Archive for October, 2010

I was reading my newspaper this morning and there was an article in the human interest section discussing a place in Kentucky named Awe.  Awe appears on maps and on a GPS, however it just doesn’t exist any longer.  The roads are grown over, there are no remaining house structures, and no evidence exists that at one time the air would have been full of the sounds of a small farming community.  Now all that is heard is a bird calling to its mate or a chattering squirrel, or perhaps the sound of an engine on some distant highway.

I grew up in such a place; a place called Queens Creek.  It was a small farming community, pretty far from what we used to call the “hard” road, that being defined as a road that had a black top or concrete surface.  The nearest “hard” road would have been State Route 37  near Fort Gay, WV or one of the paved surface roads near Kenova, WV.

The families that lived there when I was a child in the thirties would have been the Erie Lakin family, the Arthur Hatten family, the Ralph Plymale family.  For a short period of time there was  a small building behind the Arthur Hatten home where his  son Cloise and his wife resided for a short time.  At the Plymale family house, the creek sort of split with Queens Creek continuing with a small no name branch veering to the left that everyone called the Curnutte hollow or “holler” in some quarters.  In the Curnutte hollow section lived the Ben Curnutte family, the Walter Johnson family and at one time the Jim Mcglone family.  At one time a gentleman named Enoch Johnson would come to stay at the Johnson family house for a few weeks or months to hunt squirrels and other small animals.  Continuing on up Queens Creek from the Plymale family home were the Boys family, then next the one room school-house where the community children all attended school, grades one through eight.  The school had a large class room and two small ante rooms just off of it.  One room was a coat room and the other was the school library that never had more than a dozen books at one time.  There was an open well for water, a boys outdoor toilet and a girls outdoor toilet.  I don’t remember if they were “one holers” and or “two holers”.  The class room was centrally heated.  HA!  What that means is that there was a “pot-bellied” stove in the CENTER  of the room.  You  had to strive hard to locate a comfort zone in the room.  Not to hot, not to cold. I remember my mother  would  treat us to  small cans of pork and beans for our lunch.  To heat them one would place them on a ring around the top of the pot-bellied stove.  One winter day I placed my little can of beans on the stove to heat prior to lunch.  One thing to remember, these were small, sealed cans of beans, not opened.  I committed the cardinal sin that day.  Yep, I left the beans on too long and if you guessed they blew up, you are right.  Beans all over the class room so there went my lunch.

There was a small house across from the school that was intermittently occupied with various families.  Newly weds, people moving into the community, that sort of thing.  Continuing just past the school-house there was a small house that an older couple lived in for a while but I can’t recall their names.  Next up the creek was the Emma LaLonde home.  Up a small branch behind her home was a small log cabin owned by Ira and Kate Ferguson.  I believe that he was retired from the railroad and had a permanent residence in Portsmouth, OH.  He and his wife would come to Queens Creek and spend the summers in their small cabin.  Continuing on up Queens Creek would have been the Jim Lakin home, the Bob Rayborn home, then the Susan Johnson home, and finally the Eli Workman home.  If I have left anyone out I am sure someone will correct me.

Queens Creek still has a number of families living on it but only one of the residents that was growing up at the time I was a youngster is still there.  Wanda Boys Hollingsworth still calls Queens Creek home and has a small home on the property where the old family home stood.  Due to declining health she now winters in Florida with relatives but returns each spring to the place of her youth.  There are a few relatives of the families that were there when I was a child that have returned to Queens Creek ,for whatever reasons, to live in their retirement years.

The roads while I was growing up were atrocious.  Dry and dusty in the summer and muddy and many times impassable with a motor vehicle in the winter.  Many times during the winter people might park their car at the point that the road connected with Big Hurricane Creek road to ensure that they could get to public work in Kenova or one of the nearby towns.  Once you arrived at Big Hurrincane Creek road, you were still not out of the woods.  This was another dirt road, maybe a bit wider, covered with some gravel.  This did not prevent the appearance of large “mud holes” not deep ruts in the winter time.  I recall our vehicle being towed out of the mud by horses or my Dad taking our horses and returning the favor to a neighbor. I can recall only traveling equally bad roads once in my lifetime since then.  That would have been travelling the road between Pineville, KY and Red Bird Mission Hospital located at Beverly, KY during the 1960s.  But that is a story for another time.

I remember one winter during the mid 30s when it was especially cold and rural roads became almost impassable for motor vehicles.  With man;y freezes and thaws there was simply no firm surface to drive on.  Usually on Thanksgiving and Christmas our family would go to visit our grandparents who lived on Mill Creek, just outside Fort Gay.  This must have been 1934 or 1935 because there were only three of us children at the time.  Since the roads were impassable, my dad hitched up a team of horses to the wagon, loaded the family in the wagon with lots of blankets and patchwork quilts and away we went.  I don’t know the distance but it must have been 15 miles or more.  I don’t recall much about the trip but I am sure it took three or four hours at the minimum.  In looking back I am sure that we were simply demonstrating the will and determination of the rural American family.  Would I or anyone else do that today?  I seriously doubt it.

Our house was the end of civilization, at least the US government must have thought so.  Why?  Because that is where the rural mail route ended.  There were a large number of rural  mailboxes fastened to a rack that my dad built fastened to posts he had set in the ground.  This made for a gathering of all of the neighbors living beyond the end of the route at our house each day.  Now I believe that mail is delivered to the end location of the last house on the creek.  Now that is progress and a real luxury.

Public utilities and sanitary for the area were a bout what one would find in any similar rural area at that time.  We did have running water at my house.  Translated this means, “you had to run to the dug well” .  The well was very well dug and quite old.  The water supply was very good but periodically I do remember that the well would be cleaned out.  This meant removing all of the water and cleaning the bottom.  I sort of remember that maybe when it was cleaned that they might put a little lime in the bottom, but perhaps not.  In that there was no refrigeration on the farm, a glass jug of  milk would be suspended by a rope in the well to provide cold milk for drinking.  Occasionally in withdrawing the jug of milk it would strike the stone sides of the well and break the jug.  Results; clean the well.  It probably was not real safe climbing down into the well to effect a cleaning.  Over the years, I have read of several instances where one or more people have died while down in the well working.  Probably a lack of oxygen.

