No. 847: Gordon House Road, NW5
Parliament Hill Fields Athletics Track, Parliament Hill, Gordon House Road, London, NW5. Photo © Roger Dean 2013
London and Londoners in the Eighteen-Fifties and Sixties – Alfred Rosling Bennett, 1924:
Running was a more popular sport than at present, the names of its prominent professors being known to the multitude, although not so widely as those of the rowing and boxing champions. In 1861 a runner arrived from America who was said to be a “Seneca” Indian named Deerfoot and the best sprinter on the Western Continent.
He came in the Great Eastern and secured a good advertisement in advance by running races in Indian costume round the vessel’s vast decks and easily beating all and sundry. He contested matches up to ten miles, still in picturesque Indian dress, with Mills and our other best men, often defeating them, so that in a few weeks Deerfoot had his name well established in sporting circles, while the fleetness of limb ascribed to the Red Indian by Fennimore [sic] Cooper, Mayne Reid and other writers was held to be fully demonstrated.
He stayed a year or two and made a good pile of dollars. Then furtive rumours, which grew into positive assertions, got about that the whole show was bunkum. Deerfoot was no Red Indian, but an Englishman who had never seen a wigwam in his life! He once attended a gathering of reporters to the sporting press attired as a Seneca Chief, and smoked the pipe of peace with them; they little guessed, poor innocents, how he was “smoking” them too! To what extent our own pedestrians were privy to the affair could not be said, but ugly assertions were not lacking. It had a disagreeable flavour and reacted against the popularity of running. But Deerfoot was certainly a good sprinter.