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1 PERILOUS CONNECTIONS: RAILROADS, CAPITALISM AND MYTHMAKING IN THE NEW SOUTH By R. SCOTT HUFFARD JR A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FO R THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2013
2 2013 R. Scott Huffard Jr
3 To my parents
4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I first of all, thank everyone who in some way or another has contributed to t his project intellectually. Fellow graduate students provided crucial companionship and busted my chops in research seminars, inspiring me to produce my best work. And of course, the baristas at Volta, served me the crucial espresso that fueled the writing of most of this project. Feedback from critics with the Milbauer Visiting Scholar Program, Business History Conference Dissertation Colloquium, Southern Industrialization Project Meeting, and the Harvard History of Capitalism Conference was essential in m oving this work in new and better directions. And of course this project would not be where it is now without the help and guidance of my committee. Paul Ortiz pointed me in the direction of Railroad Bill back in my Masters Defense, William Link s researc h seminars were the start of this work and Sheryl Kroen has consistently pushed me to see the broader implications of my work. And last but certainly not least, my advisor Sean Adams has consistently kept me motivated to do my best work, and has been cruc ial in guiding this project to completion. Also, I would like to acknowledge everyone out there who helped fund the research and writing of this dissertation. The Newberry Library, North Caroliniana Society, Filson Historical Society, University of Florid a History Department, University of Florida Graduate School and the Milbauer Chair in Southern History. And anyone out there who has provided a place to crash, split a hotel room, or simply served as a drinking buddy when the archives closed, on the many weeks I have spent on the road researching this project. Finally, I thank my parents. Without their emotional and financial support I never would have wound up in grad school writing about trains, in the first place
5 TABLE OF CONTENTS ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 4 LIST OF FIGURES ................................ ................................ ................................ ......................... 8 LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 9 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 12 2 THE WAR OF THE RAIL: SOUTHERN RAILROAD DREAMS AFTER RECONSTRUCTION ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 33 Southern Railroads in War and Reconstruction ................................ ................................ ...... 36 Redeemed by Railway ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 41 Rise of the Empire Builders ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 46 Standards ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ 51 Local Railroad Dreams ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 60 ................................ ................................ 67 Fighting the War of the Rail ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 72 A Revolution in Southern Railroading ................................ ................................ ................... 80 3 RAIL TRAVEL AND THE CREATION OF THE NEW SOUTH ................................ ....... 82 ................................ ................................ ................................ 84 ................................ ... 92 Opening Lines ................................ ................................ ................................ ....................... 102 Railroads and the New Orleans Exposition ................................ ................................ .......... 107 Entering a Strange Land ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 113 ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 117 Railroads and the New South ................................ ................................ ............................... 127 4 DAMNABLE CONSPIRACIES: TRAIN WRECKING IN THE SOUTHERN IMAGINATION ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 129 Flimsy Railroads and Rising Dangers ................................ ................................ .................. 132 After a Train Wreck ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 135 Train Wreckers at Work ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 146 idge ................................ ................................ .............. 151 The Cover up at Cahaba Bridge ................................ ................................ ........................... 157 ................................ ................................ .. 162 ................................ ................................ .................... 165 Southern Distinctiveness and Train Wrecking ................................ ................................ ..... 170 The Militari zation of Southern Rail Corridors ................................ ................................ ..... 177
6 5 ALABAMA TRAIN ROBBERS RUBE BURROW AND RAILROAD BILL .................. 182 Origins ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 185 Exploiting the Interconnected South ................................ ................................ .................... 188 ................................ ................................ ........... 195 Anonymous, Ubiquitous and Supernatural ................................ ................................ ........... 201 ................................ ................................ ................... 207 Denouement ................................ ................................ ................................ .......................... 213 Creating Legends ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 216 Train Robbers and the Values of Capitalism ................................ ................................ ........ 228 6 SOWING THE SEEDS OF PESTILENCE: YELLOW FEVER AND SOUTHERN RAILROADS ................................ ................................ ................................ ....................... 230 Tracking Yellow Fever ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 233 New Connections and New Dangers ................................ ................................ .................... 235 Yellow Jack Rides the Rails ................................ ................................ ................................ 238 reled Shot ............................. 248 ................................ ................................ ........... 253 Trouble on the Waycross Short Line ................................ ................................ .................... 257 ................................ ................................ .......... 263 ................................ ............................. 266 Yellow Fever as a Crisis of Capitalism ................................ ................................ ................ 272 7 GOBBLED UP AND BOTTLED UP: THE CONSOLIDATION OF THE SOUTHERN RAILWAY ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................... 274 Col ................................ ................................ 278 ................................ ................................ .............................. 284 The Octopus Comes to Georgia ................................ ................................ ............................ 291 ................................ ............... 295 Who Owns the Central of Georgia Railroad? ................................ ................................ ....... 303 ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 309 Fighting the 99 Year Lease in North Carolina ................................ ................................ ..... 314 W.B Sparks and the Railroad Que stion in Georgia Press ................................ ..................... 318 The Southern Railway Triumphant ................................ ................................ ...................... 325 8 CONCLUSION ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 328 Southern Railroads in 1900 ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 328 Perilous Connections ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 330 ................................ .............................. 334 LIST OF REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 337 Primary Sources ................................ ................................ ................................ .................... 337 Secondary Sources ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 344
7 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 355
8 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page Figure 5 1. Train Wre cking Attempts in the South, as reported in the Atlanta Constitution New Orleans Picayune and Raleigh News Observer 1878 through 1900. .................... 181
9 LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS GSF Georgia Southern & Florida Railroad ICRR OR IC Illin ois Central Railroad L & NRR OR L & N Louisville & Nashville Railroad CF & YV RR Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railroad SHC Southern Historical Collection Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill SRHAC Southern Railway Historical Associaton Col lection Kennesaw, Georgia
10 Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy PERILOUS CONNECTIONS: RAILROADS, CAP ITALISM AND MYTHMAKING IN THE NEW SOUTH By R Scott Huffard Jr. May 2013 Chair: Sean P. Adams Major: History railroad network in the American South in the 1880s and 90s. From 1880 to 1890, the mileage of railroads in the region doubled, and by 1890, nine out of every ten southerners lived in a county with a railroad. At the same time that construction crews physically expanded the network, organizational innovations by rai lroad companies served to improve efficiency and further on the speed, circulation, connectivity, standardization and consolidation of the rail network. Thes e values were both essential to the conquest of nineteenth century modernity and to the triumph of capitalism as both an economic system and a way of thinking. Though these forces were certainly at work on the South before the 1880s, the rapid expansion o f the railroad network, and new connections to outside capital make these two decades crucial in the spread of these values. For the local boosters and capitalists behind these new railroad projects, the railroad served the ultimate symbol of progress, as also introduced new anxieties and dangers to southern life.
11 In moments of crisis terrifying epidemics that spread quickly over railroads, tragic train wrecks, spectacular train robberies and the sudde n consolidation of the J.P. Morgan backed Southern Railway a wide variety of southerners contested the values of connectivity and circulation. These shocks to the system show how both white and black southerners fought the logic of the network and points to how historians have underestimated the extent to which white and black southerners feared and resisted new railroad connections. The distinctiveness of the South in terms of cultural factors like the lingering impact of the Civil War, race, environme ntal conditions, or structural economic flaws led to unique results for railroad development in the region. But in a final twist, the mythology of the New South and southern cultural tendencies ironically would in the end, help ameliorate the anxieties o f the railroad and normalize the expansion of capitalism into the region.
12 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Perhaps more than any other rail line, the history of the corridor linking New Orleans and Chicago, symbolizes the vast transformations in southern railroadin g in the second half of the nineteenth century. The two rail lines that constituted the southern branch of this route were completed just as the Civil War broke out, but Union raids and heavy usage took a heavy toll on the track and rolling stock. During Reconstruction, Henry McComb, a colonel from Delaware wrested control of the corridor from Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard. But heavy debt, a byproduct of a region short on capital, and an uncertain economic environment, plagued By 18 75 the railroad was too broke to even pay employees with regularity, and and he ordered passenger trains to not try to make up any time. 1 But from war and ruination, came redemption and rehabilitation thanks to northern capital and the Illinois Central Railroad Company, which took control of the line in 1876 Workmen repaired the shattered bridges and structures, replaced broken down rails with over 16,000 tons worth of steel rails, and began extensions tapping undeveloped corners of Mississippi. By 1879, the se improvements had shaved five hours off the time between New Or leans and East Cairo, and trains were running workers shifted the gauge of the road to match the northern standard gauge of four feet eight and a half inches eliminating the need for hoists at Cairo After the 1 889 completion of a four mile bridge over the Ohio River at Cairo, a moment a historian of the company compared to the 1 Thomas D. Clark, A Pioneer Southern Railroad from New Orleans to Cairo (Chapel Hill, 1936), 76, 96, 111, John E. Stover, Railroads of the South, 1865 1900 (Chapel Hill, 1955), 155 185, October 31, 1875, Series 22.2, Box 35, Folder 891, Illinois Central Railway Collection, Newberry Library, Chicago 24, 1875, Series 22.2, Box 35, Folder 891, ICRR.
13 driving of the Golden Spike at Promontory Point, the report noted between the north and south is steadily in creasing 2 More than just commodities flowed down the reinvigorated line, as the reunited Illinois Central symbolized sectional reconciliation and e conomic growth for both northern and southern prophets of the New South. Yankee veterans journeyed south to New Orleans on the line, and it also played a key role in bringing visitors to the New Orleans Exposition of 1884, a showcase for cultural values of the New South. But the lofty rhetoric of corporate boardrooms, and New South boosters, did not match the actual condition An outbreak of yellow fever moved north over the line from New Orleans with devastating effect in 1 878 and after every subsequent rumor of yellow fever in the South Mississippians with shotguns a t over 150 different points during a scare 1888. And in December of that same year a gang of train robbers held up a train near Duck Hill, fatally shooting a passenger, running off with $4000, and leading the company to assume that citizens of Duck Hill were conspiring to shelter the bandits. Accidents also plagued the line, most famously in 1900, when the line was scene to what i s passengers on his out of control train that collided with another train near Vaughn, Mississippi. 3 In short the experience of the line rejuvenated via northern capital and celebrated as a symbol of reunion and economic rebirth yet at critical moments assailed for spreading disease, 2 Annual Reports to Stockholders, 1878, Record Group IC 2, Series 2, Volume 4, 1871 1897, ICRR, Annual Reports to Stockholders, 1879, Record Group IC 2, Series 2, Volume 4, 1871 1897, ICRR, Annual Reports to Stockholders, 1881, Record Group IC 2, Series 2, Volume 4, 1871 1897, ICRR, Corliss, 226, Annual Reports to Stockholders, 1889, Record Group IC 2, Series 2, Volume 4, 1871 1897, ICRR. 3 (Miss.) Sentinel, September 29, 1888 Appeal, December 17, 1888.
14 causing spectacular train wrecks, and inviting the crimes of violent train robbers is testament to the contradictions of southern railroading in the 1880s and 90s, and it serves as an apt prelude to this dissertation, which explores the expansion, integration and consolidation of southern railroads in the 1880s and 90s, by tracing the various meanings placed on the speed, circulation connectivity, standardization and consolidation of the rail network. These values were the embodiment of what was considered modernity in the nineteenth century and essential to the triumph of capitalism as both an economic system and a way of thinking. Though these forces were certainly at work on the South before the 1880s, the rapid expansion of the railroad network, and new connections to outside capital make these two decades crucial in the spread of these values. Boosters extolled these new traits of the railroad network and celebrated the railroad as a symbol of the New South, but the railroad also introduced new anxieties and dangers to southern life. Examining moments of crisis in the system shows how both white and black southerners resisted th e logic of the network and points to how historians have underestimated the extent to which white and black southerners feared and resisted new railroad connections The distinctiveness of the South in terms of cultural factors like the lingering impact of the Civil War, race, environmental conditions, or structural economic flaws led to unique results for railroad development in the region, and unique problems. And in a final twist, the mythology of the New South and southern cultural tendencies ironica lly would also help ameliorate the anxieties of the railroad. The historiographic contributions of Perilous Connections begin with the literature on the history of the railroad, which is undoubtedly a popular source of historical inquiry. F or the sake of simplicity the literature on railroads can be distilled into a few main branches. The first
15 category of railroad histories examines a single line or corporation from birth to death or insolvency. Typically these works trace corporate machinations in board rooms, political disputes over creation of the line, the impact on the geographic area through which the line runs, purchase by outside forces. As pieces of a lar ger puzzle, these histories are invaluable in describing the basic history of the lines, and they certainly made this project easier to complete. A comprehensive listing of these works is probably impossible due to the magnitude of interest, but for this study, the most useful of these works concern southern railroads like the Louisville & Nashville, Richmond Terminal and North Carolina Railroad. 4 Railroads also figure prominently in the field of business history. Railroads were the first big business, a s t he size and organizational challenges of operating railroads compelled new forms of corporate organization the managerial revolution. Though older generations of business historians were more optimistic about the way manag ers created order out of cha os, more recent work has challenged the notion that corporate rationality has been a calming force in history Search for Order, similarly touts the organizing power of large corporations, viewing them largely as a precursor to the large Pro gressive state. With business historians looking to embed the operation of corporations more within cultural contexts, this older view has fallen out of favor. Richard White argues precisely the opposite, that new 5 railroads in the western United States we re a source of chaos. The allegedly rational bureaucrats who ran railroads were wracked with anxieties of the modern age like neurasthenia and deeply embedded in the cultural context of the time and place in which they lived. As 4 Maury Klein, The Great Richmond Terminal: A Study in Businessmen and Business Strategy, (Charlottesville, 1970), Maury Klein, History of The Louisville and Nashville Railroad, (New York, 1972), Alle n W. Trelease The North Carolina Railroad, 1849 1871, and the Modernization of North Carolina (Chapel Hill, 1991).
16 Richard White argues, the 5 The crises detailed in this project certainly cast doubt on the notion that the introduction of large corporations can organize a region. In all of these instances, the logic of the corporation to maximize profits, consolidate towards bigness, and maximize efficiency end up causing chaos in the South. In addition to building on literature that examines railroads as corporations, this work also draws great inspiration from works that look at ra ilroad networks themselves as subjects of historical inquiry. The railroad network, which as it grew, redirected flows of commodities and decisively altered economies, constitutes a convenient structure around which to organize a history of the nineteenth work railroads provides the best example of this type of history. Cronon turns attention away from the people of Chicago and towards the structural forces, namely a newly integrated rail network that turned bushels of wheat into rivers, felled Midwestern and southern forests, centralized the R Southern Pacific Railroad, which traces how that corporation developed the West, also falls into this vein. 6 Finally, railroads were more than just corporate innovators and engines of economic growth. For much of the nineteenth c entury, railroads were symbols of modernity and the spread 5 Alfred D. Chandler, The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business (Cambridge, 1977), Robert Weibe, Search for Order, 1 877 1920 (New York, 1966). The groundwork for this new turn in business Business and Economic History, Vol. 24, no.2 (Winter 1995), 1 41. Richard White, Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America, (New York, 2011) xxxi, 539. 6 William Cronon, (New York, 1992), Richard J. Orsi, Sunset Limited: The Southern Pacific Railroad and the Development of t he American West, 1850 1930 (Berkeley, 2007).
17 Americ The Bear captured their elu sive prey, but in the end, the traditional and pastoral hunting scenes are ruined by the clanging of a locomotive the economic reality of the integration of the national rail network to explore the upending of Victorian gender roles in the 1880s and 90. 7 The story of the railroad goes far beyond American history in fact, railroad development took on divergent cul tural meanings in other contexts. In Japan, descriptions of roles, the pe rils of punctuality and cultural predispositions to suicide. In Latin American countries leaders like Porfirio Diaz used the symbolism of the railroad to bolster their claims to authority. The moments when these values were challenged were especially probl ematic because they threatened not just the power of railroad corporations, but entire political regimes Railroads did not have to even represent capitalist modernity, as depending on the region, railroads could symbolize the building of Socialism, or the 8 Culture matters when looking at railroads, both in explaining the results of new 7 Leo Marx, The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America (New York, 1964), Amy G. Richter, Home on the Rails: Women, the Railroad and the Rise of Public Domesticity (Chapel Hill, 2005 ), 11. Though focused on literature, Joseph R. Millichap, Dixie Limited: Railroads, Culture, and the Southern Renaissance (Lexington, 2002) addresses the ambiguous role the railroad played in southern culture. 8 There is an admittedly vast literature on glo bal railroad development, but the most influential studies for this work are Alisa Freedman, Tokyo in Transit: Japanese Culture on the Rails and Road (Stanford, 2011), 1 12. A. Kim
18 railroad development, and in the way in which the meaning of new railroads were used by elites, and contested by those on the ground. Conceptually, this project builds on the findings of these cultural historians of the railroad, to examine how the spread of the railroad was interpreted in the South. When it comes to railroads and the South, h istorians have followed the development of the southern railroad network to illuminate major events in the history of the region. Antebellum historians have traced the construction of early southern railroads to prove that southerners worked to incorporate elements of modernity into the plantation economy, and Civil War historians have looked at how railroads decisively altered the outcome of the conflict funneling troops into areas, and shaping campaigns. Generals who were able to master the second geography of the railroad system examines how the struggle to control the southern rail network was an overlooked aspect of Reconstruction. Reconstruction era railroads also were targets of political attacks for the ir alleged corruption, a fact which helped doom Republican state governments in the South. 9 As comprehensive that these works are, they leave untouched the 1880s and 90s, decades John Stov Railroads of the Clark, The Redemptive Work: Railway and Nation in Ecuador, 1895 1930 (Wilmi ngton, 1998), 6. Michael Matthews, Railway Culture and the Civilizing Mission in Mexico, 1876 1910 (PhD Dissertation, University of Arizona, 2008), Matthew J. Payne, (Pittsburgh, 2001), Daniel Headr ick, Tools of Empire 170 (New York, 1981), 194. Christian Wolmar, Blood, Iron and Gold, (New York, 2010) provides a solid synthesis of the story of global railroad development. 9 For the best of the antebellum literature on southern economic modernization, see Tom Downey Planting a Capitalist South: Masters, Merchants, and Manufacturers in the Southern Interior, 1790 1860 (Baton Rouge) Aaron Marrs, Railroads in the Old South: Pursuing Progress in a Slave Society (Baltimore, 2009), John Majewski, Modernizi ng a Slave Economy: The Economic Vision of the Confederate Nation (Chapel Hill, 2009). William G. Thomas, the Iron Way: Railroads the Civil War and the Making of Modern America (New Haven, 2011) is the best treatment of railroads in the Civil War. Scott Re ynolds Nelson, Iron Confederacies: Southern Railways, Klan Violence and Reconstruction (Chapel Hill, 1999) and Mark W. Summers, Railroads, Reconstruction and the Gospel of Prosperity: Aid under the Radical Republicans, 1865 1877 (Princeton, 1984) cover sou thern railroads in Reconstruction.
19 South, written in the 1950s, is perhaps the most recent overview of the structural changes in the organization, is more concerned with tracing th e shift to northern control than the impact of these changes on people on the ground. Other works on southern railroads in this period train their analysis on corporate boardrooms, or specifically on legal departments. In his synthesis of the period, Edwar d Ayers places the growth of the railroad at the very beginning of his book (and with the expanding network, remain unexplored, so this project goes a step f urther to look at how the forces introduced by new railroads shaped the New South. 10 Perilous Connections also contributes to a lengthy literature on economic development in the New South. The culture of capitalism takes on heightened importance in this sp ecific moment in southern history, as this project builds on the work of economic historians who have demonstrated the transitional nature of the southern economy in the 1880s and 90s. Now, this is not to say that capitalism suddenly arrived in the South w ith the end of Reconstruction in 1878. Historians have waged a vigorous debate on whether the antebellum South was capitalism or not. While Eugene Genovese who posited a plantation South with values antithetical to capitalism, effectively severing slavery from capitalism, others like James Oakes saw capitalism as deeply embedded in the plantation system Recent scholarship on the antebellum southern economy has in effect sidestepped this debate over capitalism, substituting modernity as an analytical tool These works point to the proliferation of factories, railroads, time consciousness, and a growing Scholars like Seth Rockman 10 John F. Stover, The Railroads of the South, 1865 1900: A Study in Finance and Control, (Chapel Hill, 1955). Klein, The Great Richmond Terminal and Klein, History of The Louisville and Nashville Railroad, f orm perfect ex amples of railroad history told from the boardroom. William G. Thomas, Lawyering For the Railroad: Business, Law and Power in the New South (Baton Rouge, 1999), Edward L. Ayers, The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction (New York, 1992).
20 have recently put analysis of antebellum capitalism back on the table, arguing that one cannot examine the actions of plantation owners without considering the economic ties linking them to broader networks of capital. As they argue, the development of what we know as modern capitalism was impossible without slav ery. 11 Other recent studies address economic boosterism in the prewar period. One of the most If anything these works seek to smoot h over the differences between the antebellum a nd postbellum southern economy, and they echo older debates about change and continuity in southern history. This debate raged in the 1970s as scholars looked to he New South. They pointed out that many of the same people in charge before the war ran things after the war. 12 So between these older arguments and the new growing literature on antebellum southern economic history, some may contend that the proliferatio n of attention to the economic development of the antebellum South dulls the magnitude of the New South transformations that are critical to the analysis of this project. 11 Se Journal of the Civil War Era Vol. 2, No. 1 (March 2012) (online supplement) highlights this older debate. For the recent scholarship on economic modernization in the antebellum Sou th see Mark M. Smith, Mastered by the Clock: Time, Slavery, and Freedom in the American South (Chapel Hill, 1997), Tom Downey, Planting a Capitalist South: Masters, Merchants and Manufacturers in the Southern Interior, 1790 1860 (Baton Rouge, 2006), Ed. by Susanna Delfino and Michele Gillespie, Technology, Innovation and Southern Industrialization From the Antebellum Age to the Computer Age, (Columbia, 2008), Aaron Marrs, Railroads in the Old South: Pursuing Progress in a Slave Society (Baltimore, 2009), Jo hn Majewski, Modernizing a Slave Economy: The Economic Vision of the Confederate Nation (Chapel Hill, 2009), Sean Patrick Adams, Old Dominion Industrial Commonwealth: Coal, Politics, and Economy in Antebellum America (Baltimore, 2009) 12 Majewski, Modernizi ng a Slave Econ omy John Kvach, Modern Economy in the Old South, (PhD Thesis: University of Tennessee, 1998) makes a similar argument by focusing on one booster, J.D.B. DeBow. Jonathan Weiner, Social Origi ns of the New South: Alabama, 1860 1885 (Baton Rouge, 1978) and Dwight B. Billings Jr., Development in North Carolina, 1865 1900 tinuity
21 While not marginalizing the contributions of scholars on antebellum historians, an d downplaying the economic development of the antebellum South, this project comes down age old debate. Whether or not one agrees that the antebellum South was capitalist or not, the postwar period constitutes a brea k with the past and historians are increasingly recognizing the importance of the Civil War as a turning point in American capitalism. Sven Beckert has examined how the war paved the way for the rise of an American bourg e oisie that exercised unparalleled power over the development of a national economic system, and how war and Reconstruction upended the cotton economy not just in the South but all over the world. Sean Adams has similarly pointed to the ways in which the War bolstered the power of corporat ions, including southern railroads like the Louisville & Nashville, which took advantage of federal aid and stockpiled cash reserves to expand in the postwar period. 13 These newer arguments echo the claims of older generations of scholars who have long fix ated on the 1880s as a critical take off point for southern industry. Writing in the 1920s, Broadus Mitchell labeled 1880 as a turning point in southern economic development. After the victory of Garfield, he argued, the South turned away from politics an d instead focused on A more critical assessment of the movement from C. Vann Woodward debunked these myths yet agreed that the Civil War was a d ecisive break in southern history. Woodward pointed to a new way of thinking among the New South business men, infusions of 13 Sven Beckert, The Monied Metropolis: New York City and the Consolidation of the American Bourgeoisie, 1850 1896 (Cambridge, 2001 ). Sven Beckert, "Emancipation and Empire: Reconstructing the Worldwide Web of Cotton Production in the Age of the American Civil War," The American Historical Review Vol 109, No. 5, (Dec 2004), 1405 1438. Kornblith, Capitalism Takes Command: The Social Transformation of Nineteenth Century America (Chicago, 2012), 249 276.
22 foreign capital, the growth of sharecropping and the crop lien, and the economic development of industries like textiles and steel p roduction, as evidence that the Civil War constituted a decisive break in southern history. 14 A focus on railroads bolsters this argument for change. Whether addressing the shift to northern ownership, extraordinary growth in mileage, or the change in dev elopment strategies from local and region al to inter territorial, histories of southern railroads point to the 1880s and 90s as distinctive. 15 So in effect, both the antebellum and postbellum scholars can be right. If the 1850s were a pivotal moment in the expansion of capitalism, a moment that has witnessed a proliferation of scholarly scrutiny, the 1880s were even more transformative. The 1880s and 90s were certainly not the birth of capitalism in the South, but they were decades where the forces of capita lism were strongly felt and outside corporations greatly increased their role in the region. Evidence of the transformations of the years after Reconstruction comes not just from the railroad network, but from other elements of modernization that took ro ot. Some scholars have focused on the new industry that along with railroads defined the New South textiles. Others trace the incorporation of new areas into the national market. The penetration of southern regions like Wiregrass Georgia and the Appalach ian Mountains certainly was a new feature of the decade. Though it would lead to conditions arguably as bad or worse than slavery, convict labor constituted another peculiarly New South style of mobilizing labor. And in southern pine forests, 14 Broadus Mitchell, The Rise of Cotton Mills in the South (Columbia, 2001), 85. C. Vann Woodward, Origins of the New South, 1877 1913 (Baton Rouge, 1951). Other works that stress the change in both the political economy of the South, and the cultural meanings behind this change, after War and Reconstruction include Harold Woodman, King Cotton and His Retainers: Financing and Marketing The Cotton Crop of the South, 1800 1925 (Lexington, 1968), Paul Gaston, The New South Creed: A Study in Southern Mythmaking (Baton Rouge, 1970), Steven Hahn, The Roots of Southern Populism: Yeoman Farmers and the Transfor mation of the Georgia Upcountry, 1850 1890 (New York, 1983), Gavin Wright, Wright, Old South, New South: Revolutions in the Southern Economy Since the Civil War (New York, 1986), Jack Temple Kirby, Mockingbird Song: Ecological Landscapes of the South (Chap el Hill, 2006). 15 Stover, Railroads of the South, Klein, The Great Richmond Terminal Klein, History of The Lou isville and Nashville Railroad. More recently Nelson, Iron Confederacies looks as Reconstruction as pivotal in the shift to northern control.
23 logging and t urpentine spread to new areas, often following the growth of new rail lines. More recent ly, Jack Temple Kirby has looked at the way in which economic development in the post Reconstruction era ravaged the southern environmental landscape. 16 Historians als o have examined challenges to the New South status quo, and the alliance of northern capital and southern Bourbons that dominated the political economy of the region. These challenges came from a wide range of groups. The Knights of Labor, who had a sign ificant presence in the South, and labor movements at various times threatened to override Alliance/Populist axis also threatened to take control of state governments and cu rtail the power of railroads. And African Americans vigorously resisted the rise of Jim Crow. 17 While not directly examining these groups, Perilous Connections does look at moments when these critics of the New South could have gained ground. The reasons w hy critiques of the railroad did not spiral into broader attacks on the system is addressed in the mythmaking portion of the project. 16 D avid Carlton, Mill and Town in South Carolina, 1880 1920 (Baton Rouge, 1982) and Jacquelyn Dowd Hall ... [et al.], Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World (Chapel Hill, 1987). Ronald D Eller, Miners, Millhands, and Mountaineers: Industria lization of the Appalachian South, 1880 1930 (Knoxville, 1982) and Mark V. Wetherington, The New South Comes to Wiregrass Georgia: 1860 1910, (Knoxville, 1994). Alex Lichtenstein, Twice the Work of Free Labor: The Political Economy of Convict Labor in the New South (New York, 1996), xvii.. Robert B. Outland, Tapping the Pines: The Naval Stores Industry in the American South (Baton Rouge, 2004), William P. Jones, The Tribe of Black Ulysses: African American Lumber Workers in the Jim Crow South (Urbana 2005) and Jack Temple Kirby, Mockingbird Song: Ecological Landscapes of the South (Chapel Hill, 2006). 17 Melton Alonza McLaurin, The Knights of Labor in the South (Westport, Conn., 1978), Matthew Hild, Greenbackers, Knights of Labor and Populists: Farmer Labor Insurgency in the Late Nineteenth Century South (Athens, 2007). The literature on race and labor mobilization includes Eric Arnesen, Waterfront Workers of New Orleans: Race, Class, and Politics: 1863 1923 (Champaign, 1994), Daniel Letwin, The Challenge of Interracial Unionism: Alabama Coal Miners, 1879 1921 (Chapel Hill, 1997) Karen Shapiro, New South Rebellion: The Battle Against Convict Labor in the Tennessee Coalfields, 1871 1896 (Chapel Hill, 1998). The most influential works on Populism for this proje ct are Robert McMath, (Chapel Hill, 1975), Lawrence Goodwyn, The Populist Moment: A Short History of the Agrarian Revolt in America (New York, 1978), Steven Hahn, The Roots of Southern Populism : Yeoman Farmers and the Transformation of the Georgia Upcountry, 1850 1890 (New York, 1983), Barton C. Shaw, The Wool (Baton Rouge, 1984), Charles Postel, The Populist Vision (New York, 2007). For African American resist ance to the consolidation of Jim Crow see Steven Hahn, A Nation Under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South From Slavery to the Great Migration (Cambridge, Mass., 2003) and Paul Ortiz, Emancipation Betrayed: The Hidden History of Black Or ganizing and White Violence in Florida from Reconstruction to the Bloody Election of 1920 (Berkeley, 2005).
