The Barnard Lehrmann Memorial Road Race?

As we all continue to recover from the Bix 7 Run,* it might be of interest to look back 150 years and a month back to another race that took place one Davenport summer—a race that was far more spontaneous and far less planned than the Bix , but somewhat longer and certainly as much a test of physical endurance.

The race took place on Thursday, June 17, of 1858. The Daily Gazette carried a front-page report on the following Saturday:

Great Foot Race.—Considerable interest was excited on Thursday among our German friends in relation to the result of a singular bet. Jake Hoering and two other persons almost as fleshy and Mr. Lahrman proprietor of the German Theatre, who is a rather spare man, got to disputing in regard to the difficulty of ascending the bluff in the lower part of the city to a house standing near the summit, which, we presume, was designed to be used at the Saengurbund festival.

It is to be noted here that Jacob Hoering was the proprietor of Heoring & Henne, which the 1858 city directory lists as a ‘people’s garden and saloon’ on Harrison Street, between 2nd and 3rd Streets. Banard Lehrmann resided at the German Theater, a mere block away at 89 West 2nd. 

The Saengurband festival mentioned was one of many musical events organized by the German community for nearly a century. These events evolved into the Saengerfests that involved the entire city and even produced a few souvenir booklets.**

The article continues:

The result of the discussion was a bet to a small amount that Mr. Lahrmen couldn’t run up the bluff to the building and back forty times within a given time. He started on his race, Jake timing and giving him a ticket each return trip. In both going and returning Mr. L was considerably retarded by being obligated to climb a fence five feet high, yet he accomplished the feat in two hours and three quarters, running a distance by actual measurement of ten miles and 240 feet.

Please note that the Bix 7 Run is, as can be deduced, only 7 miles long. There are indeed a few remarkable hills along the way, but that route pales in comparison to one that was the equivalent of five miles and 120 feet straight up with a fence in the way.*** We hope that Mr. Lehrmann won at least the 1858 equivalent of the Bix prize money for this year!****

The article concludes:

Pretty warm exercise for a hot day. We suggest hereafter that the bluff be known as Lahrmen’s Hill.

We agree on both points–but unfortunately, we have no record that this city took this suggestion seriously, so we aren’t sure exactly which hill it was. The saloon where the argument likely took place was at the foot of Harrison Street Hill, but the hills of Main Street and Brady Street, both formidable in their ways, are only one or two blocks away. Ripley Street Hill is also a contender.#

So, if anyone could shed any light on which hill was involved in this historic, if not famous, race, we would be glad to do a follow up.  Perhaps someday Davenport could hold a Barnard Lehrmann Memorial Road Race in honor of this extraordinary feat!


*Yes, it was two weeks ago, but some of us have unrelenting muscle memories—especially when Brady Street Hill is involved.

** Davenport Illustrated: Saengerfest Souvenir, July 1898 (SC Closed Stacks 917.7769 Dav)

***Not to mention, to spare the winces of those of us with knee issues, five miles and 120 feet straight down. With a fence in the way.

****This year’s prize was $10,000 or a new car—but as Mr. Lehrmann would have had to wait more than sixty years until the invention of the internal combustion engine, he probably would have been more than happy with the $467.12, which is what $10,000 in today’s money would have been back then (according to our historic inflation index).

#Though it is our opinion that if Mr. Lehrmann tried to run up and down Ripley forty times, this article would have been an obituary.

(article discovered by Mary Ann and ‘borrowed’ by Sarah, who ran with it—pun intended)

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