The bathroom was the old “tried and true”  outdoor one or two hole toilet equipped with a Sears or Jim Brown catalog.  The bathtub would have been a large galvanized tub placed in the kitchen with water heated on the wood fired cook stove.  The dread of going to the outdoor toilet late on a cold winter night lay heavy on one’s mind.  Certainly no time was wasted in doing whatever was necessary.

Heat for the cold winter days and nights was provided from two or three fireplaces, a large centrally located heating stove, and the wood fired cookstove in the kitchen.  The fireplaces were all fired with coal.  As one might imagine, there were a lot of cold and hot spots throughout the house.  Of course, thermopane glass had not even been invented at that time, a lot of frosting occurred on the window pane and drafty air came around  the windows.

Providing wood for the kitchen cook stove was an ongoing job throughout the year.  A large pile of wood for the kitchen cook stove was kept stacked in the barn yard.  I have no idea why it was not placed closer to the source of its use, the kitchen.  A large wood box was kept in the kitchen and this was generally one of my or my siblings chores to keep this thing full.  Wood cutting days were held periodically on an as needed basis.  This always entailed bringing trees that were cut down in the woods to the barnyard where the old crosscut saws would be got out for use in cutting the logs into proper lengths.  The cut logs would then be split into usable pieces and put in a pile to season for a few weeks prior to their use.

As winter approached, it became time to “lay in” a winters supply of coal.  I recall that for a time that chore fell upon myself and my brother.  A gentleman named Cal Roberts operated a small one man coal mine near the mouth of Queens Creek on Big Hurricane Creek road.  We would put the harness on a team of horses and hitch them to a wagon and away we would go.  There would have been a pile of coal at the entrance to the mine from which we would load the wagon.  I believe a wagon load weighed one ton and of course it was not the cleanest job in the world.  We would haul the coal to an  outbuilding and load it inside for the winters use.  I don’t recall how much coal it took to heat for the winter but it was probably two or three wagon loads.  I think coal at that time, if you hauled it yourself, might have been two or three dollars a ton.  That would result in about ten or twelve dollars to heat for the winter.  Sounds pretty reasonable for today but at that time there was not a lot of dollars around.

I recall that in 1937 there was a terrible flood up and down the Ohio River valley.  All of the towns, including Kenova and Huntington were badly flooded terribly.  We had relatives living in those towns and their homes being underwater the only refuge they had was to come to our house to spend the duration of the flood.  This presented a great logistical problem for my mother in feeding so many.  I imagine there were probably twenty-five or so persons staying there.  The flood resulted in Queens Creek road being flooded at the point where it enters Big Hurricane road.  There was no way to get a vehicle in or out to shop for groceries.  I recall my grandfather travelling through the hills and bringing food supplies so that my mother could feed everyone.  She would have had a cellar full of canned foods, vegetables, etc. but for staples it was necessary to get flour, sugar, etc.  I was not quite seven years of age at the time so many of the memories of the flood have been long forgotten and when you are that age things like floods don’t have a great effect on you.  My mother was accustomed to cooking for large groups in that we would frequently have a lot of relatives visit us from the city for Sunday dinners so she somehow got through it all.

I remember walking home from school on a cold winters day and our  mother would always have a pan of hot ginger bread or a pot of hot chocolate or something equally as warming made for us.  Those things that I took for granted then, I miss so much now.  I even miss the chores that were our responsibility after school.  We would fill the coal buckets, bring in wood for the cook stove, fill the kerosene lamps, care for and feed the livestock and following supper (yep, that’s what we called it then) do whatever home work or reading assignments there were to do by the light of a kerosene lamp.  By then it would have been time for bed because on the farm rising time was at an early hour and there was no opportunity to sleep in.  I have many more childhood memories of on the farm living and independent way of life in the 30’s and as time and memory permits I will write them down.