24 For the most part, recent scholarship on the New South has turned away from analysis of economic systems, opting instead to trace the complex interactions of race, class and gender, categories that were certainly in flux in this period as well. The 1880s and 90s witnessed the consolidation of Jim Crow racial hierarchies, the rise and fall of a broad based labor and farmer in surgency, and spasmodic outbursts of lynching framed by the alleged need to defend white womanhood. Scholars also have looked at the interplay of gender and race in the Reconstruction of white supremacy, a process that expanded far beyond the bounds of pol itical reconstruction and redemption. 18 In effect, this project builds on the race, class and gender literature that has defined the scholarship on the New South. Examining how capitalism and large corporatons both directed and exploited southern tensions o f race, class and gender, and placing railroads at the center of the narrative, gives new insight not only into this critical period in southern history, but also into the broader history of the development of capitalism in the United States. By 1900, it i s clear that a moment of flux in the South in race relations, regional political economy, and the structure of the railroad network had ended, and outside corporations had largely consolidated power in the region. Compared to the South in 1865, or even 1878, the changes were striking. While labeling this some sort of revolution of capitalism would be an exaggeration, an evolution had occurred, and this project uses the railroad as a lens to explore how this change became a reality. As further proof of the importance of this moment in the South, this project places the transformations witnessed in the South in broader story of the global spread of capitalism, and it engages a burgeoning field of scholarship on the history of capitalism. Defining capitali sm is a 18 W. Fitzhugh Brundage, Lynching in the New South: Georgia and Virginia, 1880 1930 (Urbana and Chicago, 1993) and Amy Louise Wood, Lynching and Spec tacle : Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890 1940 (Chapel Hill, 2009), Stephen Kantrowitz Ben Tillman and the Reconstruction of White Supremacy (Chapel Hill, 2000), Glenda Gilmore, Gender and Jim Crow: Women and the Politics of White Supremacy in No rth Carolina, 1896 1920 (Chapel Hill, 1996).
25 tricky task, as in many regards these terms are moving targets. Or in the words of Seth For the sake of simplicity this project uses a definition advanced by Michael Zakim, which says cap italism is 19 Though this is currently the system that dominates our lives, it was by no means preordained that capitalism would win in this way. Perilous Connections agrees with a new wave of scholarship that examines capitalism not just as an economic system, but as a culture, a way of thinking. Cultural historians working in European history helped lay the groundwork for this movement, with studies of department stores, textil e manufacturers, world exhibitions and the ideology of political economy itself that all speak to the same overarching point that the development of capitalism was not inevitable. d the ways in which the idea of the market burst from its medieval confines to dominate both economy and culture. More recently, scholars of American history have joined this move to view capitalism as a do not exist in isolation; they are 20 19 Ed. by Michael Zakim and Gary Kornblith, Capitalism Takes Command: The Social Transformation of Nineteenth Century America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012), 1. Seth Rockman, Scraping By: Wage Labor Slavery, and Survival in Early Baltimore (Baltimore, 2009), 5. 20 Maxine Berg, The Machinery Question and the Making of Political Economy, 1815 1848 (Cambridge, 1980), Michael B. Miller, The Bon Marche: Bourgeois Culture and the Department Store, 1869 192 0 (Princeton, 1981), Rosalind Williams, Dream Worlds: Mass Consumption in Late Nineteenth Century France (Berkeley, 1982), William M. Reddy, The Rise of Market Culture: The Textile Trade and French Society, 1750 1900 (Cambridge, 1984). Ed by Thomas Haskell and Richard F Teichgraeber III, The Culture of the Market: Historical Essays
26 The story these historians tell about the spread of capitalism is a story of resistance, exploitation, and violence a contested struggle to impose capitalism on human ity. From the earliest origins of capitalism in Italian city states, the system has spread over the world. Examining moments of transition and contestation shed light on the way capitalism expands and the way in which actors resisted its spread. So histori ans have examined a wide range of venues from the colonization of the Atlantic World, to the rise of textile mills in France, to the machine breaking of the English Luddites, to the birth of the department store, and the proliferation of expositions of c apitalism to help tell the story of how capitalism came to be the dominant system. In these histories, the nineteenth century emerges as central in the story of how ed States, scholars looking at topics as diverse as the coal industry in Colorado, the history of American financial panics, wage labor in Baltimore, or the development of currency, have recently focused on the century as one of transition. 21 The expansion of the railroad in the South provides an important testing ground to project isolates five traits of capitalism introduced or accelerated by the integration of the (Cambridge, 1993), 2 and Jean Christophe Agnew, Worlds Apart: The Market and the Theater in Anglo American Thought, 1550 1750 (Cambridge, 1996). Joyce Appleby, The Relentless Rev olution: A History of Capitalism (New York, 2010), 20 21 is the best expression of this turn in American historiography. 21 The two best works that deal with the spread of capitalism and colonialism are Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker, The Many Headed Hy dra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic (Boston, 2000), 1 7 and William Cronon, Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists and the Ecology of New England (New York, 1983). The best of the recent literature on Ameri can capitalism includes, Ed. by Michael Zakim and Gary Kornblith, Capitalism Takes Command: The Social Transformation of Nineteenth Century America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012), Seth Rockman, Scraping By: Wage Labor, Slavery, and Survival i n Early Baltimore (Baltimore, 2009), Thomas G. Andrews, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2008), Scott Reynolds Nelson, A Nation of Deadbeats: The Uncommon History of Americas Financial Panics (New York, 2012), Stephen Mihm, A Nation of Counterfeiters: Capitalists, Con Men and the Making of the United States (Cambridge, 2009).
27 railroad network in the South in the 1880s, traits that are essential to the operation of capitalism. The first, and perhaps most obvious, value brought by the new railroad is connectivity. From 1880 to 1890, the mileage of southern railroads in the regio n doubled, and by 1890, nine out of every ten southerners lived in a county with a railroad. On a most basic level, these new r ailroads were connections within the South, linking neighboring towns, and expanding the hinterlands of trading centers. And, i n a critical period of sectional reconciliation, railroads were also literal and figurative connections between the South and North. Finally, the steel rail lines that webbed through the region constituted connections to large corporations and the networks o f capital that directed their operation. The constant forging of new connections is critical to the spread of capitalism, a fact recognized by Marcus Rediker s examination of the Atlantic World. He uncovers lost connections between far flung corners of t he world that incorporated the centuries, usually been denied, ignored, or simply not seen, but that nonetheless profoundly shaped the history of the world in wh 22 Secondly, this project looks at circulation. Ever increasing circulation defined both the operation and the values of the new network. On the new railroad network, more and more trains ran, increasing th e circulation of passenge rs, capital, raw materials and finished goods with the conquest and mastery of space and time has found its most general expression. Circulation was introduced by the railroad, but the concept also took root in department stores, expositions and even the streets of Paris itself. 23 Closely related to circulation is the obsession 22 Linebaugh and Rediker, The Many Headed Hydra 1 7. 23 Wolfgang Schivelbusch, The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time a nd Space in the Nineteenth Century (Berkeley, 1977), 180 188.
28 with speed. Faster travel times was a constant demand of railroad boosters, though in the South demands for speed had to keep pace with the reality of a dangerous network. Standardization also is a major theme of the New South s integrated railroad network. Railroads compelled obed ience to the logic of business and southern lines had to s tandardize to match the North or wither into irrelevancy. So i n 1883, railroads imposed standard time on the nation, and in 1886 southern railroads shifted the gauge of over 13,000 miles of road to match And finally, the n ew railroads of the 1880s compelled corporate consolidation. The logic of capitalism demands consolidation and efficiencies of scale. Those corporations that are weak need to be gobbled up via the process of creative destruction. This process played out w ith wrenching effect in the 1890s, after a national depression bankrupted the bulk of southern railroads, and demanded a massive reorganization and consolidation. 24 The challenge of writing a history of the expansion of capitalism, or retelling of the accep tance of these values, is that as a system, capitalism tends to obscure moments of conflict and in effect, writes its own history. As Jean Cristophe Agnew argues in an overview of nineteenth century capitalism, the practices linked with the spread of capit through which th narratives of capitalism s expansion is to examine specific points in time, when anxieties bubble up, and the system hangs in the balance. As applied to this project, this means that its easiest to interrogate the inner workings of the railroad, and is impact on southerners lives, when the trains stop running. 24 On standardization of southern time, see Mark M. Smith, Mastered by the Clock: Time, Slavery, and Freedom in the American South (Chapel Hill, 1997), 178 183. Capitalism s creative destruction, at least as applied to insolvent railroad lines is covered in Richard White, Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America, (New York, 2011), Chapter 5.
29 moments of crisis. On e does not ponder the origin of a basic commodity like coal, or gasoline, until the moment that commodity is gone. Crises are moments when people stumble into recognition of the forces that constrain their lives, and of the systems at work on their lives. 25 Theoretically, this strategy of freezing time, to examine what happens when the circulation and the trains themselves, literally stop, is influenced by the work of Benjamin and Chakrabarty, Walter Benjamin wandered the Arcades of Paris to recover the mome nt of transition, the triumph of capitalism in nineteenth century France. wandered through sites of modernity and progress, like the Arcades of Paris to obse rve, and recover the lost moments of nineteenth century transition. Walter Benjamin argued the new forms of behavior enter the universe of a phantasmagoria a dream world that obscured the anxieties associated wit Viewing the railroad as a phantasmagoria is apt, as the ebullient descriptions of the railroad, and rail travel that follow, demonstrate. Alternatively, one could turn to Chakrabarty for justification of this str ategy. Chakrabarty looks for ways to recapture history outside of the logic of capital, this. 26 Honing in on a specific slice of time, is the only way to recover lost counter The forthcoming chapters will thus lay out the structural foundations of the transformations in the railroad network, and then lo ok at moments of crisis. Chapter 2 of 25 Zakim and Kornblith, Capitalism Takes Command 5, 284. 26 Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project (Cambridge, 1999), 21,A similar argument about the railroad as a phantasmagoria in Mexico comes from Michael Matthews, Railway Culture and the Civilizing Mission in Mexico, 1876 1910 (PhD Dissertation, University of Arizona, 2008), 35 44, D ipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (Princeton, 2000), 63 69.
30 Perilous Connections looks at how forces in the national and regional political economy aligned to create the railroad boom of the 1880s and it examines the discourses of development used by boosters. This chapter set s the stage, if you will, for the rest of the work and in a similar manner, Chapter 3 examines how southerners interpreted the experience of rail travel. New South boosters took to the rails with glee, recording and disseminating their journeys to provide testament that a New South with improved railroads, burgeoning industry, and the Civil War firmly in the past had risen. But rail travel also pointed to a glaring incongruity in the movement. The presence of African American travelers did not fit into these orderly descriptions of rail travel, and the travel narratives from black travelers themselves offered an alternate take on what the experience of rail travel meant. Still the overarching point from these Chapters 2 and 3 is clear to connect to the railroad network or to get on the train is to join the New South. The fact that the railroad was so inextricably linked with the New South and modernity, only heightens the impact of the rest of the project, which addresses moments of anxiety and panic. By the 1890s, southern railroads were the most dangerous in the nation, and Chapter 4 examines the aftermath of train wrecks, a calamity that became all too common in the South. Chapter 5 details the careers of two train robbers, Railroad Bill, and Rube Burrow, who exploited circulation and connectivity to terrify southerners, and who in some ways personified these abstract concepts. Chapter 6 examines the link between railroads and yellow fever, a terrifying disease that spread via railroads in 1878, a nd that engendered fear and panic every subsequent summer until its eradication. Finally, Chapter 7 addresses corporate consolidation, telling the story of the multi faceted resistance to the birth of the Southern Railway in Georgia and North Carolina.
31 Tho ugh the existence of these anxieties is certainly noteworthy enough, the reaction to moments of panic also is revealing. How d oes capitalism recover from these shocks and challenges to the system? When panics fade, how are they forgotten, or in essence wr itten out of the history of capitalism? The mythmaking process, by which the railroad could retain its symbolic power, in the face of these jarring moments of crisis, forms a constant theme of this work. As Chapter 4 argues, imaginary train wreckers, conju red up by railroad lawyers and a blame away from railroad corporations. Chapter 5 details how both white and black s train robbers out of the history of capitalism, relegating them to the category of resistance and downplaying the novelty of their crimes by conflating their stories with other legends. Chapter 6 contends that the desire of medical historians and southe rn economic boosters to paint the quest to eradicate yellow fever as a march to progress, and the diseases sudden eradication in 1905, obscured how improved connections and modernity actually heightened the impact of yellow fever scares in the time frame o f this study. And in Chapter 7, the mythology of the reborn New South and the corporate branding of Samuel Spencer and the Southern Railway hid the fact that the J.P. Morgan backed conglomerate held what amounted to monopoly power in southern states. So m ore than just a story of anxieties, this is a story about how capitalism forges narratives that explain and normalize its spread. The 1880s and 90s were essentially a pivot point in the history of capitalism in the South. Looking at the endpoint of the 90s a southern railroad network controlled by five large corporate conglomerates, a fully integrated network, and a culture that seemingly had embraced the new values of capitalism, obscures the moments of contestation and anxiety that accompanied this
32 infus ion of the values of capitalism in the South. By the dawn of the twentieth century, a period of flux for both the southern railroad network and the broader capitalist system was resolved and the conflicts detailed in this project faded. The integration o markets, and the acceptance of the values of capitalism was not as smooth as the prophets of the New South would have us believe This is story that also sheds light on American capitalism as a whole. The expansion of t he railroad into the South led to results widely divergent to the rest of the nation and values celebrated in the northeast took on darker meanings in the South. A constant theme of this work is the way in which the unique cultural, social, economic, and environmental context of the South, led to a unique set of anxieties that accompanied the arrival of the railroad age. But in an ironic twist, it was precisely the southern context that also helped obscure the perilous nature of these new connections.
33 CH APTER 3 THE WAR OF THE RAIL: SOUTHERN RAILROAD DREAMS AFTER RECONSTRUCTION Henry Grady could hardly contain himself. Ebullient from his travels with Victor Newcomb, vice president of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad over the winter of 1880, Henry Grady does not tell of grander results, more thrilling crises and more mass ive assaults than is furnished giants have been fighting giants millions have been put against millions, dollars have been placed into battalions and phalanxes as men, is gra 1 It was a marriage made in heaven, or at least conjured up in the fevered dreams of businessmen and reconciliation minded partisans on both sides of the Mason Dixon Line. Henry Grady, young Atlant a newspaper man and prophet of the New South revival, and Victor Newcomb, the 36 year old whiz kid vice president of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, who had saved the road from certain ruin in the aftermath of the Panic of 1873, joined forces for a wh irlwind tour of Atlanta, Nashville, Louisville and other southern railroad centers in January 1880. The immediate cause of this union was a series of developments that threatened to recast been planning to construct a line into Atlanta from the West, tapping the growing coal fields of Alabama and adding the 1 Atlanta Constitution, January 18, 1880.
34 urgency as he uncovered an even grander rai lroad scheme the L&N was about to purchase a major competitor, the St. Louis, Nashville & Chattanooga, and take steps towards forming a system that spanned the South. As ar beyond simple matters of plotting out routes and laying iron rails. This chapter examines the structural developments that reshaped the southern railroad network in the 1880s and 90s, and the way in which boosters, at both a regional and local level, fr amed the construction and rationalization of the railroad network. Whether through tracking mileage growth, the influence of outside capital, or the drive to standardize the network, the 1880s were a distinctive period in southern history when it came to d evelopments in the regional railroad network. None of this is to minimize the importance of earlier transformations in southern transportation, but the political economy of both the region and the nation aligned after the end of Reconstruction to create a boom. Along with an earthquake in the political economy of the South and the nation, cultural transformations dramatically altered the meanings of southern railroading. The importance of the end of political Reconstruction as a turning point is further p roven by the dramatic shift in the meanings placed on these new developments in southern railroading. Examining the discourses behind economic development is not a new tactic for historians. Though they often fall short of their lofty goals, imagined econo mies are important, as they demonstrate the values of boosters. The antebellum South had a distinctive language to inspire modernization of the regional economy. When it comes to the years after Reconstruction, C. Vann Woodward, and Paul Gaston
35 have effect ively exposed the shortcomings of the New South movement. 2 But though the New goals, the rhetoric of economic development is important, as it demonstrates the value s and ideals of the boosters at the helm of the regional political economy. In this case, the rhetoric behind railroad development in the New South shows how boosters on both a local and regional level welcomed the way in which the railroad would introduce connectivity, circulation, standardization and efficiency through consolidation. In the mind of the white South, railroads went from a potential scapegoat for Confederate defeat, to a source of corruption and waste during Reconstruction, to regional savio rs as the ideology of the New South took hold. New railroads would put the war in the past, foster sectional reunion, develop the Prostrate South, conquer nature, bolster local economies, and increase competition and lower rates. And as we will see in C hap ter 3 the experience of riding on the improved network bolstered claims of a New South. Of course there are also serious contradictions in these justifications for railroad development. Railroads meant to strike a blow against Yankee dominance were often funded by Wall Street capital, and lines built to serve small towns were often just pawns in the larger chess match of system building. But in short, fighting the War of h the values of capitalism would be introduced, and in the eyes of the developers, welcomed. For men 2 An example of an imagined economy that helped inspired this chapter is Wi lliam Jackson Palmer s dream of an industrial utopia in nineteenth century Colorado, in Thomas Andrews, Killing for Coal: Americas Deadliest Labor War (Cambridge, 2008), chapter 1. The imagined economies of the antebellum and Confederate South are well det ailed in John Majewski, Modernizing a Slave Economy: The Economic Vision of the Confederate Nation (Chapel Hill, 2009) and John Kvach, South, (PhD Dissertation : University of Tenn essee, 1998). For the New South boosters see C. Vann Woodward, Origins of the New South, 1877 1913 (Baton Rouge, 1951) and Paul Gaston, The New South Creed: A Study in Southern Mythmaking (Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 1970).
36 like Grady, the end of military Reconstruction in 1878 was an ideological turning point for the South, and never is this more clear in the developments in the railroad industry. Southern Railroads in War and Reconstruction of railroading in the South. The South could actually claim a rich heritage when it came to railroads Indeed, the story of southern railroading began back in the 1820s. In 1833, the South actually boasted the longest railroad in the world, the 136 mile line South Carolina Railroad linking Charleston and Hamburg. As a historian of antebellum southern rail roading argues, 3 By the 1850s, railroads were expanding throughout the region, as boosters sought to meld elements of economic modernization with slavery. Despite the persistent stereoty pe of an Old South of moonlight, magnolias, and massive plantations, the Iron Horse played a key role in the antebellum economy, and scholars working on southern economic history have recently destroyed the myth that the Old South was opposed to progress a nd hostile to railroads. In fact, the antebellum South welcomed railroads as a way to modernize the region and strengthen the plantation economy. Instead of challenging the existing political economy, boosters saw railroads as a way to bolster the region. 4 These new railroads transformed entire regions of the South, such as the South Carolina Upcountry, fostering a sense of sectional unity that some say contributed to the 3 Aaron Marrs, Railroads in the Old South: Pursuing Progress in a Slave Society (Baltimore, 2009), 11 13. 4 Marrs, Railroads in the Old South is the most recent work to make this argument. Tom Downey, Planting a Capitalist South: Masters, Merchants and Manufacturers in the Southern Interior, 1790 1860 (Baton Rouge, 2006) Reynolds Nelson, Iron Confederacies: Southern Railways, Klan Violence and Reconstruction, (Chapel Hill, 19 99) is a bit of a dissenter in this argument, pointing out the ways in which slavery made railroads unprofitable.
37 secession process. As the argument goes, the same railroads that connected the South increased ideological distance from the North and made secession seem more palatable. 5 In what would constitute a major difference between antebellum and post bellum development southern state governments were willing investors in railroads before the wa r. State involvement was a necessity in the South, as private investors often balked at constructing expensive railroads through more isolated terrain. Southern states spent more than $128 million on railroad aid before the Civil War, with government stoc ks and bonds funding about 57 percent more concentrations of capital meant that public investment only counted for 20 percent of the total. 6 When looking at t impressive for an allegedly backwards, agricultural region. William Thomas argues that the railroad access for the South nearly matched the northern states, and in terms of depots and junctions, the South actually surpassed the North on a per capita basis. 7 The effectiveness of the antebellum railroad network is still up for debate. Some historians argue that inferior railroads, and poor management of these railroads harmed the Confede rate cause. John Clark argues that the Confederacy failed to mobilize its railroad network, and he accuses the Davis administration 5 The most prominent strain of this literature links railroad development in the 1850s to increased sectional tensions and the coming of the C ivil War. Examples include William A Link, Roots of Secession (Chapel Hill, 2003), Kenneth W. Noe, Southwest Virginia's Railroad: Modernization and the Sectional Crisis (Urbana 1994 ) and Lacy K. Ford, Jr. Origins of Southern Radicalism: The South Caroli na Upcounty 1800 1860 (New York 1988). Marc M. Smith, Mastered by the Clock: Time, Slavery, and Freedom in the American South (Chapel Hill 1997 ) contends that railroad proliferation in the Old South caused increased time awareness and altered the master slave relationship. 6 Majewski, Modernizing a Slave Economy 81 82. 7 William G. Thomas, The Iron Way: Railroads the Civil War and the Making of Modern America (New Haven 2011), 27.
38 railroad network look even its railroads. Despite the growth in the 1850s, vast swathes of the southern landscape remained isolated from railroads, and the southern network was far from cohesive as it was pressed into service in wartime. 8 Whether or not the increased railroad development of the 1850s helped or hindered the Confederate war effort, southern railroads certainly played a key role in the Civil War. The irection of the Civil War, serving as a locus for guerilla activity and fostering the movement of runaway slaves. The very presence of campaign and the structure of t he network allowed the Confederacy to efficiently shift resources to major battlefronts. The Confederate government also recognized the value of forging the lin es to connect gaps between state constructed rail systems. 9 For Northern generals, mastery of the southern railroad network was the key to defeating the South. Early northern generals like George McClellan failed to recognize how the railroad network reco nfigured the war, but by southern railroads and then using them to their advantage. This new strategy was epitomized by h Georgia and South Carolina, which laid waste to 10 8 John E. Clark Jr. Railroads in the Civil War: The Impact of Managemen t on Victory and Defeat (Baton Rouge, 2001) 21,126. Nelson, Iron Confederacies, 26 notes how slavery harmed the efficiency of the railroad network. 9 Majewski, 146 148. 10 Thomas, The Iron Way 27, chapters 5 and 7.
39 During Reconstruction, spurts of progress in system building and expansion were matched with conflicting meanings about these new lines. The immediate task after the War was one of physical Reconstruction. A war that targeted rail lines naturally had a devastating immediate impact on southern railroads, deteriorating both the track and the rolling stock, but many of these railroads recovered quickly. Those under control of the n orthern army were up and running by the end of the summer of 1865, and in many cases the generous federal subsidies left railroad corporations with significant financial advantages. The L&N accumulated vast amounts of capital that the system would subsequ ently use to aid a postwar project of expansion. 11 Railroads outside the purview of the Federal government faced a tougher road to recovery. In the southern half of Mississippi, P.G.T Beauregard struggled to piece together the shattered remnants of the li ne linking New Orleans and Jackson. By 1875 the manager of the which meant the speed of freight trains was cut to 10 miles per hour and he ordered passenger trains to not try to make up any time. 12 And by 1876 ticket sellers in Chicago were warning 13 The meaning of the new post war railroads became linked with a broader project of reunion can be desired than is furnished in the rapid railroad development now taking place in iew in 1867. 14 Reconstructing 11 and Iron Horses: The Civil War, Institutional Change, and American Capitalism Takes Command: The Social Transformation of Nineteenth Century America (Chicago 2012), 249 276. 12 Box 35, Folder 891, ICRR. 13 14 ( Jul/Aug 1867 ) 117.
40 southern railroads meant reconstructing the shattered nation to this commentator and Reconstruction Era state governments certainly helped build new railroads. Railroad aid provided a issue through which Republican state gover nments could build broad coalitions, and as they hoped, a lasting power base. But between the political and financial uncertainty of these years, the numerical results of new construction were mediocre. The mileage of the southern railroad network only imp roved from 9,135 to 13,322 between 1865 and 1875, a 46% jump that paled in comparison to the dynamic growth witnessed elsewhere in the nation. 15 But not every southerner agreed on the value of these new railroads. The many white southerners locked out of political power during Reconstruction, attacked the railroads built by Republican governments, as a cause of waste and fraud. For the Redeemers any project built by tainted with the stench of corruption. I ndeed, intimations of scandal helped take fuel the backlash that doomed southern Republicans. Some of the hue and cry over corrupt railroads was imagined, and fueled by racist assumptions about the incapacity of black legislators, but some of this abuse wa s rightly deserved. 16 In North Carolina, for example, the ill fate Western North Carolina Railroad, designed to pierce the mountains, became a focal point of justifiable anti corruption attacks. The road was first chartered in 1855 to run from Salisbury to Asheville, but construction proceeded slowly due to Reconstruction government threw half of all its railroad aid to the road in 1868 and 1869, but with little suc cess. The two men in charge of building the road, George Swepson and Milton Littlefield ended up using three millions dollars worth of North Carolina bonds to invest in what 15 John F. Stover, The Railroads of the South, 1865 1900: A Study in F inance and Control, (Chapel Hill, 1955), 61. 16 Mark W Summers, Railroads, Reconstruction and the Gospel of Prosperity: Aid under the Radical Republicans, 1865 1877 (Princeton, 1984).
41 litigation until the end of the decade and the Western NC Railroad remained incomplete in 1875, when a traveler through the mountain region described built 17 Redeemed by Railway The end of military Reconstruction in 1877 formed a turning point in southern railroad development. Whether due to c ries of corruption, appeals to white supremacy or outright violence, Republican state governments like the one that funded the Western North Carolina Railroad were swept away by the Redeemers, and the end of political and military Reconstruction and the na tional economic recovery from the 1870s depression decisively shifted the terrain for railroad construction in the South. 18 The terms of the Compromise of 1877, which settled the disputed presidential election and led to the withdrawal of northern troops, e ven spoke to this new spirit of development. Just as the Electoral Commission met to decide the election, congress voted on the Texas and Pacific railroad subsidy bill, which a congressman argued was g the interests and harmonizing the sentiment of the whole country. 19 The implicit message here was clear sectional hostilities 17 Stover, Railroads of the South, 1865 1900 71. Cecil Kenneth Brown, A S tate Movement in Railroad (Chapel Hill 1928), 192 202; Edward King, The great South; a record of journeys in Louisiana, Texas, the Indian territory, Missouri, Arkansas, Mis sissippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland. (Hartford, 1875) 506. 18 In recognition of the widely divergent definitions of Reconstruction, I have opted to use the military reconstruction as a term here. The cultural and social aspects of Reconstruction certainly lasted beyond 1877, but for the purposes the co mpromises and settlements of 1877 and 1878 were a decisive turning point. 19 Woodward, Origins of the New South, 30 39.
42 could be quickly cured by business and investment, and railroads were the easiest way to accomplish this goal. On a state leve l, political redemption by the Democrats often went in tandem with the sale of state owned railroad properties to outside businesses. An overlooked facet of the Great Compromise that ended Reconstruction was the transition of southern rail lines from stat e control to outside corporations. As northern railway capitalists turned on the Republican governments that controlled many of the state owned railroads, they found eager allies in the rising Redeemers. In state after state in the South, northern capital ists and outside holding companies snatched up southern railroads, many of which had been state owned enterprises. In the closing years of military Reconstruction, the Southern Railway Security Company, controlled by Tom Scott, leased the North Carolina Ra ilroad, the South Carolina Railroad and the Georgia owned Western & Atlantic in 1870. This holding company was short lived, as it was undone by the Panic of 1873, but outside capitalists remained in control of these lines after its dissolution. As Scott N Democratic Party rule. 20 Boosters like Henry Grady also recognized the shifting winds o f economic development, giving voice to a narrative of redemption they called the New South movement. The story they told was simple but powerful with the defeat of War and alleged horrors of Reconstruction in the past, the South could now focus on indus trial development. With its ample untapped resources, the South was ready to cast aside sectional prejudices and unite with northern capital on the project of economic growth. Starting in the 1870s, the cries of the boosters grew more 20 Nelson, Iron Confederacies 163 169.
43 strident as the south ern economy demonstrated clear signs of industrial development in the 1880s. Historians have written on this movement with an eye toward debunking the mythologies that underpinned the claims of the New South boosters, mainly the notion that the industrial remembrance of the antebellum South that played up moonlight and magnolias while downplaying iron works, railroads and other examples of industrial growth before the War, dev elopments that have been ably chronicled by scholars of the antebellum southern economy. Scholarship in recent years has thus trended away from the significance of this industrial turning point, but a glance at the words of men like Grady in 1880, and thei r conception of southern history, shows how this year was indeed an ideological breakpoint. 21 For Grady, the reality of the southern railroad experience during Reconstruction of quick recovery and enhanced integration was not enough. As he travelled w ith Henry Newcomb in 1880, Grady related his version of southern railroad history, painting the Reconstruction years as characterized by malaise. After the war he argued, southern railroads northern operator cared to any attempt to consolidate the p 22 Grady and his compatriots saw insufficient railroads as yet another reason why the South lagged far 21 The importance of the end of Reconstruction in spurring economic growth is pushed by Broadus M itchell, The Rise of Cotton Mills in the South (Columbia 2001), Woodward, Origins of the New South Paul M. Gaston, The New South Creed: A Study in Southern Mythmaking (Baton Rouge, 1970), while Majewski, Modernizing a Slave Economy argues more for conti nuity between southern boosterism before and after t he war. 22 Atlanta Constitution January 18, 1880.
44 23 As we will see in Chapter 3 the memory of imagination, amplifying the impact of new development in the 1880s. Instead of the progress of the 1850s, the charred wreckage of Sherman s March formed a much more convenient point of departure for boosters crafting a narrative of regional rebirth. When it came to railroading, the New South boosters actually did have a valid point. fro m scapegoats to saviors. A new class of leadership, both in state governments and in railroad corporations, took control in the South after 1878. Southern state governments were controlled by Bourbon Democrats eager to give aid to railroad corporations, an d the national economy had begun to pull out of the depression started by the Panic of 1873. Without a blink of irony, the Bourbon Democrats endorsed internal improvements with the same, if not more, zeal as their Republican predecessors. In perhaps the mo st extreme example of the aggressive role of the 22,360,000 acres to railroad companies, despite the fact that only 14,831,739 of these acres were considered to be in the public domain. 24 Along with land giveaways, Bourbons swept away old laws limiting the scope and reach of railroad corporations. In an earlier wave of rail construction, many southern states limited railroads to within the states they were char tered. State governments hoped to use their railroads to prop up rising port towns within the state, such as Norfolk in Virginia, or Wilmington in North Carolina, and they feared that outside connections would funnel trade out of the state. The desire 23 Gaston, 46 47. 24 Edward C. Williamson, Florida Politics in the Gilded Age, 1877 1893. ( Gainesville, 1976), 89, 97.
