Tuesday, 21 June 2016
Yesterday I located this little story about A. Hyatt Verrill. This is not the first rumour of theft by AHV. He was in the 1930s, 'sacked' by Mr. Heye of the Museum of the American Indian, for reportedly selling artifacts from his Panama digs. Someday someone should write a biography of AHV since so much appears to be missing from his three autobiographies!!!/drf
Collared Yale’s Curios.
Albert Hyatt Verrill Looted the Famous Peabody Museum.
He Sold His Spoils To Museums And Relic Hunters All Over The World.
A Professor’s Son Whose Actions Have Created a Big Sensation in the Elm City.—Articles Valued at Thousands of Dollars Taken by Young Verrill Who When Cornered Acknowledged His Guilt.—Property Returned.
IT HAS BEEN A long time since anything has happened in New Haven that created so much of a sensation as the revelations during the past week of the fact that the Peabody museum, one of Yale’s world famous institutions had been robbed for years by Albert H. Verrill, the eldest son of Addison E. Verrill, M. A., professor of zoology and curator of the zoological collection at the museum.
Not even the “burning words” of Mrs. Poteat whom she asserted a short time ago that she “would as soon send her son to hell us to Yale,” aroused such a stir as did the knowledge of the robberies that young Verrill confessed he was guilty of. And despite the acknowledgment of the accused who got away with thousands of dollars worth of valuable articles, and the chain of evidence woven about him by the detectives who were at work on the case, the offender instead of being brought to justice is allowed to walk the streets unmolested, as free to do as he pleases as ever he was.
For about two years the robberies have been going on and while it was a fact that many articles of value, such as choice pieces of pottery, arrow heads and rare specimens of minerals were missed from time to time by Othniel C. Marsh, Ph. D., L. L. D. and Prof. Verrill, neither of them could account for the disappearances nor secure any trace of the thief. Not until about a month ago was the matter reported to the police authorities and immediately Detectives Cowles and Poronto were detailed to make an investigation and bring the guilty party to justice.
The officers went diligently at work and soon learned that the missing articles were evidently taken from the cases in the museum by some one who had a key, for there was no evidence that showed the cases had been broken into or pried open. Suspicion eventually fell on young Verrill who enjoyed the freedom of the museum on account of his father’s position and he was taken before his parent and a member of the faculty and questioned. He denied all knowledge of the thefts and appeared to be as innocent as the child unborn.
But the detectives were only allowing him all the rope he wanted. They had secured sufficient evidence and concluded to let him go as far as he would with his denials. When he was confronted with the fact that the officer found a quantity of the almost priceless curios in a room at his home at 19 Carmel Street, New Haven, he broke down and confessed the whole business. He was willing to do almost anything in order to get out of the trouble and gave the officers and others interested the addresses of the many different dealers in curios about the country and abroad to whom he had been sending the stolen articles. Immediately the faculty set about to recover the lost property and it is stated that so far about £10,000 worth has been discovered and returned to the looted museum.
The young man’s father and some of his friends have been doing all in their power to straighten the matter out and with the police and others endeavored to keep the affair from gaining any publicity. It leaked out, however, and has been the talk of every one in the Elm city since it became generally known.
Young Verrill, who is about twenty-five years old, resides with his wife and children in a neatly furnished home at 19 Carmel Street and heretofore he has always borne a good reputation. In the city directory he is scheduled as “A Hyatt Verrill, draughtsman and designer,” instead of “Albert H. Verrill, taxidermist,” as it was at one time. Some time ago he was an assistant to his father who resides in an elegantly furnished home at 86 Whalley Avenue. After he married Miss McCarthy, daughter of the well known wholesale liquor dealer, of New Haven, a few years ago, there was some little trouble between him and parent and he left the museum and started in business as a taxidermist in a room at 102 Orange street. The sensation and talk his marriage created soon died away and he again won favor with his father who recognized his son’s excellent work and later sent him all over the world in the interest of the work he had been following.
Verrill had access to all parts of the museum in which his father is professor, and realizing that he could make considerable money on some of the curios in the place began to purloin them. Later on some of his trips abroad he succeeded, so it is stated, in disposing of many of the relics and also got rid of many through an advertisement he had in a New York paper. He was cute enough, too, in replacing many of the articles he took with cheaper imitations and thereby prevented any suspicion from arising for a long time. The substitutes were the work of his own hands and easily passed the uncritical eyes of the students and visitors. Although the college authorities tried in every way to catch the thief when they began to miss the relics they failed and never suspected young Verrill who was fully aware of that fact as they were.
