Day 3 of my Olympic audio interview series features a former marathon runner from Alderville First Nation, who competed at the 1908 Olympic Games in London…Fred Simpson.
Below is a bio for Simpson, a 2020 Cobourg and District Sports Hall of Fame inductee, courtesy of the Alderville First Nation website (www.alderville.ca).
I was also fortunate to speak with Simpson’s great grandson, Alderville First Nation Chief Dave Mowat, who also provided me with the photo. Click the play button above for the interview.
Fred Simpson Sr. (1878-1945) was an Alderville Mississauga Ojibway marathon runner born and raised on the Alderville Indian Reserve. He was the son of James and Mary Simpson, and was raised in the Wesleyan Methodist Church at Alderville, while also learning the traditions of the people such as the gathering of wild rice, fishing and hunting. He lost his parents at a young age and was raised thereafter by his paternal grandmother, eventually taking on manual labour and soon leaving Alderville for the Hiawatha Indian Reserve situated on the north shore of Rice Lake, where he married Susan Muskrat around 1900.
A noted lanky, lithe and strong man Simpson took up road racing by 1906 and within a year was racing in such notable events as the Hamilton Herald Road Race. By 1908 his talents were worthy enough to be invited to the provincial and national Olympic marathon trials for a berth on the Canadian Olympic Marathon Team, which would be traveling to the 4th Olympiad in London, England in June of that year. Simpson easily won a berth on the team and in July he participated in the Olympic marathon that was run from Windsor Castle to Shepherd’s Bush in east London. Along with Tom Longboat the Six Nations Onondaga and Lewis Tewenina the American Hopi, it is the only Olympic Marathon in which 3 North American Indians have lined up at the start. Simpson and Longboat are also immortalized in a 16 mm filming of the start of the race at Windsor, the first Olympic Games to be filmed. After a grueling 26 mile trek Fred Simpson placed 6th for Canada out-distancing Longboat and Tewenina, as well as 50 other of the world’s best distance runners.
In 1909 he turned professional and raced on a circuit that took him to Georgia, New York City, Newark, New Jersey, Chicago, Buffalo, Montreal, Toronto and Fort William. He raced professionally until 1911-12, and retired back to Hiawatha to continue raising his family with Susan. In the 1920s Simpson and family moved back to Alderville where he lived out his life, passing away on May 19, 1945.
NOTE: While we wait for local sports to return following the COVID-19 pandemic, a big part of JG Sports Media’s website content will be audio interviews, like this one. Guests will include representatives from local sports organizations as well as other notable guests, many who have ties to this area and even some who don’t.
This Olympic series will run from July 24 until Aug. 9.