45 for state control left some states with gaps near state lines. Florida, a state booming in the 1880s, lacked a direct connection to Savannah thanks to an antebellum law that prevented states from ve Oak, completed during Reconstruction was the first remedy for this, but the trip from Savannah to Jacksonville, the William Kelley, a man looking to invest in Florida lumber in 1875, concluded that setting up a business here was impossible due to poor unfinished roads. 25 consolidation, the old vestiges of the antebellum legal structure were swept away and gaps such as the one between Jacksonville and Savannah were quickly filled. The 1881 completion of the Travelers f rom Jacksonville would journey north on the Short Line to the Georgia town of Waycross, where they could connect to trains to other Georgia cities and to the rest of the nation. Instead of fourteen hours, the trip from Jacksonville to Savannah now took onl y six hours. 26 In North Carolina, a new Democratic administration, untainted with the alleged corruption of the preceding government, could finish the work that had been started on the Western North Carolina road. Governor Zebulon Vance won power after a campaign attacking 1877 he immediately sent state owned convicts to work on the line. 27 Due to both engineering difficulties, and corruption, the Western North Carolina Railroad was thus not completed until 25 William D Kelley, The Old South and the New: A Series of Letters (New York, 1888), 16. 26 Gregg M. Turner and Seth H. Bramson, The Plant System of Steamships and Hotels (Laurys Station, Pa. 2004), 32 54. 27 Appalachian Journal (2001), 58 67.
46 1880, but once the road was completed all of the way to Tennessee, the Railway Gazette Carolina had never been pier ced before, and acted as a barrier to all commerce between the West d to supplied with railroad facilities as any other. 28 The completion of this road pierced not only the physical barrier of the Appalachian Mountains, but also the id eological barrier of Reconstruction Era corruption. Rise of the Empire Builders Just as the political economy of the South fused with a powerful cultural narrative of rebirth after 1878, development of the regional network was aided by the ascendancy of a new class of leadership that took the reins of southern rail corporations. Antebellum southern railroads were meant to develop the resources or the economic base of the towns that built it, or serve the needs of specific states. Presidents or directors of these roads would be from the towns along the line, and the interest of the road typically matched the interests of these local figures. A new group of leaders emerged in the 1880s, which saw their roads not as distinct entities, but as pieces of a larger puzzle. Their vision would be decisive in forging the locally or state oriented southern roads into a fully integrated national network and in shifting corporate strategies from developmental railroading, to territorial. Instead of building railroads to build up a locality, they built railroads to carve out territory and gain a competitive advantage. 29 28 Railway Gazette, August 1, 1884. 29 Maury Klein, The Great Richmond Terminal: A Study in Businessmen and Business Strategy, (Charlottesville, 1970), 8 17.
47 example of the new strategy of railroading. For the L&N, and many other rail corporations compensated by the Federal Government, the Civil War had actually proven profitable. Generous federal compensation, and the elimination of legal barriers gave railroads like the L&N increased power and laid the groundwork for postwar expansio n. 30 But it was only after the ascendancy of Newcomb that the railroad took steps to construct a system. Victor Newcomb, a former financial wizard and son of another railroad titan, epitomized the new speculative outlook in the boardrooms of southern railw ays. At the age of 30, Newcomb saved the L&N from ruin in 1874 inducing a London banking house, Baring & Brothers, to take bonds at a favorable price. Upon the death of his father, Newcomb ascended to a position on the L&N board, and then became Vice Pres ident in 1876. As Vice President, and later President, he oversaw a period of aggressive expansion in 1878, and the railroad burst from its original trackage in Kentucky and Tennessee to gain entry into Atlanta and plotting out lines South through Alabama to the Gulf. 31 The 1880 purchase of the rival St. Louis, Nashville and Chattanooga (St. L, N & C) system was a perfect capstone. This type of leadership dazzled Henry Grady who called him the ads with the rapidity and system grand and harmonious beyond what any one had conceived is taking shape and south, in a half dozen rapid strokes, quickened sluggish currents of commerce and opened new 30 Sean Patrick A Capitalism Takes Command: The Social Transformation of Nineteenth Century America (Chicago, 2012), 249 276. 31 Maury Klein, History of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad (New York, 1972), 126 170.
48 highways. For Grady more than just pe rsonal admiration and friendship was at stake, the entire helm of southern railroads. Grady praised Cole, the head of the bought out St. L N & C system as man that ever gave to the South what it must have before it can win stature or independence 32 With aggressive new leadership at the helm of southern railroads, companies did more than just rationalize exi sting systems and the decade of the 1880s also witnessed a scramble to build railroads into any territory that had heretofore been untouched by railroad development. In 1880, the Mississippi Delta constituted virgin territory, as far as railroads were con cerned. Few even thought it was feasible, let alone profitable, to build railroads through the flood ravaged plains and primeval forests between the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers. As a man in charge of building the line between Memphis and New Orleans recal the foot of man had never trod. It was nothing in the world but a canebrake and wilderness. 33 But after the Chicago based Illinois Central (IC) gained control of the series of lines that bisected Mississippi in 1878 to establish a route linking New Orleans and Chicago, company officials began charting plans for new construction. In 1885, J.C. Clarke, a Vice President with the IC, journeyed through the area and noted the physical difficulties of building a line through th e delta oats, and can grow hay, German millet sweet and Irish p 34 32 Constitution February 13, 1880. 33 Corliss, Main Line of Mid America 238 239. 34 J.C. Clarke to Stuyvesant Fish, April 6, 1885, J.C. Clarke Out Letters, 1874 1891, IC RR.
49 New commodities for shipment were crucial, but perhaps the most pressing reason to will be necessary for this company to occupy the territory from Y azoo City north for a distance of from 65 to 75 miles rather than leave open a territory that is sure to be occupied sooner or later 35 After hearing a report that a narr ow gauge line between Jackson and Natchez was seeking to extend, th hesitates one moment if they think tit their interest to invade what we may think is our legitimate 36 The rival interests at play were controlled by yet another railroad titan, Collis Huntington, who also controlled the C&O and a syst em stretching to the Pacific. In response to another rumor about the plans of Huntington to build in the Yazoo Delta, an Illinois occupy this territory, otherwise o ur Yazoo division will be a failure. 37 New South dreams that linked any untapped resource with regional renewal, and the actions of large outside conglomerates converged in the Delta in the 1880s to create a railroad boom, but the Delta was not the only a rea that witnessed a mad dash of development. A glance at a railroad map in 1880 reveals wide swaths of southern territory, such as Southwest Louisiana, the entire Florida peninsula, the wiregrass regions of Georgia and Alabama, the Appalachian Mountains, and vast interior areas of the Carolinas and Virginia, that all lacked railroads. The 35 J.C. Clarke to Stuyvesant Fish, April 6, 1885, J.C. Clarke Out Letters, 1874 1891, IC RR. 36 J.C. Clarke to Stuyvesant Fish, December 13, 1886, J.C. Clarke Out Letters, 1874 1891, IC RR. 37 To J.C. Clarke, February 4, 1885, In
50 race to build empires and acquire territory meant that these untapped areas were prime targets for railroad development as conglomerates flush with capital set their sig hts on the South. Which brings us back to Henry Grady, who more than any other figure epitomized the New South, and who best captured the bleary h Newcomb. By 1880, the New South movement had not yet taken definitive shape, and as we will see in the Chapter 3 the experience of rail travel would play a major role in spurring the movement forward. But it is crucial that in this moment of transition, Grady was with Newcomb. The feeling between these two men was mutual, and Newcomb even offered Grady $250 a month to travel as his personal secretary. Not willing to give up his beloved work with the Constitution Grady continued to travel with Newcomb and taught Grady his methods of speculation, and even got a friend to loan Grady $20,000 to purchase a share of the Constitution, a move that effectively sealed the symbolic marriage of these New Sou th titans with Wall Street money. It was also telling that a journey touting the recovery and system building efforts of southern railroads ended up on a Wall Street trading with railroads as the cards and millions for stakes putting fortune, future, home and other honor itself on the 38 Though Grady did express concern that Jay Gould and his northern trunk lines were roads, his experience on Wall Street spoke to a darker truth about the future of the southern economy the fate of southern railroads rested in the hands of new captains of industry like Newcomb, and in the halls of Wall Street s frenzied trading floors 38 Raymond B. Nixon, Henry Grady: Spokesman of the New South (New York, 1943), 168.
51 Connections to networks of capital, and to the logic of market, would dictate the operation of the southern rail network, and how this played out is a story for rest of this project. Political economy and culture blended to recast the meaning of new railro ad development in the 1880s. But the transformations in southern railroading went beyond mere expansion. Standards May 31, 1886 dawned with great anticipation for L&N section foreman Leon Cox and his gang of 36 men. Poised along a stretch of the L&N rail road at Aspen Hill, Tennessee, they stood with claw bars, spike mauls and track gauges. Over 8,000 men stood poised in similar positions across the vast system, placed at intervals along the line and charged with a simple task to change the gauge of ever Georgia, and East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia, planned a similar shift in gauge. Now here was the power of southern rail corporations so visible, than in the drive to standardize that permeated all aspects of southern railroading in the 1880s. It was a decade of standardization, both of time and space. In 1883 railroads imposed standard ti me on the nation. Marc Smith argued it was the 39 May 31, the date of gauge chan ge, and the magnitude of the task faced by thousands of men along southern rail lines, is etched in the lore of southern railroad history for understandable reasons, but the change of gauge had been a long time coming. When it came to the gauge of a railr oad, the decision was never purely economic. Idiosyncratic choices by individual engineers and officials could have a lasting impact, as an economist who studies railroad gauges concludes 39 Smith, Mastered by the Clock 178 183.
52 8 inches, which would become standard gauge, only due to the personal decision of Moncure Robinson, who had examined British railways before building four Virginia railroads in the 1830s. Gauges could also serve to mark out territory. A road would choos e a distinct gauge to delineate the boundaries of its system and clearly demonstrate the area it served, or a state could mandate that all railroads within its boundaries match a certain gauge. For example, North Carolina required that lroads match a 4 foot 8 inch gauge in an effort to channel commerce to its coastal ports. 40 On a numerical basis, 1863 actually stood as the peak of gauge diversity in North America, and the Confederacy struggled to reconcile the different gauges within t he fledging nation. During the Civil War, the Confederate government moved to change the gauge of the North Carolina Railroad between Charlotte and Danville in an effort to integrate the fledging April 1865, just as the war ended, and the original gauge was immediately restored. On the branch from Charlotte and Greensboro, crews began to shift the gauge to 5 feet so that rolling stock from South Carolina could be moved g army. When the Richmond & Danville system leased the NC RR in 1871, the lease allowed it to modify the gauge, but when the R&D attempted to change the gauge to 5 feet, the state sued the corporation and the legislature passed an act barring the change. After a court declared this law unconstitutional the system immediately changed the 40 Douglas J. Puffert, Tracks Across Continents, Paths through History: The Economic Dynamics of Standardization in Railway Gauge (Ch icago 2009), 7, 105 107.
53 gauge in 1875. When the rest of the southern lines adjusted to match standard gauge, the North Carolina Railroad was changed back to the gauge it originally had held. 41 By gauge, and the 5 foot 6 inch gauge, which dominated in the trans Mississippi South. As traffic between the North and South picked up, the costs of the gauge breaks began t o outweigh the cost of shifting to standard gauge. These breaks between the northern standard gauge and 5 foot southern gauge became literal dividing points between the regions. While on a trip South, Henry had another proof that we were getting South in a car was lifted by hydraulic machinery. The wheels were then swapped to match the southern gauge, and after five minutes the shift was complete. Field noted this would be a major inconvenience if the train was longer, but in a few weeks the gauge of the entire southern railway bol of other changes by which the course of things north and south is hereafter to be run on the same 42 Danville was not the only such point, as elaborate machinery also shifted cars at inter gauge junctions like Ca iro and Louisville. The same economic climate of increased traffic and heightened competition that drove corporate consolidation and territorial expansion also motivated southern railroads to match the standard gauge. More traffic meant more work for the hoists. The Illinois Central Railroad was one of the first northern lines to move South, gaining control of the entire rail link between Chicago and New Orleans in 1878. It soon became apparent to management that the arrangement 41 Allen W. Trelease The North Carolina Railroad, 1849 1871, and the Modernization of North Carolina (Chapel Hill 1991), 190 191, 252, 321 324. 42 Henry M. Field, Blood is thicker than water: a few days among our southern brether en (New York 1886), 16.
54 of hoists at Cairo was not complain about a car that had to wait two days to cross into the North from the South. He wrote ence was necessary to show the need of a change of gauge of the southern line you have it in this 43 For the Illinois Central, shifting the gauge was part of a general effort to smooth over the connections between Chicago and New Orleans. The com pany also bought cars for the southern division of the line and went to great expense to replace old ties and iron rails in the South. Several times in 1880 the road had to temporarily suspend the shipment of freight at Cairo 44 to oth er southern lines. J.F. White a master mechanic at the IC shops in Water Valley, wrote to fellow southern mechanics about the problems he faced in the gauge transition. In a letter to an engineer with the Charleston & Savannah Railroad he noted the average cost of the transition, and went over engineering details of how to alter wheels and the bottoms of cars. He also thern companies now could face more liability for derailments that occurred due to wheels not matching the new gauge perfectly. He suggested carefully labeling every wheel to avoid problems in this department. Copies of this letter were also sent to mecha nics with the Central Railroad of Georgia at Augusta, Savannah and Macon, 43 William Ackerman to Randolph, October 8, 1880, William K Ackerman Out Letters, Illinois Central Railroad Collection Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois (hereinafter ICRR). 44 Annual reports to stockholders, bound volumes, 1852 196 0, 1880, ICRR.
55 which further proves the important role of the Illinois Central in leading the way in the change of gauge. 45 oads had little As lines switched, they increased the value of conversion for connecting lines and induced them to follow. In 1881, the Railway Gazette argued 46 Southern railroads competing for northern t raffic could ill afford the expense and delay of the hoist system, and stood to lose ground to roads like the Illinois Central that shifted first. In an 1883 special report to the President, an official with the L&N argued that the system needed to consid er changing to prompt transportation, but that traffic (passenger and freight) be moved to destination with as stimated annual savings of $100,000 and Smith recommended that the date for the change be set to June since this is when traffic was lightest. 47 The Georgia Railroad 48 Even 45 J.F. White to H.A. Wim, June 1, 1885, White, J.F., Out letters, Mar. 1884 Nov. 1885, J.F. White to John Cook, November 15, 1885, ICRR. 46 Railway Gazette, July 15, 1881. 47 Annual Report of the Presid ent and Directors of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company. To the Stockholders, for the Fiscal Year Commencing on the July 1, 1883 and ending on the June 30, 1884, (Louisville, 1880) 48 Reports of the General Manager of the Georgia Railroad from A pril 1 st 1881 to June 30 th 1892 (Augusta, Ga. 1893), 133.
56 foot gauge was a more practical o to the four feet nine gauge to consider for a moment the possibility of a change from that 49 The date of the change itself was set for May 31, 1886, at a tim e of the year with light traffic. The change involved a massive mobilization of labor both in rail shops and out along rail lines. Within shops, men like J.F. White worked quickly to ready rail cars. In the L&N shops, machinist John Flynn recalled how hi s force was split into gangs, each with their own assignment. First they used jacks to lift the engines so they cleared the rails. Then they removed the trucks, and disassembled the pieces. After removing old rods and driver brakes they heated the tires th en hammered them into the trucks to match the new gauge. Finally they reassembled the trucks, attached them back onto cars, and they were ready to go. Repeating this process for thousands of cars surely kept shopmen busy on the day of the shift. 50 On the L &N line, Cox gathered his men at daybreak of May 31, and gave a rousing speech to inspire his men. The company was offering a reward to employees, offering $100 to the foreman who changed his section in the shortest time, and Cox declared his intention to win should get out and quit, and with a promise of beer, whiskey and barbecue the men set to work. On the track, the men set to work on the arduous task of l ifting up the rails on one side, and placing them back at the proper gauge width. Cox and his crew managed to finish their task by 49 Fiftieth Report of the President and Directors of the Central Rail Road and Banking Company of Georgia, to the stockholders. (Savannah 1885), 13. 50 Ma y 1932, 31.
57 10:25 AM. Cox won not only the $100, which he used to buy the promised barbecue and whiskey for his ebullient men, but also a $25 bet with a track supervisor. 51 For those not working on the tracks or toiling in shops, the day was a moment of both celebration and reflection, with the whole of the South focused on railroads for a day. Crowds gathered in cities like Louisville, wh 52 Other reporters lauded the technological feat of the shift. On the Waycross Short Line, the Savann ah, Florida & Western Road hoped to complete the change so fast that the fast mail could travel from Savannah to Jacksonville on the old gauge, and return three hours later on the new gauge. The Constitution feat of railroad 53 Even if one had no interest in the technological details of the gauge change, the interruption of rail service meant everyone in towns along the lines changing gauge had to be aware of the process. The Atlanta Constitution harkened back to the Civil War to make a case for railroads were constructed, the hundreds of side tracks which occupy the heart of the city are reference to the 1864 destruction of the city at the hands of General Sherman. 54 But for s ome, the interruption of service exposed anxieties and an over people were made aware of the their dependence upon the railroads yesterday. Those that wanted 51 June 1955, 20 21. 52 Commercial May 31, 1886. 53 Constitution May 14, 1886. 54 Constitution June 1 1886.
58 to leave the city could not do so and those that were an xious for their mails could not get them. 55 Some towns at intersections of roads changing gauge, like Chattanooga, were totally cut off from rail communication for a day. 56 The reconciliationist meaning of this s hift, connecting the railroads of the formerly warring sections of the country, was certainly not lost on observers. A Harpers Weekly cartoon depicting North and South grasping an American flag in front of a locomotive, with a caption declaring The Last S pike in Commercial Union, perfectly epitomized the way in which the gauge change exorcised war demons for northerners. 57 Southerners were a little more jovial about what the gauge change meant for sectional relations a jokester with the Savannah Morning N ews states try to secede we will whip them back into the union in short order 58 Not everything went as smoothly as it did for Cox and his crew in Tennessee. For one, the complicated process of changing wheels and tracks led to some mishaps. On June 10, the Atlanta Constitution been a feat without parallel could the changes have been made with out being followed by 55 Constitution June 1, 1886. 56 Picayune May 31, 1886 57 Harpers Weekly, XXX (1886), 364. 58 Savannah Morning News June 7, 1886.
59 59 An interview with a railroad man in the Atlanta Cons titution hinted at the broader significance of the and will result in such consolidations of railroad interests as will make it more convenient to restrict the nu icted the happen after gauge standardization. 60 These grumblings notwithstanding, May 31, 1886 was a day in which the virtues of standardization and the benefits of systemization were celebrated across the South. Cox and his men enjoyed their whiskey on the night of the 31 st but for the rail network as a whole, this day and entire decade were dominated by the drive to standardize, and match the north. The date also spoke to the increasing influence of outside corporations on the South. As one historian notes, government regulation actually did more to prevent standardization than promote, and it was the logic of capital and competition that compelled the shift in th e end. 61 Corporate power compelled the standardization of southern time and space in yet another example of how the logic of capitalism pulsed along southern rail lines in the 1880s, and in another testament to the tions. 59 Atlanta Constitution June 10, 1886. 60 Constitution June 12, 1886. 61 Puffert, 169.
60 Local Railroad Dreams On an April afternoon in 1886, W.W. Collins saw Jeff Lane walking down Second S treet in Macon, Georgia, and was struck with inspiration. Collins was day dreaming of a rail line to Florida, and the appearance of Lane reminded C ollins that his father, Col. A.J. Lane held a charter for such a road. After this chance meeting, they began to scheme to make the dream the missing link betwe group, and from these humble origins the Georgia Southern & Florida Railroad (GSF) was born. 62 So goes the apocryphal story of the birth of the GSF as told by a journalist with the Macon Telegraph prominent Macon men was all it took for the construction of the 285 mile line linking Macon with Palatka, Florida. The truth of this legend is unknown, but for readers of the Telegraph, an exaggerated story like this served to personify and localize the larger forces and flows of capital that allowed the road to be built. A tortuous process involving outside investment, Wall Street financing, and a lengthy constr uction process with a massive mobilization of labor was reduced to a chance meeting of three Macon businessmen. The mythology of the birth of the Georgia Southern and Florida points to a crucial point about railroad development in the 1880s the drive t o connect in the 1880s came from more comes not from the boardrooms of stockholders, or the offices of rail magnates, but from the towns through which these new li nes ran. The shift to territorial development and the imperative to build lines solely to enrich the territory of large systems often ignored the local developmental 62 Macon Weekly Telegraph, December 15, 1888.
61 interests of southern towns along these new lines. Local boosters increasingly felt left b ehind as currents of trade seemed to flow beyond their area and in towns like Macon, they presented an construction of independent, locally oriented lines. Sch olars of southern industry have detailed how industrialization was often initiated at the town level. This is most clear in the textile industry, but these same dynamics also can be seen in the construction of new railroads. Just as a textile mill would r ejuvenate a stagnant town and one up the neighbors, local communities actively sought railroad development as a salve for their economic woes. Ascending to power in small towns and communities across the South, New South oriented businessmen and civic lead ers pushed improvements like railroads, waterworks, factories and textile mills as town building exercises. Southern communities aggressively sought development, competing with neighbors for investments and businesses. 63 Three southern towns, Macon, Georg ia, Troy, Alabama, and Greensboro, North Carolina, all hitched their fortunes to new railroad projects in the 1880s. Macon boosters built the Georgia Southern & Florida, Troy welcomed the Alabama Midland Railroad that linked Montgomery, Troy and Bainbridge Georgia, and Greensboro was a crucial point along the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railroad (CF & YV) which eventually stretched from Mt. Airy to Wilmington and the sea. These three new projects were not the only example of new railroad corporations in t his town, as they stand emblematic of a broader trend. Out of the 58 southern railroads operating in 1890 with more than 100 miles of track, 18 of these lines had been constructed since 1880. 64 63 David Carlton, Mill and Town in South Carolina, 1880 1920 (Baton Rouge 1982), 13. 64 Stover, The Railroads o f the South, 1865 1900 196.
62 The timing of their construction meant these new railroads wer e hitched to a broader regional message of rebirth that framed new economic development as a response to war and Reconstruction. A promotional pamphlet for the CF & general assembly first chartered the road in 1879 only the end of Reconstruction allowed this project to get off the ground. The project would not be tainted with the corru ption of the Western North Carolina, since the right men Redeemers were in charge now. 65 The Troy Messenger road owners, as a class, are no respecters conceive, and pluck to 66 This line would save the town from certain ruin, and place back on a trajectory of growth launched in the aftermath of the war. Local control, or the fact that businessmen from the town played a rol e in the road was hugely important to the narratives behind these lines, as evidenced by the chance meeting that led to the creation of the GSF. When Colonel Lane first applied for the original charter of the road in 1883, twenty 65 The Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railway, From Mt Airy at the Base of the Blue Ridge to Wilmington, NC. Its Origin, Construction, Connections and Extensions. (Philadelphia 1889), 10. 66 Troy Messenger, February 28, 1889.
63 from counties that the proposed line would go through, drew up an application. 67 In a letter to the local paper, Colonel Lane Macon and t he counties through which the road ran should own it. 68 As construction proceeded, the Macon Telegraph Macon institution. Her capitalists and citizens have paid out $600,000 in hard cash to inaugurate 69 Promoters of the CF & YV similarly touted the Tarheel origins of their project. The Greensboro Patriot C.F. & Y.V.R.R. syndicate is a native North Carolinian, and the Fayetteville Observer enterprise are all North Carolinians fully imbued wit the spirit of progress which now pervades 70 And in th management and affairs of the Company will to day go into the hands of gentlemen of ample means and the highest character native North Carolinians and thoroughly identified with her 71 Along with being manifestations of local control that echoed the regional cries for development from New South boosters, all three of these lines were in some measure assertions of independence from the larger rail systems coalescing around t he region. The CF & YV was first conceived by Greensboro merchants, who as a historian argued, planned this alternate route 67 e Macon and Florida Air Macon Weekly Telegraph, October 7, 1883 68 Macon Weekly Telegraph, November 21, 1883. 69 Macon Weekly Telegraph, October 7, 1888. 70 Greensboro Patriot, May 18, 1883, F ayetteville Observer, March 19, 1884. 71 Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of Stockholders of the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railway Company, Fayetteville, April 5, 1883 (Fayetteville 1883), 10.
64 railroads increasingly were falling unde r the sway of large systems, specifically the Richmond & Danville. Based in Virginia, this system gained access to North Carolina via a wartime connection between Greensboro and Danville, and during Reconstruction the R&D leased the North Carolina Railroa d, placing Greensboro along a major rail artery. 72 More than just an demonstration of independence from outside corporations, the road would also be free from the restraints of state interference. The road would be a new kind of railroad in North Carolina, as it Gray for not relying on state aid, a fact that put the completion of the road in jeopardy in 1881, and he noted that u 73 At both ends of the GSF, businessmen seized on the new line as a way to become more independent in the midst of a wave of consolid ation in both Georgia and Florida. In Palatka, Florida, editorialists complained about the growing monopoly power of the Plant System, which seemed poised to buy the rival Florida Railway Navigation Company in 1888. Prior to 1888, the Palatka Daily News ex yet the paper worried that the monopoly would eventually strangle the new railroad from both 72 David L. Carlton and Peter A. Coclanis, The South, the Nat ion, and the World: Perspectives on Southern Economic Development (Charlottesville and London, 2003), 82. 73 Greensboro Patriot, May 18, 1881.
65 sides and cut off its business. 74 A letter to the Macon Telegraph echoed this sentiment, attacking the monopolistic actions of the Plant System. Florida, the author w bound by the chains of steel, welded together by the hands of monopoly. The arrival of a new locomotive over the rails of the Ge 75 The president of Alabama Midland road framed his attempt to build the line as a battle The Central had recently been expanding into southeast Alabama, and with the dearth of railroads in the region, the road enjoyed what amounted to monopoly power. The Alabama Midland, an independent road that had the potential to link up with competing sys tems, posed such a threat to the Georgia Central, that the Central tried to legally and physically block the construction of the new road. In a lengthy letter Ce ntral of Georgia, which was allegedly trying to block the construction of his new road in 1889. The Georgia Central first tried to foil the road in the early negotiating phase, then stole rolling stock that had to pass over their line, and built a line to a crucial ridge just to prevent the Alabama Midland from building there. He closed by claiming the line would be open in the next 76 The discourses surrounding the development o f these three lines framed them as locally controlled, independent businesses, but these arguments masked the connections to outside 74 Palatka (Fla.) Daily News, January 24, 1888. 75 Macon Weekly Telegrap h, November 22, 1887. 76 Montgomery Advertiser, August 4, 1889.
66 funding the road and t he anti monopoly sentiments of Captain Woolfork, the success of the Alabama Midland depended on the magnanimity of another system Florida & Western Railway, which saw the road as a lever to gain access to this growing part of Alaba ma and beat back the influence of the Central of Georgia. Final construction of the line was 77 The CF & YV road started out as a state chartered project to help Nor th Carolinians, but in 1883, the state sold its share to a group of New York capitalists. Only after this point could the road reach completion. The Greensboro Patriot either did not notice, or not care about this inconsistency he road completed. The interests of the whole State demand its 78 W.B. Sparks, president of the GSF made constant trips to New York to sell bonds of the road. After a trip in February 1888, the Telegraph bragged that Sparks found warm friends of the road in the North, all of them recognizing the fact that, but the completion of the road, it will form the great direct line from the extreme North to the extreme 79 These small town boosters held a deep faith in competition as a salve for local economic woes, and in their minds, a bright future with lower rates and rapid business growth, was only one new railroad away. Theoretically, the more railroads a town had, the more competition the town could expect for the shipment of its products, and the lower rates the town would have. Rates were often based on whether a location was a competitive point, with multiple railroads, or a non competitive point, where one railroad or system controlled all rail transportation. The desire of e very town to become a competitive point fed into a dynamic of over construction, and 77 Montgomery Advertiser, March 2, 1888. 78 Greensboro Patriot, January 26, 1883. 79 Macon Weekly Telegraph, February 21, 1888.
67 the building of lines that seemed inefficient from the perspective of the incipient large rail systems. For rail managers trying to set stable rates, the proliferation of new railroads to spur competition was a nightmare, leading to rate wars and wild fluctuations in rates. Over the sense of disorientation, inequity, and outr theories. From the perspective of communities like Macon, or Greensboro, which had rail transportation, but had higher rates than larger neighbors like Atlanta, or Raleigh, they could never have enough railro ads. 80 While these railroads were designed to advance the economic position of their termini, they also had a profound impact on the surrounding areas. These three local driven projects promised to bring the railroad areas for the first time, a fact which made these roads the leading edge of the incorporation of new space into the global web of markets stitched together by railroads, and which made them agents of the commodification of wide swaths of the south ern countryside. Part of the justification for these projects was the new commodities that surrounding not rest until your locomotive head light shall casts its rays upon the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, bringing us coal iron and other staple goods in exchange for our golden fruit, oranges lemons, bananas, etc. 81 A pamphlet put out by the CF & YV argued the road would encompass lroading which reaches out and penetrates the undeveloped back country, with its o wn great seaport for an outlet. 80 The Business History Review, Vol. 64, NO. 2, (Summer 1990), 324. White, Railroaded, 179. 81 Macon Weekly Telegraph, November 22, 1887.
