The boys who rode on horseback from New York to San Francisco in 62 days

 
 
 
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The Abernathy brothers were a couple of adventurous children who did several cross country trips at the beginning of the 20th century. The older brother was named Louis Van Abernathy and was born in 1899 in Texas. The younger was born in 1904 in Tipton, Oklahoma and was given the name Temple Reeves Abernathy.

Their father, Jack Abernathy was a cowboy and a U.S. Marshal. Adventurous since the earliest age, the brothers did their first trip in 1909, when Louis was 9 and Temple 5 years old. They traveled from Frederick, Oklahoma to Santa Fe, New Mexico on horseback, and did their feat without any adult supervision. When they returned home, their plans for a new trip began.

George Grantham Bain Collection

The second adventure of the Abernathy brothers happened in 1910 when they rode from Oklahoma to New York City, all in order to meet Theodore Roosevelt. The ex-president of the United States had just returned from his trip to Africa and Europe, and the young boys wanted to greet him. Again without an adult to supervise them, they made the trip and were greeted as celebrities once they reached New York.

A parade was organized in their honor and they rode their horses behind Roosevelt’s car. While they were there, the brothers bought a small Brush Motor Car, sent their horses back home on a train and drove the car to Oklahoma by themselves. They were 10 and 6 years old, respectively.

One year after they became celebrities, the brothers were challenged to ride from New York to San Francisco in 60 days. As the prize of $10,000 was promised if they succeeded, Louis and Temple accepted the challenge. This, their third and most famous adventure happened in 1911. According to the contract, they were forbidden from sleeping and eating indoors during the trip. It took the boys 62 days to reach San Francisco and sadly they lost the prize, but they had set a record for the shortest time taken to travel this distance on horseback.

It was two years later when the famous brothers purchased an Indian motorcycle, which they used to travel from Oklahoma to New York one more time. This was their final documented adventure, on which they were accompanied by their stepbrother Anton. When the boys grew up, Lewis studied at the Oklahoma Law School and became a lawyer in Texas. The younger brother Temple found a job in the oil and gas business.

 

A contemporary newspaper article published after their 1910 trip.

 

The world eventually forgot about the adventurous brothers and as time passed, they faded from history. However, the city of Frederick, Oklahoma still remembers the Abernathy brothers well.

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Besides erecting a statue in honor of the boys, the city also dedicated a part of the Chamber of Commerce website to promoting their story. What’s more, an annual celebration of their ride to Santa Fe is organized.