There are many interesting people associated with Ellicott City. Have you heard of R. Lyman Potter, aka The Wheelbarrow Lunatic? He is one of those people.
Richard “Lyman” Potter born Marietta, Ohio. His father was an inventor. Lyman Potter was a private in the civil war that returned to Albany where he worked with his father in patents and later as a plumber, an upholsterer, a cabinet maker, and a mattress maker.
In 1878 Potter and a friend were discussing the famous Pedestrian, Daniel O’Leary. They started banter to whether any of them could walk for 100 consecutive hours. Potter said that was too easy, and before he knew it, a $1,000 wager resulted, challenging Potter to push a wheelbarrow all the way from Albany, New York, to San Francisco, California.
Mr. Potter and L. P. Federmeyer raced by foot from San Francisco to New York, each pushing a loaded wheelbarrow. The combined weight of barrow and contents could never be less than 100 pounds. The race was contrived as a publicity stunt by newspaper magnate George Hearst, father of Wm. Randolph Hearst, who offered a $2,000.00 prize to the winner. A referee was sent ahead to check the weight as each man arrived in town and validate it with the local postmark. Federmeyer won the race leaving San Francisco on December 8, 1878 and arriving in New York on July 23, 1879, a walk of 4,500 miles in 227 days.
R. Lyman, however, decided that he would make a career of traveling the country and pushing his wheelbarrow!
According to Edward Lilley, local historian, R. Lyman Potter visited Ellicott City in 1880 with his wheelbarrow and provided addition details on the walk.
Here in Ellicott City, a local paper reported on November 12, 1880:
Our citizens have been entertained today by an individual named R. Lyman Potter who represents that he has just arrived here from San Francisco having walked the whole distance and at the same time wheeling a wheelbarrow which contained specimens of gold, silver, lead and copper ore which he collected on the Pacific coast, the whole weighing 200 pounds. He also has with him a coyote wolf, or Indian dog, a prairie dog, a pair of rattlesnakes and other animal specimens of the far west. He says he started from Albany, N. Y. in September for California on a wager of $1,500.00 to average 19 miles a day and that he averaged 26. Both he and the wheelbarrow, with its contents, are objects of curiosity to the citizens of this place. He lectured last night on his trip.
“The Wheelbarrow Man” who would eventually be called “the hero of the greatest feat of pedestrianism.”
For many more details on R “Lyman” Potter life and walk visit https://ultrarunninghistory.com/wheelbarrow-man/
There are many other colorful characters connected to our town: Mishikinakwa & Marpau, The Great Compromiser, Old Hickory, Marble Man, The King of the Wild Frontier, The Bambino, Mr. Entertainment, and more! If you would like to know more about these individuals, follow Mount Hebron Community Assoc on Facebook or Maryland History Tours.