68 eng ines of the mills erect one at every station, and the forests resound, as the train speeds along, 82 And a series of prospectuses in the Montgomery Advertiser laid out the potential products along the line of the Alabama Midland by county survey of the agricultural practices of obscure Alabama counties. 83 In these early stages, boosters touted how new railroads would impose the logic of capitalism on the countryside and bring order out of the supposed chaos of undeveloped areas. The G.S.&F. actively encouraged both turpentine production and lumbering, as the road needed industries along the line to fill trains and make the money necessary to pay back t he debts incurred in construction. Before the road was even completed, the Telegraph have been located and there will soon be established sixteen saw mills and four large turpentine stills, the freight from which alone will be suffici 84 In Wenona, a correspondent reported that the forest was so thick that saw mills were being placed every five miles along line. 85 Along the CF & YV, a promotional pamphlet argued the production of naval stores and a well 82 The Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railway, From Mt Airy at t he Base of the Blue Ridge to Wilmington, NC. Its Origin, Construction, Connections and Extensions. (Philadelphia 1889), 14, 43 49. 83 Montgomery Advertiser, February 6, 1888. Montgomery Advertiser, July 14, 1889. 84 Macon Weekly Teleg raph, June 14, 1888. 85 Macon Weekly Telegraph, October 10, 1888.
69 engines of the mills erect one at every station, and the forests resound, as the train speeds along, 86 Some southern railroads, especially in wide open states like Florida, created new towns, but new railroads in the 1880s and 90s also revitalized and connected towns that already existed. In Fayetteville, halfway betwe en Wilmington and Greensboro on the CF YV, merchants hoped was very valuable to us again before the war, and which will come to us 87 north 88 until the completion of the road. 89 of great expectations, its waste places building up, its warehouses and its homes in demand at 90 renewed energy. All along the road new towns are springing up, new farms are being opened, 91 86 The Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railway, From Mt Airy at the Base of the Blue Ridge to Wilmington, NC. Its Origin, Construction, Connections and Extensions. (Philadelphia 1889), 14, 43 49. 87 Fayetteville Observer, July 26, 1883. 88 Fayetteville Observer, July 26, 1883. 89 Fayetteville Observer, April 30, 1884. 90 Fayetteville Observer, February 27, 1884. 91 Troy (Al.) Messenger, February 27, 1890.
70 The impending arrival of a new railroad brought forth dramatic imagery from the pens of editorialists. Many used language th at conveyed loud sounds and blasts to signify progress. To town boosters behind new railroads, the arrival of a new railroad was framed as a dream for the surrounding countryside. As the GSF pushed its way south the Telegraph locomotives wil l soon be nosing around in a country that never dreamed before of having a 92 through which a railroad never traversed before, as it sped along like a streak of gold a nd 93 Hearing the whistle for the first time was a common metaphorical device to display the hope of new towns that were about to receive a rail connection for the first time. A correspondent in the small town of Gordon wrote that the Alabama Midland 94 The importance of new railroads to small southern towns may be be st illustrated by the desperate pleadings of towns that missed out on new connections. Alabama rail projects like the Alabama Midland and various extensions of the Central of Georgia continuously bypassed the small town of Andalusia, and the town had to wa it until 1899 to get a railroad. Pathos dripped from the editorial pages of the Covington Times, which spent the bulk of the preceding decade begging for a new railroad. The local newspaper sounded a constant drumbeat of articles dubbed the worn care and pull on the moder n paraphernalia of 92 Macon Weekly Telegraph, December 1, 1887. 93 Macon Weekly Telegraph, November 6, 1888. 94 Troy (Al.) Messenger, January 8, 1889.
71 the iron horse. 95 Another editorial claimed that town had all the necessary amenities to be the foremost metropolis of southeast Alabama, b ut the only element the town lacked was a railroad. 96 magic, and her sister towns would soon fade completely into insignificance. 97 The rhetoric of these editorials, both in railroad towns and aspiring railroad towns, clearly cast a divide between areas with railroads from those without. Places with railroads were magical, vibrant, energetic, while places without rail connections were stagnant, inactive, lethargic, and at ri sk of decay. Failure to connect meant ultimate doom for small towns like Andalusia and the people that lived there. The bleary eyed rhetoric of railroad boosters in towns like Macon, Greensboro, Troy, and even tiny Andalusia, points to the intense yearnin g for new connections that defined small town could spring a town int o life. In the developmental dreams of the small town boosters, new railroads would revitalize communities, spur development in their hinterlands, enrich local the rail schemes emanating from the empire builders like Victor Newcomb, these new railroads also were measures of independence from the large systems taking shape in the South, designed to increase competition and reduce freight rates. Whatever the justi fication behind these new lines, the rhetoric and the ir ultimate construction points to how the coming of the railroad was the 95 Andalusia (Al.) Covington Times, December 20, 1895. 96 Andalusia (Al.) Covington Times, December 27, 1895. 97 Andalusia (Al.) Covington Times, November 6, 1896.
72 harbinger of the values of capitalism to not only the termini of the new lines, but to the surrounding countryside as well. Fight ing the War of the Rail From his campsite in the Mississippi Delta in 1882, Charles Iverson Graves could hardly care less about these far off forces shaping southern railroad development, or the many wonderful things boosters were writing about railroads. Graves simply missed his wife. A whirlwind of a life had brought Graves to the illustrious profession of building railroads, and his services were in high demand by 1882. Before building railroads, Graves had served in the Civil War as a Confederate nava l officer, operated a farm near Rome, Georgia, and trained men as an officer in the Egyptian army. Graves got into the railroad business with a job on the Georgia Pacific, but the railroad boom of the 1880s kept him on the move and gainfully employed, whi ch is how he ended up in the swampy wilderness between Memphis and Vicksburg in August 1882, in charge of locating and constructing 100 miles of railroad. 98 He set up his headquarters in e of these days when 99 The fighting of the Civil War never really ended for Graves, so it was only appropriate that he spent the bulk of the 1880s on ction. For boosters and newspaper editors behind railroad projects, constructing a new line was a project tantamount to war. On one level, this was not surprising. Captains, colonels and Generals, keeping the military honors earned during the Civil War, l ittered the rolls of southern railroad management. Examples include Captain Woolfork with the Alabama Midland, Colonel 98 From Charles Iverson Grav es, August 18, 1882, in the Charles Iverson Graves Papers #2606, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University o f North Carolina at Chapel Hill (hereinafter SHC). 99 From Charles Iverson Graves, August 20, 1882, in the Charles Iverson Grav es Papers #2606, SHC
73 Lane, the original patron of the GSF, and General Gordon, who was funding the Georgia Pacific. A well placed Confederate war hero could w ork wonders for a corporation looking to establish itself in the South. P.G.T. Beauregard, hero of the early Confederate war effort, helped piece together the fragments of the Mississippi Central immediately after the war. Indeed, in 1870, the roster of th e officers and directors of this line contained three generals, six colonels, a major, a captain, two doctors and one judge. 100 Military metaphors were also quite apt in describing the herculean challenge of overcoming natural impediments. As the Illinois Ce to build lines into the Mississippi Delta, Graves next moved to the Delta to work on a line between Vicksburg and Memphis where he and his fellow workers quite literally waged a war against nature. Major Wilson, the man in charge later recalled the enormous difficulties his subject to the whims of the Mississippi River. Yearly floods and levee breaks periodically cut off 101 Conditions along the GSF, and the wide open Georgia Wiregrass, were not nearly as formidable, but buil ding crews did encounter some difficulty. 32 miles south of Macon, the line passed through a deep cut of soft rock. 102 Even once the line opened, this spot was trou ble, as every time it rained heavily the 100 Corliss, The Main Line of Mid America, 201 205. 101 Corliss, Main Line of Mid America, 238 239. 102 Macon Weekly Telegraph, May 4, 1888.
74 embankment caved in and covered the track. 103 The implications of these arguments are clear building a railroad was a triumph of man and industry over nature. Newspaper reporters tracking the progress of their local lines similarly used a language of war and conflict to describe the birth of new railroads. As the Alabama Midland neared completion, the rival Central of Georgia system got a judge to issue an injunction to prevent the construction crews from building to the small town of Ozark, where the Alabama Midland crews were hoping to recover thirteen cars of steel, rails and other construction material stored in the town. After a Montgomery judge overturned the injunction, building crews raced to reach Ozark befor e the Central could respond. Employees even stood watch at the Ozark telegraph station to prevent Central employees from alerting their superiors. As soon as the line was completed to terial and brought it keeps her traces straight and gets there, hole of petty spite. 104 The men behind the GSF organized the Macon Construction Company to build their road, and they quickly found themselves at war with comp etitors. Between Macon and Savannah, the Company got involved is track down will come in for the pudding. 105 In the minds of the press, rival companies in the mad scramble for southern territory constituted warring armies. 103 Macon Weekly Telegraph, Octobe r 27, 1888. 104 Troy (Al.) Messenger, July 25, 1889. 105 Macon Weekly Telegraph, April 10, 1890.
75 ere acutely aware of the connections to networks of global capital that determined their progress. Before his stop in the Memphis, Graves worked on the Georgia Pacific between Atlanta and Birmingham, when work suddenly stopped as the precariously funded co mpany the money market has prevented them from getting money on reasonable terms and so it has er with the road, travelled to the road. 106 Two weeks later, construction still was at a standstill, and though prospects were 107 Connections to networks of capital were readily apparent, even in the isolated corners of the South where railroad construction marched on. With the wild swings in Gilded Age money markets, the war to build southern railroads was one that very often lacked funding. Underfunded lines adopted a wide variety of strategies to push to completion, as the detailed record book of the Virginia and North Carolina Construction Company demonstrated. T he company was formed at a meeting in Danville in April 1888 to build the Roanoke Southern Railroad that stretched south from Roanoke to North Carolina. As road surveyors plotted their route to the South, they waited to set the final route, hedging their b ets in an effort to get towns to compete to raise bonds for the road. Towns like Rocky Mount, Virginia and Salem, Virginia threw offers of tens of thousands of dollars worth of subscriptions if the road build there. Railroad officials also spoke to officia ls from Martinsville, 106 From Charles Iverson Graves, May 7, 1882, in the Charles Iverson Graves Papers #2606, SHC. 107 From Charles Iverson Gr aves, May 21, 1882, in the Charles Iverson Graves Papers #2606, SHC
76 and noted that if they raised $100,000 they would build a second division from Roanoke to there. 108 But money from communities along the line came up short, and like so many other southern lines, the road looked North for funds. The c ompany decided to increase the capital tockholders could never be sure who was holding the strings behind these potential suitors. When yet another washed up ex Confederate, General John Gill, showed hi s associates, he would not even tell the board who his associates were, only swearing that the Richmond and Danville was not connected to him. The board turned down his offer of aid, but in the end, the Roanoke Southern ended up like many of these independ ent lines, indebted to a larger system, the Norfolk Southern that helped pay off loans and that eventually took control of the line. 109 To cut costs of construction, the road adopted a strategy all too common for southern rail construction paying both North Carolina and Virginia for convict laborers who cost the company less than a dollar a day. 110 The men building southern railroads were typically not there by the lab or of convicts. For companies short on capital, convict labor was perhaps the only way may have perished before the end of Reconstruction, but his experience as a convict worker was 108 Virginia and North Carolina Construction Company Record Book, #5030, SHC 109 Virginia and North Carolina Construction Company Record Book, #5030, SHC 110 Virginia and North Carolina Co nstruction Company Record Book, #5030, SHC
77 shared by many of the men who built southern railroads in this time period. 111 Charles Graves may have complained about a myriad of problems with his career of building southern railroads, but he was one of the luckier workers. The life o f a southern railroad worker was dangerous, deadly, and unfortunately for the historian, poorly documented. Even though the press voraciously covered details of railroad construction, details of the lives of workers took a back seat to the breathless upd ates on mileage built. The sense of worked to connect Macon and Palat 112 A later news piece important mes sage to readers 113 As the CF & YV neared Greensboro, the local press breathlessly updated the progress of the line, and cheered the continuous arrival of new convicts, as more convicts meant sp eedier the reporter. 114 Papers even lauded the road for its good treatm 115 The use of convicts not only cheapened construction of southern 111 Scott Reynolds Nelson, (New York, 2006). 112 Macon Weekly Telegraph, May 4, 1888. 113 Macon Weekly Telegraph, September 4, 1887. 114 Greensboro Patriot, December 1, 1882. 115 Greensboro Patriot, June 8, 1881.
78 railroads, it served to rationalize t he human cost of rail construction. Few bothered to worry about the fate of the crews of men working in strange and dangerous pockets of the South, as they had seemingly deserved their fates. As the Greensboro Patriot argued concerning a 15 year old bla 116 Descriptions of workers as buzzing bees or faithful soldiers obscured the experiences of the men involved in construction southern railroads masked a dark truth, which was that the human cost of southern railroad construction was considerable. The Western North Carolina Railroad was only constructed after the state of North Carolina deployed upwards of 500 convict laborers to grade and extend the road to the Tennessee b order. With such difficult work conditions, the construction of the road was marred with hardship and tragedy. A cave in at Swannanoa Tunnel, later immortalized in folk song, killed 21 workers and at least 125 convicts died over the course of the grueling drive to connect Asheville with the rest of the state. 117 In the J.C. Powell, who supervised the construction of the Waycross Short Line, wrote about his experi ence supervising the convicts assigned to the road. At night the convicts were kept in a hut surrounded by guards. Great difficulty was experienced as construction proceeded through Fox Hillyard, 32 miles north of Jacksonville, spinal meningitis broke out amongst the convicts and the camp became 116 April 24, 1884, Greensboro Patriot. 117 Appalachian Journal (29) 2001 58 67.
79 to hose the workers down with cold water. 118 Fighti ng monopolies and rival systems was hardly a match for the more challenging battle against the vagaries of nature. Even the correspondence of free white workers complained about the far off, and often threatening work sites of southern rail construction. By 1883 Graves was deep in the Yazoo quartered on your new divisions in a much healthier 119 H.A. Grady hated his work in Louisiana, where he sent one letter 120 The construction of the southern railroad network occurred in distant, and often dark corners of the South, a fact which not only made life miserable (and deadly) for workers, but which also has served to obscure these labors from the eyes of contemporary observers and historians. The experience of the men building southern railroads points to one area in which the reality of rail const ruction certainly did not match the rhetoric. Boosters framed the construction of new roads as military campaigns, using a language of speed, energy, vitality to convey excitement about their new connections. For the average reader of a southern newspaper the 118 J.C. Powell, The American Siberia or Fourteen Year Experience in a Southern Convict Camp (Oakland, 1891), 150 160. 119 Dooley Smith to Charles Iverson Graves, February 26, 1883, in the Charle s Iverson Graves Papers #2606, SHC. 120 From H.A. Grady, November 5, 1884, in the Grady Family Papers, #3486 z, SHC.
80 environment. If railroad building was like a war, it was a war that the workers, especially convict laborers, were losing. And as for Graves? His wife did eventually come to visit in late 1883, but when she left, Graves was once again lonely in the far off Delta. When work was suspended on a railroad bridge at Clarksdale went back home to farm. His brief foray into railroad building had ended, but for other workers building southern railroads, leaving the profession was not nearly as easy. 121 A Revolution in Southern Railroading After the end of military Reconstruction in 1877, economic and cultural forces aligned to create a revolution in southern railroading. The national economy pulled out of depression, southern state governments aggressively sought out side investment, and a new class of expansionist railroad presidents took power. These shifts in political economy were matched with a powerful cultural impetus to connect and expand the railroad network. Boosters on a local and regional level pushed for new railroads to redeem the region and fulfill the New South narrative of rebirth, develop local economies, increase competition, and develop untapped hinterlands. The results of this boom were nothing less than the integration of the South into the natio nal railroad network. Mileage doubled between 1880 and 1890, and by 1890 nine out of every ten southerner lived in a county with a railroad. Standardization brought southern railroads in close alignment with the rest of the nation and erased a lingering e xample of sectional divergence. New railroads connected areas within the South and connected the South to the rest of the nation, and they increased the circulation of passengers and commodities. The rhetoric in this chapter shows how the men behind the bu ilding and planning of the railroad network 121 Charles Iverson Graves Papers #2606, SHC.
81 welcomed these changes. In the next chapter, we will see how southerners narrated the experience of travelling on the newly improved rail network of the New South, and in the rest of the project we will interroga te moments when the features of this new railroad network, and of capitalism itself, became problematic.
82 CHAPTER 3 RAIL TRAVEL AND THE CREATION OF THE NEW SOUTH In 1888, the day long dreamed about by Macon boosters finally occurred, and the GSF rail road opened for business. To report on this exciting new development, a journalist with the Macon Telegraph travelled down the new line to describe the road and the country through strictly upon ick back to 1 Not only was the railroad the immediate cause of the rapid economic transformation of South Georgia, but it was also the vehicle that allowed the reporter that allowed the report to view these changes. Hitching his message to a rail journey, and tracing a newly opened route provided a sense of structure and order to his message. For readers of this account the messa ge was clear account may have been one of the more striking proclamations of the power of the railroad, expressed via rail travel, but it was by no means in isolation. The rail road journey was a 1 Weekly Telegraph, March 6, 1889.
83 powerful way for economic boosters to experience, describe, and make sense of periods of intense change. Whether through narrated journeys like this one, or elaborate celebrations, the railroad was at the heart of the New South. These e xamples testify to how the values that defined the operation of the railroad network speed, connectivity, and order were also the values that defined the New South. The use of sources that view and describe economic development is a common trope for h istorians working at the nexus of economic and cultural history. Walter Benjamin, who s of transition, was perhaps the best example of this strategy. Descriptions of the sites of industrial progress provide evidence of how witnesses extolled the values of capitalism like order, rationality and precision. 2 The advent of rail travel introduce d new features to travel narratives that describe economic change. For one, railroads disrupted the idle, undirected wanderings of Walter passengers view surr ounding landscapes as a panorama. People who rode on trains often recorded their experiences, crafting travel narratives that helped to make sense of the often chaotic experience of rail travel and that grappled with changes in the railroad network. As one 2 Tamara Plains Thornton Zakim ed. Capitalism Takes Command: The Social Transformation of Nineteenth Century America (Chicago 2012), 169 173 uses descriptions of the Liverpool docks to trace A Benjamin, The Arcades Project (Cambridge, 1999), 14.
84 project, and historians have used these narratives as a lens i nto how people perceived intangible concepts like the spread of capitalism or the arrival of modernity. 3 Rail travel was by no means a new phenomenon in the New South period. As far back as the first southern railroad, southerners were recording their a ccounts of rail travel. Descriptions of southern rail travel were as old as the first southern railroad in 1830. As railroads expanded throughout the 1850s, Southerners avidly shared accounts of their journeys. In describing travel in the antebellum south passengers noted increased speeds of travel, interactions with slaves, and the wondrous experience of riding the new technology for the first time. In the Old South, white southerners saw the railroad as a technology that would enhance, not destroy, the plantation slavery economy, and their accounts of rail journeys confirm their enthusiasm for railroads. 4 New South boosters would use descriptions of rail travel as proof of economic progress, but as the immediate postwar exper ience demonstrates, rail journeys could just as easily testify to the South to experience the sights and sounds of the ruined region. Many of these journeys had political goals to either push for black suffrage, or to excoriate the alleged horrors of the 3 Wolfgang Schivelbusch, The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the 19 th Century (Berkeley, Ca, 1977) calls rail travel the mean s by which people experienced the transformations of the 19 th century. Amy G. Richter, Home on the Rails: Women, the Railroad and the Rise of Public Domesticity (Chapel Hill, 2005), 11 31 makes heavy use of travel narratives to describe how railroads recon figured gender norms. Some recent examples of works in this vein include Alisa Freedman, Tokyo in Transit: Japanese Culture on the Rails and Road (Stanford 2011), 1 12. Travel narratives in Porfirian Mexico helped perpetuate the notion that the Diaz regi me was Railway Culture and the Civilizing Mission in Mexico, 1876 1910 (PhD Dissertation, University of Arizona, 2008), 88 90. 4 Aaron Marrs, Railroads in the Old South: Pursuing Progress in a Slave Society (Baltimore, 2009), 135 146. An older work that details travel in the Old South is Eugene Alvarez, Travel on Southern Antebellum Railroads, 1828 1860 (University, Alabama 1974).
85 northern Reconstruction. But economic conditions also were central to these stories. 5 In these immediate postwar accounts, the condition of southern railroads served as a metaphor for the why it did not throw us off, while half of them were crushed at the ends or worn off the face till on one road in T crept slowly over long lines of trestle dismal night of thumpings over broken rails, and lurchin gs and contortions of the cars, as if we were really trying in our motion to imitate the course of the rails the Yankee raiders had 6 Travel over these shattered rail lines was slow, laborious and exceedingly uncomfortable. In 1866, Sidney Andre outh 5 The best bibliography of these postwar travel narratives is Thomas Dionysiu s Clark, ed. Travels in the New South: A Bibliography (Norman, OK, 1962) 6 Whitelaw Reid, After the War: A Southern Tour. May 1, 1865 to May 1, 1866. (London 1866), 28, 330, 339, 350, 425.
86 7 It took John Kennaway 14 hours journey to Petersburg that included broken seats, worn rails and shaky tracks. 8 Interrupted connections formed another major theme of the postwar travel travelers. two miles, and find the end of one railroad; southeast thirty miles, and find the end of another; south forty five miles, and find the end of a third; southwest fifty miles, and meet a fourth; and northwest twenty not s up railr 9 and smashed by Sherman in his march from the sea. As it never was a paying road before the war, I could see no prospect of its being soon repaired. The highway of the oc ean supplies its 10 Kennaway described the 7 Sidney Andrews, The South Since the War: As Shown By fourteen We eks of Travel and Observation in Georgia and the Carolinas (Boston, 1866), 108 9, 201. 8 John H Kennaway, (London 1867), 104, 193. 9 Andrews, The South Since the War 29, 31, 214. 10 J.T. Trowbridge, A Pictu re of the Devastated States; and the Work of Restoration. 1865 1866. (Hartford 1868), 501, 511.
87 old military ambulances between a 50 mile gap, which took 12 or 13 hours. 11 broken connections and stilted circulation, made convincing arguments for the economic malaise of the South and these economy was sick, and the only cure for the prost rated railroad network and shattered has been drained of its wea lth, and of its young men. Capital is eagerly welcomed and absorbed 12 raiders, was more mythology than reality, but one of the immediate purposes of the New South tra vel narratives was to both acknowledge the Civil War and firmly place the war in the past. Many travelers explicitly compared the condition of the railroads to the immediate postwar period. William Kelley looked to the past to report on the progress of the South after a journey marvelous, and may justly be regarded as the now traverse the south are as perfect in the construction of road bed, track, and bridges and in passenger cars and 11 Kennaway, 155, 162. 12 Trowbridge, A Picture of the Devastated States 583.
88 Along with the track and rolling stock, the areas the network touched deserved comment as well. nown to be 13 While traveling south over the stretch of war torn Virginia land between Richmond and Potomac, A.K. McClure contrasted his swift cities he experienced after the war. By horse sweeps over the Long Bridge down the Potomac and across the Virginia plains to Richmond in three and a half hours from Washington, there is memory of the war and pointed towards the progress of postwar Virginia. 14 Along with the tangible physi cal evidence of recovery, journeys on the new railroad network served to both acknowledge the War and place it firmly in the past. Henry Field half dozen assorted capitalists and investors. Riding South on the Virginia Midland Railroad, the Field intertwined descriptions of the wonders of rail travel with detailed batt le histories. In from war to peace, road journey was that these memories could be quickly left behind when flying past on a train. After dwelling on the battle of Franklin, Field 13 William D Kelley, The Old South and the New: A Series of Let ters (New York 1888), 1 4. 14 A.K. McClure, The South: Its Industrial, Financial and Political Condition. (Philadelphia 1886), 19.
89 over the horrors of a battlefield, it is a relief to get into the solemn stillness of the woods, among while Field acknowledged the war, the real takeaway from this account was the speed at which the train literally and symbolically left the war behind 15 To further this point that railroads firmly placed the Old South and the Civil War in the past the book concluded with a multi page reflection on the transformative power of the railroad. Written after a particularly inspirational dinner with a couple of railroad men, Field ountry than almost any other single d builders did not build their roads as a result of benevolence, the railroads served a political purpose, united the far flung corners of the nation, and allowing th e but engineers, not the captains 16 in the South. In 1885 Ingersoll journeyed fro m Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, down the spine of the Appalachian Mountains to Tennessee, narrating the remarkable progress brought by the railroad 15 Henry M. Field, Blood is thicker than water: a few days among our southern bretheren (New York 1886), 16, 45, 63. 16 Field Blood is thicker than water 136.
90 to the mountain region. In his journey through Virginia, the memory of the Civil War was never far from his mind As his train plunged down the Valley he blended descriptions of the fast the Virginia Central he remarked that the destruction of this vital artery was the obje ctive of every federal force in the Valley. His train later passed just underneath the Crater, where a slope as one of the bloodiest fields of the civil hat replaced the destruction of war and 17 1880s that the South was rea clay and various other useful metals and earths are known to lie adjacent to the line of railway we are now fol still ruffle the current and whose ruined locks are sinking into he was astonished at the speed of the fast mail train, which gathered up the mail from Memphis, further proof of the improved rail network, the account closed with a detailed description of the many different routes travelers could take to head South. 18 ried physical spaces, and its imagined economic pasts and futures. 17 Ernest Ingersoll, To the Shenandoah and Beyond: The Chronicle of a Leisurely Journey Through the Uplands of Virginia and Tennessee, (New York 1885), 42 46, 82, 89. 18 Ingersoll, To the Shenandoah and Beyond, 16, 44, 56 113.
91 Rail travel did more than just move beyond wartime sights, it also fostered sectional reconciliation. As literal connections between North and South, railroads fostered travel that encourag ed the sectional reconciliations of the formerly warring halves of the country. At the last happily reunited, and bound together, not only with bands of iron but by millions of loyal and loving hearts. 19 symbolically reunited the two halves of the country through rail travel. In 1881, veterans with First Infantry embarked on a tour of the South by rail and published a book first regiment, en route first New York, Louisiana Tigers 1861 along the road. As the train travelled South, the passengers noticed a marked difference. The widely fr om the north in the sparseness of its settlement, and a certain air of lack of capital which cabins and houses had a dilapidated South was a lack of capital. At one s top, former southern general Winfield Scott 19 Field, Blood is thicker than water 136.
92 20 The constant desire for capital was one major theme of this travel n arrative, but the overriding message was one of sectional reconciliation. In perhaps the most dramatic moment in discovered that they still carried bullets from war wo they had a bullet in some 21 In New Orleans the regiment listened to a speech given by the king of the Mardi Gras carnival. The meaning of the railroads connecting North and South had changed dramatically in the fifteen years since the war. The king argued, 22 A railroad journey was thus a vehicle for the reunion of North and South and the encouragement of northern investment. he Fierce Rhetoric of Thunderous and Clattering Railroad T Moving beyond scenes of railroad ruination was an essential goal of travel narratives for men in a region simultaneously obsessed with and repulsed by the Civil War past. But New South boosters also used railroad journeys to preach the virtues of the present and prophesize a better future. Riding on improved railroads sent an explicit message to northe rn investors that 20 John F. Cowan, A New Invasion of the South, Being a Narrative of the Expedition of the Seventy First Infantry, National Guard Through the Southern States, to New Orleans. February 24 March 7, 1881. (New York City 1881), 10, 34, 38, 43. 21 Cowan, A New Invasion of the South 41. 22 Cowan, A New Invasion of the South, 86.
93 the South was ready for investment. By the middle of the 1880s, booster pamphlets were packed with odes to the revived railroads of the South. In 1887 M.B. Hillyard sought to recap the the Manufacturers Record, and he placed of the south and her vast forests have attracted much consideration and large investment, in no regard has she so mu world not only for its colossal combinations of money, but the prestige of its par ticipants keep pace with the southern railroad projects. It seems as though almost every day brings a revelation of some new railroad scheme of development and of the confidence of the capitalists of the civilized world to the measure of over 14,000 miles of railroad in six and a half years 23 In 1890 another pamphlet from the Manufacturers Record the golden argument of capital, and is voiced in the fierce rhetoric of thunderous and clat tering 24 These statistical surveys and grand claims could only go so far in accurately describing through it by train. Describing a journey thr ough the South allowed writers to link the imaginative powers of the railroad to their visions of progress. We have already seen how Henry 23 M.B. Hillyard, The New South: A Description of the Southern States, Noting Each State Separately, and Giving their Distinctive Features and Most Salient Characteristics (Baltimore 1887), 37 8. 24 Richard H Edmonds, (Baltimore 1890), 35.
94 Grady mirrored a whirlwind trip through the South with praise for the machinations of southern railroad presidents, but he was not the only prominent booster to use this tactic. Walter Page, the journalist who used the Raleigh State Chronicle as his platform to argue for southern reflect on the potential for a New South to emerge. In 1883 he journeyed to North Carolina from stared at the train, kept railway stations where crowds of loafers stood with their hands in their pockets occurred to me for the first time that this region is yet a frontier a new land untouched except by 25 For Page, travel by rail exposed both shortcomings and future hopes for the South. po To do this, travel narratives used the sensory pleasures of rail travel to make arguments for economic development. Railroad travel narratives conveyed a sense of motion and speed that bolstered c laims of improved economic activity. Charles Dudley Warner, a man who travelled to New Orleans via rail for the 1884 exhibition, summarized his trip when he described the New d that social intercourse between north and south had been greatly increased in the previous five years, and 25 Burton J. Hendrick, The Training of an American: The Earlier Life and Letters of Walter H. Page, 185 5 1913 (Boston and New York 1928), 160 2.
95 26 The speed of rail travel could make lengthy descriptions of commodities exciting. On a trip from Virginia to Wilmington, North Carolina, Robert Somers vividly described how th narrative 27 Travel account s also confirmed the 28 The increased speed of rail travel in this period added to the pleasure and excitement for passengers. A journalist on a Louisville & Nashville train marveled at how the train flew over the wide to drive the iron horse along at a comfortable jog trot of some forty 26 Charles Dudley Warner, Studies in the South and West with Comments on Canada (New York 1889), 29, 37, 129. 27 Robert Somers, The Southern States Since the War. 1870 1 (London, 1871), 28. 28 Rev. Thomas Harley, So uthward Ho! Notes of a tour to and through the State of Georgia in the winter 1885 6. (London 1886), 89.
