Bruce Jarvis owns an older home in Canal Winchester that one might say has "good bones."

It was originally a log cabin located on a farm in Carroll that was the family homestead of James J. Jeffries, one of America's legendary all-time great prizefighters.

Jeffries was born in Violet Township and spent his early, formative years on the farm until his father moved the family to California when Jim was 7 years old.

Jarvis will give a presentation about Jeffries, sponsored by the Pickerington-Violet Township Historical Society, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 2, in the Violet Township Administration Building, 12970 Rustic Drive, Pickerington. Admission is free and light refreshments will be served.

"The house was moved here from five miles away," Jarvis said of his residence. "It's the house where James Jeffries was born in 1875.

"They moved to California in 1882 because one of the (Jeffries) children was sick and the father thought it would be better out there," Jarvis said.

The Jeffries cabin was vacant for many years and was close to being razed. It was dismantled and reconstructed in Canal Winchester to become part of the house where Jarvis lives today.

Jeffries was once a household name in the formative years of organized American sport. He went on to become the World Heavyweight Champion in 1899 by knocking out Bob Fitzsimmons in Brooklyn, New York.

Jeffries would go on to successfully defend his title seven times over the course of the following six years before retiring.

"The neat thing about Jeffries was he sort of terrorized the heavyweight field at the time," said Jarvis, who is also a Canal Winchester City Council member.

"He beat the top guys not just once, but twice,"

The lure of a $1 million purse brought Jeffries out of retirement in 1910 to fight the legendary Jack Johnson in Reno, Nevada.

"Jeffries had to lose 100 pounds to get back into fighting shape," Jarvis said. "He looked the part, but didn't have any of his stamina from his fighting days."

The comeback fight that drew the attention of the world ended with a convincing Johnson victory by technical knockout in round 15.

"If it were not for that embarrassing defeat, Jeffries would have gone down as one of the best," Jarvis said..

After the loss, Jeffries returned to stay in California to train other boxers prior to his death in 1953. He was elected into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.

"If he had not lost that last fight, he would have gone down as the greatest," Jarvis said. "The boxing world kind of dropped him like a hot rock after that."

Nonetheless, James Jeffries' legacy is firmly secure not only as one of the best fighters in American history, but his connection to Violet Township is also etched into history.

According to a book Jarvis found in his exhaustive biographical research of Jeffries, the fighter did return to the local homestead at least once.

"He still remembered the place where he grew up," Jarvis said. "He went back to visit there in 1903 to see his uncle. He didn't go in the house because strangers occupied the place."

Jarvis said history has largely forgotten the man who soundly defeated such legends as "Gentleman" Jim Corbett and Tom Sharkey, however, he believes it is important area residents at least understand that greatness arose out of the verdant fields of Violet Township.

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