One of the most famous athletes to live in Niagara County was James Graham, who won more than 1,800 races, either running, walking or ice skating. Before he set off on a career of racing, Graham operated Lockport’s first Ice Cream Parlor, located at 69 Locust Street.
Born in Lewiston in 1857, Graham began racing at the age of 10 when he won a 100-yard dash and at the age of 15 won five and ten mile championships for ice skating. By 1880, he had defeated the champion of Scotland in a five mile race and also won several 27 hour walking races. The next year he won 40 races and the following year, 70 races in the U.S. and Canada. By 1883 he was racing by foot against roller skaters, winning 90 of 106 races.
With his record improving every year, Graham could probably be called the Forrest Gump of his day. It is fairly certain that no other area athlete ever captured as many prizes as he did. At the age of 47, he was selected to represent our country at the international races held at the St. Louis World’s Fair. In training for the event, Graham ran a 74 mile race in Philadelphia and a 6 day endurance race in Pittsburgh, as well as making the round trip from Lockport to Olcott Beach, twice each day when he was home. He handily won the competition at the World’s Fair and later received further acclaim when Ripley’s Believe It Or Not recognized him for a walk of 123 miles in one day without a pause or rest.
Douglas Farley, Director
Ann Marie Linnabery
Erie Canal Discover Center
24 Church St.
Lockport NY 14094