96 little cities, growing towns and thous 29 For a group of travelers leaving New Orleans, the rapid speed of the train added excitement to the trip. As a new ple 30 In addition to hitching the sensory aspects of improved rail travel to th e New South movement, booster travel narratives invariably passed through New South boomtowns, where they linked the railroad to the growth of industry. After he arrived in Birmingham, McClure arrested by a single ordinary farmhouse: but two railways finally crossed each other there, and this invited capitalists to arrived and Birmingham became the 31 A description of the development of on the area, and described how the intersection of two rail lines led to the rapid growth of 32 One could even take a planned rail excursion to visit the 29 R.A. Wilkinson, (Passenger Department Louisville and Nashville R.R., 1886), 56 30 Along the Gulf: An Entertaining Story of an Outing Among the Beautiful Resorts on the Mississippi Sound from New Orleans, La., to Mobile, Ala. Being a complete description of the advantages which may be enjoyed during a vacation spent among the delight ful seaside towns of the Mexican Gulf (William E. Myers, Publisher, 1894) 31 A.K. McClure, The South: Its Industrial, Financial and Political Condition. (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1886), 97. 32 Thomas Bruce, Southwest Virginia and Shenandoah Va lley, An inquiry into the causes of the Rapid Growth and Wonderful Development of Southwest Virginia and Shenandoah Valley, With a History of the Norfolk and Western and Shenandoah Valley Railroads, and Sketches of the Principal Cities and Towns Instrument al in the Progress of These Sections Richmond: J. L. Hill Publishing Company, 1891), 76, 136.
97 capitalists, investors and others and backed by natural resources in abundance, have ente the party would visit romantic scenes, learn the history of the war, and scout out potential investments. The tour organizers were explicit in their focus on economic development, taking the travelers to New South boomtowns like Bristol and Roanoke in Virginia, Middlesboro in K entucky, Birmingham, and Chattanooga. Whether or not this trip actually was a success is unknown, yet the advertisement speaks to the way in which boosters attempted to use rail travel to bolster the broader project of New South development. 33 Railroad trip s served a crucial purpose for investors scouting out the South. A group of publication, One excited traveler wrote that they continuous and unbroken strain of what has been aptly termed the music of progress the whirr 34 Sylvester Cary, who led the development of a series of towns along the Southern Pacific line in southwest Louisiana, used descriptions of rail travel to spur larger development projects. he described a trip that started in Dubuque, Iowa, in the middle of a snowstorm. As the party 33 December 1, 1890 (Boston, 1890) 34 Edmonds, on 5.
98 Ne 35 He later told a tale of another mythic journey west from New Orleans. Cary had gone South to visit New Orleans during Mardi Gras in 1882 and he met a fri end who told him rumors of great and readily available land in southwest Louisiana. Cary travelled west on the Southern Pacific line, got off the train, looked around and immediately decided to buy the land and start the town of Jennings. 36 All of this bo asting could be dismissed as puffery were it not for the fact that the railroad network really had been improved. Outside experts on rail travel provided testimony about the hless claims. Nationwide rail publications like the Railway Gazette provided one venue for travelers to y south in 1868. As he argued, offs smoothly now, have handsome passeng er cars, and speeds of 25 30 miles per hour are common. 37 A civil engineer writing to the Railway Gazette South, I also noticed a great improvement in the general condition of the track and the roads had been built for local traffic at first, but as through traffic increased due to development of iron and coal improvements had to be made, especially on the 35 Sylvester Cary Scrapbook, 245, Louisiana State University Special Collections 36 Sylvester Cary Scrapbook, 547, Louisiana State University Special Collections 37 Railway Gazette, April 15, 1887.
99 ive 38 Hardy, a British traveler also used a rail journey to comment on how the South s eemed to be was worried going into her trip, fretting ab out rumors of bad eating houses, long waits in isolated chaotic state, development of the all directions, running out like the arms of an octopus, grasping at distant towns and villages and halting in the most beautiful secluded spo 39 Railroad companies contributed to this body of literature that fused the imaginative power of rail travel with appeals for investment. On a most basic level, railroads sought to encourage investment and attract visi tors to the towns and regions along their lines. In its guide of winter resorts, the L&N Railroad provided vacationers with a route along the Gulf Coast from Pensacola to the Crescent City. The pamphlet celebrated the new connections on the main line and touted points like Evergreen, Alabama, which received four mail, two express and over a 38 Railwa y Gazette, September 7, 1888. 39 Lady Duffus Hardy, Down South (London, 1883), 14, 100 104.
100 es of quick connection to highlight the Gulf Co ast scenery and blending a list of points with the sensory appeals of rapid train travel served to heighten the attraction of the route. 40 Pamphlets like these also served as announcements of the incorporation of new space into the network, as seen in The W oth by boldest strokes of engineering in emphasis on recent economic development, natural scenery and the engineering marvel of the 40 Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company, L&N Winter Resorts. L&N Gulf Coast Sports. (Chicago, 1890)
10 1 41 The economic visions presented in these publications applied the broader goals of the New South movement to distinct localities but as the setting varied, the message that the South was ready for development remained the same. The Savannah, Florida and Western Railroad and two other companies did their best to extol the virtues of southern Georgia in an informational pamphlet produced in 1881. According to the local newspapermen wh o wrote up the guide, the region produced pine trees, cotton, rice, sugar, and contained land that was both rich and cheap, with natural advantages that promised to raise the sleepy ports of Brunswick and Savannah to prominence. To prove this point, the g uide listed stations and their various products moving from Savannah on inland. At the town of Eastman, which had sprung into existence after the completion of the Macon and Brunswick Railroad, the author made an interesting claim, that nt of the rapidly growing towns along new rail corridors, the notion that slavery had hindered growth was not so far fetched. Local economic growth, created and promoted by railroad companies, thus helped contribute to the regional sense of a disjuncture from the antebellum slave economy. 42 So a wide variety of sources New South boosters, outside visitors, railroad companies and more used the improved railroads of the 1880s to present arguments about the broader 41 Illustrated Guide Book of The Western North Carolina Railr oad (Salisbury, NC, 1882). 42 Joseph Tillman and C.P. Goodyear, Southern Georgia: A Pamphlet Published under the Auspices of the Savannah, Florida & Western Railway, Brunswick & Albany Rail Road and Macon & Brunswick Rail Road (Savannah 1881), 35.
102 economic status of the region. In short, travel narratives offered proof of a New South, and they speak to how the railroad was central to notions of progress in this era. Opening Lines rst railroad opened. When Jefferson welcomed its first train, it rolled into town decorated with flowers, and with Colonel Sartoris, community leader since before the war and driving force behind the new railroad, standing at the helm blowing blasts on the whistle. flag and girls in white dresses and red sashes and a band 43 The Civil War past, and its railroading future united around Sartoris and the flower be decked locomotive. Though fictional, Faulkner certainly was familiar with the veneration of new railroad connections thanks to his 44 The opening of a new rail line formed one of the most signifi construction effort, a harbinger of future growth, and an announcement that the locale had joined the railroading world. A similar scene could be witnessed in January 1890, when the new decad e dawned on Troy Alabama with great hope, anticipation and a new rail line. The Alabama Midland, a project long dreamed of by locals arrived in town, and with the opening of the line, citizens hosted a The party guests arrived to town on a special train, included newly available commodities like oysters, Kansas City beef, and Mince pie. One man 43 Willia m Faulkner, The Unvanquished (New York 1966), 260. 44 Joseph R. Millichap, Dixie Limited: Railroads, Culture and the Southern Renaissance (Lexington 2002), 24 35.
103 delivered a 17 stanza od construction, from raising money, acquiring right of way, purchasing engines and cars, setting up 45 For Troy residents, the coming of the Alabama Midland was an epochal moment i n the history of the town, the dividing point between distinct eras in the economic development of the town and region. Indeed, the opening of any new railroad was marked by ebullient celebrations in the towns that gained connections. Though the exact d ate would vary wildly due to lags in construction, celebrations also marked the arrival of the C.F. & Y.V. all up and down the line. The ultimate completion of the road to Greensboro in 1884 led to a celebration that included speeches by at least six promi nent men, music from the Greensboro Concert Band, a fireworks display, and a banquet with dancing. 46 And in June 1888, the road reached Mt. Airy, and receiving a railroad for the first time, the opening of the line was understandably a major milestone in the history of the town. 47 The parties and galas within newly connected t owns served an important purpose in solidifying the bonds between local elites and the railroad. When a branch of the GSF reached 45 Troy (Ala.) Messenger, January 2, 1890. 46 Greensboro Pa triot, June 19, 1884. 47 The Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railway, From Mt Airy at the Base of the Blue Ridge to Wilmington, NC. Its Origin, Construction, Connections and Extensions. (Philadelphia 1889), 13.
104 the small town of Culloden, excursionists on the first train enjoyed the drilling of the Quitman Guards, and heard a speech fr om Judge Emory Speer, a native of the town who had risen fast through the federal judiciary. 48 Newspaper editors, merchants, and all the members of the New South business class could unite with municipal leaders, local militiamen, and common citizens aroun d the newly completed project. Railroad building was an exercise in town building, and the completion ceremonies served to cement this link. Just as the experience of travel bolstered claims of a regional revival, journeys on newly opened lines prophesiz ed a bright future for the terminus. For most attendees at these celebrations, the real treat of the event was the first ride on the new line. Rail travel heightened the power of these opening ceremonies by letting excursionists experience the new railroa d and the printed accounts of these new journeys disseminated this message to an audience beyond those attending the ceremonies. The opening of the GSF branch line to Culloden was marked with an excursion with several hundred local residents. In the subs equent account, a reported in course of completion, tangible evidence of the real and ever ough gardens and farms, showing what kind of traffic is the train sped on groups of whites and blacks gathered along the track, waved welcome to the road which bri 49 The message from this account 48 Macon Weekly Telegraph, July 5, 1890. 49 Macon Weekly Telegraph, July 5, 1890.
105 growing areas, and was welcomed by both whites and blacks served to cement the s ymbolic power of the new railroad. A similar journey occurred after the completion of the Waycross Short Line, when a special train carrying correspondents of the Savannah Daily News and other local papers travelled down the line. The reporter commented on pressure controlled this mighty engine, and whose slightest error might work destruction, omotive. As the train left the station the man had no choice but to stations on the line, as well as a description of the type of countryside and the possibi lity of logging and farming in the adjacent territory. 50 Even after the initial trip down a new line, newspapers continued to follow the progress of the countryside by periodic reports from down the line that extolled the remarkable impact of the railroad. The basic format for this genre of journalism was simple a correspondent would take a ride on the train, stopping at each town to report on the progress. For Macon reporters, the rapidly developing territory tributary to the GSF, was a much celebrated focus of travel accounts development of the country through which the road passes forms one of the most striking 51 As the r oad began to run, reporters marveled at the changes in the countryside. In the newly formed railroad town Cordele, a writer went back to the 50 Savannah Morning News, April 28, 1881. 51 Macon Weekly Telegraph, March 16, 1889.
106 emancipated, the cott on and corn furrows leveled, and the steam whistles of two great arteries of commerce now resound through a neat and thrifty town increasing every day in population and 52 he 53 When the CF YV RR reached its long awaited outlet on the North Carolina coast at Wilmington in 1890, the Wilmington Messenger and detailed descriptions of the towns along the line. The issue let Wilmington residents could new areas opene d up to rapid trade and travel. The town was now a mere three hours from Fayetteville, a fact that meant prosperity for both towns and the new connections stretched as far detailed the potential commodities on the line, like coal, timber and farming product, while another listed the improvements like saw mills, churches and new towns springing up along the line. In one fell swoop, Wilmington g ained connections with all these productive areas. 54 Like possibilities 52 Macon Weekly Telegraph, October 7, 1888. 53 Macon Weekly Telegraph, December 15, 1888. 54 Wilmington Messenger, March 22, 1890.
107 city could compete with other Atlantic ports like Norfolk. With these new railroad conne ctions, 55 Celebrations and travel accounts along newly opened lined echoed the arguments of the region wide journeys. Just as a trip through New South boomtowns made a strong point about regional economic d similar arguments for Macon businessmen. The local and the regional discourses of development matched, and the experience of rail travel was integral to both. Railroads and the New Orlean s Exposition As further proof of the link between the railroad and New South progress railroads one only has to look at the role of the railroad in regional expositions. The first of the Southern Expositions was held in Atlanta in 1881, followed by exposit ions in Louisville in 1883, New Orleans in 1885, Atlanta again in 1887 and 1895 and Nashville in 1897. In addition to these region wide fetes, countless other states and regions held smaller versions of these affairs. As C. Vann Woodward describes them, t the machine. 56 On a most basic level, the fact that the South even held expositions such as these was prominent feature of the age after the 1851 Crystal Palace exposition in London. Though these ostentatious displays were typically financial disasters, and are subsequently mocked as overpriced and out of touch by historians, they were significant in disseminating the cultural 55 Wilmington Messenger, March 22, 1890. 56 C. Vann Woodward, Origins of the New South, 1877 1914 (Baton Rouge, 1955), 124.
108 schools in which the masses, barred from consuming, learned e the exchange the value of the commodity. They open a phantasmagoria which a person enters in 57 The southern exhibitions were linked explicitly to the New South movement, with the overarching goal of attracting capital and investment to the region. In these expositions, the railroad network also had a prominent role. Not only did these expositions demonstration t o travelers the effectiveness of network, they provided an opportunity to display the various commodities produced by new railroads. Writing on the New Orleans Exposition, the New York World Democrat uth accepted the result of the war, and, so soon as the carpet bag robbing regime was removed from the region, 58 Once inside the halls of the Exposition, set up on a thirty acre site in what is now New and the office of the Commissioner of Railroads set up an exhibit that displayed a collection of 57 Walte r Benjamin, The Arcades Project, (Cambridge 1999), 7, 201. Historians have examined industrial expositions as valuable windows into the culture of capitalism. William Cronon, the Great West (New York 1992) chapter 8 does this for Chicago. Thomas Richards, The Commodity Culture of Victorian England; Advertising and Spectacle, 1851 1914 (Stanford 1990) describes the significance of the 1851 in ushering in a new age of advertising in England. Rosalind Williams, Dream Worlds: Mass Consumption in Late Nineteenth Century France (Berkeley, 1982). For the New South expositions see Robert W. Rydell, a Fair: Visions of Empire at American International Expositions, 1876 1916 (Chicago 1984), and Paul Richard Beezley, 1904 (PhD Dissertation: University of Mississippi, 1999), 26 65. 58 Universi ty Special Collections, New Orleans, Louisiana.
109 il network, but it could also assist future construction. The Railway Gazette commented that this exhibit would be an invaluable resource for anyone working in railroads or interested in developing new railroad lines. The Gazette also described the exhibit widely different weights and sizes. 59 Railroads companies themselves also set up exhibits. Among others, the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia system got 6,045 square feet f or its exhibit, the Queen & Crescent road got 6,000 and the Richmond and Danville got 6,000. These exhibits typically sought to show the promise of the line by displaying samples of products from states they ran. For example, the derful display of mineral and woods, gathered from the country wood 1 Louisville & Nashville was behind the set variety of minerals, and wood products found in the state. 60 The state exhib its that were not sponsored directly by railroad corporations, also shared in this idolatry to the commodities produced by rail connections. Once he provided a detailed run rces, the Texas state commissioner to the 59 Railway Gazette, February 20, 1885. 60 Comprehensive Guide (New Orleans, 1885), 15 20.
110 poem in an eastern epic? 61 Just as the railroad network gathered up the resources of the countryside and turned them into commodities, the exhibition reduced the products of the South to simple displays. By housing all of these resources under one roof, exhibitions demonstrated to commodit ies. Exhibits displaying an abundance of commodities were not the only part of the fair that served as a microcosm for the dramatic changes introduced by the railroad network. The plan for the exhibition to rapidly circulate visitors via electric railro ads mirrored the development of entire grounds and buildings, and of returning to places of special interest, will be found preferable to the common plan of a n objectless loitering tour which will result in the visitor having no well settled idea of what he has seen. 62 Just as travelers would theoretically take a well planned tour of the South to reach New Orleans, guests within the exhibit hall would be swiftl y guided along a specific route. But along with the actual exposition, the journey there was a moment for travelers to take Pamphlets for the New Orleans Exposition ne 63 Railroads capitalized on the exhibition by trying to secure the passengers en route to the Crescent City. Planning for the 61 Robert W. Rydell, 1916 (Chicago 1984), 79. 62 16 1884, and Ending May 31, 1885. (Louisville, 1884), 10. 63 th 1884 to May 31 st 1885. (New Or leans 1884). 4.
111 exhibition led to a proliferation of travel guides, offering advice on how to navigate the southern rail network in order to reach New Orleans. The Richmond & Danville road hoped to capitalize on both the exhibition and the annual winter travel to Florida, linking both e vents in their 1884 some standpoints the most remarkable undertaking draped haunts of that great saurian the alligator. 64 The Illinois Central, which offered the most direct line from the North to New Orleans, mind enriched and broadened as it could be in remarkable spe 65 In the end, the exhibition failed to live up to the economic expectations of its organizers. 64 Issued by the Passenger Departments of Richmond & D anville Railroad, Piedmont Air Line and Atlantic Coast Line, New Orleans via the Piedmont Air Line and the Atlantic Coast Line With a trip to fertile Texas and Picturesque Mexico (New York, 1884), 22. 65 st 1884. Continues Six Months, compiled by Miss Lydia Strawn (Chicago 1884), 3 5.
112 million visitors, far short of the 4 million pr edicted by overzealous boosters. It also resulted in prominent figure in its organization had to flee to Honduras after being indicted for embezzlement and forgery. 66 B ut this failure should not obscure the cultural significance of the exhibition. It was heavily advertised and promoted across the country, a fact which meant that many people beyond the one million who visited would have at least read about it. The exhibi tion was a manifested at the southern fairs was not a nostalgic retreat into myth, but a powerful explanatory ideology that shaped the national and world outlook of untold numbers of southerners. 67 The New Orleans Exposition was thus more than just a failed business venture or a simple call for investment, it was a celebration of boosters who ran exhibitions shared the values of the railroad network new connections, circulation, increased commodification, and speed. Boosters behind both the New South movement, and more localized dreams of development, clearly used railroad travel narratives to promote their economic visions. Emphasizing a fast and direct routes of travel, numerous historical attractions, and modern 66 Donald Clive Harvey, ustrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition (MA Thesis, Tulane, 1964 ). 67 Rydell, 104.
113 industrial development, these travel narratives, published by elite white men and read by white southerners, northern investors and foreign tourists, proved to this audience that a New South had indeed risen. The railro ad was not only the impetus behind such development, but the means through travelers could chronicle such development. Railroad travel narratives imposed order and structure in descriptions of industrial progress. New railroads were the cause behind, and the proof of a New South. Entering a Strange Land While rail travel was used to extol the virtues of the New South and spread its mythology, travel narratives also could demonstrate the ways in which the region lagged behind the north. Southern rail travel was indeed improved in this time period, but not all was right in the world of southern travel. The same journeys that could inspire also pointed out sectional differences, emphasizing the backwardness of the South. Numerous travelers commented on the mom mber. 68 Before hinery lifted the entire Pullman car 69 Others complained of inadequate accommodations on southern railroads. George Sala had a lot to complain about on his trip through the South, but he especially hated the food. While 68 Hardy, Down South, 14. 69 Field, Blood is thicker than water 16.
114 road produced a wide variety of fruits a any appearance in a palatable form at the Caves of Trophonius, humorously called refreshment 70 He was not the only traveler to comment on this problem, as the Illinois Central (IC) dealt with nu merous complaints about the service at the eating houses on the southern half of its Chicago to New Orleans route. JC Clarke, Vice President in charge of the southern half of the about poor eating thought it would be too difficult to separate firs impossible to keep them out of the common dining car. Instead, Clarke suggested the IC buy up properties at various p oints along the line and contract out the operation of eating houses. 71 Northern travelers used to swift connections and standardized service could find reason to complain while travelling in the more remote corners of the South. A correspondent with the N ew York Evening Post found rail travel in Florida to be an awful experience. When he tried to board his train home from Deland, he found a sleeping fireman and a missing fireman. He subsequently missed his connection with a boat, and encountered a station agent who had no idea 70 George Augustus Sala, America Revisited: From the Bay of New York to the Gulf of Mexico and From Lake Michigan to the Pacific Vol. 2 (London, 1883), 108. 71 J.C. Clarke to William Ackerman, March 28, 1883, J C Clarke Out letters, 1874 1891, Illinois Central Railroad Collection, Newberry Library, Chicago Illinois.
115 72 Accounts like this ran contrary to booster claims, as missed connections and ins crutable arrangements conveyed a sense that the South was not the same, and not ready to match the North. To combat conditions that were sometimes less than ideal, some travelers took refuge from the vagaries of southern travel in standardized Pullman cars In 1896, Julian Ralph, a to be ridiculed and pitied for a stupid and Florida, and argued the state was nothing more than a sink for investment, and gave a critical spects as a port. For Ralph, the most redeeming feature of his trip else enables one to enjoy the beauties of that section and ignore its blemishes so well a s does the th state, as it was so common and a distinctive condition and routine of daily life separate and apart from that in the other distinctive food, the palace car served to erase sectional distinction by provided a standardized travel experie nce. 73 So while Ralph may have appreciated the corporate innovations that gave southern railroads cutting edge technology like palace cars, his trip mostly served to expose southern shortcomings. 72 Railway Gazette, March 26, 1886. 73 Julian Ralph, Dixie or Southern Scenes and Sketches (New York 1896), 160, 222, 234 240.
116 t that the southern landscapes traversed by new rail lines often merited protection. Menacing events, occurrences and creatures from the outside of the cars scared passengers. Distinctively southern geographic features like swamps simultaneously frightened and entranced travelers. On a trip along the Gulf Coast, R.A. Spanis a petrified race of goblins. inter I take it could imagine the effect produced against the pale silvery sun rising sky by these dark trees tortured into a thousand phantasmagoric forms by this libertine lichen. were increasingly popular in this time p eriod, as the same scenes that frightened visitors also entranced them. Railroads and travel boosters sought to capitalize on these frightening scenes, a strategy that worked as long as the rail car adequately sheltered passengers. Promoters of the gothic South had a fine line to walk in their attempts to profit on southern landscapes. George 74 Good safe railroads, especially standardized Pullman cars, could tame the pleasing for travelers and tourists. Even though these accounts point to southern railroading deficiencies, the implications of these accounts that to have good railroads means to join the rest of civilization remained the 74 Sala, America Revisited, 10. For a discussion of the postwar creation of the gothic South, see Rebecca McIntyre, Southern Cultures Vol.11, No 2, Summer 2005, 33 61.
117 and as a barometer of southern progress in the 1880s the railroa d reigned supreme. In its ideal form for New South boosters and other white travelers, rail travel was structured, swift, and enjoyable, passing by beautiful regions and areas of progress and growth. But what about the sights that d id not fit into this neat vision? From the viewpoint of the white authors of travel narratives, the presence of African Americans along the routes of their travels was a glaring inconsistency in the supposedly well ordered world of rail travel. In many tra vel accounts, blacks only appear as masses of crowds loitering around depots. Henry Field found boat lands or a train stops, one is sure to find half a dozen or even two dozen negroes to each white person in the crowd that gathers on the levee or at the station. 75 On his trip through t every station, that is about every 5 miles, we mark the ubiquitous negro. 76 purpose or direction. Henry Field travelled through Georgia in 1890, he marveled at the crowds there are many strangely marked faces of men whom it would be a pleasure to know. 77 George Sala used a description of a disheveled black man loitering around a r ural to launch into a broader 75 Julian Ralph, Dixie or Southern Scenes and Sketches (New York 1896), 379. 76 Harley, Southward Ho!, 93. 77 Henry M. Field, Bright Skies and Dark Shadows (New York: 1890), 100.
118 a fragment On a most basic level, this observation held some truth. Whether searching for family members, or simply a job, African Americans did travel extensively in the years after Emancipation, and mass movements to escape racial persecution became increasingly common after Reconstruction. There were any numbe r of reasons why black travelers would ride southern railroads, but in their travel accounts, white observers typically failed to ascribe any motivation to these movements. Sala noted the ongoing exodus from North Carolina to Kansas, 78 Observers could not understand or comprehend African American mobility. The mobility of blacks formed a bit of a contradiction. On one hand, the implicit arguments behind these observations of loitering men, or dispersed trave l was that southern blacks needed to get on the train and join the New South. These descriptions echo a cultural ls told of wandering black men alienated by industrialization. In the 1880s, the type of industrial development described by Odum lumber mills, turpentine camps, and coal mining was just beginning in the South, but white travelers made similar argument s about the inability of African Americans to ride trains or move in what seemed an orderly fashion. 79 But when African American travelers did get on trains, their movements threatened the very same white passengers that complained about idleness and vagra ncy. A whole series of laws sought to curb black mobility, and as one historian contends, 78 Will iam Cohen, At Freedom s Edge: Black Mobility and the Southern White Quest for Racial Control, 1861 1915 (Baton Rouge 1991), 4. Sala, America Revisited, 223 227. 79 William P. Jones, The Tribe of Black Ulysses: African American Lumber Workers in the Jim Cro w South (Urbana 2005), 3.
119 I. 80 The movement, energy and speed of rail travel excited white travelers whe n it was applied to lists of commodities, or descriptions of Civil War battle sites, but movements of black travelers seemed threatening and confusing. Within the cars themselves, the racial situation was extremely unstable. Rail travel brought strangers together into enclosed spaces for extended periods of time, which created a potentially combustible situation. This could be humorous if racial and gender boundaries were not challenged. When George Sala sought to escape the vagaries of southern travel in a standardized Pullman sleeping car, the crowded and noisy conditions, from neighboring contemplated killing a howling baby, struggled to wash and clean him self in cramped quarters, and quaffed a wide variety of pills to get sleep. By the end of his week in the car he began to 81 Railroad cars and depots were perhaps the most racially charged space in th e New South. Black and white southerners who would otherwise have never come into contact rode trains together, and as railroad expanded into all corners of the South, the potential for racial conflict only grew. The formation of interstate systems and in corporation of new space into the network turned these local conflicts into disputes mandated at the state level. Also, a new generation of African Americans, born after Emancipation, came of age in the 1880s with a readiness to challenge segregation pract ices and secure equal travel accommodations. Rail travel produced anonymity by placing strangers from varied regions in close proximity, and allowing travelers to 80 Cohen, At Freedom s Edge, 4. 81 Sala, America Revisited, 2.
120 go far beyond where they were familiar. This effect was multiplied to dangerous effect with A frican Unfamiliar black faces became easy scapegoats for imagined rapes, leading to an uptick in lynchings in the 1890s. 82 White travelers thus constantly complained when forced to travel near black passengers white female travelers. A petition from Hatchechubbee, Alabama asked the Alabama Railroad Commission to require the construction o f new depot, as their present depot became crowded in not made to su 83 As one passenger idea to be, especially for a lady, seated by the average swamp negro. 84 Lady Duffus Hardy recoiled in horror as she saw a couple of black families about to enter her car near Savannah. 85 Southern ra ilroads typically ran two cars for passengers, a first class car and a second class was typically directly behind the engine, leaving it 82 Civil Rights in South Carolina, 1883 American N ineteenth Century History, 71 91. Edward L Ayers, Vengeance and Justice: Crime and Punishment in the 19 th Century South, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984), 238 245. Ayers, Promise of the New South, 137 146. 83 To the Alabama Railroad Commission, Sep tember 21, 1891, Alabama Railroad Commission Letterbook, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama. 84 E.T. Jeffrey to J.G. Mann, September 3, 1888, E .T. Jeffrey Out Letters, IC RR Collection. 85 Hardy, Down South 85.
121 susceptible to smoke and grime. In addition to its unfavorable location, this car u sually was old, poorly furnished and more overcrowded than the first class car. Initially the second class car environment free of women. But in the South, these second c lass cars increasingly became the domain of African American travelers, as Jim Crow segregation laws mandated the separation of the races on railroads. Southern legislatures made these defacto practices on the ground into law, passing a wave of legislation segregating southern railroads between 1887 and 1891. Eight southern states passed laws segregating railroads between 1887 and 1891. Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia passed their segregation laws in another wave of legislation in 1898 and 1899. By 1900, every southern state had some kind of law on the books that officially segregated rail cars. 86 It fell to state railroad commissions to enforce these laws and remind railroads of their new duties. For example, in Mississippi, a Commiss ioner with the railroad Commission of the 1880s the main point of his inspections were to determine whether the stations could properly accommodate rooms of the Vicksburg and Meridian the commissioner reported depots at Brandon, Clinton, depots were found to be too small, or not easy enough to segregate, the commission ordered the railroad 86 Cohen, At Freed om s Edge, 218 219.
122 company to construct a new depot or face a lawsuit. 87 Journeys like this were a strikingly different type of recorded railroad journey from the booster a ccounts, as they sought to apply the ordered nature of rail travel to the tricky business of race relations. Segregation laws proved tricky to implement, as southern travel did not break down neatly along black and white lines. After Mississippi passed a law mandating separate cars for whites and colored people in 1888, James Fentress, the general solicitor for the Illinois Central threatened heavy fines for non compliance, but Fentress saw numerous loopholes and gray areas his questions would prove 88 were more for the financial interest of his company than any effort to secure equitable travel, yet his confusion pointed to the chall enge of applying the wave of Jim Crow legislation to railroads. Besides the difficulty of understanding the new laws, railroad companies disliked the expense of to suggested dividing cars in half by race, a solution that would have added even more confusion 87 Mississippi State Railroad Commission, Minute Book, Page 219, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, Mississippi 88 James Fentress to the Mississippi Railroad Commission, June 29, 1889, In ICRR.
