We all come across interesting people in our family tree from time to time. My cousin (1st cousin 5 times removed), "Bernarr Macfadden", certainly qualifies. He is still well known in certain circles, and promoted many of the ideas we have today about health and fitness.
He was born Bernard McFadden on August 16, 1868, in the tiny town of Mill Spring, Wayne County, Missouri. My 5th great grandfather, Samuel McFadden, was his grandfather. Bernard had a rough childhood, which may have inspired him to push his way forward for the rest of his life. He supposedly even changed his name to Bernarr because it sounds more like a lion's roar.
He spent most of his life away from Missouri, but did make a much celebrated visit to his hometown in 1928. An article published in The Greenville Sun (Greenville, Wayne County, Missouri) follows:
Famous Publisher Will Visit Piedmont. Extensive preparations are under way for the barbecue and entertainment to be provided by Bernarr McFadden, the world famous physical culturist and publisher, during his visit in Piedmont on next Saturday, October 27. McFadden, whose birthplace was on a farm near Leeper, has invited all of Wayne County to meet him in Piedmont on next Saturday. Free barbecue, prepared by master hands, free picture shows for the children, free music and a general good time is offered. A home coming for Bernarr McFadden with everybody as his guests.
Only a few people in Wayne county were aware that Bernarr McFadden, an international character, was a native of Wayne county. The story of his life and his rise to wealth and fame rivals the imaginative creations of our best fiction writers. He is a son of Bill McFadden, remembered by the old timers, the McFadden family being one of the pioneer families in Wayne county. Bill McFadden, as remembered by Wm. Carter, was a big, portly fine looking man, of strong mentality which was put to but little use. He was more devoted to cards and horse racing than to more prosaic pursuits of livelihood. He had quite a reputation as a wit and some of the pranks he played are still the subject of reminiscence when the old residents get together.
The St. Louis Chamber of Commerce recently invited Mr. McFadden to address it and he will come west with his family from their New York home to fill the appointment. Taking advantage of his nearness to his birthplace he decided to visit Wayne county which accounts for his visit here Saturday. He is anxious to meet the Wayne county people and particularly desirous of meeting those citizens who remember his family and his early surroundings. Some of his family connections are still in Wayne county and these he especially wishes to see.
Wayne county should be proud that another one of her sons has grown to a position of eminence in the world and let us all get out next Saturday to pay our respects to Mr. McFadden, break bread and barbecue with him and incidentally have an awful good time.
Mr. McFadden and his family will arrive in Piedmont in their special car at 9 a.m. Saturday morning to remain throughout the day.
In the article above, Bernarr's father Bill was known to be involved with gambling and racing horses. The same is true for Bill's brother and my 4th great grandfather, Pennington McFadden. I hope to learn more about this one day.