.


Copyright (c) 2017, Randall J. Seaver

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