123 for travelers on this line. 89 The ultimate solution of this conflict is unknown, but the exchange speaks to the way in which Jim Crow disrupted the standard logic of rail travel to maximize passenger receipts at the least cost. Between rapidly changing laws, shifting corporate policies, and the widely variably implementati on of these mandates on the ground practices, historians writing on this period largely agree that race relations on railroads in the 1880s and 90s were characterized by instability and flux. 90 With the rise of a complicated set of legal and cultural codes to navigate, African Americans riding on southern railroads could never be sure to get the transportation they paid for. Having to navigate these shifting boundaries, with the threat of violence always lurking in the background, constrained the experience of travel for African Americans. For young African Americans, train travel could form an important, yet tragic milestone in a coming of age story. Many experienced their first conflict with Jim Crow on a train, a moment of lost innocence. 91 For African Ame ricans who challenged segregation on railroads, and for sympathetic whites, the exclusion of paying customers violated a basic rule of business that buying a first class ticket merited first class accommodations. Black travelers with the means to ride in a first 89 W.L. Bragg to G. Jordan, December 21, 1883, Letterbook, Alabama Railroad Commission, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery Alabama. 90 The best works that deal with segregation on southern railroads include Howard N. Rabinowitz, Race Relations in the Urban South, 1865 1900 (New York 1978), 182 192, Ayers, The Promise of the New South 136 146, Grace Elizabeth Hale, Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South, 1890 1940 (New York 1998), 123 e Politics, Railroads, and Civil Rights in South Carolina, 1883 American Nineteenth Century History 5 (2004) 71 91, Theodore Kornweibel, Railroads in the African American Experience: A Photographic Journey, (Baltimore 2010), chapter 10. All agree tha t railroads were the most charged public space when it came to the debate over segregation and they all note the uncertainty that characterized rail travel for African Americans. 91 John C Inscoe, Writing Through the Self: Explorations in Southern Autobiog raphy (Athens, 2011), chapter 4.
124 boil to be refused a first class ticket, that he was from TN an as good as any white man and dressed man would have certainly had room to sit on a New York horse car, but southern prejudices denied him this right in Virginia. 92 Travel writer Henry Field agreed that black behaved as 93 This sentiment was echoed by African American court challenges to the laws segregating r ail travel. only go so far to protect the rights of black travelers. After a conductor tried to move her to a smoking car, she bit the man. To the cheers and appl ause of white passengers the conductor eventually got her into a car full of black passengers and smoking men, but she left the train. She filed suit against the road, but after a long series of appeals lost the challenge. 94 Descriptions of rail travel fro m African American passengers naturally emphasized the division, and exclusionary aspects of their journeys. James Weldon Johnson boarded a train in Jacksonville bound for Atlanta in 1890, a year after Florida passed a law segregating rail cars. Unaware o f the new law, Johnson and his friend sat in the first class car they had paid for, only 92 Edward King, The great South; a record of journeys in Louisiana, Texas, the Indian territory, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland. (Hartford, 1875) ,782. 93 Field, Bright Skies and Dark Shadows 152 94 Ida B. Wells, Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells (Chicago 1970), 18 20.
125 friend spoke in Spanish, the conductor relented and let them remain in the car for the rest of their trip. The successful conclusion of this encounter notwithstanding, Johnson called the episode his Johnson and his travelling par ty had a much scarier encounter with Jim Crow. Georgia had not passed a segregation law yet, so Johnson and his friends took their seats in a first class car. After ent a telegram to Baxley, and a mob was waiting there to drag them out of the train when they arrived. The urgings of a black porter convinced Johnson that the threat was real and they moved to the Jim Crow car. Black travelers passing through multiple st ates had to keep track of the various shifts in state laws. On a train from Charleston to Jacksonville in 1896, Johnson was forced to move at the South Carolina and Georgia border. South Carolina had not passed a segregation law, but at this point Georgia had. 95 Pullman cars, the refuge from the outside world that was so lauded by finicky white travelers, were technically open to interstate black passengers, but as Johnson noted, there were never he travels in a Pullman car. 96 Railroads often tried to exclude black passengers from Pullman cars by refusing to sell them tickets. After an editorial in the Nashville American demanded that southern railroads put black passengers in separate Pullm an cars, officials with the L&N worriedly corresponded about ways to prevent legislative action that would force them to run extra Pullmans at increased expense to the railroad. The chairman of the company suggested instead that ticket agents 95 James Weldon Johnson, Along this Way: The Autobiography of James Wel don Johnson, (New York, 1961) 63 65. 84 87. 96 Johnson, Along this Way, 87 89.
126 simply infor m black passengers that they could not buy tickets. This of course was illegal, so the 97 So for African Americans, the sensory appeal of train travel the majestic views of the Sou th that entranced white boosters and fueled their evocative narratives were off limits. the wonders of the environment mountains, pine trees, shores and oce ans with the exclusion included the crowded Jim Crow waitro conductor and smoking white passengers, and the lack of decent toilet facilities or food. Du Bois there is not in the world a more disgraceful denial of human brotherhood than the beauty that was inaccessible for black travelers. 98 African American travel accou nts, describe not the scenery, but the poor conditions of the Jim Crow car. Johnson called the usual Jim Crow m for white men to go into that car whenever smoked, gambled, and drank heavily. 99 97 Railroad Company Records, 1850 1982, University Archives and Record s Center, Univer sity of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky (hereinafter L&NRR). 98 W.E.B. Du Bois, Darkwater: Voices From Within the Veil (New York 2003), 227 231. 99 Johnson, Along this Way, 86 87.
127 The reality of rail travel for African Americans may have been troubled, but just as New South boosters lauded rail travel, the idea of travel and the symbolic power of the railroad still captured black imaginations. African Americans appropriated certain aspects of train travel, especially for religious purposes. A historian of black r eligion argues black churches depended power of the railroad bolstered the claims of New South boosters, railroad imagery seeped into African American prayers hymns and folksongs as a vehicle of escape or redemption. Folk songs from this era touch on themes of movement, or use the train as a means to escape the oppression of the South. And as much as railroads hated dealing with segregation laws, they certain ly appreciated black patronage. Railroads ran regular excursions that targeted African American consumers. 100 Railroads and the New South The railroad as both a physical reality, and as a cultural symbol of progress, was at the center of claims that a New S outh had risen in the 1880s and 90s. The speed of transit, passage transformation. The urban oriented southern business class, northern investors and tourists, a nd anyone else who read these accounts or joined in railroad celebrations, participated in the perpetuation of the New South myth. Reading these travel narratives demonstrates how the reality of a new railroad network was translated into a cultural mythol ogy venerating values such as speed, circulation, rationality and corporate efficiency. They demonstrate the way in which the railroad came to symbolize progress for a certain class of white southerner, a class that also 100 John M. Giggie, After Redemption: Jim Crow and the Transfo rmation of African American Religion in the Delta (New York 2008), 37 46. An excellent description of some African American train songs can be found in Kornweibel, Railroads in t he African American Experience, chapter 11.
128 happened to control the reins of go vernment and business. In short, to get on the train is to join the New South. Challenges to the symbolic power of the railroad or to the actual power of rail corporations were thus challenges to the New South itself. The experience of black travelers demo nstrated one way in which rail travel exposed serious flaws in the New South project. Rail travel had the ability to inspire and exhilarate, but it also could divide, exclude and frighten. Instead of describing improvements and lauding economic growth, Af rican American travelers emphasized division, exclusion, and the threat of violence on trains. The experience of black travel shows that the New South was not accessible to all. Yet, the point remains the same to get on the train was to join the New Sout h. The tortured experiences of black travelers point to a serious deficiency in railroad travel, but this was not the only area in which the claims of the New South boosters rang hollow. As we will see in Chapter 4, the danger of southern rail travel, mad e plain in increasing numbers of spectacular train wrecks, pointed out another shortcoming that threatened to undercut the boosters.
129 CHAPTER 4 DAMNABLE CONSPIRACIES: TRAIN WRECKING IN THE SOUTHERN IMAGINATION 1 From whence came this, inhuman wretch, Deser By natural means, no womb could fetch, Into the world, such creature born! The spewing earth, when cold moons wane, And ghouls abroad in ghoulish glee, With Shriek of pain, gave birth to thee! Ought else than by an accident It does not lie in human thought Such hell born cruel devilment 2 Birmingham December 30, 1896 In a blink of an eye, the wonders of rail travel that entranced the New South boost ers could turn to horrors. In the middle of a hot August night in 1891, train No. 9 on the Western Statesville citizens rushed to the area of the disaster to assist the turned on its side just to the west of the stream. In the water, the first class car was piled on top of the combination second class and baggage car. Twenty two passengers had died, making the wreck the deadliest in the history of the state and the worst disaster in a year plagued with 1 Portions of the chapter will be Southern Cultures. Reprinted with permission from Southern Cultures. 2 Birmingham State Herald, December 30, 1896.
130 railro ad disasters. 3 Five years later, on a December night in 1896, the entire length of a passenger train on the Birmingham Mineral Railroad mysteriously plunged off a bridge over the Cahaba River near Blocton, Alabama, falling 110 feet to the shallow river bel ow. While a few passengers were killed on impact, the bulk of the twenty two killed victims were roasted alive in 4 These tragic scenes were troubling enough, but in both of these wre cks the press reached a horrible conclusion train wreckers had deliberately derailed these trains and murdered the innocent passengers in an attempt to rob the wreckage. After the Bostian Bridge wreck, an editorial in a Richmond paper argued that that t rain wrecking had become too common, a 5 The Morganton Herald was ith hearts so black and minds so devilish and impulses so hellish that they would plan and consummate such a wholesale murder of innocent people. 6 The Birmingham News 7 Train wreckers seemed to be at work on southern rail lines, and in 1896, the humor columnist with the Atlanta Constitution 3 Most Statesville Landmark, September 3, 1891. Other NC papers with sensational headlines include, Raleigh News Observer, August 30, 1891, Hickory (N.C.) Press and Carolinian, September 3, 1891, Salisbury (N.C.) North Carolina Herald, September 2, 1891. 4 Birmingham State Herald, December 29, 1896. 5 Richmond Dispatch, August 29, 1891. 6 Morganton (N.C.) Herald, September 3, 1891. 7 Birmingham News, December 28, 1896.
131 to walk and escort the trains from place to place. 8 As we will see, in both of these wrecks the train wreckers did not exist, and the more likely culprit was faulty or degraded track conditions. This chapter contends that the alleged horde of train wrec kers in the South was not a reflection of in the white southern imagination. Some southerners did indeed try to wreck trains, but this chapter contends that by the middle of the 1890s, three factors incentives of railroad corporations, the sensationalist New South press, and southern distinctiveness combined to create the notion that train wreckers were at work on southern railroads. In the end, the concern over train wrecking actually helped outside railroad companies by solidifying the support of the state and providing a convenient bogeyman in the case of lawsuits. Train wrecking appears rarely in the historical literature, and when it does show up, the te ndency is to paint it as pure resistance to capitalism, analogous to conflicts that flared up in a myriad of locales where common people resisted the spread of capitalism and market relations with violence. 9 Framing southern train wrecking as resistance t o capitalism certainly is a tempting and convenient argument, but doing so ignores the role of both southern culture and institutions of industrial capitalism in perpetuating the train wrecker archetype, and it doe s not take into account the fact that in m any of the alleged train wreckings like in the s Bridge or Cahaba wrecks, the train wreckers did not exist. Southern distinctiveness plays a large role in 8 Atlanta Constitution, January 26, 1897. 9 A wide range of historians have examined similar moments of transition and resistance in the global history of capitalism, most of them following in the theoretical footste ps of Karl Marx William M. Reddy, The Rise of Market Culture: The Textile Trade and French Society, 1750 1900 (Cambridge, 1984), Adrian Randall, Before the Luddites: Custom, community and machinery in the English woolen industry, 1776 1809 (Cambridge, 1991), Jean Christ ophe Agnew, Worlds Apart: The Market and the Theater in Anglo American Thought, 1550 1750 (Cambridge 1996), Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker, The Many Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic (Bosto n 2000). Deliberate attacks on trains are largely absent from this historiography of resistance, one exception being David Omar Stowell, Streets, Railroads and the Great Strike of 1877 (Chicago, 1999) which examines anti railroad violence in the context o f the strikes of 1877.
132 explaining why southerners feared train wreckers in the 1890s, due to the increased dangers of southern railroads, produced by the structural flaws of southern industrialization, and southern race relations, which provided convenient scapegoats for train wreckers. Looking at train wrecking as a distinctively southern hysteria, and not as a real ity, places it alongside a long history of southern conspiracy theories. Plots of slave rebellion or sabotage plagued the southern mind in the antebellum years, fueling planter anxieties that went beyond the actual threat, and that helped lead to secession 10 The arrival of thousands of miles of new old fears of black rebellion and criminality. Imaginary train wreckers are analogous to the other bogeyman of the New South, the black rapist. On the surface, a wave of lynchings seemed to speak to increased criminality, but in reality most, if not all of these rapes were fabrications. The North Carolina White Supremacy campaign, which reached its climax in the same decade, was similarly predic ated on the fabricated threat of the black rapist, and speaks to the power of modern media to play on age old southern fears. 11 Flimsy Railroads and Rising Dangers Sadly, scenes like that outside Statesville in 1891 or at Cahaba Bridge in 1896, became all too common in the 1890s. Train wrecks were by no means a new threat in the 1890s, but the decade formed a critical turning point in the history of railroad disasters due to new threats of 10 William A. Link, Roots of Secession: Slavery and Politics in An t ebellum Virginia, (Chapel Hill 1999), 9. 11 Edward L. Ayers, Vengeance and Justice: Crime and Punishment in the 19 th Century South (New York, 1984), 223. The literatur e on southern lynching is admittedly voluminous. The most helpful works for this study are W. Fitzhugh Brundage, Lynching in the New South: Georgia and Virginia, 1880 1930 (Urbana and Chicago, 1993), Amy Louise Wood, Lynching and Spectacle : Witnessing Raci al Violence in America, 1890 1940 (Chapel Hill 2009). The white supremacy campaign is covered in Glenda Gilmore, Gender and Jim Crow: Women and the Politics of White Supremacy in North Carolina, 1896 1920 (Chapel Hill, 1996), chapter 4.
133 interconnectivity, and the fact that the decade witnessed a surge i n derailments. 12 Data from the Railway Gazette shows a steady climb in nationwide train wrecks over 1878 through the end of the century. Nationwide, the years between 1890 and 1893 stood as a peak. While some of this increase is due to the growth in railr oad lines, Mark Aldrich, a historian who charts rail disasters, well as on efficiency demands that drove up the weight of trains and placed additional burdens on tracks. 13 The larger structural factors that consistently hampered southern industrialization lack of capital, dearth of technical experts, and low levels of regulation combined to make travel on southern roads a perilous endeavor. 14 Southern roads h ad less capital on hand to begin with, and different southern railroads fell into receivership over the course of the 1890s. 15 Roads that lacked capital were inherently more dangerous than well funded roads. A road that could not even pay the yearly interest on its initial bonds would have trouble keeping up and maintaining its tracks and rolling stock. Bridges in particular, required constant upkeep and maint enance to ensure their safety. 16 The Southern Railway corporation had to undertake an extensive program of repairs after gaining control of dozens of insolvent southern lines in the mid 1890s. At the end of 1895, an official in charge of repairs reported t 12 The anxiety over train wrecks in the 1850s is covered in Craig Miner, A Most Magnificent Machine: America Adopts the Railroad, 1825 1862 (Lawrence, 2010), 123 138. 13 Mark Aldrich, Death Rode the Rails: American Railroad Accidents and Safety, 1828 1965 (Baltimore 2006) 43. 14 The most definitive recent study of railroad accidents Aldrich, Death Rode the Rails reminds us of the need to look at regional differences in railroad safety. For the structural problems with southern industrialization see Gavin Wright, Old South, New South: Revolutions in the Southern Economy Since the Civil War (New York, 1986). 15 John E. Stover, Railroads of the South, 1865 1900 (Chapel Hill 1 955) 257. 16 Aldrich, Death Rode the Rails, 131 141.
134 degraded condition of the system points to some of the underlying factors behind the increase in accidents in the 1890s. 17 most dangerous in the nation for both passengers and employees. The Interstate Commerce Commission, created in 1887, began to tabulate passenger fatalities and injuries in 1890. The Commission broke this data down by region and in 1891 concluded that travel in states South of the Ohio River and East of the Mississip pi was more dangerous than any other area of the country. 18 In 1893 the ICC further broke down this data, dividing the nation into ten groups. Over the course of the 1890s, Group IV, which included South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virgini a, and Group V, which included Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi were consistently the most dangerous in the nation for passengers. In absolute terms the numbers seem low, but when the ICC tabulated fatalities and injuries per passenger carried, it revealed a vast regional disparity. Between 1892 and 1900, a traveler on a Deep South railroad was about 2.48 times more likely to be killed and 2.76 times ads was 1.84 times more likely to die and 2.3 times more likely to be injured. 19 17 Baldwin to Samuel Spencer, December 28, 1895, in the Samuel Spencer Files Box 26B, File 50 Southern Railway Historical Collecton, Kennesaw, Georgia (hereinafter SRHAC). 18 Interstate Commerce Commission: Statistics of Railways in the United States. (Washington D.C., 1890), 80, (1891), 96. 19 Data drawn from Interstate Commerce Commission: Statistics of Railways in the United States. (Washington D.C., 1893), 74 75, (1894), 84 85, (1895), 93 94, (1896), 96 97, (1897), 94 95, (1898), 106 107, (1899), 107, (1900) 108
135 After a Train W reck By the early 1890s, train wrecks were becoming a serious problem in the South, a fact that could threaten the power of railroad corporations. For one, tra in wrecks were moments that inverted the claims of boosters about the benefits of speed, connectivity and corporate order. The laudatory travel accounts in Chapter 3 demonstrated that wanted faster trains, but after train wrecks, high rates of speed becam e a scapegoat, not a goal. The legend of Casey Jones, safety. 20 Jones wrecked on the very same line run by Frost in the 1870s, but by 1900 decades of improvements unde rtaken by the Illinois Central Railroad led to top speeds well above 60 miles es and his train left Memphis 95 minutes late and he hoped to make up the time on the way to Canton. Flying at speeds of around 70 miles per hour, the Cannonball slammed into another train on the same track that was running late. Casey Jones was able to slow the train enough to avoid total disaster, but he was still killed in the ensuing wreck. 21 editorial in the Charlotte Chronicle making forty miles an hour, w 22 20 The same contradiction also existed albeit a few decades earlier, in the steamboat industry, see Robert Gudmestad, Steamboats and the Rise of the Cotton Kingdom, (Baton Rouge 2011), 99 105. 21 Carlton J. Corliss Main Line of America: The Story of the Illinois Central (New York 1950), 301 311. 22 Charlotte Chronicle, September 3, 1891.
136 The interconnectiv ity fostered by new railroad and telegraph construction also heightened the impact of wrecks. In the fully integrated rail network of the 1880s and 90s, it only took one Atlanta journal The Sunny South in 1892 betrayed such anxieties about the reliability of the dispatcher, a beautiful young woman Nellie West settled in for her first day of work. In a flurry of activity, Nellie hurriedly sent messages to trains traversing the network until she received a Oakville, but she wonde red if the dispatcher meant Oakvale instead. She relayed the message as given to her, telling the conductor to continue on to Oakville. As he neared the next station, he turned pale, spotting another approaching headlight on the same track. It was too l ate to save the order, but the other dispatcher pinned the blame o n the newly employed woman. Nellie was arrested, and the case went to trial. All hope seemed to be lost for Nellie, until at the last minute another railroad official burst into the courtroom with evidence of the cover up. The lovely heroine may have bee n spared prison, but the lessons of this story remained. All it took was one miscommunication for the railroad network to send two hundred innocent passengers to their graves. 23 An editorial after the Statesville wreck spoke to a similar fear. Noting that 23 Atlanta The Sunny South, September 3, 1892.
137 rationalization and construction of a southern railway system h ad exposed millions of travelers to 24 A more developed news infrastructure meant that reports of wrecks also resonated over a wider area in the more interconnected New South. Sensational newspaper rep orting sent details of the wreck flying through the telegraph system. All across North Carolina, papers reported that was packed with residents until authoritie s sent final confirmation that no Charlotte residents were involved. 25 In Raleigh, telegraph lines became so clogged that correspondents stationed there had difficulty doing their jobs, and as far away as Wilmington, crowds thronged telegraph offices for ne ws of the wreck and the affected passengers. 26 A more well developed infrastructure of telegraph lines and newspapers meant that news of the wreck carried farther than would news of a wreck in earlier years, and a more connected railroad network meant that infrastructure had not only led to the wreck, it had also amplified the impact of train wrecks. 27 Newspaper correspondents eagerly fed the clamor for news on train wre cks, descending travel into horrors. A correspondent with the Carolina Watchman visited the wreck and wrote ttered hats, coats, vests, muddy towels, shoes, 24 Charlotte Chronicle, August 28, 1891. 25 Charlotte Chronicle, Augu st 28, 1891. 26 Wilmington Messenger, Wilmington Messenger, August 28, 1891. 27 Edward Ayers, Vengeance and Justice: Crime and Punishmen t in the 19 th Century American South (New York 1984), 243 argues that new forms of communication in the 1880s and 90s allowed for the more rapid spread of news
138 scene. The reporter stumbled onto the room where authorities had stored clothing and baggage from victim ook on a more dreadful appearance when scattered across a ravine, or organized and categorized in a grisly tableau. 28 The reporter poked around the area where the bodies were stored, and narrated his sights in vivid detail. He drew ba ck the sheet covering the body of a dead had been crushed in the h ead, but some showed no signs of injury at all. The same railroad that killed the victims would then ship them back home, as the reporter described the dressing process that prepared the corpses for their journeys home. 29 The cultural impact of train wreck s, especially in the South, was magnified by their appearance in folk songs. The cultural form of the train wreck ballad, sung to tell the story of a perhaps Ameri 1903. Whether due to their increasing frequency, or the closeness of rail disasters, the majority of songs about train wrecks take place in southern settings, particularly in Appalachia, where singers blended the train wreck with traditional forms of mountain music. The spread of songs 28 Salisbury (N.C.) Carolina Watchman September 3, 1891. 29 Wilmington Messenger, August 29, 1891.
139 meant that train wrecks lingered in the collective memor y long after newspaper coverage ceased. 30 On an individual level, the experience of a train wreck was understandably troubling and passengers involved in train wrecks often struggled to make sense of their experience. Bennehan Cameron, a young man on his w friends, his survival was proof that God and Providence had smiled upon the young man. The bulk of these le tters ascribed his escape to divine intervention, and the providence of God. His Christian deeds may be richly rewarded by a kind and heavenly father. 31 His lover, and soon to be wife Sallie Mays sent a lengthy and emotional letter to Cameron as he lay in bed recovering. Baltimore Sun ed a telegram stating he was injured but would pull through. She cried by herself for a while, and after reading even more 32 But along with religious interpretati impression that you were on the train, a premonition an usually considered to be something bad. 30 Katie Letcher Lyle, Scalded to Death by the Steam: The True Stories of Railroad Disasters and the Songs that were written about them (Chapel Hill 1991), 3. 31 Letter from P Hillard to Bennehan Cameron, August 31, 1891 in the Bennehan Cameron Papers #3623, Subseries 1.2, Folder 155, S HC. 32 Letter from Sallie Mays to Bennehan Cameron August 28, 1891 in the B ennehan Cameron Papers #3623, Subseries 1.2, Folder 155, S HC.
140 In my case t 33 A business 34 piety and luck, a letter from another friend pointed to the real reason he survived the wreck. A frie n nd always travelling in the most expensive accommodations was the most useful lesson from the wreck. 35 travel was an egalitarian experience. Early rail travelers, especial ly those from Europe, marveled at the lack of class distinctions within American railroads. As one antebellum British visitor 36 Rail boosters also tended to claim that rail travel was a democra tizing force, by noting how railroads brought together people from all walks of life. Train wrecks destroyed this notion by demonstrating how poorly constructed and crowded second class cars often bore the brunt of derailments. Indeed, the arguments of Ca from the second class car. The first class car ended up falling on top of the second class car, 33 Letter from P.D. Cameron to Benneham Cameron, August 28, 1891, in the Bennehan Cameron Papers #3623, Subseries 1.2, Folder 155, S HC. 34 Letter from W H Williams to Bennehan Cameron, August 29, 1891, in the Bennehan Cameron Papers #3623, Subseries 1.2, Folder 155, S HC. 35 Letter from M.A. Kirkland to Bennehan Cameron, August 28, 1891, in the Bennehan Cameron Papers #3623, Subseries 1.2, Folder 155, SHC 36 Quote from Eugene Alvarez, Travel in Ant ebellum Southern Railroads, 1828 1860 ( University, Al, 1974), 127.
141 crushing those inside the second class car and making it much eas ier for the more wealthy passengers to escape the wreckage. 37 Cameron was lucky enough to survive the wreck, but the relatives of victims of train wrecks struggled to make sense of the instantaneous loss of their family member. The father of a woman kill ed in the Statesville wreck, S.P. Read, wrote to surviving passenger, and he tried to 38 The trauma of train wrecks was amplified by the manner century American was a peaceful and planned passing at home, surrounded by friends and family, and full of religious meaning. 39 Victims of train wrecks died sudden violent deaths, far from home. re her death. Another doctor told her that Ophelia probably suffered and did not realize it and she 40 37 Asheville Daily Citizen, August 28, 1891. A similar result could be seen in the Hamlet, NC wreck in 1911, in which old wooden cars reserved for blacks crushed on impact, killing nearly a dozen. Theodore Kornweibel, Railroads in the African American Experience: A Photographic Journey, (Baltimore 2010), 166. 38 Letter from S.P. Read to Bennehan Cameron, September 9, 1891, in the Bennehan Cameron Papers #3623, Subseri es 1.2, Folder 157, SHC. 39 Drew Gilpin Faust, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, (New York, 2008), 6 17. 40 Letter from Naci Moore to Dr. Hill, undated, in the B.F. Long papers #4071, SHC
142 but she trained her ire on the Richmond & Danville Railroad System. Naomi Moore, who lost her daughter in the wreck and was herself seriously injured, expressed unadulterated rage in a letter written to the doctor in Statesville who first cared for her w ounds. Her letter contained $41.00 for the doctor, a bill she had assumed the railroad would have paid. She complained that she was ship their dead daughters home, as the R&D railroad official Mr. Scales refused to pass them having to buy an extra ticket home, but also by the large amount of people who descended on S d for damages. 41 for railroad corporations and their employees. When a train on the Richmond and Atlanta Air Line collided with another train near Greenville, SC in 188 7, the engineer fled into the woods after realizing his error. The Charlotte Chronicle blamed both the engineer and the management of the company for requiring too much of its employees. The engineer received the immediate condemnation and punishment, but the critique of the larger corporation over its rules and practices arguably held greater negative implications in the minds of readers. 42 Complaints about overworked engineers, or inattentive dispatchers could easily turn into attacks on those higher up o 41 Letter from Naci Moore to Dr. Hill, u ndated, in the B.F. Long papers #4071, SHC 42 Raleigh News Observer, October 25, 1887.
143 inferior and insufficient material and methods used in the construction of the roadway and its rities should hold the upper management of roads responsible for disasters. 43 The Concord Weekly Standard invoked a wreck to attack railroad authorities and the vast amount of power they gained from their position. As t power upon some people they become tyrants, bigots, and, in plain English, fools. The influence of such men has led the masses to seek redress by law paper 44 On a local level, a wreck could turn an entire community against the railroad. The uptick in train wrecks in the 1890s came at the same time that outside corporati ons like the Southern Railway were consolidating control of southern rail lines. As we will see later in this project, the been served by independent lines earli er, and the Southern found itself in a tough spot after train no. 10 was ditched at Stone Creek trestle near Macon while traveling south from Atlanta in steam. In the end, this wreck was actually caused by train wreckers, two white men who hoped to kill their wives and collect the insurance money. After a lengthy investigation and trial, Criswell and Shaw were sentenced to jail for life in November 1897. 45 But withi views of railroad consolidation. With anti Railroad sentiment at a high pitch, railroad lawyer 43 New Orleans Picayune, March 9, 1891. 44 Greensboro Patriot, Concord (N.C.) Weekly Stan dard, November 3, 1891. 45 W.H. Baldwin to Samuel Spencer, November 20, 1897, in the Samuel Spencer Files Box 30, File 952 SRHAC.
144 and of the 46 At a mass meeting in Macon, some citizens proposed passing a resolut ion denouncing the as of yet unknown wreckers who caused the accident, but the move failed after a Mr. Small rose to his feet and argued that such a resolution would advertise to the world that Macon had such surroundings and neighbors, and he argued a rot 47 Even the trial of Criswell of Shaw was infused with anti railroad politics. One juror was dismissed aft er alone, standing here before 48 Foes of the Southern Railway blamed a rotten trestle and a corporate conspiracy to frame Shaw and Criswell, and defenders of the corporation bl amed train wreckers, so in effect, the trial became a On a systemic level, an increase in train wrecks called into question the benefits of railroad development, and endangered the nexus of Bourbon Democrats, capitalists, and boosters that promoted notions of a New South economic revival. At its most basic level, the railroad 46 N.E. Harris to W.H. Baldwin, March 6, 1896, in the Southern Railway Executive Files, Box C File 34, SRHAC 47 Newspaper Cl ipping, March 6, 1896, in the Southern Railway Executive Files, Box C File 34, SRHAC. 48 W.F. McCombs, The Stone Creek Wreck: A Modern Will The Wisp (London 1898) 111, 159
145 49 If the public realized this, the entire project of New South economic development could become papers were beginning to pay attention to the carnage on the rails. Even before the Statesville wreck, the New Orleans Picayune, decayed and unsteady, their equipments are defective and the general business is run upon a scale of economy that is constantly dangerous. The no rmally conservative Picayune even 50 Questioning the benefits of new railroad construction opened the door for critiques from groups like the Farmers Alliance, Knights of Labor, or Populist Party who challenged and offered alternatives to the New South status quo. Train wrecks could lead to calls for more regulation and sharpen the mission of state Railroa d Commissions, or bolster the electoral success of anti Railroad candidates. There was a precedent for increasing regulation and government intervention after train wrecks, especially in the North. In Massachusetts in 1871, the Revere wreck threw the issu e of railroad safety into the public spotlight, inspiring both an effort to improve regulation and an attempt to adopt new and safer technologies. The post wreck reports written by Charles Adams advocated more order and better technology, two factors that 49 Wolfgang Schivelbusch, The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the 19 th Century (Berkeley, Ca, 1977), 132. 50 New Orleans Picayune, August 8, 1891.