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The Matewan massacre was the igniter that brought about the “Battle of Blair Mountain”. On the morning of the 19th day of May, 1920, Albert C. Felts, who was connected with the Baldwin- Felts Detectives, Incorporated, and who was also a deputy sheriff of Mingo County, West Virginia, with twelve other men went to Matewan to evict about half a dozen men who were unlawfully holding possession of some houses belonging to the Stone Mountain Coal Corporation. These miners had been repeatedly legally notified to surrender possession of the premises occupied by them, but had refused to do so. Under the direction of Mr. Felts, the household effects of these men were carefully and peaceably removed.Mr. Felts and his men had rifles with them, but all of them were in grips or packages except possibly three. These rifles had been put together while the evictions were being made because of the fact that a large body of men headed by Sid Hatfield had marched out to the place where the evictions were being made, and conducted itself in a threatening manner. This crowd was joined by Mayor Testerman, who discussed the legality of the convictions with Mr. Felts. Mr. Felts told Mayor Testerman that the evictions were legal, and advised him to get into communication with the county authorities at Williamson, and also with his personal counsel. And Mr. Felts further remarked to Mayor Testerman that if he decided that the evictions were unlawful, all he had to do was to send a boy to him (Mr. Felts) and he and his men would come down and give bond, at the same time remarking that he did not want to have any trouble.In the afternoon, after the evictions had been made, Mr. Felts and his men went to the hotel at Matewan where they had supper and put all of their rifles in packages or grips, preparatory to taking train No. 16 of the Norfolk & Western Railway Company, which left about five o’clock, p.m., out of Matewan. In the meantime, Sid Hatfield had called one Tony Webb at Williamson, who was at that time a deputy sheriff of Mingo County, and who was a friend of the miners’ Union, and requested him to send up warrants for the arrest of Felts and his men. Webb informed Sid Hatfield that he could not get the warrants to Matewan before train No. 16 run. Whereupon, Sid Hatfield remarked, over the phone: “We will kill the G D S of B—— before they leave town.”It appears from the statements of witnesses that while Mr. Felts and his men were in Matewan, Sid Hatfield and certain officials and members of the United Mine Workers of America were getting together a body of armed men for the purpose of attacking Mr. Felts and his men. These men were collected at and in the neighborhood of Mayor Testerman’ store in the town of Matewan. After Mr. Felts and his men had eaten their suppers and had packed their rifles, they went to the railroad station to take said train No. 16. About four of Mr. Felts’s men, including himself, were armed with pistols, they having the right to carry them under the laws of West Virginia. While these men were at the railroad near the station preparatory to taking the train, Sid Hatfield, at the head of a crowd of men, came up to Mr. Felts and without any warrant or authority of law told him that he would have to hold him until train No. 16 ran. Just previous to this, Sid Hatfield had remarked to a crowd of men, while Mr. Felts was at the hotel, that “If he could get the crowd together he would go out and kill every damn one of them without any damn warrant.” When Sid Hatfield approached Mr. Felts, Mr. Felts served a warrant on Sid Hatfield, which had been issued by Squire R. M. Stafford, a Justice of the Peace of Magnolia District, Mingo County, West Virginia, for the arrest of Sid Hatfield, Bas Ball, Tony Webb and others, which warrant was directed to Albert C. Felts for execution. Sid Hatfield seemed to show no feeling over his arrest because he walked down the railroad track with Mr. Felts, laughing and talking. Under some pretext, he beguiled Mr. Felts in front of the door of the Chambers Hardware Store. Sid Hatfield went into the hardware store where Isaac Brewer, Ben Mounts, Dutch Roeher, and others were. Mr. Felts remained on the outside. While Mr. Felts was standing on the outside, in front of the door, some question was raised as to the genuineness of the warrant. At this time, Mr. Felts was surrounded by a large crowd of men. Mayor Testerman walked up and Mr. Felts passed the warrant over to him for examination. While the warrant was being examined by Mayor Testerman, and when Albert Felts was not looking, Sid Hatfield stuck his revolver up within a few inches of the head of Albert Felts and shot him. Thereupon, the shooting at Mr. Felts’s men became general, several hundred shots being fired.It would appear from the statements of reliable witnesses that Albert Felts had no thought of being injured at the time he was killed, and did not get an opportunity to fire a single shot. After Albert Felts was killed and the shooting became general, Lee Felts, his brother, and C. B. Cunningham, who was one of his men, attempted to defend themselves, but in an instant both were killed. The other men who were with Mr. Felts ran and were pursued, with the result that C. T. Higgins, A. J. Booher, O. E. Powell, and J. W. Ferguson were killed at different spots in the town of Matewan while endeavoring to get away. Captain G. W. Anderson, who was with Mr. Felts, was shot through the shoulder while running, but made his escape by hiding. Five of the other men with Mr. Felts also succeeded in making their escapes without being injured. After Albert Felts was shot, and while he was lying on the ground, in an unconscious condition and mortally wounded, Sid Hatfield fired a shot into his body with a revolver, and one Bill Bowman placed his rifle up against his head and shot him through the head. Everyone of Mr. Felts’s men who were killed were shot from behind.After the shooting, Sid Hatfield repeatedly boasted that he had killed three of the Felt men, namely, Albert Felts, Lee Felts and C. B. Cunningham. The most important eye-witness to this shooting was one Anse Hatfield, who knew most of the men who took part in it and who testified before the Grand Jury, which indicted Sid Hatfield and others. A very short time thereafter, and after dark, he was assassinated by being shot while sitting in front of his hotel. Another important witness who has since been assassinated is Squire Harry Staten, a Justice of the Peace of Mingo County, who testified that he had heard Sid Hatfield boast the night of the massacre that he had killed Albert Felts, Lee Felts and C. B. Cunningham. Other witnesses to this shooting have been enticed or forced away from Matewan, and a number of them have been brutally assaulted and mistreated.The murder of J. W. Ferguson is about the foulest on record. He was evidently shot in the first volley while running away, but succeeded in reaching the house of Mrs. Mary Duty, which is situated in the outskirts of Matewan. When he reached Mrs. Duty’s house, he was unarmed and told her: “I am shot. I never fired a shot.” and requested the assistance of a doctor and the privilege of remaining at her house. A number of men came rushing through Mrs. Duty’s house and fired at this man while he was sitting in a rocking chair. He attempted to escape, by climbing over a fence, and while climbing over this fence he was shot by one Fred Burgraff. When his body was examined, it was found that he had six wounds.Besides the Felts’ men who were killed in this massacre, three other men were killed, including Mayor Testerman. Mayor Testerman was, in the opinion of many persons, killed by Sid Hatfield. In any event, within two weeks of the massacre, Mayor Testerman’s widow became Sid Hatfield’s bride.Among the men who took part in the massacre of Mr. Felts and his men, were Sid Hatfield, Fred Burgraff, Reese Chambers, Ed Chambers, Talt Chambers, Hallie Chambers, Charles Kiser, Ben Mounts, Doug Mounts, Art Williams, William Bowman, Bowser Coleman, Jim Overstreet, Clare Overstreet, N. H. Atwood, Van Clay, Jess Boyd, Lee Toler, John Patrick, and many others, whose identities have not yet been established.

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In 1921, some 10,000 West Virginia coal workers, outraged over years of brutality and lawless exploitation, picked up their rifles and marched against their tormentors, the powerful mine owners who ruled their corrupt state.  For ten days the miners fought a pitched battle against an opposing legion of deputies, state police, and makeshift militia.
Only the declaration of martial law and the intervention of a federal expeditionary force, spearheaded by a bomber squadron commanded by General Billy Mitchell, ended this undeclared civil war and forced the miners to throw down their arms.

The upheaval burst forth in the small town of Matewan in Mingo County, the center of West Virginia’s richest coal field.  This part of the conflict, aptly portrayed in the 1987 John Sayles dramatic film, Matewan, which won the Academy Award for best cinematography, can and should be rented at most video stores.  The cast includes Chris Cooper, Mary McDonnell, James Earl Jones, and David Strathairn (all working for union scale) amongst others you’ll surely recognize. The labor position on class warfare is powerfully delivered by newly arrived labor organizer Joe Kenehan (Chris Cooper) to the miners:

Ain’t but two sides to this world. Them that work and them that don’t. You work, they don’t.  That’s all you got to know about the enemy.

By early May of 1920, union operatives had formed fourteen locals and signed up more than 3,000 of Mingo County’s 4,000 miners.  At this time, West Virginia was the last bastion of non-union mines; in most of the other states mine workers had organized, and John L. Lewis’s United Mine Workers made up the nation’s largest and strongest union. The UMW was determined to enroll all of the mine workers.

West Virginia operators, however, did all they could to oppose unionism.  The main problem was that at this time mine workers were forced to sign legally binding “yellow-dog” contracts (upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court) under which miners pledged not to join a union under penalty of forfeiting their jobs as well as the right to live in company housing.
The trouble started when Baldwin-Felts agents (known to miners as gun thugs), working with for the Stone Mountain Mining company, attempted to evict union miners and their families from company owned housing within the town jurisdiction of Matewan. They, however,  lacked the necessary court order.  The Baldwin-Felts Agency (which had a nationwide reputation for union busting) policed the mining camps, collected rents, guarded the mines and the payroll, evicted tenants from company housing, and kept out “undesirables” (prostitutes and union men).  They also did undercover work posing as ordinary miners or workers and reported back to the agency on the plans and remarks of their co-workers who appeared sympathetic to the union. Nevertheless, these private “detectives” (like the better known Pinkertons) had no right to assume the authority of duly appointed law enforcement agents, but they assumed it anyway, and were despised for doing it.

The attempted Matewan evictions led to a shooting incident between town officials, Mayor Testerman and Police Chief SD Hatfield, together with a number of armed miners who had been deputized, and a number of Baldwin-Felts agents.  The incident, which lasted just twenty minutes, involved over 100 rounds fired, and ended with two miners and seven detectives dead including Albert and Lee Felts.  Mayor Testerman was mortally wounded and died the next day.

Such was the beginning of America’s largest labor uprising since the Civil War, ironically, a struggle in which America was also sharply divided into two nations: North and South rather than workers and employers.  This latter conflict involved a collision of labor’s desperation and management’s intransigence that led to an unprecedented wave of strikes beginning in 1919 which involved more than four million workers nationally.
As it happened, Logan County, West Virginia (itself a creation of the Civil War), was the base of the mine operators’ power.  The owners subsidized Logan County’s Sheriff Don Chafin’s department; in return Chafin’s deputies did all that they could to protect the owners against the union and its organizers.  Outrage over the Sheriff’s strong-arm tactics had boiled over in the summer of 1919, about nine months before the Baldwin-Felts agents boarded the train for Matewan, so the area was a veritable tinderbox waiting to explode.  It soon did!

As conditions worsened, the United Mine Workers union called for a strike; however, the United States Attorney General, Alexander Mitchell Palmer—who spearheaded the great Red Scare of 1919-1920— intervened and won an injunction against the strike on the eve of the scheduled walkout.  Labor was furious as was the Secretary of Labor, William Wilson, who had been working hard to resolve the problem by offering a 14 percent pay raise for miners.  Wilson threatened to resign in disgust.

Unbidden by their leaders, 400,000 miners walked off the job, shutting down the industry.  Eventually, a federal arbitration commission recommended a 27 percent wage increase, but the mine operators would not agree.  Finally, on Thursday May 12, 1921, one week short of the first anniversary of the Matewan shoot-out, the violence escalated and the union launched a full-scale attack on the town of Merrimack (near Matewan), laying siege to the town.
The sustained outbreak of violence came to be known as the “Three Days’ Battle,” and estimates ran as high as twenty deaths on both sides.  This prompted President Harding to sign a proclamation of martial law for West Virginia.  On May 19, Governor Morgan proclaimed martial law declaring West Virginia to be in “a state of war, insurrection, and riot.”

Mingo County authorities created a vigilance committee made up of the “better citizens of Mingo County,” men of business, men of property, to reinforce the state police and the newly constituted national Guard as well as a newly recruited volunteer army known as the State Militia, which lacked proper uniforms but wore white armbands to distinguish themselves from the union men with the red bandanas. Most miners had taken to wearing blue bib overalls and tying around their necks a red bandana which soon became the hallmark of the insurgent army, leading both friends and foes to refer to them as “rednecks.”
While a shipment of Thompson submachine guns arrived in Mingo County for the State Police, union miners were being arrested for carrying union literature, for speaking against martial law, and for carrying arms.  Held without bail or hearing, they overflowed the Mingo County jail and were sent to prisons in adjoining counties.  A military commission ruled on offenses ranging from larceny, adultery and disorderly conduct to disobeying sentries and perjury.  A makeshift prison was erected in a freight terminal to house “criminals,” among whom was Mother Jones.

The Harding Administration not only sent troops but set up a base for air operations under the command of Brigadier General Billy Mitchell.
Small battles or skirmishes, local group encounters, intermittent sniping, marches and counter marches, kidnappings and ransoms, marked the progress of the union forces as they made their way through southern West Virginia toward the town of Logan, which they hoped to envelop in a gigantic pincer movement.  A major problem with the plan was the imposing presence of Blair Mountain, an easily defended high ground consisting of twin peaks which looked down on a pass leading into Logan.

During the ensuing conflict, thousands of rounds were fired by both sides using all kinds of small arms including machine guns. The precise death toll was never established, but estimates range from fewer than twenty to more than fifty.  Both miners and defenders were well armed and had plenty of ammunition which they fired freely.  The roar of the guns became a steady pounding in the ears of the men on both sides: you could hear it for miles along the river.
Eventually, the federal troops arrived.  The miners were optimistic, believing that their grievances would be vindicated.  Governor Morgan and his allies, the coal mine operators, expected that the arrival of the troops would end their troubles with the union.  The governor was right; the officer class was more than sympathetic to the owner’s interests with which they identified and saw the miners simply as mutineers.

Although clearly disappointed with the turn of events, the miners were not of a mind to war against the federal government and its military which proved to be unsympathetic to their interests.  The army of workers, some ten thousand strong, simply quit the battle and went home.  Once the war was over, the federal government opted out.

Federal prosecution would have been redundant since the State of West Virginia was coming down on the union rebels with all its might and authority.  Led by a vengeful governor Morgan, determined to punish the rebel leaders by choosing to charge them with the most serious crimes of murder and treason, which it turned out were easier to bring than to make stick, the focus shifted to the courts.  No one could deny that the insurgents had committed violent acts and rejected lawful authority, but the claim that they were trying to make war against the state distorted reality.

The aftermath of the “war” included a number of trials for treason conducted by biased judges and corrupt prosecutors; however, the crime of treason was hard to prove, and nearly all of the defendants were exonerated, but one lowly insurgent, Walter Allen—a minor figure in the rebel army—was convicted of the charge even though nothing more damaging than that he had been seen “with the armed forces” in Logan County and “had been carrying a gun”  was presented. Out on bail while awaiting an appeal, Allen simply disappeared and was never seen again.  The state dropped the treason charges against the other twenty men.

While most of the arrested miners were acquitted or had the charges against them dropped, the rebellion proved to be a disaster.  The miners didn’t lose the war, they lost the peace, and the financial injuries suffered under the state’s legal system proved to be devastating to the labor movement.  The numerous legal battles essentially emptied the union coffers.  As Shogan describes it: “A political wind was blowing with gale force against the miners in West Virginia and against organized labor throughout the country:”

In West Virginia union membership tumbled from 50,000 to a few hundred.  Nationally, the United Mine Workers membership declined from 600,000 to fewer than 100,000.  From 1920 to 1923 the American Federation of Labor lost two million workers or nearly 25 percent of its total membership.  And the courts seemed ready to issue strike-breaking injunctions almost for the asking.
It seemed to all that the struggle between working people and employers backed by the government and its military had been forever lost.

One of the better movies that I have ever seen was the movie “Matewan”.  It is in black and white and is shown periodically on educational television.  It is also readily available at most movie rental outlets.  Violence has always been seen throughout the coal fields of West Virginia, Kentucky, and western Virginia.  These areas were always hotbeds of  feuds, moonshine wars, shootings related to saving ones “honor”, and just about any other reason one could think of.  The population of the area was mostly strong individuals who had settled the area at a time when one protected ones self and his rights.






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I received the below from Joe and Mary Damron.  As you can see it is written by someone who is well qualified in that she  has attained the lofty status of a 90-year-old.  She had written this several years prior to this event and I am betting that these have been her rules throughout her life.  The rules are so simple and easy to live.  Enjoy, and it is never to late to make changes.

Written by Regina Brett, 90 years old, of the Plain Dealer, Cleveland ,Ohio. “To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taughtme.It is the most requested column I’ve ever written. My odometer rolled overto 90 in August,so here is the column once more”:

1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and
parents will. Stay in touch.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.

8. It’s OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.

12. It’s OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey
is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don’t worry; God
never blinks.

16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

17. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.

18. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.

19. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is
up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for
an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t
save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words ‘In five years, will
this matter?’

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive everyone everything.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did
or didn’t do.

35. Don’t audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

36. Growing old beats the alternative — dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood.

38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d
grab ours back.

41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

42. The best is yet to come…

43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

44. Yield.

45. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.”

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Later Years, 1912–1977 and then the end.

In the aftermath of the Lloyd-LaFollette Act, unionism in the Railway Mail Service was fostered by four organizations that were national in scope and officially recognized by the railway mail as craft-service organizations.

The first and by far the oldest and largest was the Railway Mail Association, organized in 1891 as the National Association of Railway Postal Clerks and renamed in 1904. The National Mail Handlers, organized in 1912, limited its membership to mail handlers and custodial workers of the department. The National Council of Supervisory Railway Mail Officials, organized in 1922, primarily for the advancement of management employees.

The final organization, the National Alliance of Postal Employees, was started in 1913 by Negro railway postal clerks who were denied membership in the Railway Mail Association because of race. They organized primarily to protect themselves against instances of alleged racial discrimination in the appointment, promotion, and removal process. The National Alliance of Postal Employees was also instrumental in securing an executive order that eliminated the photograph as a means of identification in appointments and amending civil service rule # 4 to add the word “race” to the regulation that required appointing officers to exercise discretion solely on the basis of merit—without regard to “political or religious affiliation,” “marital status,” or “race.”

The year 1912 also witnessed the Post Office Department’s first attempt to standardize the construction of railway postal cars. Three basic car lengths were agreed upon—15-foot, 30-foot, and 60-foot cars—with standard features including letter cases and racks for pouches. Standardization made cars interchangeable so they might be used on any trip assignment.

When the Parcel Post Act became effective January 1, 1913, the Railway Mail Service initiated a new class of service that handled and transported packages. The act increased the weight limit for a single package, reduced postage rates, and adapted a zone system with charges based on the length of the haul. The growth and increase sparked by parcel post business forced the Railway Mail Service to initiate Terminal Post Offices, which were essentially large rooms located in railroad stations in which mail, particularly parcel post and heavy bulk matter was distributed. Eventually, the service moved parcel post mail between large commercial cities in carloads via passenger trains.

On July 28, 1916, Congress passed an act that brought a solution to the long-festering problem of compensating the railroads for carrying the mail. Under the old system, compensation was based on weight, a plan that had proved unsatisfactory. Under the new plan, compensation was based on the amount of space required in cars for handling the mail. Railroads made nationwide tests every two years to determine how many sacks of mail could be placed in three linear feet of car space.

From November 1, 1916, to January 1, 1918, rates of payment for the transportation of mail varied from 2½ cents to 27 cents a mile.

Type of transportation Cents per mile of service
60-foot R.P.O. car 27
30-foot apartment car 15
15-foot apartment car 10
60-foot storage car 28
30-foot storage car 15
15-foot storage car 8
7-foot storage car
3-foot storage car

As 1920 drew to a close, additional railway post office service was established and reinforced on several important name trains that provided overnight and faster service to major mail markets throughout the country. The “Federal Express” from Boston to New York made connections that moved mail from New England to cities in the south and west. From east to west between New York and Chicago and New York and St. Louis, crack trains of the Pennsylvania Railroad, the “Broadway Limited” and the “St. Louisian,” carried railway post office cars that targeted the distribution of letter mail exclusively.

A new train, the “Overland Limited,” was also established between Chicago and San Francisco via the Union Pacific, Southern Pacific, and Chicago and Northwestern rails. The “Overland” left Chicago at 10:30 a.m. and arrived at San Francisco at 8:30 a.m. the third day afterward, providing an earlier delivery at San Francisco by four hours.

