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Liberty produced world champion cyclist
Liberty lore
LORE BobbywTrainer
Bobby Walthour with his trainer Gus Castle in 1896. - photo by Photo courtesy of Atlanta History Center
Liberty County will have at least 100 descendants of Andrew Walthour coming from all across the United States for a Walthour reunion this weekend.
Liberty County Commission Chairman John McIver, Midway Mayor Don Emmons, Liberty County Historical Society Vice President Margie Love, Danny Norman and Charles Walthour will welcome the visitors.
The group will gather at the Midway Civic Center to share genealogy, notes and pictures on Friday morning. After enjoying a catered lunch prepared by Casey and Marty Adams, they will tour the Midway Church, museum and cemetery. Then they will travel to the Walthourville Presbyterian Cemetery.
Saturday, they will be greeted by Walthourville Mayor Henry Frasier at the Tea Grove Plantation in the area of the original Walthourville village. During the day, they also will visit the historic Walthourville Presbyterian Church.
Most of these people have an interest in bicycle racing. Why do they want to visit Liberty County? Read on.
Johann Caspar Waldhauer, born in 1690, was a Salzburger who came over on the ship “Judith” from Austria with his two sons, Johann Caspar, 15, and Georg Michael, 14. They landed in Savannah in 1746. They were supposed to immigrate through the port of Philadelphia, but Spaniards captured their ship and rerouted them to Savannah. They set up a homesite in the Ebenezer community of what would become Effingham County.
 Johann was 55 at the time of arrival. The father of six children died early in the morning of Dec. 3, 1766, and was buried the evening of the same day in the Ebenezer cemetery.
Andrew Walthour was the youngest of the six. He was born in 1750. Later, The King of England granted him 280 acres of land in the Midway area.  We know Andrew was a Revolutionary War soldier and in 1795 at age 53, he moved from the coastal area of Liberty County because of the malaria problems to an area known as Sand Hills and established his plantation and home there.
He grew long staple cotton, rice, sugar cane and corn. He was a wealthy planter and well respected and around 1800 the village was named Walthourville in his honor as being the first settler.
 In 1820, Andrew donated land for a union house of worship. The building was used for that and later other things. In 1864, it was used for an academy.
In 1844, Walthourville was one of the most prosperous country villages in southern Georgia with a population of more than 700.
In 1855, the village was the largest and most flourishing in Liberty County.
The second Walthourville Presbyterian Church was erected on lands purchased from the Walthour Estate after the first was destroyed by fire. The second one was destroyed by a storm in 1881. The third one, and the one still standing, was built in 1884 on the same spot.
Andrew Walthour and his wife Ann Hophmire had two daughters, Sarah Ann and Mary, who died young, and a son, George Washington Walthour. Andrew died in 1824 at the age of 82 and is buried in the Midway Cemetery.
  George W. Walthour married Mary Ann Amelia Russell, a native of the island of San Salvador, and they had five girls and five boys. Amelia’s great great nephew was Richard B. Russell, a governor of Georgia and U. S. senator. At the time of his death in 1859, George W. Walthour was the richest and largest slaveholder in Liberty County. He was buried in the Midway Cemetery but after his wife died and was buried in the Walthourville Presbyterian Cemetery, his remains were removed and he was placed beside his wife. In 1860, the census recorded his estate as having 300 slaves.
Their fourth child, William Lowndes Walthour, married Sarah Ann Fleming and had three children. Sarah died in 1868 and later he married Amelia Papot and they had six children, five boys and a girl. Palmer was born in 1873 in the Pulaski House in Savannah. Charles Tattnall was born in 1875. Bobby and Jimmy Walthour, twins, were born Jan. 1, 1878 in Walthourville. These children are the great-grandchildren of Andrew Walthour.  Charles Tattnall Walthour is the grandfather of Charles Walthour , who organized this reunion.