He seldom appeared to have an abundance of money whether he realized very extensively or not on the sale of the articles he stole, and so far as is known was not given to gaming or riotous living of any description. He mingled with the best society and always seemed to be well thought of. It is stated that his father has made good the losses the museum suffered from his actions and that is one of the reasons why young Verrill has not been arrested.
Every one connected with the affair is reticent about saying anything. The police authorities, while they admit that there were robberies going on at the museum for a long time, decline to discuss the matter and have taken no steps towards arresting young Verrill because no compaint has been made against him.
Prof. Marsh, who regrets that the story got out, asserts that the losses did not exceed $1,000, while the young man’s father declares they were not over $100 worth. Others are of the opinion that something like $10,000 worth of the curios were taken and sold to different museums and curio hunters throughout the world.
Verrill seems repentant since he made a clean breast of the whole business as one in his position could be. He regrets the step he took and is sorry he brought such disgrace upon his family. He avoids discussing the matter with newspaper men and has been keeping out of their reach since the discovery was made. His young wife is prostrated with grief over the unpleasant notoriety her husband has gained and cannot believe him guilty of anything wrong. Prof. Verrill is also very much distressed over his boy’s actions and declares the Peabody museum will not lose a cent by what has happened.
Wednesday, 15 June 2016
A Neglected Railway Centenary
From The Advance Advocate, published by The International Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Detroit, Mich., October 1, 1913 No. 10 VOL. XXII
We have been busy of late in celebrating the memory of many events of importance in the world’s history, from the birth of great men to the development of great industries. Curiously enough, we seem to have overlooked one event, whose centenary occurs this year, and which was surely second to none in its influence on the development of our civilization. Just one hundred years ago, we are reminded by Railway and Locomotive Engineering (New York, August), the first locomotive to do regular train-hauling was set at work, and we might very properly, therefore, have celebrated in 1913 the centenary of the steam locomotive—if we had not forgotten all about it. Is it possible that the recent development of electric traction has caused us to think of steam as a back number? Nobody dreams now of celebrating the invention of the ox-cart, or even of the buggy. Have we come to think of steam-traction also as old-fashioned before it is respectably of age? Says a writer in the paper named above:
“The invention of the locomotive engine, whose successful operation first imparted vitality to railway enterprise, can scarcely be said to belong to one nation, certainly not to one man. The elements which made the locomotive a successful machine have been devised and applied by a great many different inventors and mechanics. The idea of applying steam to the propulsion of land-carriages was discussed in dilettante fashion by the philosophers who flourished so vaingloriously toward the end of the French monarchy. Some small fruit came from much wordy seed, for about the year 1770 an officer of the French army, named Nicholas Joseph Cugnot, built a steam-carriage intended for military purposes. The engine used high-pressure steam and had two cylinders receiving steam from a small boiler about the size of a kitchen chaldron. The machine worked and moved about three miles an hour. His invention was the first automobile. The apparatus is preserved in a Paris museum.
“Following details of attempts to construct a land transportation steam-engine, we find that in 1784 William Murdock, an assistant to Boulton & Watt, the engine-builders, made a working model of a road-engine and ran it about the country roads in England. The development of the high-pressure, high-speed engine was largely due to the labors of Oliver Evans, the well-known American inventor. In 1804 Evans built a dredging scow weighing about two tons, which he mounted on wheels and propelled through the streets of Philadelphia by the power of its own steam engine. While many crude attempts were made from Cugnot’s time on to apply steam propulsion to road vehicles, the first attempt to put into operation a steam-driven vehicle which was designed to run on rails was made by Richard Trevithick in 1803. An engine was constructed to do work in this line, and it pulled some cars, but was too complex for regular work and was abandoned after a few trials.
“For the next ten years after Trevithick’s experiment there was considerable effort made to produce a locomotive that would work satisfactorily. Trevithick’s engine was exceedingly slippery, due to the power being too great for the weight available for adhesion. This led to inventions intended to prevent the slipping of the driving wheels, and much ingenious labor was wasted in overcoming this imaginary defect.