146 51 Similarly, an 1882 collision at Spuyten Duyvil, New York killed eight passengers and led to a legislative inve stigation and a total 52 Southern states were in the process of establishing railroad commissions in the 1880s and 90s, but these bodies were often uncertain in their powers and duties. The newly created Nor th Carolina Railroad got involved with the Statesville wreck, making the aftermath of the wreck crucial in determining the direction this Commission would take. 53 In short, train wrecks inspired any number of critiques and lines of argument that seriously endangered the power of railroad companies, and the New South project as a whole. So investigations into the causes of these accidents was thus of utmost importance. Would these investigations target systemic flaws, like cheaply constructed track, poorly trained employees, or degraded bridges? Or would they pin the blame on a red herring like train wreckers? Introducing the specter of the train wrecker served to deflect these critiques. Train Wreckers at W ork The notion that someone would deliberately dera il a train was not a total fabrication, as it was based on a kernel of truth. As more and more southerners encountered railroads for the first time in the 1880s and 90s, plenty had reason to oppose the arrival of the railroad. Between 1880 and 1890, the mileage of the southern railroad network doubled, a fact that meant that many communities were introduced to railroads for the first time in these years. 54 As we have seen in 51 Steven W. Usselman Regulating Railroad Innovation: Business, Technology, and Politics in America, 1840 1920 (Cambridge, 2002), 121 131. 52 Aldrich, Death Rode the Rails, 90. 53 James A. Beeby, Revolt of the Tar Heels: The North Carolina Populist Movement, 1890 1901 (Oxford 2008), 15, 20 21. 54 John E. Stover, Railroads of the South, 190.
147 new railroads were a source of joy and a reason for celebration for boosters and t own elites, but the meaning of a new railroad could be more ambiguous for others. There were many reasons why a new railroad could be targeted for an attack. New railroads blasted noise and smoke, bisected farms, annihilated livestock, endangered civilia ns, and dispossessed farmers of their land. A diverse array of political groups in the Gilded Age South, ranging from the Knights of challenged the status quo, and a ra ilroad often was the most tangible manifestation of the ruling order. 55 For many southerners, derailing a train was the only way to strike back against the larger and often impersonal forces that shaped their lives. 56 Some wrecking attempts were directly l inked to overtly political grievances. A reporter with the Railway Gazette attributed a spate of attacks on Mississippi trains in 1884 to the defeat of a recent anti 57 Similarly, in 1893 a Picayune journalist attributed the removal of a rail near Beauregard, Mississippi to town citizens angry about the 58 Labor struggles could also lead to attempts at train wrecking. Sometimes the railroad itself was the employ er causing the grievance, as in the case of the three African Americans arrested near Vicksburg in 1890 for 55 Historians examining the struggles of working peoples in the New South era have destroyed the notion of a quiescent southern working class, and demonstrated that the South was indeed fertile ground for labor radicalism, Melton Alonza McLaurin, The Knights of Labor in the South (Westport, Conn ., 1978), Daniel Letwin, The Challenge of Interracial Unionism: Alabama Coal Miners, 1878 1921 (Chapel Hill, 1998) and Karen Shapiro, New South Rebellion: The Battle Against Convict Labor in the Tennessee Coalfields, 1871 1896 (Chapel Hill 1998). The wid e spread of Populism in the South similarly shows the many grievances held against the railroad dominated New South political economy. See Edward Ayers, Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction Chapter 10 Charles Postel, The Populist Vision (N ew York 2007). 56 Stowell, Streets, Railroads and the Great Strike of 1877 makes such an argument for northern cities afflicted with riots during the 1877 strike. He contends that violence against trains and rairoad property was a manifestation of lon g hel d grievances against railr o a d corporations. 57 Railway Gazette, May 30, 1884. 58 New Orleans Picayune January 1, 1893.
148 allegedly removing a rail. The men had been employed in a laboring force on the line and were recently discharged from their positions. 59 Labor stri fe in New South industries like coal mining could also easily lead to train wrecking. An engineer in Alabama wrote a letter to his family after two disastrous wrecks in 1894 on his road. Two trains met in a head on collision and his train fell off a burnt trestle. If it had been dark out he surely would have been killed in the latter of tressle road was set on fire by striking miners, but no one knows 60 It is al kill his wife for insurance money surely ranks as the most far fetched of these schemes, and a far more common way to make money off train wrecking was to rob the ruined train It was no coincidence that southerners began to suspect robbery in the 1890s. The South had been almost untouched by the string of train robbers that victimized Americans in the West. Despite his roots in Confederate guerilla organizations, and his po litical support of Redemption and white supremacy, Jesse James limited most of his robberies to Midwestern states like Missouri and Iowa. But by 1890, train robbers like Rube Burrow, Eugene Bunch and Railroad Bill were more active in the South, and the te chniques used to rob trains ensured that robbery would be linked with wrecking. A common method, pioneered by Jesse James and his gang, was to place some sort of obstruction on the track. Either a robber would be posted by the obstruction to flag down th e train, or the engineer would simply see the danger and stop the train. Skilled robbers typically avoided wrecking trains and causing casualties, simply because they did not have to. 61 But 59 Picayune September 9, 1890. 60 Letter from C. E. Goodman to G.E. Goodman, June 11, 1894, in William Stevens Powell Material for Iredell and Adjacent Counties, N.C. #3300, SHC. 61 T.J. Stiles Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War (New York, 2002), also Chapter 5 of this dissertation
149 unskilled copycats could easily replicate these tactics for their own crimes, a fact that concerned reading of yellow 62 Dime novels periodicals and newspapers amplified the cultural impact of a small group of train robbers, so by the middle of the 1890s, many began to suspect robbery was the motive for wrecking attempts. So train wreckers certainly did exist, but they were just as o ften bogeymen created by railroad companies. The incentives of railroad employees at all levels of the corporation led companies to use train wreckers as a scapegoat. On a most basic level, the financial incentives of railroad legal departments led many t o blame wreckers. With the increasing size of rail corporations, railroad legal departments were becoming increasingly organized and powerful bureaucracies by the 1890s. Railroad management may have been in far off cities, but major railroad corporations were sure to retain lawyers in local communities, essentially harnessing the best local legal talent. Drawn from the town elite, railroad lawyers held the reigns of power and positions of privilege in their towns and they were backed by the weight of large corporations. In the aftermath of wrecks, these lawyers would take charge of investigations at an early stage, with two main goals in mind: to deflect blame and public anger away from their employers, and to minimize the payout of damage claims. After a wreck, corporate lawyers tried to quickly establish control of the accident scene to end the public spectacle and obtain evidence. 63 To beat back the inevitable damage lawsuits, railroad lawyers tried to prove that wrecks were not due to negligence on thei r part. If an outside party like a train wrecker caused a wreck, 62 The Nort h American Review Vol, 157, Issue 444, Nov 1893, 530 541. 63 William G. Thomas, Lawyering For the Railroad: Business, Law and Power in the New South (Baton Rouge 1999)
150 the railroad would be off the hook for paying out claims. For corporations, whose very existence hung in the balance in the rough economic climate, damage claims could be devastating. An ed itorial in the Charlotte Chronicle, which named Jay Gould as a potential beneficiary of the pay out large 64 In the trial of fish net for the purpose of fixing the responsib ility for the wreck on some party or parties in 65 Even though Shaw lost this trial, the incentives of the railroad were to pin the Macon wreck on him to avoid paying damage clai ms. A similar strategy on the part of a railroad legal department could be seen when a Southern Railway passenger car crashed through an open switch in Scotland, GA in March 1895. The case would have resonated just like any other minor wreck, except for th e presence of one exceptional passenger Roland Reed, a famous actor happened to be on the train with his performances in Florida. Reed and others on the train claimed the train was going 60 miles per hour, way too fast for the section of track. due to the speed of the train, and for leaving the switch open. The monetary losses from the cancelled tour, 64 Chronicle August 30, 1891. 65 Telegraph December 4, 1896.
151 Railway. About two weeks after the wreck, railroad detectives arrested Charles Nelson an African American laborer who lived near the train tracks, after circumstantial evidence linked alleged wrecker is finally convicted in higher court. 66 The evidence supporting the arrest was undoubtedly flimsy, as Nelson was never convicted. When the case finally went to trial in 1897, wreck. 67 Reed won the version backed by the power of the large Southern Railway corporation, blamed wreckers for the derailment of their train. And the most convenient targets in this case tur ned out to be two local African Americans. Imaginary W The power of corporate lawyers, and the way in which communities could become divided over the cause of a train wreck, is readily apparent in the investigation into the cause of in full in the Statesville Landmark speaks to the difficulty in making sense of such a chaotic scene, but two clear versions of the wreck emerged. The prevalence of rotten ties was one common theme in this testimony. Col. S.A. Sharpe saw piles of rotten timbers around the scene. After cross 66 Constitution March 23, 1895. 67 Constitution May 21, 1897.
152 gave a detailed discussion about how he found no evidence that a rail had been removed or soon as the convicts employed besides Linster also claimed to see the convicts toss rotten timbers into the creek below. 68 The Richmond & Danville presented its own version of the wreck, aided by a cadre of lawyers the company had sent to Statesville. If the road could prove that train wreckers had deliberately derailed the train, the company would not be found negligent and would not be responsible for paying damage claims. A barrage of damage lawsuits would inevitably arise out of the wreck, filed by both injured victims and family members of the deceased, and this woul d clearly identified the witnesses introduced by the railroad, which made the version of the accident that the railroad attorneys sought to push quite obvious. D.L. Hutter claimed to see found a warped rail that he thought the engine passed over, and Bennehan Cameron saw a e had done no work on the road for a month, but thought it was sound. He said his tools were in his house, but the door was unlocked and someone could have gone in and taken them. In addition to pointing out the physical evidence of a maliciously caused wr eck, railroad witnesses also suggested potential culprits. Two 68 Statesville L andmark, September 3, 1891.
153 witnesses spoke of a mysterious white man in a black suit and a black slouch hat seen around Statesville before the wreck. 69 Other railroad witnesses pushed the idea that the train had been wrec ked for the purpose of robbery. Mrs. Moore, testified that when she got out of the ruined train, a diamond pin that she had been wearing earlier was gone, as was a check for $200 and a note for $2,000. Miss Luellen Pool said that as she lay in the cars, a man with a hat pulled over his face, came creeping along Colonel Sa nderlin awoke to find a black man around the age of 20 or 22 staring at him through oke of two 70 Sug gestions of a planned robbery fixated on the presence of mysterious African American men who descended on the scene after the wreck, but the four black men who testified ered a much different take on the matter. Clearly identified as black, as the Jim Crow court system dictated that their testimony required an extra signature, these men presented a version of the ors. Henry Nesbit hurried to the 69 Statesville Landmark, September 3, 1891. 70 Statesville Landmark, September 3, 1891.
154 cars, and saw no mysterious stran gers. Henry Hart said he met Nesbit on the way to the wreck before joining him at the scene to help get the wounded and killed passengers out of the train. Jesse Freeze saw several men entering the ruined cars, but instead of robbing passengers, they were merely trying to get victims out of the cars, which were rapidly filling with water from the en rescuers finally and spectacles. 71 The fat man turned out to be none other than Colonel George Sanderlin, who was so insulted by this testimony he sent a let ter to the State Chronicle, which was reprinted by papers across the state. He denied sitting on a lady, instead claiming he was resting on a mattress after Bennehan Cameron, and not one of the black men, pulled him out of the wreck, and he argued that the testimony about his concern for his personal effects was exaggerated. He only wanted to get the cane since it was valuable, and he suggested the black men wanted him to leave it behind so they could steal it. Sanderlin wrote he asked for his pants because he was cold, and he needed many painful wounds and bruises in the wreck, but not one has hurt me so much as the picture drawn of my inhumanity and of my great con 72 In light of this testimony from both sides, its more than likely that the alleged robber seen by Sanderlin and Miss Pool was simply one of the four black men working to free trapped passengers. 71 Statesville Landmark, September 3, 1891. 72 A copy of this lett Statesville Landmark, September 10, 1891.
155 Two distinct narratives of the wrec While locals and those unconnected with the railroad suggested that rotten crossties caused a bridge or track failure, railroad witnesses and outside elites like Cameron and Sanderlin argued that the train was deliberately wrecked for the purpose of robbery and found an easy scapegoat in black rescuers. With such wildly divergent explanations, the report issued by the Iredell County rgely agreed with the the bolts and spikes of the same having been taken out by some person or persons unknown to the jury, with tools or implements belongi been repla the jury itself was not confident in its verdict. A paper later reported that J.S. Ramsey of the jury signed the report but did not believe that any rail was removed or misplaced before the wreck. 73 suggests that the wrecker story was a fabrication. When the Richmond and Danville system was reorganized as the Southern Railway in 1894, Sche nck was forced out of his position. In a bitter diary entry, Schenck attributed his dismissal to his reluctance to carry out his duties after the mpany tried another common strategy to contest the claims. They attempted to get the cases removed from local courts in Iredell County to Circuit Court in Charlotte, where the railroad would not have to deal with a jury from the community traumatized 73 Statesville Landmark, Asheville Citizen, September 12, 1891.
156 by th e wreck. Schenck recalled that he would not swear to the petitions for the removal of the character or source of these fabrications, but the entry shows that e ven an experienced railroad 74 In the end, we will probably never know what actually caused the wreck outside Statesville. But it is clear that lawyers with the Richmond & Danville did all they could to bla me the wreck on wreckers who were never found. About a year after the wreck, the The Landmark has been failure to make it appear that it was, that the public believes by this time that The Landmark was And on the 75 th 75 Though the Statesville Landmark c ontinued to contend that the Richmond & Danville was lying about train wreckers, the editorial tone of other southern newspapers clearly shifted responsible for train wrec ks, this implication shifted the editorial tone. Immediate response to the Statesville wreck focused on the broader systemic flaws behind the wreck. However, a number of papers clearly changed positions in light of the intimation that wreckers caused the Progressive Farmer, a Populist publication typically hostile towards rail corporations like the Richmond & Danville, that every high bridge ought to be inspected before crossed by a train, and that trains ought to be run over bridges at a very slow 74 Thomas, Lawyering For the Railroad, 80; Diary, December 17, 1894, in the David Schenck Papers #652, S HC 75 Statesville Landmark, Statesville Landmark, August 25, 1966.
157 siting the Richmond Dispatch 76 The rhetorical fire of editorial pages, once trained squarely at the Richmond & Danville or at the broader railro ad system, was clearly redirected towards the unidentified wreckers. The Cover up at Cahaba Bridge From high on down, corporate officials used train wreckers as a scapegoat, as the aftermath of the Cahaba Bridge wreck demonstrates. The response to the wre ck was complicated by the fact that two separate corporations held responsibility. The Southern Railway owned the track, but the Louisville & Nashville owned the ill fated train. Southern Railway officials scrambled to avoid responsibility after the wrec 77 Spencer also told a should be made to prevent the papers from using the southern railway 76 Progressive Fa rmer, Progressive Farmer, Richmond Dispatch, August 29, 1891. 77 Samuel Spencer to W.W. Finley, December 28, 1896, in the Samuel Spencer President s Files Box 37, Fi le 1454 SRHAC.
158 78 The L&N wanted to jointly issue a reward with the Southern, but Finley questio 79 In this case, records from the Louisville & Nashville, the line that owned the track, confirmed that a faulty bridge, and not malicious parties, caused the accident. R. Montfort, chief engineer with the Louisville & Nashville Railroad arrived on the scene in Blocton on January 11, 1897 to make a detailed inspection. He found serious and de the fact that a rail was removed from a high trestle on the southern 80 were confirmed by the fact that press coverage similarly conflated these two distinct incidents A Birmingham News report on the Cahaba wreck noted that three rough looking men were seen at the scene of both wrecks, and a train robbery in Fayette County, and it posited that this gang of three was responsible for all three of these crimes against tra ins. 81 As Montfort continued his investigation, he found that the original design of the bridge never actually approved the design, yet it was built anyway. 82 A week la ter Montfort found the 78 Samuel Spencer to W.A. Turk, December 28, 1896, in the Samuel Spencer President s Files Box 37, File 1454 SRHAC. 79 President s Files Box 37, File 1454 SRHAC. 80 Letter to J.G. Metcalfe from R. Montfort, January 11, 1897, Box 52, Folder 11, L&NRR. 81 Birmingham News, December 28, 1896. 82 Letter to J.G. Metcalfe from R. Montfort, January 13, 1897, Box 52, Folder 11 L&NRR.
159 smoking gun in his investigation by examining the original blueprints for the structure. He discovered that a draughtsman had mistaken 1 drawings would, in my opinion, amount to utter ruination for the reputation of the bridge building depa rtment of the Carnegie steel Co. 83 Instead of releasing this crucial information, Montfort looked for ways to conceal the fatal miscalculation and support the wrecker story. He Lum, an engineer with the East Tennessee Virginia, & Georgia system. Lum also visited the wreck, and though he also acknowledged that the bridge design was defective, he suspected that wreckers still may have played a role. Montfort replied to this not wi th a defense of his theory, but with him to appear for us in the lawsuits and testify that the accident could only have occurred by train wreckers having caused the derailment. 84 Montfort ended up telling the head of the Keystone Bridge Company that he believed the e L&N in these efforts and that he would be glad to appear in any damage cases we might have. So instead of pressing a claim evidence and working with the Carnegie Steel Company in an attempt to prove that the bridge was safe. Montfort and Bouscaren, the two men who both noticed flaws in the bridge design, 83 Letter to J.G. Metc alfe from R. Montfort, January 20, 1897, Box 52, Folder 11, L&NRR. 84 Letter to J.G. Metcalfe from R. Montfort, January 14, 1897, Box 52, Folder 11, L&NRR
160 calling on th em as witnesses. 85 Investigators from the Southern Railway, which owned the train that wrecked, also doubted the wrecker theory, but pushed it anyway. An investigator with the Southern noted that hing, to deprecate that theory, which 86 After a man with the Southern wrote that evidence from the site made no expression to anybody el se of your opinion upon the theory as to the train being wrecked, and that you will not do so. It is extremely important that there shall be no controversy 87 So in the case of the Cahaba Bridge Wreck, both the South ern and the L&N conspired to blame a wreck on wreckers. 88 Ultimately, the L&N attorneys settled sixteen of the Cahaba bridge cases in November 1897, though not before delivering a harangue that they did not think the road was liable, and that they were only 89 But on the pages of southern newspapers, the strategy was a success. A banner headline in the Birmingham News screamed 85 Letter to J.G. Metcalfe from R. Montfort, January 14, 1897, Box 52, Folder 11, L&NRR 86 to W.W. Finley, December 30, 1896, in the Samuel Spencer President s Files Box 37, File 1454 SRHAC. 87 W.W. Finley to Samuel Spencer, December 31, 1896, in the Samuel Spencer President s Files Box 37, File 1454 SRHAC. 88 In his study of railroad legal departme nts, William Thomas reaches a similar conclusion about the Cahaba wreck. Thomas, Lawyering For the Railroad 120 124. 89 W.H. Baldwin to Samuel Spencer, November 20, 1897, in the Samuel Spencer President s Files Box 30, File 952 SRHAC.
161 story of robbery and pillage. 90 headline on the front page of the Constitution. The paper blamed people who citizens were ready to burn at the stake any train wreckers they caught. 91 Editorial response focused not on the lapses in safety and inattention to e ngineering detail that led to the wreck, but scene and plundered the dead and dying. There seems little doubt that these robbers removed the rail which was missi ng from the bridge. 92 Mobile Register. The Birmingham State Herald Wilmington Me ssenger and the Milledgeville Union Recorder marveled at the $10,000 reward offered by the railroads 93 Underneath these headlines, there were doubts. A letter to the Birmingham State Herald one report of men pilfering cars, he argued, th at they are ignoring the fact that the train was going 40 mph, way over the 15 mph the railroad reported. 94 Other local residents similarly contested the robbery story, saying the alleged robbers were merely locals trying to assist 90 Birmingham News, December 28, 1896. 91 Atlanta Constitution, December 28, 1896. 92 Greensboro Patriot, December 30, 1896. 93 Atlanta Consti tution, January 2, 1897, Milledgeville Union and Recorder, January 5, 1897. 94 Birmingham State Herald, January 1, 1897.
162 victims. 95 But with the p these dissenting voices ended up buried deep inside newspapers. The willingness of the southern press to run with train wrecking stories demo nstrates that it was not an altogether impartial arbiter. With real life examples of train wrecking, and the encouragement of railroads, newspapers gladly played up the sensational nature of train wrecking. Train wreckers began to appear more frequently o n the pages of the southern press in the 1890s. An analysis of the Atlanta Constitution, standard bearer for the New South movement, points to broad trends in train wrecking. The pages of the Atlanta Constitution, the largest paper in the region, reported 212 instances of train wrecking attempts in the states of the former Confederacy between 1878 and 1900, of which 90 succeeded in actually derailing or damaging the train. 96 While train wrecking was almost entirely abse nt from the newspaper in the 1870s and early 1880s, instances of attempted wrecks jumped in 1884 and eventually peaked in 1891 and 1896. (Chart 6.2, 6.3 and 6.4) Similar trends are apparent in the New Orleans Picayune, which contained 167 instances of att empted train wrecking between 1878 and 1900. Like in the Constitution train wrecking articles clearly jumped in 1884, and in the years between 1891 and 1895 before declining towards the end of the decade. 97 The Raleigh News Observer, a smaller paper more focused on local news in North 95 Birmingham State Herald, January 2, 1897. 96 This data is gleaned from a search of the online Atlanta Constitution period between 1/1/1878 and 1/1/1898. A train wrecking attempt could be something as innocent as a crosstie on a track, or a misplaced rail. As long as the paper suggested malicious intent or a deliberate effort to wreck a train, a case was tallied. Cases were tallied for attempted wrecks in all of the states of the former Confederacy except for Texas and West Virginia. Which means the data set does include cases from 10 states (VA, NC, SC, GA, FL, AL, MS, TN, AR, L A) 97 Data from the New Orleans Daily Picayune is from an online database (19 th Century American Newspapers), with the same methodology as the search of the Constitution.
163 Carolina, also showed an increase in wrecking attempts in the 1890s, though the peaks and valleys are less dramatic due to the smaller sample size. 98 Newspapers like the Picayune and the Constitution naturally did not reach all segments of the population, but the fact that train wrecking stories were on the rise shows that a certain subset of the southern population oriented business class was reading more about attempts to wreck trains. Whether this led to actual fear is impossible to prove, but when it came to train wrecks, the perception of a threat the words of a histori frightening. 99 As a brief editorial in the Constitution idental railroad wreck does not have one fifth the effect on the traveling public that a report of a 100 It is impossible to know exactly how these wrecking attempts were received by readers, but they surely did not ease travelers minds. Newspaper articles reveal another broad trend about train wrecking in the South, which is the method used to wreck trains. The most common and least technically sophisticated way to wreck a train was by placing some sort of obstruction on the track. The Picayune reported 73 attempted wrecks caused by an obstruction, while the Constitution reported 96. Crossties, a common item found near train tracks, were a favorite choice but wreckers could use a wide variety of obstructions to wreck trains. Rocks logs, trees, dead or living animals, other cars and 98 Data from the Raleigh News Observer is from an online database (19 th Century Americ an Newspapers), with the same methodology as the search of the Constitution. Years before 1880 are missing because the online database doe s not include them 99 Aldrich, Death Rode the Rails 71. 100 Atlanta Constitution, November 10, 1 891.
164 more could be placed on tracks. The second most common way wrecks were attempted was by tampering with a switch. All it took was a switch in the wrong position to send the in locomotive the wrong dire ction, either off the track or into another track with an obstruction. When it came to misplaced switches, the Picayune reported 36 while the Constitution mentioned 39. The final main way wrecks were attempted was by tampering with rails in some manner. Removing a rail at a particularly perilous point like a bridge could cause a derailment, as could driving spikes into a rail. The most devious of these attempts would happen on bridges or trestles, but newspapers reported on tampered rails in a wide variet y of situations. In this category, the Constitution listed 33, while the Picayune showed 31. In all three of these methods, there was a great deal of uncertainty associated with the investigation of the crime. Crossties and other track obstructions could just as easily be dropped by another train, or left by careless workers, and switches could be accidently misplaced by employees or simply break on their own. In addition, the investigation of derailments was extremely complicated. When a train derailed it would typically strip the rails off the track, making it exceedingly difficult to pinpoint how exactly the train derailed. In short, each of these methods of wrecking could just as easily be accidents or startling coincidences. Yet the first instinct of the press was to present these small pieces of evidence as proof of malicious intent. An attempted train wreck near Birmingham in 1896 demonstrated the extent to which journalists weaved wrecking attempts into vast conspiracies. This wreck was not succ essful, but investigators soon made a few arrests and extracted confessions from an alleged gang of African Americans. The State Herald printed this sensational story on the first two pages of the Sunday paper. The article detailed the confessions of the gang who had confessed to the attempt to
165 Southern Railway train with over 200 passengers so they could rob the cars and get some Christmas money. The gang lacked guns, but figured it would be easy enough to plunder the ruins of the train once it tumbled off the trestle. 101 The extent to which this motley gang represented an actual threat is debatable, as is the validity of the confessions extracted by the Birmingham police force, but the State extensive coverage speaks to how the press played up the threat of train wrecking. Advertisements printed all week long hype American laborers so hear tless they would derail a crowded passenger train just to get some spending cash both confirmed white thoughts about African Americans and train wrecking and it surely got a few more Birmingham residents to pick up a Sunday paper. 102 rs G As further proof of the public interest in train wrecking, fictional train wreckers also began to appear in other cultural forms like travel narratives, the vivid descriptions of train rides written to order and make sense of the thrilling expe rience of travel by rail. 103 An amateur, Hunt McCaleb secured a ride with a friend of his who was a conductor for the fast mail train leaving Meridian, Mississippi in 1892. He climbed into the cab with his friend for a ride, and he related 101 Birmingham State Herald, January 10, 1897. 102 Birmingham State Herald, January 10, 1897. 103 Amy G. Richter, Home on the Rails: Women, the Railroad and the Rise of Public Domesticity (Chapel H ill, 2005), 17 argues that travel narratives were essential in creating order out of the chaos of the train travel experience. In these cases, the intrusion of imaginary train wreckers serves to destabilize th is narrative. See also Chapter 3 of this diss ertation.
166 his experience in an account published in the Picayune Overcome with emotion, he contrasted the experience of the sleeping passengers in the back with his frightful ride in the cab. No ab of a but the vivid description of imaginary train wreckers speaks to pervasiveness of the threat in southern minds. 104 the foggy swamp in the middle of the night, the engineer saw a woman in the track and he halted the train. He thought for sure he would have hit the woman, but at the last second a man came and carried the woman off the track, avoiding a collision. Furthe r inspection revealed that the trestle up passenger, Claude Rothwell, recognized the woman as Clara Ashton, his lost former lover. Claude had fallen in love with C lara, until he mistakenly thought she was associated with a criminal. After a gun battle with the criminal, Clara disappeared from her old home in Mobile without a trace leaving Claude heartbroken. Excited at the chance to find his lover and solve the my stery, Claude ventured into the swamp to investigate, and found Clara and the criminal, who turned out to be her brother. He had planned to wreck the train to kill Claude and take his 104 New Orleans Daily Picayune, April 24, 1892.
167 passengers from disaster. After a struggle, the wrecker ran off into the swamp, allowing Claude and Clara to dramatically confess their love for each other. 105 The train had been spared a wreck, and an old love rekindled, but the menacing undertones of this tale should not be overlooked. Wreckers threatened southern trains, and endangered travelers. As train tracks expanded into swampy and mysterious areas like the Wateree Swamp, who knew what threats could materialize out of the murk? Even young boys got i nto the business of hunting wreckers, as an 1896 story in the Atlanta Constitution told. On the eve of the fourth of July, two boys, Larry and Howard set out to fish, traveling along a railroad line to reach their desired spot. On the way they encountere d a nervous looking man, who made awkward conversation with them before slinking away. message to a confederate about robbing the train. They quickly gave th e message to a railroad official who invited them to join the hunt for the wreckers the next day. Larry hid under a blanket in the cab, with instructions to blow a whistle as the robbers entered. As per the discovered plan, robbers stopped the train and entered the car, but after Larry blew the signal, detectives swarmed the cab and arrested the wreckers. The robbery was foiled, but once again a 106 An 1893 story in the New Orleans Picayune entitle moral quandary of train wrecking. Down by some train tracks, a man had a quarrel with his 105 ( June 1885 ) 675 680. 106 Atlanta Constitution, April 5, 1896.
168 to his horror, she tripped and fell on to the train tracks. As she lay unconscious on the track, the Rushing to save Nettie, he threw a telegraph pole onto the track, before he was confronted with the g that train innocent human beings, men and women like himself who would next minute be alized the this dilemma, he acted swiftly, picking up the pole, and striking the wheel of the train with it. The train almost ran over the man, but he somehow succeeded in stopping the train without causing serious damage. He hurried to his unconscious lover, reviving her and reaffirming his who placed the obstruction in the way of the train, and admiration for the heroic and that her lover had risked his life to save hers. 107 n of the train wrecking attempts that flooded newspapers at this time. No actual wreck occurred and the culprit was merely an upper class white man trying to save a lover. Yet the very appearance of the story, as well as the implied threat of a cataclysm ic wreck speak to the anxiety produced by the specter of wreckers men women and children traversed the southern railroad network, all it took was one act to s end them to horrible deaths. The wreckers did not even have to be idle blacks or shiftless laborers to threaten a passenger train with derailment. 107 New Orleans Picayune, January 15, 1893.
