The Families of Adam Keith

“Once upon a time ...”, family facts and tales


The marathon man


Joseph Webber Bessey [1863-after 1934]


Ancestry: Adam Keith1>Maria Catherina [Gieg] m. [John George] Slough2>Elizabeth [Slough] m. [Jacob] Bessey3>David Bessey4>George Bessey5>Joseph Weber Bessey6

... Caffery led the field through the first ten miles in fifty-seven minutes, fast for the times, exceptional in the conditions, with none but his countrymen at his heels. The worth of the long training runs he had logged during the winter at Hamilton was evident. He ran with an odd but certain gait, the miles dropping effortlessly behind. Men like Webber Bessey, the manager of the Star Theatre in Hamilton, seen earlier flashing a large bundle of bills, looked on gleefully, bellowing encouragement. Bessey had made money before on these runners in Hamilton and now sensed he was in for the pay-off of his life....


 ... Caffery, a member of the St. Patrick's Athletic Club in Hamilton was challenged near the halfway point by his old rival from races around Hamilton Bay, Billy Sherring, a runner from the Hamilton YMCA.


For a while it looked like Sherring would win. He pulled into a half-mile lead over Caffery at one point but the pace was one he could not hold. Caffery was better trained and had greater endurance. At sixteen miles Sherring faltered suddenly and fell to the road. Attendants rushed to his aid. Several minutes passed and Caffery appeared, pausing to offer help. Sherring got to his feet unsteadily and Caffery dashed away into the lead again. Sherring followed but the race was over. Crowds cheered as Caffery sped into Boston with not another runner in sight behind him. An ovation went up as he made the final turn and came in sight of the BAA Clubhouse on Exeter Street. So thick was the crowd he had difficulty getting through but his victory was one of seeming ease.


 ... One man who would have enjoyed the occasion, no doubt matching Tommy Powers' generosity in setting them up for celebrants, was Webber Bessey. Bessey was conspicuous by his absence, not having returned from Boston with the others. Instead, flush with Yankee dollars after bawling himself hoarse along the marathon course, he took a side trip to New York. What pleasures he indulged in while visiting the great American metropolis are not known. A newspaper reporter spotted him a few days later as he stepped from the train on his return to Hamilton but wrote only that Bessey looked badly sunburned."

Boston 1900 [Marathon]: the Canadian Story

By David Blaikie ©


Jack Caffery


"The group of Canadians boarding the train at Boston on the morning of April 19, 1900, had no idea they were about to write an enduring chapter of Canadian sports history. They were a plain looking lot, obviously visitors and conscious of the fact. All were from Hamilton, Ontario, and most were seeing Boston for the first time. The city was still new and unfamiliar although they had been there several days and had been extended a cordial welcome by the Boston Athletic Association. Five of the group were athletes, small, wiry men with little to say. The rest were handlers, businessmen in overcoats and hats, their pockets stuffed with cash. The older men had paid the expenses of the younger to travel to Boston and now hoped to make back their money, and more, in well-placed bets. Eyes were cast about at the American competition, similarly in the care of well-heeled backers.