Clarence W. Terwilliger

As a mature man, Clarence served in the responsible position of Hillsdale County Fair Secretary for many years. However, it's his exploits as one of the famed "Oarsmen" that give him an enduring place in Hillsdale County history.

Who knows what inspired several Hillsdale County young men to establish not one but two sculling clubs. This gentlemanly sport flourished in England, while the Hillsdale men had no experience in rowing and used only "common sense" to figure out how to move together in the most efficient, effective way.  

Clarence and three friends, after only two months of practice, won the National American Amateur Rowing Championship by the fastest time ever recorded—8:32.75. With their continued success, in the spring of 1882 the National Association of Amateur Oarsmen voted to send them to England to represent America in the Athletic Amateur Contest.

The unconventional rowing style they had developed on Baw Beese Lake elicited incredulous ridicule by the English crew. The Oxford Rowing Team, no doubt offended, sniffed that the Americans wouldn't be recognized as scullers by English standards.  

Despite the challenges of the Thames River, the oarsmen from Hillsdale managed to gain a healthy lead on their opponents when suddenly L.F. Beckhardt's seat broke. Clarence, as captain, stopped the rowing and fixed the seat. Then the boys regained their rowing rhythm and slowly gained on their opponents. The finish line found them just three lengths behind the English team.   

Clarence's team lost the race but gained the high regard of the English. The personal disappointment that the Oarsmen took home was balanced by pride in what they had almost achieved. 

JoAnne P. Miller