* * *
“There were in the employ of Christopher Blackett, principal owner of the Wylam colliery, in the north of England, two workmen much above the common mechanics, who took a keen interest in mechanical traction. One was William Hedley, superintendent (viewer was his title), a man who studied scientific problems, and the other was Timothy Hackworth, foreman blacksmith. Hedley superintended a series of experiments to prove the extent of traction of wheels turning on a smooth rail, and found that the ordinary weight carried by a locomotive would prevent slipping. He then designed a locomotive, which was built by Hackworth in the blacksmith shop. That engine was put to work in 1812 and hauled coal cars as far as its capacity went, but it proved deficient in boiler. This was remedied in a second engine which Hedley had constructed in 1813. That locomotive was called the ‘Puffing Billy’ and is now preserved in the South Kensington museum in London.
“The ‘Puffing Billy’ was the beginning of a grasshopper type of locomotive, which, under a variety of modifications, became largely used until, in 1829, the directors of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway offered a prize of £500 for a locomotive which would meet certain requirements. The ‘Rocket,’ built by Robert Stephenson, won that prize and introduced a new form of locomotive, whose principal novelty was a multitubular boiler and cylinders set at an angle, connecting with a single pair of driving wheels.
“The success of the ‘Rocket’ turned the attention of locomotive designers to the simplified form of engine, but before that time hundreds of grasshopper locomotives were at work, the coal hauling connected with most collieries having been done by engines of that character, so it is fair to say that Hedley’s locomotive led to the introduction of steam power upon railways. George Stephenson, who was superintendent of a large colliery, copied one of Hedley’s locomotives and began building similar engines, but they never proved so successful as those turned out by Hedley.
“George Stephenson became chief engineer of the Stockton & Darlington railway, the first line opened for general traffic, which gave him prominence in the railway world and afterward led to his appointment to a similar position on the Liverpool & Manchester railway, now a part of the London & Northwestern railway system. He was a strong-minded, positive man and a warm advocate of locomotives at a time when such engines were far from being popular. On that account he came to be called the Father of the Locomotive, although he never invented a single thing that became a permanent attachment to the locomotive. The ‘Rocket’ engine, for whose construction he received much credit, was built by his son, Robert, the most important improvement, the multitubular boiler, having been the invention of Secretary Booth, of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway Company.
* * *
Through the construction of railroads a vast wilderness on the American continent has been changed from gloomy, untrodden forests, dismal swamps, and pathless prairies into the abode of high civilization. The invention of the locomotive engine brought about this magnificent change, so it seems highly commendable that the people of North America should join in a great celebration of the centenary of the locomotive.”
Tuesday, 14 June 2016
How the Man-Catchers of the Northwest Lure the Helpless Laborer to Intolerable Conditions in the End-of-Steel Villages
By W. LACEY AMY, Author of “Finding a Railroad Route O’er the Northern Rockies”
From The Advance Advocate, published by The International Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Detroit, Mich., October 1, 1913 No. 10 VOL. XXII
Notes about this article: First, I preserved the spelling, ‘Employes’ as used in this 1913 magazine. This piece took a long time to locate. The search for the writings of Lacey Amy is now in its second year. The original reference to this story was through Google Books, which has many deficiencies for those of us in Canada, supposedly because of copyright issues…The reference located, indicated the publication The Railroad and Current Mechanics, (R&CM) XVII (May, 1913), 274-84. The terrific magazine index at http://www.philsp.com/ appears to indicate there is no such issue!!! An enquiry at the Library of Congress, resulted in Cheryl Adams of LoC, sending the Table of Contents for May 1913 of the magazine Railroad Man’s Magazine, which presumably indicates that R&CM did not yet exist, again!!! Anyhow, by doggedly using Google search, another magazine appeared, Advance Advocate, with the article and Lori B. Bessler, Reference Librarian with Library Archives of Wisconsin Historical Society, kindly supplied a perfect PDF file, yesterday. Some poking around this morning, showed that some of the issues of Advance Advocate are available on the Hathi Trust website, which sadly again has issues with Canada! Finally, the reader should notice the reference on the last line of this post which confounds! Anyhow here is the article:
Doggedly, dully, despondently, a line of weary men winds eastward along the rugged tote road that clings to the mountainside a thousand feet above the tumbling Frazer River.
