Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Fred Tillotson

Our family has some great runners associated with it.

Past: Earlier I posted on Leslie's grandfather, and his success on the Michigan track team.

Present: Ann had a great success with the Wheaton College cross country running team, she was the overall winner of the Dinosaur Dash, she is coaching the Okemos High School cross country and track teams, and is currently running well.

Future: Ryan recently completed his first mile long race, and is shown here sprinting to first in a T-Ball game.

But wait!, there is more. My grandmother's brother, Fred Tillotson, was a successful runner for Michigan Agricultural College in 1909 and 1910. He was Big Ten Champion in the two mile in 1909. This is possible, even though Michigan State did not join the Big Ten until 1948, because it was an open competition, and schools from as far away as California competed. Here is the story of that race as written in the Holcad, MAC's newspaper, and quoted in the Spartan Encyclopedia:

"'Tillie' drew 11th place in the starting, but had hardly run 20 yards before he had worked his way over to the pole with but six men in front of him. Holding his position, he ran about the 5th lap when he worked ahead again to 3rd place. Strophlet had set the pace at the start, and at the end of the first mile, still led with a great lead, going at a 440 clip.
As the runners went up the back stretch of the sixth lap, Tillotson jumped into second place and closed directly behind Stophlet, where he stayed until coming into the stretch of the 8th lap. Nearly every athlete on the field by this time was calling and yelling to "Tillie" to "beat him up," and a terrific sprint up the straight away put Tillotson in first place.
Tillotson was given a great ovation as he finished the race, both by the men on the track, and the four or five thousand spectators."

A year later in 1910 this happened(also from the Spartan Encyclopedia):
In what is recorded as the first Michigan State cross country team, an Aggie sextet was among the five teams, and 30 individual entries that toed the line at the Hope College Invitational on Saturday, April 9. Just as with today's scoring, the team's point total was based on the finish of the first five members of each team. A harbinger of great future performances for Michigan State, the neophyte Aggies of that day took both the individual honors, and the team title. Fred Tillotson won the race in a time of 21:15 over the course of approximately four miles."

My dad remembers his grandmother (Fred's mother) telling of getting phone calls in the small town of Elsie informing her that her son was out "running around town in his underwear."

A little more about Fred Tillotson:

He was born in Elsie in 1888.

His home on Ovid street in Elsie.

He received a degree in electrical engineering from MAC, and worked for Detroit Edison. He lived on Fifteenth Street while in Detroit.

He married Rosa Hicks, and his only child, Lucille, was born in 1914.

He died at the young age of 30 of tuberculosis in 1918.

(Most of the pictures of Fred came from pibburns.com)


  1. I love hearing about the history of Cayle's family. Keep it coming! Any medicine roots? Nurse Betty? Uncle T.Y.? (sorry if I didn't get his name right).

  2. Thanks. As a matter of fact, there is a Dr. Ten-Yue Ho post in the future. This seems like a nice way to preserve some of these stories.