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Bitgood Power

July 2024
1min read

Eyes narrowed, muscles tensed, galluses straining, mighty Elmer Bitgood of Voluntown, Connecticut, prepares to heft his homemade weightstwin kegs filled with rocks. He was the local Samson—every turn-of-the-century town seems to have had one—a kindly giant about whom legends grew. Elmer was so strong, townspeople swear, that he could carry a full-grown bull, hoist a steamboat boiler, lift a 4,200-pound carnival platform on his back. Clean living, country air, and an awesome appetite were said to be responsible. His mother fixed his meals in a washtub: four chickens at a sitting, eight quarts of peas and beans, a mountain of biscuits, two quarts of strawberries, and still he left the table hungry. Elmer was proud of his strength, but shy. He never married, and a youthful season or two as a side-show attraction were all of the larger world he could stand. He worked the family farm until he died in 1938, but he is not entirely forgotten: each summer, Voluntown stages a weightlif ting contest called “Shades of Elmer” in his honor.


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