Pedaling forward for Major Taylor

Monday, February 12, 2018
Two sides of this historical sign, once located at 38th Street and Monon Trail in Indianapolis, highlight the life of Marshall “Major” Taylor, an African American Hoosier legend.
Courtesy photo

Since the month of February is when everyone is to celebrate Black History Month, let’s look at more of the story behind a recently vandalized historical marker in Indianapolis.

Marshall Walter (Major) Taylor was born on Nov. 26, 1878 in Indianapolis. His father’s name was Gilbert Taylor and his mother’s name was Saphronia Kelter. Marshall’s family additionally consisted of two brothers and five sisters.

During Marshall’s childhood, he performed bicycle stunts in front of a local store and played and lived with Dan Southard. Dan’s family was a wealthy white family who bought Marshall one of the newest types of bikes built at the time. Without this help, Marshall would not have had the bicycle that led to his perseverance world acclaim.

Courtesy photo

Marshall’s first bike race was when he was 13. He broke numerous world records while also working a paper route to support his family.

Though he did not have funds to attend college, Marshall raced bicycles. A tutor taught him at home, where he learned to read and write. When Marshall was an adult, he married Daisy and had one child named Sidney. He became one of the greatest bicyclists of all time becoming world revered.

Sadly, Marshall’s life concluded with him experiencing numerous occasions of discrimination, family complications and a burial in an unmarked grave. Later a group of individuals who wanted to give Marshall a proper burial moved his resting site to a better area of the cemetery with proper markings.

Marshall died penniless on June 21, 1932 at the young age of 53. A historical sign until this past summer depicted how he forged a great path for African American advancement and the spirit of competition to succeed.

Unfortunately, sometime during July 2017, someone knocked down the sign and efforts were made to restore the historical sign. A cyclist group from the East Coast provided the remaining funds needed to replace the historical marker and a new sign is ready for installation. According to the Indiana Historical Bureau, a dedication program will occur later this year.

Visit or you can contact the local Purdue Extension Office by calling 653-8411 for more information regarding this week’s column topic or to RSVP for upcoming events. It is always best to call first to assure items are ready when you arrive and to RSVP for programs. While many publications are free, some do have a fee.

Upcoming events

Feb. 13 – Junior Leader meeting, Fairgrounds, 7 p.m.

Feb. 15 – Sheep and goat webinar, Extension Office, 7 p.m.

Feb. 17 – Beef weigh-in/tagging, Fairgrounds, 8 a.m.-noon.

Feb. 20 – Farmers’ Market vendor workshop – Local Networking Night, Extension Office, 6:30 p.m.

Feb. 21 – Youth Quality Care Animal Workshops signup livestock page, Putnam Extension website.

Feb. 23 – Food Pantry Coalition meeting, Extension Office, 10 a.m.

Feb. 24 – 4-H Grows Knowledge Clinic at Cloverdale, contact office to RSVP or flyer on website.

March 7 – Exploring 4-H meeting, Community Building, Fairgrounds, 6 p.m.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: