Kentucky Rosebud
(Walter Edgerton)

KENTUCKY ROSEBUD, whose real name was Walter Edgerton, boxed professionally, generally as a featherweight, from 1886 right up until 1916, when he twice fought and defeated John Henry Johnson in Philadelphia. "Kentucky Rosebud" was past 60 at the time of the fights, and Johnson was well past 40. 

Walter Edgerton was born in Raleigh, North Carolina on November 18, 1854. He is known to have appeared in the ring around 100 times, compiling a known record of 28 wins, 41 losses, and 30 draws. In all likelihood he fought far more than what is currently known. Most of his fights were in Philadelphia. He was at his peak in the mid-1890s, and fought featherweight champion George Dixon to a draw twice in 1892, and was defeated by him on points twice in 1893. On March 22, 1894 

in a non-title fight, he knocked Dixon out in the second round. They fought again in 1896 with Dixon winning and fought to a draw in 1897. "Kentucky Rosebud" also fought former world champion Young Griffo and twice fought future world champion Joe Gans. He remained fairly active as a fighter as late as 1902, when he fought at least nine times. He is known to have fought once in 1903, then seems to have retired. In 1913 another man boxed in Altoona as "Young Kentucky Rosebud", and it is doubtful that Walter Edgerton was the man who fought light-heavyweight Battling Holmes in New York in 1915. What is certain is that Walter Edgerton, fighting as Kentucky Rosebud, defeated John Henry Johnson in Philadelphia on June 28, 1915 and did the same thing twice in 1916, on January 27 by knockout and on August 23.

Regarding Walter Edgerton's age at the time of the John Henry Johnson fights in 1916, the 1910 Census and his death certificate indicate that he was born around 1855. At least one news paper article gives his birth date as November 18, 1854 which fits the Census and death records. Perhaps adding to the public confusion about his age are the newspapers of the time of the Johnson fights in 1916, who are somewhat all over the place regarding exactly how old he was, but who all have born in the 1850s, save one report by Robert Maxwell of the Philadelphia Evening Ledger, who took a few years off, perhaps in disbelief that a man that old could move around the ring. 

"They are the famous Kentucky Rosebud, aged 63 years, and the equally famous John Henry Johnson, aged 45." (wire, January 24, 1916)

"The Kentucky Rosebud, the former great negro featherweight, who modestly admits being 61 years old, knocked out his veteran rival John Henry Johnson, another dusky warrior, who admits to having been on this earth for forty-three summers and as many winters." (wire in Trenton Evening Times, January 28, 1916)

"The Rosebud, who confesses to being 62 years old, ... knocked out John Henry Johnson, another veteran colored pugilist, whose span of life covers some 43 years". (wire in Indianapolis Freeman, February 12, 1916)

"Philadelphia, May 18. John Henry Johnson, 56 years of age, defeated the Kentucky Rosebud, who is 61, in six rounds at the National A. C. here last night." (wire, May 18, 1916)

"In the semi-windup there is offered a novelty in the bout between John Henry Johnson and the Kentucky Rosebud, two of the oldest pugilists in the world. The Bud is 60 years and Johnson near that mark." (Philadelphia Inquirer, August 22, 1916)

"The semiwind-up was real exciting, as it brought together the Kentucky Rosebud and John Henry Johnson, a couple of sterling athletes who used to go big when Hector was a pup. The Bud is 55 years old and J. Henry a couple of years younger." (Robert Maxwell in Philadelphia Evening Ledger, August 24, 1916)

"My record books show that the 'Bud' has turned his fiftieth year, but when he called on me he confidentially told me that he was 64 years old. I don't believe he is that old, but he says so and we've got to believe him." (Walter Schlichter in Philadelphia North American, quoted in Anaconda Standard, December 29, 1918)

Perhaps what is more amazing is that in April of 1921 he climbed back into the ring with John Henry Johnson for an exhibition bout.  

Aside from his boxing exploits, Walter Edgerton was in and out of the newspapers quite a bit in his later years, involving several scrapes with law enforcement in Philadelphia and in Camden, New Jersey. His legal problems centered around running disorderly houses, i.e., prostitution and gambling, and he served jail time in Philadelphia and in New Jersey's state prison. His first brush with the law that this writer has found happened in 1904 in Philadelphia, when he was arrested for running a crap game. In 1906 he was arrested again in similar charges, and in 1910 got into more trouble for running a disorderly house, i.e., a bordello. This and other offenses earbed him some time jail time in Philadelphia. 

Walter Edgerton appears in the 1910 Census in Philadelphia, living at 245 Warnock Street in Philadelphia, with a wife of 11 years, Minnie M. Smith, and two step-children, Clifton and Nettie. This appears to have been a common-law marriage, as the two were legally married in Camden in November of 1917. The Census states he was keeping a cigar store at the time, and he also had five lodgers in the house, three of them female and under twenty-five years of age. 

By the spring of 1912 Philadelphia had gotten to hot for him and he moved to Camden. over the next eighteen years he resided at different addresses in the vicinity of Second and Sycamore Streets.

In June of 1913 Walter Edgerton was arrested at his home at 811 Locust Street on charges of running a disorderly house. He went to trial in October and was sentenced to serve one to three years imprisonment at Trenton State Prison. 

Upon release, Walter Edgerton operated a pool hall for a time, and apparently continued to make money of of vice-related activities. He was witness to a fatal shooting 

As mentioned before, he fought three times professionally in Philadelphia in 1915-1916 and also appeared in exhibition bouts in 1920 and 1921. 

In October of 1922, Minnie Smith Edgerton died and was buried at Mt. Peace Cemetery in Lawnside, New Jersey. Walter Edgerton was arrested again in 1924 and 1927 on gambling charges. He passed away at Philadelphia General Hospital on May 3, 1930. Cause of death was acute myocarditis and vascular syphilis, and he had been suffering from arteriosclerotic dementia.

Philadelphia Inquirer * March 23, 1894

John W. Wescott
Walter "Kentucky Rosebud" Edgerton

Philadelphia Inquirer
January 25, 1904

Philadelphia Inquirer * December 24, 1906


Camden Evening Courier
November 18, 1908


Philadelphia Inquirer
August 6, 1910


Philadelphia Inquirer * August 10, 1910




Camden Daily Courier
October 27, 1910









Philadelphia Inquirer
April 20, 1911








Camden Post-Telegram * April 9, 1912


George Nowrey - Arthur Stanley - Locust Street - Spruce Street - Eli Johnson - William P. Walsh
Daniel Bussey - O. Glen Stackhoue -
John Painter - Walter "Kentucky Rosebud" Edgerton

Camden Post-Telegram
June 9, 1913

Elbridge B. McClong
Arthur Stanley
Locust Street
Walter "Kentucky Rosebud" Edgerton


Camden Daily Courier * October 16, 1913

Walter "Kentucky Rosebud" Edgerton

Camden Post Telegram * October 16, 1913

Walter "Kentucky Rosebud" Edgerton - Locust Street - William T. Boyle

Camden Post Telegram
November 20, 1917

William D. Brown
Philip Facenda
Mary A. Cericola
Ferry Avenue
Guy P. Mackenzie 
Nellie C. Jubb
Walnut Street
Walter Edgerton
Minnie M. Smith
Joint Alley


Camden Daily Courier
September 25, 1920

Black Bill
Walter "Kentucky Rosebud" Edgerton
Jim Blair


Camden Daily Courier
April 20, 1921

James Lewis
Walter "Kentucky Rosebud" Edgerton
John Henry Johnson


Camden Post Telegram
May 18, 1921

George Dixon


Camden Daily Courier * November 23, 1921

Francis Street - Locust Street - Chestnut Street - Mt. Vernon Street
George V. Murry - Arthur Miller - Walter "Kentucky Rosebud" Edgerton - Noah Walker
John B. Kates - Moses Wayman - Charles Wayland - Cornelius Johnson - Emmanuel Murray

Camden Daily Courier
October 6, 1922

Francis Street

Camden Daily Courier * December 29, 1924

South 2nd Street - South 9th Street  - Division Street - Francis Street - Ivins Street - Mt. Vernon Street Sycamore Street - Walnut Street - Theodore Guthrie - Leon Branch - George A. Ward

Camden Daily Courier
February 7, 1927

Ivins Street
Locust Street

Joint Alley
Pine Street
Baxter Street

Division Street

South 2nd Street

Camden Daily Courier
May 8, 1930

Mt. Vernon Street
Mt. Peace Cemetery, Lawnside NJ