The years between 1920 and 1946 for the Railway Mail Service were characterized by steady measured growth that manifested itself in increases in the number of employees, growth of infrastructure, and slow but sustained efforts to improve working conditions. From July 1, 1920, to June 30, 1946, the number of railway mail clerks rose from 20, 407 to 22, 546, and their salaries increased from $2,067 a year to $3,550.

For the postmaster general and management, these years were a period of transition in which autocratic approaches toward supervising and working with people slowly changed. Confronted with adjusting to the aftermath of World War I, the Great Depression, the onset of unionism, and the tremendous demands of World War II, postal management eventually realized that their greatest strength was embodied in the average postal employee, who wanted a more involved and participatory role in improving the workplace and the lot of the employee.

During the 1920–1946 period, the Railway Mail Service adapted to increasing demands upon it by implementing a number of improvements. The service added RPO trains to handle the distribution of letter mail to cities, resulting in earlier delivery to customers. The placement of star route service (mail delivery routes between postal stations, given on contract to a private carrier) under the supervision of the Railway Mail Service resulted in saving money and improving service.

The Railway Mail Service continually evaluated and changed routes. This “order” of August 12, 1913, authorized an additional trip from Merrimac to Haverhill, Massachusetts.

Other significant improvements included negotiations with railroad carriers concerning the establishment of through train connections that expedited the dispatch of mails nationwide; the use of terminal railway post offices in major cities such as Los Angeles and St. Louis; the establishment of streamlined train service on some of the larger railroad lines; and the shortening of schedules on other lines. The highway post office service began on February 10, 1941, in specially constructed motor vehicles with postal clerks to augment and support the Railway Mail Service.

The Railway Mail Service entered its final years between 1955 and 1977, when the Post Office Department shifted away from reliance on railroads as the key element in its mail distribution system. Instead, the department encouraged the use of different modes, such as trucks, trailers, airplanes, and highway post office vans. As far back as 1951, the department, confronted with additional anticipated rail cost increases, announced that its long-term goal was to make the fullest use of every form of transportation to move the mails.

Emphasis was placed on obtaining the fullest coordination of rail, air, and highway service; the elimination of excessive, duplicative, or wasteful transportation service; and better scheduling of mail routings over various types of carriers.

This three-pronged approach to mail delivery initiated an internal struggle and competition among the various elements that went on for years and focused on the lucrative prize of government mail contract subsidies. The railroads touted their investment in moving the mails, which they said totaled $950,000,000 in facilities for handling and transporting the mail. Assets included 2,600 RPO cars and 11,500 baggage express and freight cars, along with terminal facilities, tracks, and platforms. The railroads also argued that their capabilities were a known and proven entity.

The Post Office Department required railroads not only to carry the mail, but build, operate, and maintain all RPO cars to rigid Post Office specifications. In addition, the railroads had to provide all manpower or mechanical equipment necessary to handle the mail between Post Office vehicles and the trains. Moreover, they were required to absorb without special remuneration all charges associated with placing RPO cars at stations in advance of the train departure time to suit the Post Office’s convenience.

Truck mail contractors made the case that they could provide the Post Office with quick turnaround service, primarily for bulk mail on short-haul inner city routes. In most instances, the proposed truck contracts were based on mileage to be traveled and the cubic capacity of the truck to be used. Most contractors looked to the Post Office Department to pay for or provide the trucking contractors with terminal facilities.

Air mail contractors heralded their ability to move the mail with speed and serve communities where surface mail had long been impeded. But many railroad and trucking competitors viewed them as having been given an unfair advantage in the amount of money they were paid for their services, which on many occasions were below standards in terms of on-time capability and responsiveness to the needs of the paying postal public.

It is easy to understand why the railroads viewed the competition as taking place on an unfair playing field.

Multiple factors contributed to the demise of the Railway Mail Service, including political and legislative decisions, the decline of rail passenger service, the subsequent loss of mail contracts, the growth of the interstate highway system, automation, and even increased ownership of private automobiles.

However, during its lifetime, the Railway Mail Service bound the nation together by rail and precipitated the growth of commerce through the speed and dependability of its service. Business and commercial activity were pushed along in an environment where fast service, reliability, and a can-do attitude prevailed. The Railway Mail Service had all of these attributes, combined with dedicated people, with a tremendous work ethic and esprit de corps that gave America a mail service that was the envy of the world.

And so ends a colorful era of American history, a time when our fascination with railroads  and those who served this industry were held in high esteem.  No more seeing the mail sacks at the depots, no longer the high wheeled Railway Express wagons setting on the depot platforms with the uniformed employees doing those chores required to move the products and mail being carried by the trains.  Progress is sometimes sad.

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Between February 4, 1876, and March 19, 1889, the Railway Mail Service expanded from 8 to 11 divisions. On August 1, 1882, Order No. 354 of the postmaster general reorganized the railway mail service, set classifications, and fixed salaries for its employees. Route agents, mail messengers, and local agents were no longer part of the service; employees were known as railway postal clerks, and all rail lines covered by the service were referred to as railway post offices.

On May 1, 1889, the Railway Postal Service became part of the classified civil service, and by 1896 all promotions were based on rules prescribed by the Civil Service Commission. Under civil service rules, after passing a competitive entrance exam for the service, advancement and promotion were based on merit, determined through an ongoing process. For railway mail clerks, the heart of the merit promotion process that determined a clerk’s standing in the civil service system was the card case examination.

Card case examinations tested clerks on the locations of urban and rural post offices in states, connecting and intersecting railway post offices, mail distribution routes, and postal regulations. The examinations were generally administered at the office of the division superintendent, using a letter case consisting of pigeonholes and boxes labeled with the names of various railway and local post offices.

During an examination, the clerk received three-by-five-inch cards bearing the written address of each post office in a state, and he was required to correctly distribute the cards from memory. The clerk was questioned as to his knowledge of connections and his printed book of instructions. The examiner noted the time consumed in distributing cards, and these times became a part of the clerk’s record. The clerk then received a statement of the results of the examination as well as information on the subject of his next examination.