In the tar-papered, canvas-roofed hospital at Fitzhugh the helpless doctors watch the cold hand of pneumonia grip the unresisting foreigner whose dying wish they cannot interpret.
Beside the railway grade a cross of rough boards at the head of a rudely fenced mound bears only the name, “Robert Mathers. U. S. A.”
Beneath the terrible whirlpools and rapids of the Frazer Cañon scores of men sleep forgotten and unnamed.
When the order goes out for the laying of steel it is not the cost in men that is reckoned. When a railway cuts and blasts and digs its relentless way through a mountain pass like the Yellowhead of the Northern Canadian Rockies the payment in human lives is the chapter of construction that is never unfolded.
Wandering Americans, derelict Englishmen, Poles, Swedes, Italians, Hungarians, Bulgarians and Russians who have yielded to the temptation of foreign gold, drop from the lists of the living unnoticed and unmourned.
These are the penalties of construction: the uncounted cost of humanity of the demands of commerce; the payment in blood for the gain in gold.
That long chapter of the pitilessness of progress in the history of the construction of the Grand Trunk Pacific through the Yellowhead Pass is not the less interesting because it is unwritten. Danger to human life makes absorbing reading; but the contractor cannot be expected to recognize the whims of the public.
That wonderful “system,” the most complete in modern life, that entices the bohunk—as the laborer is called—into the mountains and keeps him there under the untrammeled control of his taskmasters, is at its highest point of development in the chloroforming of the public.
Its anxiety for privacy is not necessarily an acknowledgment of fault—the contractor has too lofty an idea of his share in the advance of civilization for that—but an appreciation of the suffering bohunk, ignorant, unsophisticated, unversed in the ways of the new country, stolid and uncomplaining, as the ideal object for hysterical sympathy.
The hands of the contractors are too busy with the vagaries of such a man to allow him the added weight of popular sentiment.
Besides, there is that which the contractor dare not publish. Even the callous would cry out at the revelation. Truly, the greatness of the system is in its own concealment.
Between the contractor and the bohunk is a constant struggle of wits. The first has all the advantage of brains, experience, dollars, and the remoteness of the law, but the second stands almost on a level through his disregard for all restraint save the human fist.
At the first stage of negotiations the bohunk is at a disadvantage. The employment agent is willing to promise anything. Agents in the eastern provinces and in the United States, who know nothing of conditions, and care less, pocket their commissions and leave the contractor to settle with a disgusted workman.
At Mile 53, B. C., a lump of a youth wandering hungrily around the cookhouse caught my attention. The day before I had noticed his big shock of fair hair and his face unaccustomed to the razor. This day, as I came from a hearty dinner, his hollow eyes and ravenous face spoke plainly of starvation. I spoke to him and, after he had eaten with the avidity of long hunger, controlled only by the embarrassment of novelty, he told me his story—one of a score I heard.
Boy Helpless in Wilderness.
A week before, full of the idea of getting into an engineers’ camp on construction as a start to an engineer’s career, he had approached an employment agent in Edmonton.
Of course the agent had just what the boy wanted, and, after the commission had been paid, the boy was shipped into the mountains.
Only as far as Fitzhugh could the young fellow buy his way, and the next seventy miles he covered on foot or bumpers.
When he arrived there was no position for him; the contractors have nothing to do with the engineers’ camps. The only thing open to him was work on the grade with the foreigners a hundred miles further on in the wilderness, and this he would not accept.
For a day he had wearily watched us coming satisfied from the cookhouse, but there was no way to slip in unnoticed where a man stood at the door and collected tickets.
I bought him several meals, and one early morning, just before the uncertain train left for Fitzhugh, he came to my tent and bade me a shaky farewell. He was going to try to steal a ride out.
He would accept no money. He was in a humor that would make him shoot the man who opposed him. I never saw him again. Perhaps the train-agent had pity on him.
The agent in the employment office at Edmonton, Alberta, is the last public step of the system. The door closes on the bohunk as soon as he leaves the front and, with the shutting off of the outside glare, he passes immediately into the clutch of the man-catcher, a trusted employee who is a vital part of the struggle to keep the grade manned.
How Man-Catchers Work.
The man-catcher is a big personality, strong in mind and muscle, a man whose pay-check calls for diplomacy, daring, bluff, and heavy fists.
