Kane County History: St. Charles History Hustle 5K Pays Homage to Long Lost Sport of Competitive Walking
- Editor’s Note: This article is part of a weekly series on Kane County’s amazing history. Today’s article was written by St. Charles History Museum Executive Director Lindsay Judd.
Just like many organizations in town, the St. Charles History Museum is doing things a little different this year due to the pandemic.
Instead of doing a traditional in-person, one-day 5K, we are doing a two-week long virtual 5K. Participants can register through the museum’s website (before May 7, and they get a special event T-shirt and medal) and walk or run any course they want, any time between May 10 and May 24.
It may seem out of the ordinary for a 5K to span the course of two weeks, but if this were St. Charles in the 1880s, it would seem not only normal, but fashionable.
During the 1870s and 1880s, competitive walking, or as it was known as “pedestrianism,” was all the rage. Before television, radio and baseball entertained America, folks would gather in public spaces to watch people compete against each other in walking matches.
This was not long after the end of the Civil War, so men were not off fighting, and aside from work, there was not always much to do. So thus, pedestrianism became a popular source of entertainment.
The admired individuals who made pedestrianism their careers were walking literally almost every waking moment. During a competition, walkers were on the track continuously from midnight on Sunday night/Monday morning until midnight the following Saturday. That’s six days straight of walking!
They would compete in an arena and map out their route on the dirt floor. Most of these competitions took place in New York, but many were held locally. Each lap was typically 1/7th or 1/8th of a mile.
Not only were people enamored with the sport itself, but race weeks also became somewhat of an event as there would be people selling food and brass bands playing songs. Even celebrities were said to have attended the races. It became a place to be seen.
Of course, St. Charles has a story in its history books relating to pedestrianism. Our very own Charles Caustin (who lived from Jan. 29, 1852, to Dec. 3, 1911) was one of these revered athletes. His brother, Will and daughter, Esther were also “pedestrians.”
Charles and his brother competed inside Irwin Hall located here in St. Charles. They also competed in other cities and competed against other famous pedestrians like Edward Payson Weston and Dan O’Leary.
On Tuesday, Feb. 19, 1884, Charles Caustin hosted competitor Henry Schmehl of Chicago at St. Charles’s Irwin Hall. According to an article written in the Valley Chronicle (Feb. 8, 1884,) the arena did not have sawdust, making it more difficult on the competitors.
The race was 10 miles long and required the pedestrians to walk heel-to-toe. The grand prize was $100, which is roughly $2,684 today!
At this point in time, Dan O’Leary was considered one of the world’s top pedestrians and he was the referee for the race between Caustin and Schmehl. It must have been a big deal for St. Charles to host such a prestigious athlete, because the article mentioned above made sure to note that that was the first time Dan O’Leary had ever visited St. Charles.
Charles Caustin died on Dec. 3, 1911, and is buried at North Cemetery on IL Route 25 in St. Charles.
If Charles Caustin were alive today, he would most certainly participate in our upcoming History Hustle Virtual 5K! After all, it is the same streets and sidewalks that Charles, his brother Will and daughter Esther power walked up and down to practice for all their competitions.
Every participant who registers for the 5K will receive a suggested historic route map for their walk/run! To register for the History Hustle Virtual 5K visit this link visit our website stcmuseum.org or call us at
Thanks for exploring history with us!
Read The Kane County History Series!
- 1850-1925 Geneva — When Penmanship Was Mightier Than The Sword
- St. Charles Museum Site — From Serving Gas To Preserving History
- Elgin Puts 3,500 Priceless Photos Online
- Batavia-Inspired Miniatures Thrilled a Nation
- Aurora’s Maud Powell, World Famous Violinist
- Waxing Nostalgic on Geneva’s WGSB, WFXW
- American Doughboys of WWI — in St. Charles, IL
- Experience High-Tech History at April 21 ‘Open Elgin’ Event
- Batavia, IL — ‘Windmill Capital of The World’
- Meet Andy Aurora, Man About Town
- Celebrating The 50th Anniversary of 9-1-1 in Geneva
- Blue Goose And Evergreen Pub — ‘Shop Local’ 90 Years In The Making
- Elgin Is The Apple of Illinois Bicentennial’s Eye
- Nordens Soner And Batavia’s Swedish Society
- Aurora’s Melting Pot ‘Yearning To Breathe Free’
- Candles, Timing Devices, Phonographs And The ‘Life Cup’ — All Things Made in Geneva
- Hotel Baker, The ‘Masterpiece’ of The Fox Valley
- Elgin Celebrates Our Once-Burgeoning Dairy Business
- Reflections of Batavia’s Quarry Beach Pool
- Aurora’s Mabel O’Donnell, Author of “Alice And Jerry’ Books
- As Alice (Davis) Says, ‘Schools Out For Summer!’