All reexaminations were made at such times as the division superintendent might designate. Examinations were frequent enough to provide a continuous record of a clerk’s efficiency, and railway postal clerks were expected to score between 97 and 99 percent on their exams. The proper dispatch of the mails via multiple railway postal routes required considerable study. Each line served a specific territory, and a clerk assigned to any line was required to learn the territory served by the line and maintain examination grades on several states, passing review examinations at least once every three years.

A mail car from the New York Central line, one of the busiest mail carriers. (Records of the Post Office Department, RG 28)

The postmaster general’s 1896 annual report for the Railway Mail Service indicates that the mails were carried on 172,794 miles of railroad, and 6,779 postal clerks were employed on 152,825 miles of traveling post offices that included railroads, steamboats, and electric cars. The report also chronicled improvements in railway post office car construction that included cars with vestibules (enclosed passages between passenger cars of a train), larger and safer interior lighting, and better couplers and buffers between railroad cars. All of these improvements enhanced clerks’ chances for survival in derailments and railroad wrecks.

The issue of safety on the job and working conditions loomed particularly large for railway mail clerks as the 1890s drew to a close. Casualty figures for the years 1877 to 1896 showed that 94 clerks were killed in the line of duty, and 821 were seriously injured on the job through derailments, falls, drownings, fires, and other work-related accidents.

Among those other work-related accidents were train robberies, which, although infrequent, plagued the railway mail service from the 1860s through the 1920s, when men such as Jesse and Frank James and later the Newton and De Autremont brothers made being a railway mail clerk dangerous at times. The potential for violence and the threat from robberies led to the arming of railway postal clerks.

For the Railway Mail Service, the opening years of the 20th century were marked by continuing safety problems associated with the use of wooden railway postal cars, unsanitary working conditions in many of those cars, and the requirement on many occasions for clerks to work overtime beyond an eight-hour day without compensation. Such instances, coupled with the failure on the part of Post Office Department management to address employee grievances in a rapid manner, forced employees through their service-craft organizations to take a more militant stance.

Through the National Association of Railway Postal Clerks, postal employees appealed to the public and to Congress. An officer of the organization was subsequently removed from the service because such activity was banned under a “gag rule” issued by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1902. Roosevelt’s series of gag orders prohibited employees of the United States, individually or through organizations, “to solicit an increase in pay or to influence or attempt to influence in their own interest, any other legislation whatever, either before Congress or its committees, or in anyway save through the heads of the Department.” In 1909 President William Howard Taft issued an order forbidding employees to respond to any request for information by Congress, except through the department head. These orders crippled the postal unions but gained for them sympathy and friends among the members of Congress. After an extended investigation, the Lloyd-LaFollette Act of 1912 rescinded the gag rule and gave employees more security in employment and freedom to engage in union activity.

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An interesting aspect of railroads and railroading has passed with many never realizing that it is gone.  Many never knew of it and the role it played in our history of communications as a young nation.  What I am speaking of is the Railway Postal Service that lasted for about 140 years.  For those living in small railroad towns, such as Fort Gay, you can remember the passenger trains passing through each day but rarely noticing the postal railcar that usually was hooked between the engine and the remainder of the passenger train.  Perhaps you knew people or even had family that worked for this service.  Hopefully the following will take you back in time to some of the memories of that era.                                                                                      

 The railroad station attendant at Mishawaka, Indiana, hurried to tie the morning mail pouch to a crane aside the tracks of the station, in anticipation of the morning passing of the “20th Century Limited,” the premier train on the New York Central System, then quickly approaching the small station.

As the “Century” entered a gentle curve leading to the station, a clerk in the door of its railway post office car surveyed the passing landscape, looking for a large oak tree near the bend in the curve. The tree served as a point of reference for him to use as the spot from where he should toss the morning mail pouch for Mishawaka, allowing momentum and the train’s speed to carry it to the station.

After tossing the pouch, the clerk quickly extended the train’s railway post office catcher arm in time to hook “on the fly” the unprocessed mail pouch as the train sped on to Chicago.

For many who may have witnessed scenes like the morning dispatch and pickup of mail at Mishawaka, little thought was probably given to one of the more visible activities of the Railway Mail Postal Service. For more than 140 years between 1832 and 1977, it set the standards for speed, dependability, and response to the mission of moving and distributing the nation’s mail.

From its humble beginnings during the nation’s early years, the Railway Mail Postal Service became a leading force and player in connecting and facilitating the movement of mail and commerce. It served in this role until its end on June 30, 1977, when trucks and airplanes supplanted trains as the dominant mode of mail transport.

The Early Years, 1830–1876

In part as a response to criticism from businesses and the public that the mails, then moving by horse and stagecoach, were too slow, the postmaster general in the early 1830s decided to put the mails on trains. On December 5, 1832, Slaymaker and Tomlinson, stage route contractors of the time, also began carrying the mail by rail from Lancaster to West Chester, Pennsylvania, marking the official beginning of the use of rail by the U.S. Post Office department to transport the mail.

The early 1830s through 1876 was a time of multiple first steps, new legislation, and management problems for the burgeoning railway mail service. In 1837, railroad mileage in the country totaled 1,497 miles. The first recorded instance of a clerk being appointed to accompany the mail in transit on a railroad car and have charge of the mails occurred in May 1837 with the appointment of John E. Kendall as a route agent.

In 1838 and 1840, agents were assigned to attend the mail between Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia and between Boston and Springfield, Massachusetts. These early initiatives marked the beginnings of the railway mail service in the United States.

Records about the work performed by clerks on railroads in the early days are meager, but it is thought that there was a gradual development in the scope of the work up to 1864, when all mail in transit began to be distributed in railroad cars. Until then, mail was distributed to larger post offices, and the only mail sent to rail cars for handling was that which was intended for delivery at local points along the various lines. Route agents on the trains opened pouches received from local offices, took out mail for other local points on the line, and sent the balance of the mail into the terminal office for distribution. Most mail traveled in closed pouches or sacks, unopened from one terminal post office to the next, where it was held for examination, separation, and dispatch on the next day.

Significant early legislation that affected the mail service included an act of Congress approved July 7, 1838 (5 Stat. L. 283), that declared that all railroads in the United States were post roads. This designation was a reference back to the nation’s earliest mail service established in 1775 by the Continental Congress, which emulated the British system of posts for carrying letters. The act had a twofold effect: it increased the use of railroads to transmit the mails and limited the use of post riders and horse-drawn vehicles to post offices that were not on railway routes. In those areas of the country that were not on railroad routes, mail was carried by contractors, and the transportation of mail between post offices by any means other than by boat or railroad was called star route service.