At the door of the employment office his hand closes on the bohunk and grips until the end of steel is reached. Alone he must handle thousands of lawless, reckless foreigners. Alone he must watch their every mood, anticipate every moment of repentence, rush them along to the tune of his own wishes, and finally deliver them to the camps far in the mountains.
Back and forth between the work and civilization he flits, bringing in a half hundred men today; turning back a half-dozen deserters tomorrow, and rushing out to the front for another gang before the last has made up its slow mind.
Promising, threatening, wheedling, even fighting viciously, he spends every waking hour in the effort to convince the “hunk” that the work of construction is best for his pocket—or his skin. The man-catcher is a strategist first, but always a slugger and bully.
At Mile 28, B. C., the end of steel at that time, a man-catcher unloaded a crowd of foreigners for the grade many miles beyond. Weighted down with the variety of impedimenta affected by the bohunk, they staggered along the rough grade to Mile 44.
Then, tired and disgusted, they determined to turn back. The arguments and petitions of the man-catcher had no effect. Thereupon he promptly backed against a rock, drew a revolver, and fired straight into the crowd.
One man took the bullet in his hip—and the rest trudged terrified on to the end of grade.
Sneered at New Victims.
Later an itinerant constable heard of the affair and arrested the man-catcher. He was fined one hundred dollars. It was a cheap gang at that. Only one man-catcher has been fined for carrying a revolver—just one—and his estate would draw the first week’s wages of a man-catcher without a revolver.
Arrived a couple of miles from the end of steel and the main construction camp where the train dumps its living load, the bohunk is like a stranger in a great city.
The man-catcher has completed his work at that point and is glad to drop the responsibility.
Two hundred foreigners stepped off the train one night there at the far edge of the Rockies. On a siding about forty box cars poured forth their clamoring occupants to meet the crowd that climbed doubtfully from the colonist coaches of the train.
There was no word of greeting, no smile of welcome; only a few sneers and gibes and gapes of frank curiosity at the men who willingly undertook to sell themselves into the life they were living.
Perhaps the old hands were of a different nationality and knew not how to welcome, but it was more like the sophomore criticising the freshmen without the restraint of civilization.
The newcomers dropped stiffly from the platforms, looking hesitating about at their future home, blinking feebly at the cynical workmen drawn up, hands in pockets, to laugh at them as they had been laughed at a month or two before.
Inside the Jaws of Death.
Some of them struck up the track for the first empty cars that offered a roof. The rest wandered into the bush beside the track leading to Sand Creek, an end-of-steel village not far away.
It was the first step in “doing as the Romans do.” For the end-of-steel village is the beginning for most of them—as it is the end of many.
An end-of-steel village is a wart on the face of the earth. It is a blemish no doctor treats; it goes on fostering its own corruption until it spreads to the poor bohunk wild for excitement and relief and forgetfulness.
It settles down just three miles from the very end of steel, for the contractor maintains control of that three-mile radius and does his best to keep the men from the baneful influence.
The score of log shacks that form the village extend along an indefinite street and close in on the visiting bohunk after a wink of invitation.
But inside are jaws of death. Pool-rooms are the most respectable of the buildings, and the entire gamut of crime and debauchery is covered, down to the little hut whose red blind is its advertisement.
“Free Bunk House” is the sign over the door of a dirty hovel provided in the end- of-steel village by the contractors with the knowledge that the life of drink and carousal there is best met by a place close at hand wherein to sleep it off.
Perhaps the bohunk reports for work next day—perhaps he doesn’t. Some of them make their last report with a doped glass in their hands or a knife between their ribs.
Divekeepers Fleece the Bohunks.
In Sand Creek one night a dozen gambling hells were drawing their last cents from some bohunks blind with the glare and blare of the excitement.
A crowd surged out from one bright door. It was following a struggling, tearing pair of men—one the proprietor of the place and the other a bohunk.
“It’s such drunks as you put this place on the bum!” shrieked the proprietor.
The sentiment, not the humor of it, caught the crowd and there was a cheer of applause. A group of men ran from the doors of surrounding shacks. There was a sudden furious mix-up in the mob —and the next minute they were tossing to one side the limp body of the foreign workman.
There is no chance for the poor bohunk in an end-of-steel village where all the divekeepers club together for their mutual welfare.
The character of the bohunk himself is largely responsible for the dangers of construction.