- Elgin Watches, ‘The World’s Standard’
- Aurora Silverplate a Symbol of Good Taste
- Women Leaders Played Huge Roles in Geneva
- Nationally Renowned Summer Camp in St. Charles
- The Harrowing Story of William Lynch, Elgin’s Civil War Brigadier General
- Batavia Powered The Aurora, Elgin & Chicago Railway
- Corsets Doing Big Business in Aurora? Scandalous!
- One Block of Geneva Tells 1,001 Fantastic Stories
- St. Charles’ Evergreen Pub — The ‘Before’ Photos
- 1917-18 — When Elgin Artists Went to War
- Thomas Cleveland — Batavia’s Presidential Connection
- Do Your Wurst — Aurora Meat Markets Are ‘In’ Again
- Geneva Is The Place For Graveyards And Ghosts
- Visit Amelia Anderson At St. Charles’ North Side Cemetery
- Calling All Artists! … For a Cobblestone Reflection in Elgin
- Batavia’s 108-Year-Old Gazebo Still Lights The Way
- The Compelling, Tragic Story of Aurora’s Black WWI Hero Frank Boger
- Geneva History Museum Invites Artists To Celebrate Cultural Heritage
- Elgin’s Anson Clark Soared in The Great War … And Life
- What It Meant To Be a Patrol Boy and Louise White School
- ‘Men’s Night’ Christmas Shopping Was a 1950’s Aurora Phenomenon
- St. Charles Remembers Colson’s Christmas-Day Fire of ’33
- The Art of Elgin’s Cobblestone Reflections
- When Suffrage Met Prohibition in Batavia
- Geneva Presents The Art of The Fox River
- Blansford Astronomical Clock Is Aurora’s Treasure
- St. Charles Returns Family Heirlooms From WWII
- Museum Lands Painting By Elgin Artist Albert Kenney
- Cars Still Fixed at Historic Location in Downtown Batavia
- A Bird’s-Eye View of 19th Century Geneva
- Sheldon Peck: Kane County’s Connection To The Underground Railroad
- Elgin High School Celebrates 150 Years of ‘Education For All’
- Batavia’s Incredible Roller Skating History
- The Fabled History of Jewelry Stores in Geneva
- Astonishing Buried Treasure Discovered in Aurora Outhouse
- Lincoln Elementary School in St. Charles Celebrates 90 Years of Education
- Remembering Elgin High Grad, Renowned Composer Daniel Brewbaker, 1951 – 2017
- Meet Batavia’s Sharron Moran, LPGA Star, ‘Most Beautiful Golfer’ of 1966
- The Many Iterations of Geneva’s National Food Store
- The Burlington Zephyr — A ‘Silver Streak’ Through Aurora
- What IS That Thing in Downtown St. Charles?
- 18 Events, Limited-Edition Poster For Preservation Month in Elgin!
- Julius Amandus Anderson’s WWI Memorial Trapunto Banner
- Geneva’s Swedish Days Celebrates Its 70th Anniversary
- The Historic Drive To Save Aurora’s GAR Hall
- The Story of St. Charles’ Paddlewheel Riverboats
- Meet Elgin’s Legendary Marshal — Andrew Barclay Spurling
- Jackie DeShannon ‘Put A Little Love’ In Batavia
- Aurora’s William S. Hart, Cowboy Movie Star
- St. Charles’ First Settlers, One Lost, Found Again
- Discover The Elgin Stories All Around You
- Batavia’s WWI French Connection
- Amazing Stories Behind Geneva’s Extraordinary Parks
- Roots Aurora Seeks 2019 Nominations For Aurora Cultural Champions
- Newly Renovated Thompson Middle School Retains Memories of St. Charles High
- Elgin’s Bluff City Cemetery Memorializes City’s Past
- Batavia Connection to 1969 Moon Landing
- Geneva Company Made Huge Contribution to Art Deco
- East Vs. West 1914 — Aurora’s Greatest Football Game
- North, Union Cemeteries Are St. Charles’ Hallowed Grounds
- Elgin Temperance Crusaders Take Hatchet To Beer Fans
- Ever Heard of Clybourneville? (Hint: It’s Now in Batavia)
- Geneva Ghost Stories Rise From Former Hospital Site
- Aurora Tells The Cows To Shut Up
- Baby Face Nelson And 100 Years of St. Charles Boys School ‘Good, Bad And Ugly’
- Behold The Telegraph, Elgin’s First Digital Communication!