Seven years later on March 3, 1845, another act of Congress formally addressed the need to provide for service to small post offices and people who lived in towns away from railroad lines, a requirement that until then had been handled by contractors. The 1845 act formalized the star route system of contract service and required that the Postmaster General award the routes to the lowest bidder.

In the mid-19th century, the Post Office faced many problems, as its 1853 annual report enumerated. Foremost on that list was the problem of establishing a fixed rate of pay per mile for the railroads. When disagreements occurred between the Post Office and the railroads, the end result was often that the railroads refused the mail, and service was disrupted.

On other occasions, the railroads failed to adhere to schedules of set times of arrival and departure of the mails, leaving the Post Office feeling that the railroads were beyond their control. Insufficient numbers of mail cars, difficulty in finding suitable rooms to house distributing post offices in large cities, and defective methods of mail distribution wasted both time and money. An 1885 history of the Railway Mail Service noted that:

Letters, instead of having one or at most two distributions, have been distributed four or five times before their arrival at the destination point. The consequence has been that the distribution and delivery commissions have almost consumed the postage and contributed to delays.

The Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad carried the nation’s first railway post office. (National Postal Museum, Smithsonian Institution)

The years from 1862 to 1864 were pivotal in the evolution of the railway mail service. On July 7, 1862, Postmaster General Montgomery Blair called for the establishment of the nation’s first railway post office car on the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad between Hannibal and St. Joseph, Missouri.

The suggestion for such a car and service appears to have originated with William A. Davis, then assistant postmaster at St. Joseph. Overland mail from the east backed up in St. Joseph as a result of poor conditions of the railroad or missed connections with California-bound stagecoaches and the “Pony Express.”

Davis’s solution was to distribute and dispatch the overland mail in transit on specially prepared railroad cars. Though crude, the car contained an early letter case for sorting mail, small work tables, and oversize doors that allowed for easy access.

The Railway Post Office (RPO) idea advanced by Davis was by no means new. A “travelling post office,” consisting of a 16-foot converted “horse box,” was in service in England in 1838. The car was equipped with a “mail catcher,” consisting of a net that could be swung out from the side of the car to retrieve pouches suspended along the track. France, too, had its RPO, called “Le Bureau Ambulant,” long before the idea was contemplated in the United States. Though it originated on a small scale, the idea of distributing mail in transit on postal rail cars, thereby reducing the need for distributing post offices, slowly caught on.

Impetus for the idea of distributing the mails in transit gained valuable momentum under Third Assistant Postmaster General A. N. Zevely, who convened a meeting in Washington, D.C., in the summer of 1864. At that meeting, it was determined that the Post Office Department would try the experiment of railway postal service, and two special agents, George B. Armstrong and Harrison Park, were designated to test its practicality.

The department divided the states and territories into western and eastern divisions. Armstrong controlled the western division, comprising all the states and territories west of the east line of Indiana and south of the Ohio River, and Harrison Park directed the eastern division. The first railway postal route in operation was on the Iowa division of the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad, from Chicago to Clinton, Iowa, on August 28, 1864. In the east, railway postal cars were placed on the Pennsylvania Central and Erie railroads, all in 1864. In 1865 and 1866 additional roads received railway postal routes as the Post Office Department became satisfied that the system was not only practicable but was meeting the needs of the people and the department.

From 1867 onward, the Post Office Department introduced railway postal service on main trunk lines and more important roads whenever it could be done without demanding too large an amount for the extra accommodations. On average, two clerks were assigned to the cars, although on some routes it was necessary to have more because of the large amount of mails to be distributed, such as on the morning run between Portland, Maine, and Boston, when three men were required on both the day and night runs.

Early clerks’ knowledge of mail distribution, geography, and processing of mail was rudimentary, and facilities afforded for studying were limited. Clerks usually met informally in small groups at junction points along the line to study maps and share information about what mail could best be handled by their lines. In 1868, during the tenure of Armstrong and Park, the first recorded schemes, showing maps of a state which helped clerks understand the distribution of the mails, were implemented along with checks to detect errors in processed mail.

Under the guidance of General Superintendent George S. Bangs from 1871 to 1876, the Railway Mail Service instituted separation of the mails by states, an innovation that further served to reduce backups of mail by dispatching the mail for each state to the most distant railway post office that could process it. The number of clerks in the railway postal service, including route agents, mail route messengers, and local agents, reached 2,286, and the number of miles of railroad upon which mail was carried totaled 70,083.

The Ward mail-bag catcher, first used in 1869, grew in acceptance and use by clerks. Before 1869, a mail clerk used only his arm to catch mail while the train was in motion. The Ward device, which used a steel catcher arm affixed to the door of railway post office cars, allowed clerks to extend the catcher arm at selected points on the route and pick up mail from a fixed crane on the fly. Bangs was also a proponent of the “fast mails,” and in his 1874 annual report, he identified the need for a fast and exclusive mail train between New York and Chicago “designed to expedite the movement of mail from the east to the west and cover the distance in about twenty-four hours.”

With help from participating railroads, namely the New York Central and the Pennsylvania railroads, the first five-car train was assembled on September 16, 1875. The train traveled from New York City to Albany, Buffalo, Cleveland, Toledo, and Chicago on its first trip and carried more than 33 tons of mail.

From September 16, 1875, to July 22, 1876, the fast mail never missed a single connection and failed to arrive in Chicago on time only on three occasions. On trips east, the train failed to arrive in New York on time only once. The effect of the fast mails on the overall mail distribution system was to reduce the time in transit and promote efficiency of service, because the fast mail made connections at all important junctions serviced by the regular trains from throughout the country. Though an operational success, the fast mail lasted in its original form only from September 1875 to July 1876, when Congress instituted a 10-percent reduction in service.

Though cut back, fast mail service led to the establishment of additional railway post office lines between New York, St. Louis, and Cincinnati via the Pennsylvania Railroad and its connections with Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Columbus, and Indianapolis.

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