There in the wilds the foreign nature of him maintains its course unimpeded. His instincts bring his own destruction, his resistance to sanitary control makes him his own victim, his carelessness adds daily to the list of dead and injured.
Civilization is too far distant to force him into conformity with its rules. The contractor has not the power, even if he possessed the wish, to incur the opposition of the foreigner to sensible conservation.
The bohunk sees no necessity, except under compulsion, of observing anything but his own untamed desires. He sickens, he dies—it is fate, just fate. He kills himself or his friend—it is not his business except to revenge.
Late one night last summer the engineers at Mile 47 were awakened by agonized cries from the grade below.
Poisoned by Desperate Tramps.
Rushing down, they found a half-clad bohunk lying on the rocks, evidently in the throes of death. With great difficulty they carried him down the five-hundred-foot cliff to the barracks of the provincial police on the banks of the Frazer River.
Two hours later the man died, but he had managed to unfold a tale that was not uncommon in the Yellowhead Pass.
With two unknown companions he had been tramping out to the front. For supper that night he had been given a cake by one of his companions. Its bitter taste was remembered when a terrible pain seized him a few minutes later. When he attempted to escape along the grade to the barracks his erstwhile friends stripped him of everything but his underclothing.
The murderers were never caught. Among the thousands on construction two foreigners can too easily escape detection—and no questions are asked of the bohunk.
Force is the only arbiter of their quarrels. The pistol may be less bright than it was years ago and the knife better concealed, but both still flash at slight provocation.
When the result is fatal none saw it happen or can speak intelligible English. Many an unmarked grave awaits the random spade of the years to come. Men with wounds of evident pistol or knife origin conceal them so long as they dare, and then receive medical attention in stolid silence.
The law cannot requite them; some day they will be well enough to hold the knife again.
One Sunday morning, on the irregular train between the end-of-steel and Fitzhugh the railway divisional point of the mountain section, a big Swede sat sullenly nursing a bandaged hand.
Driven Insane by Wound.
Suddenly he sprang into the aisle and tore up and down in a frenzy of pain that he bad long been fighting. After a fierce struggle we managed to force him into the baggage car and there unbound his swollen hand.
A long cut on the back of it, evidently the slash of a knife, had been concealed so long that the poison had driven him momentarily insane. From my medicine case I was able to give temporary relief, but only constant bathing kept the man down during that long ten-hours’ trip through the mountains to the Fitzhugh hospital over the seventy miles of unballasted railway.
The Swede stubbornly insisted that he had fallen on a piece of glass, but a friend admitted that his antagonist in the fight was in the hospital with a bullet through his chest.
When the knife cut would not heal the wounded man had first applied soap, then a piece of pork, and at length, when the poison was sealed in the wound, peroxide of hydrogen.
Perhaps he recovered. If he did there has probably been another fight since—if the bullet-hole through the chest resulted as fortunately.
Many of the maddest fights can be laid to the account of the horrible concoctions of liquor surreptitiously served in the Pass.
Bad Liquor Smuggled In.
The laws of construction forbid liquor, but that only adds to the profit of the whisky runners. Eight dollars a bottle—more than four days’ earnings, after meals are paid for—is not a prohibitive price for the bohunk to pay.
At the end-of-steel villages the liquor is doped with poisons that sap fear and vitality alike.
Police and contractor combine against the whisky runner, but the cry for more is too insistent, the reward of success too great. Baggage is searched, wandering men are questioned, but the discovered liquor is only a small fraction of what reaches cache near the camps.
Lying one night on the shores of a lake beside the grade I was awakened by a sudden noise from the blackness over the water. An instant later another sound came from a different direction and close along the shore beside me.
Then a deep silence fell. It was broken quickly by the rattle and splash of furious rowing out on the lake, answered close at hand by equally energetic paddling.
For some time the course of the chase could be followed by the noise. It was evident the rowers were drawing away from the lone paddler. The pursuer stopped, a revolver shot rang out, but the rowing continued.
Next morning I learned that another load of liquor had succeeded in slipping past a dangerous point on the grade, a favorite watching place of the police where the mountains crowd tightly down to the water’s edge and passage is possible only by the narrow grade or by water.
Eat Dynamite in Bravado.
The whisky runners had taken to the water far back on the grade, and sailing silently before the wind under cover of the darkness, had been revealed to the watching policeman only by an accidental noise.