 William Lowndes Walthour was captain of the 1st Battalion Georgia Calvary (Liberty Independent Troop) known as Captain Walthour’s Company from May 17, 1862.  He also was a railroad engineer and built the first train bridge over water in Savannah. He died Dec. 6, 1890, and was buried beside his wife in Laurel Grove Cemetery.
Bobby’s older brother, Palmer had moved to Atlanta in 1885 and worked for the W. D. Alexander Bicycle Co. He went on to be the co-founder and president of Walthour & Hood (a sporting goods store with a specialty in bicycles) in Atlanta.. Palmer sent for the siblings to come and live with him in Atlanta after the death of both parents. Bobby was 12  years of old.
The entire family showed an energetic and enterprising spirit early on. This would carry them far during a time when a man had to be tough and resilient to get ahead in the world. When Bobby was 15 he worked for Harry Silverman and at 17 he was a clerk in Alexander Bicycle Shop and became more interested in bicycles.  
Bobby brought fame and honor to himself and Georgia as one of the greatest racing cyclists the sport has produced. Palmer was his first sponsor. Bobby was the only man to ever hold the American and World Cycling Championships simultaneously. He was also the “Iron Man of Cycling,”  twice pronounced dead by doctors and reported “fatally injured” six times after track smash-ups. The press sometimes referred to him as “Greedy Walthour” because he won so many races.
Throughout his career, he sustained numerous broken bones, cuts and losses of skin from falls on the track. Many of these were at speeds of 40 to 50 mph. The tally goes something like this: right collar bone, 29 times; left collar bone, 15 times; ribs, 32 times; fingers, 6; thumb, 1; arms and other bones, too many to count. Twice after accidents, he was at first assumed dead. Many times Bobby even raced with broken bones. He could get up after being knocked out for an hour and finish a race.
He started his racing career in Atlanta at the age of 15, competing in a program consisting on one race for boys and five for men. He won them all and went on to become world champion. He won the 10-hour race in Boston and he and Archie McEachmen won the Six-Day Race in Madison Square Garden in December, 1901. He repeated two years later, riding with Bennie Munroe.
He won the world’s motor-paced championship in London in 1904, from a field representing 17 nations. He repeated in Antwerp in 1905. He won every European motor-paced classic for 10 years preceding World War I. He set 26 world records in 1904.
In 1915, he won the Boston mile in 1 minute, 7 seconds and in France he raced 57 miles in 1 hour flat.
  Bobby Walthour Sr., nicknamed the “Dixie Flyer,” and who brought honor to Georgia by his fabulous feats in cycling died in Boston, Sept. 1, 1949, at 71. When he died, the story was on the front page of both the Atlanta Journal Constitution and his obituary commanded a full column in the New York Times.
 He is in the New York Sports Hall of Fame, the U. S. Bicycling Hall of Fame in New Jersey and The Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, Atlanta has all but forgotten him.
   Bobby was a true Georgian and was an ambassador for Atlanta wherever he traveled throughout the world. He was a fine and moral man and refused to race on Sunday. He worked for the YMCA during World War I when he was too old to serve his country in battle.
 For over four generations, athletic success has reoccurred in the Walthour family like an echo. The legacy began with Bobby Walthour Sr. who is respected as the forefather of cycling in the United States. Bobby Walthour Jr. was a national champion and multiple Six Day Champion in the 1920s and 1930s. Bobby Jr’s cousin, Jimmy Walthour, was a national champion and Six Day Racer. Bobby (the Bullet) Walthour IV is the latest to enter the winner’s circle. At age 35, he won the gold medal in the kilometer time trail at the U. S. Masters National Championships in Redmond, Washington, in June of 2001.
Bobby Walthour Sr., the famous cyclist, born in Walthourville in 1878, is the reason these visitors from many states are coming to see their ancestor’s birthplace.
I did not know anything about him until two months ago, but after reading about him and his fame, I am proud he is another historical person from Liberty County.
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