- Mary Bailey, Batavia’s Trailblazing Woman Lawyer
- Holiday Traditions, Historic Creche at Geneva History Museum
- Welcome To Thanksgiving Dinner at Aurora’s Tanner House
- St. Charles’ Whiskey Bend Signaled Boom Time For Taverns
- From Elgin Watch Cases To 4.2 Mortar Shells
- Lorraine James’ Art Leaves Lasting Impression on Batavia
- Geneva Remembers The Tornado of 1967
- New Year’s Calling in Aurora
- Newly Digitized Footage Documents Construction of St. Charles Municipal Building
- ‘New Year’s Calling’ in Aurora Was The Online Dating of Late 1800s
- A Woman’s Right To Vote — In Elgin
- How The Household Journal Came To Batavia
- Geneva’s East Side — From Dodson To Dog ‘N’ Suds
- On Leap Year, ‘She-Wolves of Aurora’ Have ‘Gender-Swapping Fun’
- Mary Todd Lincoln, Batavia Resident
- The Women Who Broke Codes at Riverbank Labs in Geneva
- Turn Around in Aurora And You’ll Bump Into a Luxembourger
- Geneva History Museum Offers COVID-19 Journal
- Aurora’s Amazing Family Portrait Exhibit ‘A Brilliant Idea’
- How St. Charles Survived The Spanish Flu in 1918
- Elgin Epidemics — COVID-19 Is Not The First To Bring Suffering, Sorrow
- Geneva Museum Passes Milestone
- Aurora’s African-American Police Officers
- Garner Family Is St. Charles’ Juneteenth Celebration Story
- Notable Black Americans From Elgin, IL
- Black Batavians Played Key Roles in History
- Geneva History Museum Reveals Archive Redesign
- Family Secrets — Historian Finds 1866 ‘I Love … ‘ Message Scratched in Tanner House Window
- Cut Glass Was Booming During Roaring 20s in St. Charles
- Elgin Remembers Devastating Palm Sunday 1920 Tornadoes
- Batavians Find Treasure in 150-Year-Old Privies
- Geneva Hosts Virtual Night at The Museum
- Visit Aurora’s Tanner House — With a Click of The Mouse
- Elgin Cemetery Walk Is Virtual Travel Through Time
- James Prindle Jr.’s Roll Top Desk Returns To Batavia
- 60 Years Ago, Kennedy Campaigned in Geneva
- Aurora’s 1894 Central Station Proud Home of Regional Fire Museum
- Secret Symbolism in Elgin’s Bluff City Cemetery
- Meet The Doctors Who Shaped St. Charles’ History
- Batavia Inventor Paul Hassler And His Arithstyle Adding Machine
- The ‘Background’ on Geneva’s Famous Creche
- Aurora Soldier’s Diary Reveals Gripping Story of War, Love, Pain And Heroism
- St. Charles’ Delnor Hospital — A Thanksgiving Gift in 1940
- Meet Elgin’s Mary Muirhead of The WWI Army Nurse Corps
- Geneva’s Holiday Giving Tradition Continues Despite Pandemic
- Remembering The Days When Aurorans Cut Ice on The Fox River
- Arcada Plans Next Chapter of Its St. Charles Story
- Christmas Memories in Elgin
- A Brief History of The Batavia Historical Society
- Order Your Geneva Home By Mail — Right From the Catalog!
- Aurora’s Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Winter of 1918
- St. Charles’ Response to COVID-19 Sparks Memories of WWII
- Elgin’s Black Soldiers Proudly Served in U.S. Armed Forces
- Amazing Stories of Batavia’s Thriving Black Community Date Back To 1855
- Step Back in Time to See ‘HerStory’ in Geneva
- Aurora Will Never Forget The Great Flood of 1857
- When Cars Came To Elgin, Tragedy Followed
- Batavia’s Female Athletes Fought To Play The Games They Love
- Take a Tour of Geneva Art History!
- Play Ball! Hall of Famer Casey Stengel Among the Greats to Round The Bases in Aurora
Sign Up To KCC E-Newsletter