Within the next five miles they would be forced to the shore by the rapids of the Frazer, and would creep forward to their cache through the forests of the wider valley.
Where foreigners, rocks, dynamite, axes, and cliffs mingle accidents are bound to happen; but the majority of them come from carelessness. Ignorance and familiarity are certain to pay a heavy toll to dynamite and rock slide. The worst dynamite disaster occurred in the fall of 1911, when a heedless act blew a gang of eight to the big list of fatalities.
The little shacks sunk in the sides of the mountains far from any camp reveal the care of the contractor* in the storing of that which the “rock-hogs” treat as lightly as a stick of candy—a simile all’ the more appropriate since bits of dynamite are sometimes actually eaten in bravado.
The system of construction is itself a menace to the workmen. The actual work of a mile of grade may be divided among a score of little contractors, many of whom perform their portion with the assistance of a few friends or relatives.
A couple of men will dig or blast through a score of feet only, and since their one idea is to make all the profit possible. there exist conditions that insure the minimum of safety.
Trusting to luck, they neglect precautions obviously demanded by the work to be performed. Dynamite is carelessly placed, the distance of retirement for the blast is inadequate, and no time is wasted in waiting for unfired charges.
Dirty Quarters Breed Disease.
Into a huge bank that must be removed they' run a weak crib that may crumple like paper beneath the pressure of the earth. Inefficiently housed and fed, they think to profit at the cost of their bodies; and they fall victims to every disease that threatens.
Pneumonia and typhoid fever are fought single-handed by the contractors. The penalties exacted by neglect of sanitary precautions never impress themselves on the men. Inconvenience and momentary discomfort are more disagreeable to the bohunk than germs.
The dangers of typhoid are preferable to the bore of cleanliness.
The selection of a camp’s location is an important care. A contractor pitches his camp on a dimpling mountain stream, but the. best of conditions are negatived by the carelessness of the bohunk. He dies without self-censure, or recovers without a lesson, recklessly spreading the disease among those who realize the danger.
The stream that seemed so permanent when the camp was located may have been but the irregular flow of mountain rains or uncertain glaciers, and the week afterward the bed may be dry.
Perhaps a mile above the first camp another contractor locates, mindful only of his own convenience. Immediately safety ceases for the camp below.
During 1912 the freedom from typhoid was unusual, but the previous two years had their moments when something like a panic seized the workmen. The number of deaths among the engineers in 1910 proved what a general menace the bohunk can be.
Gang Buried in Slide.
Indigenous to mountain construction are snow and rock slides that sweep away grade or tote road with Little warning. Here and there a thunder of rock from the heights above tears down upon these trails of men and blots everything out before it in a smother of debris—and none can tell of the wandering bohunks who went down with the slide.
Five hundred feet below grade in the shadow of Mount Robson a li^ige gouge a hundred feet deep is torn in the opposite bank of the Frazer River.
A year ago a mountain lake that had nestled thousands of feet up in the mountains unknown to the engineers and contractors broke through its banks, rushed down upon the grade, swept it smooth to the last shovel, and bored its countless tons of water and rock into the valley a half mile below.
During the rains of the early spring of 1912 a gang of foreigners was trudging in to work. They were warned by workmen they passed that the tote road was dangerous. and while still within sight, the warning was verified.
The entire gang was caught helpless in the rush of an immense snow-slide. Only one was rescued alive. The rest smothered before they could be released.
It is not the dread of these dangers that drives the bohunk back through the mountains at the end of his first month’s work. Men pass into the shadows of the hills hopeful for the profit of their hands, but their fickleness and instability seldom allow them to remain to the realization of their hopes.
Still hoping, still unsettled, they wander listlessly back to civilization. Ever the stream of weary workers pours out through the Pass, staggering, lifeless, sick of everything behind, the victims of their own vacillation.
Through that four hundred miles to Edmonton they fight their way or drift down to Port George on the river currents; eating when the chance offers; trudging over tote road or grade, or hugging the bumpers—all to reach that new life ahead that is ever beckoning.
Unprepared they commence the long trek. Trusting to unsettled mountain passes they may walk for days with no more to eat than the berries beside the trail, or drop exhausted to await the mercies of the tramps who follow.
A gang of engineers in rapid travel down to Fort George came upon a lone bohunk wearily making his way out from construction. With more than three hundred miles of manless wilds before him he had but two pounds of rice in his “turkey”—no gun, no fishing tackle, nothing but a dogged blindness to the future.
Taking what the engineers offered, he sat down to lighten the load by eating to his capacity.
In the cañons and rapids of the Frazer the Goat and Giscom Rapids, and the great canon, that monster of relentless fury—lie the hidden remains of bohunks who have tried this seemingly easy, down-grade escape from construction.
At every log-jam are piled their crude rafts and broken scows, silent testimony of the scores who have disappeared. Any scowman, any laborer along the banks can tell of the sinking men he has helplessly watched.
The contractors have not been guiltless in this easy method of transportation. One of them sent a boat-load of fifty-three through the cañon, a risk that savored so strongly of attempted manslaughter that it is hard to see the humor in the laughing description of how the Italians prayed and the Swedes cursed as the scow began to stand on end in the whirlpools that line the perilous course.
Another contractor, after starting his engine. shoved it, with an Indian aboard, into the currents above the cañon. All the Indian could do was to hang on, and only the fortunate flooding of the engine below the rapids enable him to paddle ashore. The story is invariably ended with the laughing remark, “or the damned thing would have been going yet.”
To run the scows through these river dangers the contractors keep expert river- men and Indians, but even they sometimes fail to clear the great hole of one dangerous whirlpool or the rocks that, protrude from the boiling waters.
A rude railway has been built around the cañon, and now all the supplies that admit of it are trans-shipped by this method. Those who realize the danger walk around the point that juts out to form the narrow gulch through which the waters rush, and from the cliffs above look down on the scowmen in their struggle for life.
One has caught in his camera the hopeless fight of four Indians, once as they entered the race of water, and next as they were disappearing to their deaths in the whirlpool; but the pictures will never be published.
The chief engineer of construction looked on as his spinning boat, in the charge of two Indians, whirled its freight of supplies into the water while the Indians hung desperately to the ropes as the boat stood on end in the whirlpool.
The treatment of the bohunk far beyond the end of steel will never be fully known. Along steel the contractor realizes the necessity of meeting the ease of desertion and the possible visits of annoying reformers with conditions that make life worth living.
But far in on grade, away beyond the reach of visitors, where the bohunk in flight from his work takes life in hand, and where detention may be practiced with immunity—there it is different.
The bohunk who struggles out knows not the ropes of publicity, or imagines the life he left characteristic of the country—and is silent. Or he babbles loudly, extravagantly, with the imagination of the excitable foreigner. And the public is nonplused for a moment—and then turns to the latest scandal.
Away in there life is necessarily severe. The conveniences and comforts of steel are impossible, and frequently the complaints arc based on our demands from civilization.
One dollar a month is deducted from the men’s wages and, on grade, most of that dollar is profit. There can be no doubt of the imperfections of the service. Suffering men are often treated with scant consideration; innumerable instances of this could be given.
In the wilds there has been found a system that is close to peonage; for the men scarcely dare resist the absolute power of the only authority present, and retreat into the wilds is seriously perilous.
But it is easy to blame too harshly. The bohunk is ignorant and careless, conveniences are impossible, the law is very far away, and the work must be performed by reluctant workmen.
The railway is blameless. The construction is solely in the hands of the contractors. In fact, the railway company is as sedulously kept in ignorance as is the public.
Blame attaches to the contractors. While not directly responsible for much that merits criticism, they have the power to stop it.
It is the dearth of men, not inherent heartlessness, that is the trouble.
Along that several thousand miles of unbroken mountain and forest six thousand men cannot perform the work of sixty-thousand without some one suffering.
It is little wonder that the methods employed make theorists rave. Only the contractor knows that the strictly legal ways of civilization would provide only a big junket for the foreigner of fuse and shovel.
The government of Canada has not been blind to conditions. Commissions, secret and open, have investigated. The reports would make interesting reading. For reasons sufficient these reports have not been made public, nor will they be.
Gradually the government is being forced into a position of inspection over construction. The public of Canada and of the United States is being aroused. The Consul-General of the United States at Winnipeg has made formal complaint and further announcements are expected in the near future.
And the reckoning will be complete—
Courtesy Railroad and Current Mechanics.
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- As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.