169 wrecking. A shoe co mpany in Columbus, GA in 1893 compared the proliferation of train from voracious customers. Along with this text the company included a shocking depiction of gig antic robbers literally holding up and shooting trains, while passengers tumbled to the ground below. 108 A medicine salesman in North Carolina used a drawing of a train crashing off a bridge to link the danger of train wrecking to indigestion, a problem tha t threatened not only travelers, up the bridge of life and yearly precipitates thousands into the dread valley of consumption. 109 A year later, the same company ran an ad with a picture of a smashed up train, reminding the 110 criminal ac tivity was at work in train wrecks. S.P. Read, a man in Memphis whose daughter died d survived the initial wreck, and Cameron had removed her from the car, but after Cameron returned to the when you left to ring the alarm at Statesville, some villa in may have murdered her to take from her person the insignificant valuables she possibly had. 111 The fact that a man far from the scene 108 Atlanta Constitution, October 29, 1893. 109 Raleigh News Observer, July 8, 1897. 110 Raleigh News Observer July 7, 1898. 111 Letter from S.P. Read to Bennehan Cameron, August 31, 1891, in the Bennehan Cameron Papers #3623, Subseries 1.2, Folder 155, SHC
170 would jump to the conclusion that his daughter was murdered after a train wreck speaks to the fact that train wrecking w as clea r ly on the mind of many southerners. Southern Distinctiveness and Train Wrecking This all begs an important question, which is why southerners were so willing to see train wreckers where they often did not exist. Conspiracies this shocking that g angs lay in wait to rob trains took a certain type of population to believe in them, and by any measure the white South was on edge in the 1890s, a decade with heightened racial tension. Looking at the race of suspected train wreckers points to another r eason train wreckers became feared by the white South. Quantitative data from newspaper accounts also reveals trends in who the suspected perpetrators were in these cases. Not all the wrecking attempts in the Constitution and Picayune named a culprit, but in the cases where a suspect was either captured or named, the bulk of the suspects were black. 49 out of the 76 train wreckers or 64 percent in the Picayune were black, as were 49 out of the 84 (58 percent) in the Constitution. The News Observer reported an even higher percentage, with 18 out of 22 (82 percent) wrecking suspects labeled as black. 112 On a most basic level, this raciailization of the train wrecker was influenced by the fact that African Americans were present in large numbers along southern r ail corridors. Mobile African American labor was intimately tied up with industries along new rail lines. Logging, sawmilling and turpentine production, three industries that followed southern railroads along newly construction railroads in the piney woo ds regions, all made heavy use of transient African American labor. A detective involved in the hunt for some suspected train wreckers in Alabama in 1897, attested to the difficulty in investigating wrecking attempts along isolated rail lines. Sent 112 Data from the New Orleans Daily Picayune is from an online database (19 th Century American Newspapers), with the same methodology as the search of the Constitution Data from the Raleigh News Observer is from an on line database (19 th Century American Newspapers), with the same methodology as the search of the Constitution Years before 1880 are missing because the online database does not include them at this point.
171 to the sparsely settled area around Wilcox, which was almost entirely settled by blacks, he found it almost impossible to get any evidence of a tangible nature. For obvious reasons, local blacks refused to give any information to the white outsider associated wi th the railroad company. He arrested a few black men on suspicion, only to later find they were innocent. The day before the ones. 113 A rail corridor held a clear meaning to railroad corporations it was meant for the travel of trains. But for others less involved with the railroad network, the tracks snaking through the southern countryside could serve any number of purposes unrelated to the transport of goods and commodities. Black southerners living near rail lines used them to find their way back to town, and some even appropriated railroad property for religious services or p ersonal economic gain. 114 Accident record books are littered with examples of southerners who paid the ultimate price for their actions near rail lines. In 1881, an engine struck Robert Battle, a 7 year old black boy, and threw him some distance. As the repo boy was gathering up old fish plates and spikes and was one of a party of 3 or 4 boys all of whom had sacks in which they were putting the iron. He started to run across the track and engine struck 115 And in a one month period, the same railroad reported two examples of 113 Vol. 3, ( September 1927 ) 37 39, 58 59. 114 For the relationship between black religious practices and new railroads see, John M. Giggie, After Redemption: Jim Crow and the Transformation of African American Religion in the Delta, 1875 1915 (New York, 2008), 23 58. 115 Accident Record Book of the Nashville, Chattanooga, and St. Louis Railway, 1880 1894, pg. 49, Filson Historical Society, Louisville Kentucky.
172 drunk men getting hit by trains. Both men had passed out on the rails. 116 For many southerners, drunk or otherwise, rail lines were convenient walking paths, a way to get back into town. But was walking on side of track and heard train coming and moved to one side, as he thought far enough, but was struck on shoulder by end of bumper on pilot of engine. 117 nature of the railroad network and the economy it created, produced a class of constant outsiders As further proof of the instability along new rail corridors, one only has to look at the substantial literature on lynching. Lynchings and other forms of extralegal violence against blacks typically flared up in rapidly industrializing areas along new railroad lines. The spike in lynchings in the 1890s is a reminder of the extralegal lengths to which white southerners mobilized against perceived black criminality. 118 The dynamics that led southerners to fear strange black rapists similarly led them to link unfamiliar blacks with train wrecking. Just as unrecognized faces could pose a threat to the virtue of white women, the countless anonymous black laborers around rai l lines could just as easily be diabolical wreckers. A stranger was more likely to be targeted for lynching, and when a train mysteriously derailed, a stranger would be an obvious target. 116 Accident Record Book of the Nashville, Chattanooga, and St. Louis Railway, 1880 1894, pg. 72 74, Filson Historical Society, Louisville Kentucky. 117 Letter to MR. A.D. Jones, General Superintendant, South Carolina and Georgia Railroad Co, October 24, 1894, South Carolina Railroads 1880 1920, University of South Carolina Special Collections, Columbia, South Carolina. 118 Edward L. Ayers, The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction (New York, 1992) and Brund age, Lynching in the New South track lynching violence and both find peaks in the 1890s.
173 with cultural 119 So it is no surprise that black southerners became easy scapegoats for train wrecking attempts. Wrecking cases in which authorities rounded up local blacks with bad reputations seem to have a direct corollary to this unrest. When a passenger train on the Illinois Central line wrecked near Ponchatoula, Louisiana, authori ties arrested at least five different blacks on suspicion of tampering with the switch that caused the derailment. As with most cases, the evidence was merely circumstantial. The conductor had seen the black men loitering around the track, and ke the appearance of two of the men. 120 After a wreck near Opelika, Alabama on the 121 In the raci ally charged environment of the post Reconstruction South, African Americans became linked with all types of criminal behavior, and train wrecking was no exception. If, as Edward Ayers contends, the nineteenth century, the dastardly black train wrecker similarly gripped the fears of the white South. 122 The train wrecking panic in the South provides another example of the enchantment that accompanies the arrival of modernity. 123 Rather than displace the supernatural, agents of 119 Ayers, Vengeanc e and Justice in the New South 232, William P. Jones, The Tribe of Black Ulysses: African American Lumber Workers in the Jim Crow South (Urbana 2005) deconstructs this myth, at least in its relation to lumber workers. 120 New Orlea ns Picayune, July 24, 1895. 121 Atlanta Constitution, August 1, 1899. 122 Ayers, Vengeance and Justice in the New South 232. 123 Michael Saler, "Modernity and Enchantment: A Historiographic Review," The American Historical Review Vo l. 111, No. 3, (June 2006), 692 716.
174 industrial capitalism and modernity often produced enchantment and mystery. The bewildering experiences of modernization rapid movement, unfamiliar faces, and unexplainable disasters only en couraged southerners to see conspiracies where none existed. As further proof of the racialization of the train wrecker threat, the cultural form of lynching also merged with train wrecking, as a case in Poplarville, Mississippi demonstrates. In December 1884, a passenger train on the recently completed New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad flew off a curve, killing the engineer and the fireman. Only the brave actions of the engineer, who held fast to his post to apply the airbrake, prevented higher casu alties. After noticing that a switch had been deliberately misplaced, detectives immediately went to a nearby engineer, rode a special train to Poplarville, sprung Parker from the jail with a railroad iron, and tortured him with hot coals from the train until he confessed. In plain view of passing trains, he was tied to of bullets into his body, leaving the corpse as a warning. 124 The Poplarvil leading to widespread denunciations of train wrecking. The New Orleans Picayune concluded ocity of the crime of train wrecking, and the difficulty of procuring proof sufficient to convict before a jury warrant a resort to extra legal remedies. 125 The Constitution 124 New Orleans Picayune December 29, 1884. 125 New Orleans Picayune, December 28, 1884.
175 impossible to glance over a daily newspaper without reading of obstru ctions placed upon the state legislatures needed to do more to criminalize train wrecking. 126 The fact that an African American had attacked a railroad struck a ne rve. But as with most wrecking attempts, the truth headlines had been extracted only after torture with hot irons and the only real piece of evidence was a claim from someo railroad company refused to compensate him $2.25 for a pig hit by a passing train. Other witnesses provided an alibi for Parker, noting he was at home in the hours before the wreck, and arguing that he only went to the track after the wreck to flag down and warn any other approaching trains. His only real crime seemed to be the fact that he was an African American with a bad reputation who lived in a swampy area near the railroad tra cks. So while the historical record is unclear on this question of who wrecked the train, the consequences of the derailment an angry manhunt, a brutal lynching, region wide hysteria over train wrecking and heightened racial tensions were very real. Th e New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad, was central in all elements of this lynching. undoubtedly included other employees. Beyond the question of whether th e railroad was culpable, the road certainly benefitted from the rough justice of the lynch mob. A mutilated wrecker story, whether true or not, caused the community to rally around the railroad, instead of against it. The Parker lynching also 126 Atlanta Constitution, January 19, 1885.
176 suggests that train wrecking was becoming tied up with the emerging practice of lynching, which by this point was develo ping into a highly ritualized practice. 127 A similar incident occurred in 1888, when a deputy near Greenville, Mississippi found seven cross ties on the track of the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad. Suspecting a plot to wreck the train, he set off to try and find whoever was responsible. Seeing a black man walking on the track with crossties, he drew his gun and arrested the man. Meanwhile, the oncoming passenger train had stopped short of the obstructions, and angry passengers quickly came upon the scene of the arrest. The passengers held an impromptu vote, opting in favor of hanging the turn the suspect over to authorities, the man surely would have been lynched on the spot. 128 Once again, the guilt of the suspect is unclear. He could have just as easily been a laborer walking down the track. Yet the case shows the willingness of southerners to apply the America ns suspected of train wrecking, and the lengths to which whites would go in order to protect their trains from real and imagined threats. The link between African Americans and train wrecking, formed in the mind of the white South was a crucial piece of se ctional distinctiveness and it helps explain why train wrecking was a more pressing concern in the South. Attacks or imagined attacks on trains were by no means unique to the South. 129 However, the South contained a large class of people easily targeted and blamed for crimes. The racialization of crime in the New South ensured that train 127 Brundage, Lynching in the New South and G race Elizabeth Hale, Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South, 1890 1940 (New York: Pantheon Books, 1998) 128 New Orleans Daily Picayune, July 26, 1888. 129 Train wrecking did occur in the North, though it is largely absent from the historiography, one exception David O Stowell, Streets, Railroads and the Great Strike of 1877 reexamines the Great Strikes of 1877 by looking at violence against railroads.
177 heightened concern over train wrecking certainly reflected the reality of inc reasing carnage in the railroad network, the public hysteria over the phenomenon, as well as the remedies sought to correct it, was fueled by southern cultural assumptions within the context of racial and class s Key West for deployment in the Spanish American has been ascert 130 By 1898, a plot like this may not have seemed so far fetched to southerners. The Militarization of Southern Rail Corridors The notion that southern railroads were under assault in the 1890s had a tangible impact that resonated beyond the editorial pages. For one it led to an increase in guards on rail lines and legislation strengthening punishments for wreckers. An editorial penned in the aftermath of the ery railroad in this district should guard their tracks and trestles and bridges. 131 train wrecking, incendiarism, and other cowardly meanness than by again resorting to the blood hound system. 132 After a suspected wrecking attempt in Raleigh, the News Observer forcefully advocated the purchase of bloodhounds for the city. 133 Near the beginning of this study in 1881, 130 Raleigh News Observer, April 29, 1898. 131 Birmingham News, December 28, 1896. 132 Raleigh News Observer, December 27, 1895. 133 Raleigh News Observer, January 3, 1897.
178 134 But laws remained uneven, especially in relation to train wrecking. At least in Alabama, the aftermath of the peak of wrecks in th e 1890s led to introduction of more legislation to protect rail lines. In February 1899, the first full meeting of the legislature railroads. 135 than an employe of a railroad company acting within the lines of his duty on such railroad, to detach or uncouple any train, or put on, apply or tamper with any brake or brakes of any tra in, or wantonly pull the bell cord, or emergency valve of any train, or otherwise interfere with any train, engine, car, or part thereof. 136 In a related measure, the legislature passed act number 274 ise interfering with signals connected with railroads or trains. 137 And Act 365 barred any one from giving false or misleading signals to trains. 138 on railroad trains in th is state. 139 And a final act banned the discharge of guns, pistols, or 134 First Annual Report of the Rail Road Commissioners of Alabama, For the year ending June 30, 1881. (Montgomery, 1881), 159. 135 The Alabama legislature was in session when the Cahaba wreck occurred, but the first full session after the wreck began on November 13, 1898. 136 General Laws (and joint Resolutions) of the General Assemble of Alabama, passe d at the Session of 1898 9, Held in the capitol in the City of Montgomery Commencing Tuesday, November 15, 1898 ( Jacksonville FL, 1899), 60. 137 General Laws (and joint Resolutions) of the General Assemble of Alabama, passed at the Session of 1898 9, Held i n the capitol in the City of Montgomery Commencing Tuesday, November 15, 1898 (Jacksonville, FL, 1899), 153. 138 General Laws (and joint Resolutions) of the General Assemble of Alabama, passed at the Session of 1898 9, Held in the capitol in the City of Mont gomery Commencing Tuesday, November 15, 1898 (Jacksonville, FL, 1899), 157. 139 General Laws (and joint Resolutions) of the General Assemble of Alabama, passed at the Session of 1898 9, Held in the capitol in the City of Montgomery Commencing Tuesday, Novemb er 15, 1898 ( Jacksonville, FL, 1899), 154.
179 140 So in the aftermath of the Cahaba train wreck, which was blamed ely to protect railroad corporations. In effect, train wrecking attempts led to the militarization of railroad corridors. The 1890s were a historical pivot point, not only for railroads, but for the South as a whole. Would regulation curtail the near mon opoly power of southern railroads? Would Populist insurgents seize the reins of government from the Bourbon Democrats? Would the symbolic power of the railroad be diminished? 141 Train wrecks opened up all of these questions, and in moments after spectacular train wrecks, invoking the specter of train wreckers mobilized communities behind railroads. A lynch mob in Poplarville, show trial in Georgia, cascade of editorials in North Carolina and a wave of legislation in Alabama all were responses to train wreckin g that reified the power of outside rail corporations. The lingering doubts in all of these cases, expressed in newspapers like the Statesville Landmark, Bridge wreck, sugges t that this victory was incomplete. Buried inside the Birmingham State Herald, obscured by massive headlines blaming wreckers for the Cahaba wreck, a letter from a reader cut to the truth of train wrecking. The man claimed that wrecks were simply bound to liable for damages, tell the newspaper correspondents that train wreckers did it. The correspondents, always on the lookout for a sensation, telegraph the papers 140 General Laws (and joint Resolutions) of the General Assemble of Alabama, passed at the Session of 1898 9, Held in the capitol in the City of Montgomery Commencing Tuesday, November 15, 1898 ( Jacksonville, FL, 18 99), 154. 141 The importance of the 1890s in southern history was most famously stated by C. Vann Woodward, Origins of the New South, 1877 1913 (Baton Rouge, 1951).
180 142 More than any other piece of evidence, this letter hits the nail on the head. This letter also suggests why train wreckers faded from the southern press after their high po int in the 1890s. Eventually the public stopped believing and newspapers stopped trying. More significantly moment of flux in the political, economic and racial situation ended and the train wrecker was simply no longer useful, or believable. The econom y recovered, the Populist challenge was beaten back and southern railroads successfully consolidated and reorganized, and Jim Crow segregation laws solidified white supremacy. The train wrecker eventually outlived its usefulness. The train wrecker mania, fabricated by railroads, perpetuated by the press, and accepted by an anxious southern population, points to how capitalism and modernity spawn narratives that protect the larger system. But for those on the ground, the readers of southern newspapers and f earful rail travelers, the notion that train wreckers were at work on rail lines added yet another example of the bewilderments of modernity and the anxieties that accompanied the expansion of capitalism in the South. In the end, the train wrecker is a rem inder that the unique cultural and social context of the American South led to a different set of anxieties for the general public. From the been let the railroa d off the hook, but the notion that train wreckers threatened southern locomotives surely did little to ease the fears of travelers. As the Durham Globe remarked in the e paper stated 143 142 Birmingham State Herald, December 30, 1896. 143 Quote from the Durh am Globe Statesville Landmark, September 10, 1891.
181 Figure 5 1. Train Wrecking Attempts in the South, as reported in the Atlanta Constitution New Orleans Picayune and Raleigh News Observer 1878 through 1900.
182 CHAPTER 5 AT ONCE UBIQUITOUS, PROMISCUOU S, FREQUENT AND NUMEROUS: ALABAMA TRAIN ROBBERS RUBE BURROW AND RAILROAD BILL Al Law was guiding his train north on the Illinois Central main line from New Orleans to M emphis, when he noticed three men climb onto the train. Law at first thought they were tramps, but after they pointed their pistols at the engineer, their purpose became clear. Law stopped the car itself, men huddled behind passengers for help defending the train, and Chester Hughes, traveling to his home in Jackson, Mississippi with his recentl y widowed sister, leapt to the fore with a Winchester rifle. As he left the train, he was gunned down by the robbers. Other passengers tried to give him some whiskey to ease his pain, but their efforts were in vain, and Hughes soon died. Meanwhile, the ga ng of robbers, led by the now notorious Rube Burrow vanished into the Mississippi countryside with around $4,000. 1 Less than seven years after this robbery on July 3, 1895, Sheriff McMillan, head of er man bedeviling southern freight trains. In 1894, L&N freight trains working the swampy area between Pensacola, Brewton and Mobile began falling prey to a mysterious foe. Merchandise would vanish off the back of trains, only to reappear in the hands of local blacks. Railroad employees told hushed rumors of an animal to escape. A black informant gave McMillan the location of Railroad Bill, near Bluff 1 Appeal, December 17, 1888 and eyewitness accounts relayed in official reports to the Illinois Central, To E.T. Jeffre y, December 20, 1888, In Illinois Central Railroad Collection, Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois (hereinafter ICRR)
183 Springs, and McMillan gathered his posse. As he neared a edge of the town, McMillan and his group were ambushed and McMillan was shot through the heart. The rest of the posse fired desperately at the hidden assailant, but to no avail, and Railroad Bill escaped, lea ving behind the mortally wounded sheriff. 2 The similarities in the deaths of these two men, both fighting train robbers was not lost on this dauntlessness to that of 3 This was one of the first, but certainly not the last robbers. Both men, active in roughly the same time period, in the same state, often appear as two dimensional cardboard figures in scholarly literature. In the most standard interpretation of traditional values, and fighting agents of modernization like railroa ds. 4 Rube Burrow himself is an overlooked footnote in the extensive literature on Alabama and the New South period. The proliferation of violence in the New So uth era. As William Warren Rogers argues, Rube 2 Brewton (Ala.) Standard Gauge, July 4, 1895. 3 Brewton (Ala.) Standard Gauge August 12, 1895. 4 E.J. Hobsbawm, Primitive Rebels: Studies in Archaic Forms of Social Movement in the 19 th and 20 th Centuries (New York, 1959) explicitly makes this case for Jesse James.
184 Reconstruction. 5 Popular memory casts him alternatively as 6 Hi of his life from the hazy legend and picking the elements of truth out of the supernatural accounts of his actions. Others have focused upon his status as a black fo lk hero immortalized by an eponymous song, linking historical evidence to the folk song that bears his name. Scholars race was crucial in explaining the lengthy manhunt. 7 If there is any theme to these works, it is that they pa int these men as foes of But instead of explaining away these crimes as a product of a violent time, or folding Burrow into a diverse cast of bandits fighti ng a global battle against agents of modernization, it was actions. Both men exploited the rationality, speed, predictability, and efficiency of the new network and reactions to their actions exposed the complicated relationship between southerners 5 William Warren Rogers, Violence and Outlawry in the New South: Rube Burr Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida The Florida Historical Quarterly Vol. 59, No. 2 (Oct., 1980), 182 198. 6 D Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1965), 171,175. 7 Folklor e, Vol. 40. No. 4 (Oct 1981), 315 Southern Cultures (Fall 2003), 66 88, Gulf Coast Historical Review, (Fall 1994), 85 91; Norm Cohen, Long Steel Rail: The Railroad in American Folksong (Urbana, 1981) 122 131 and Lawrence W. Levine, Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro American Folk Thought from Slavery to Freedom (Oxford 1977), 410 412.
185 and the new connections that remade the regions in the 1880s. Their robberies, and the lengthy manhunts for these criminals sprawled across the pages of the souther n press and readily apparent in convulsions that rocked entire communities provided tangible moments when these new currents of capitalism coursing through the southern railroad network were debated and discu ssed. With this vantage point, the crucial dif ference between these men their race becomes less important in explaining their crimes, but remains integral in how their actions were interpreted and remembered. After their deaths, both men lived on as legends, but the mythic versions of their career s served more to obscure the moment of panic and anxiety that their actions induced. Their memory took wildly divergent routes, yet for both men the result was to effectively write them out of the history of capitalism. Origins The basic details of both of their careers are simple to recount. Rube Burrow was born in relative anonymity and poverty, in isolated Lamar County Alabama. Born in Lamar County, in Northwestern Alabama, in 1854 or 1855, he struck west for Texas in 1874. After robbing a few trains in Texas, he returned to his native region and robbed a train on the St. Louis, Arkansas and Texas Railway near Genoa, Arkansas in 1887. This robbery was the first to occur in the territory of the Southern Express in seventeen years. So while Rube was by no means the first to rob a southern railroad, he brought the crime back into the public eye in a dramatic fashion. 8 After this attack, he gained notoriety in Alabama after he and his gang engaged in a shootout on the streets of Montgomery that led to the arrest of a compatriot and the killing of a compositor for the Montgomery Advertiser. In between periods spent in hiding he robbed an Illinois Central train at Duck Hill, Mississippi in December 1888, a Mobile & Ohio train near Buckatunna, Mississippi 8 G. W. Agee, Rube Burrow, King of Outlaws, an d his Band of Train Robbers: An Accurate and Faithful History of their Exploits and Adventures (Chicago, 1890), 20.
186 in September 1889 and a Louisville & Nashville train at Flomaton, Alabama in September 1890. These robberies were punctuated with various manhunts that erupted in areas where he was rumored to be. While Burrow was on the run in southern Alabama, two black s harecroppers in Myrtlewood captured him. He escaped from the jail in which he was held, only to die later during a shootout on the streets of Linden, Alabama in October 1890. 9 Less than five years after Rube Burrow met his bloody end, Railroad Bill emerg ed in the opposite corner of Alabama. His robberies began in 1894, targeting trains on the Mobile & Montgomery division of the L&N Railroad. Railroad Bill burst onto the pages of southern newspapers in April 1895, after gunning down J.H. Stewart, a L&N s ection master engaged in hunting Bill. Three months later, Bill killed the Sheriff of Brewton, touching off a massive manhunt that lasted throughout the summer of 1895. After a number of close calls, Railroad Bill went into hiding until December, when h e emerged to rob another train. In March of 1896, his career ended when he was unceremoniously ambushed and shot down in a general store in Atmore, Alabama. 10 In explaining their emergence, both men had similar origins as products of the mobility of labo r touched off by southern railroad development in the 1880s. Despite the portrayal in the press of Rube Burrow as a country bumpkin, he did not simply crawl out of the Alabama foothills and start robbing trains. He moved west to Texas, where he actually w orked on constructing railroads like the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad, and worked on the Mexican 9 This basic account Agee, Rube Burrow, King of Outlaw which is the most trustworthy of the dime novels deta iling his exploits. Rube Burrow has not been the subject of much academic The Florida Historical Quarterly Vol. 59, No. 2 (Oct., 1980), 182 198 and William Warren Rogers Jr., (MA Thesis, Auburn, 1979). 10 s life is found in Burgin Matthews, Southern Cultures (Fall 2003), 66 88
187 Central Railroad before settling down to a more pastoral life on a farm. His experience with the railroad industry must have sparked an interest in us ing railroads for more nefarious ends, for after failing as a farmer in Texas, he turned to train robbery as a profession. began to rob trains around 1894. His early caree r was the subject of much debate, though it was clear that Railroad Bill was part of a massive migration of labor touched off by rail expansion. Most reporters on his trail concluded that he had come out of a turpentine camp. Carl Carmer, began his Railro policeman stopped him and tried to get him to hand over the gun. Slater refused, and shot the policeman when he made a move towards him. To escape he hopped on a freight train that was outlaw. 11 of folk ballads claimed that Morris 12 The turpentine industry was intimately tied to the expansion of the southern railroad network. Based in the Carolinas before the Civil War, the indu stry moved into new areas as new railroad lines plunged into the vast piney woods of Georgia, Florida and Alabama. All along newly constructed railroads like the Georgia Southern & Florida and Savannah, Florida & Western turpentine camps sprung up and bla ck workers flooded into the rail corridors, either as free laborers, or under some sort of coercive labor arrangement. In camps hidden away in dark forests, yet still close to rail transportation, owners relied on harsh discipline and in many cases armed guards, to keep their 11 Carl Lamson Carmer, Stars Fell on Alabama (Tuscaloosa, 1985, c1934) 122 126. 12 Gulf Coast Historical Review, (Fall 1994), 89.
188 men working. Railroads fostered this circulation of African American labor and upended the demographic balance of many of the previously isolated parts of Alabama, Georgia and Florida. 13 Another post history, given by a deputy sheriff, claimed Bill had a slightly different origin, though this observer also linked him to the railroad worked on the L&N as a brakema n. According to this account he first fell into trouble when the road charged him with stealing and selling their brasses, and he then became jealous of his wife and beat her. He was arrested, but escaped and slipped away on a train, after which he took t he name Morris Slater and began robbing trains. 14 This version has slight differences with the apocryphal legend of Railroad Bill crawling out of a turpentine camp, but the emphasis on mobile labor linked to the railroad economy stayed the same. Exploiting the Interconnected South Whatever their exact origins, these two robbers emerged at a critical juncture in the in transportation. The spread of the railroad to new areas the incorporation of new space into the network meant that trains laden with valuables now traversed isolated areas ideal for reach of authorities. an isolated bridge over the Escambia River surrounded by dense woods on both sides, which shut out the 13 Detail on the turpentine industry comes from Robert B. Outland, Tapping the Pines: The Naval Stores Industry in the American South (Baton Rouge, 2004). Though focused solely on south Georgia, W. Fitzhugh Brundag e, Lynching in the New South: Georgia and Virginia, 1880 1930 (Urbana and Chicago, 1993) similarly examines how railroad development led to the migration of large numbers of black laborers to the piney woods region. 14 Daily News, March 13, 1896.
189 moonlight. 15 On September 25, 1889, Rube Burrow and two confederates robbed a train on the Mo bile & Ohio line near Buckatunna, Mississippi. The robbers forced the engineer to stop on a bridge, so passengers could not interfere, and then they forced the express messenger to open his safe. Fearing a robbery, the road had recently armed its employee s with Winchester rifles, but the only detective on this train was asleep during the crime. 16 At Duck Hill, Burrow robbed the Illinois Central line at an open low marsh, and then ran into a nearby swamp to hide. 17 Distinctively southern geographic features s uch as swamps, dense piney woods, and the rugged foothills in Lamar County aided his exploits by providing convenient hiding spots. Railroad Bill travelled less than Burrow, focusing his robberies in the isolated southeast corner of Alabama, in the swampy, heavily forested region near the Florida border. In the dramatically transformed by changes in the railroad network. Like large portions of the South, the railro ad was late in coming to the Florida panhandle and southeastern Alabama, not arriving in force until the 1880s. At the dawn of this decade, the Mobile & Montgomery line connected region, Pensacola, was government made efforts to connect Pensacola with Jacksonville and the rest of the state, but solation was so severe that area legislators had 15 Montgomery Advertiser, September 2, 1890. 16 New Orleans Picayune September 26, 1889. 17 New Orleans Picayune December 16, 1888.
190 even floated the idea of seceding from the rest of Florida to join Alabama, which offered more generous aid for railroad construction. 18 rates, the Louisville territory in Kentucky, acquiring important lines thr ough Alabama. In an atmosphere of intense competition for new territory, the Louisville and Nashville Railroad set its sights on the greater panhandle region, with its ample untapped lumber supply, in 1880. To first gain a foothold in the area, the L&N pu rchased the Mobile & Montgomery road in 1880 and it completed an unfinished line that connected Pensacola with Selma. The Mobile & Montgomery had fallen into financial duress in 1872 and was in an extremely dilapidated condition when it was purchased by t he L&N and ownership by a large corporation dramatically improved operations on the line. The L&N then turned its attention to the untapped panhandle area. The Pensacola & Atlantic, stretching west from Pensacola, was finally completed in 1883 and the roa d reverted to L&N control after its foreclosure in 1885. 19 The late arrival of this connection was noted by one 20 For better or w orse, the area was fully connected to the national rail network by the end of the decade. 18 Mark W Summers, Railroads, Reconstruction and the Gospel of Pr osperity: Aid under the Radical Republicans, 1865 1877 (Princeton, 1984), 91. 19 Gregg M. Turner, A Journey into Florida Railroad History (Gainesville, 2008), 108 110. Maury Klein, History of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad (New York, 1972), 157 8, 181 20 The Florida Historical Quarterly Vol. 37, No. (Jan April 1959) 397 417.
191 Railroad Bill terrorized white citizens in towns along the Mobile and Montgomery division of the L&N line like Atmore, Brewton, Flomaton, and Pensacola whose economi c hopes and dreams were inextricably linked to this new railroad development. Atmore, Alabama, was named after C.P. Atmore, General Pass Agent with the L&N, who had purchased the land and laid out the plots for the new town along the L&N route linking Pen sacola and Brewton. 21 Standard Gauge, change its gauge from the southern five foot gauge, to the northern four foot, eight and a half inch gauge in 1886. In an effort to lure inve stment and new settlement, the Standard Gauge consistently touted improved rail facilities that could reach up to 50 miles per hour, and Atmore service to all ci 22 The areas between these towns, the deep, dark swamps and forests recently reached by the L&N were convenient hiding spots, and Railroad Bill made use of the wild and unsettled nature of the country in which he operated. Anyone with intimate knowledge of the swamps could hide from railroad employees fearful to venture far from the tracks. Even the terrain itself in which Bill hid had supernatural qualities. A railroad official complained that the area between Pensacola and Mobile was like Africa, full of 30 foot alligators and gigantic mosquitoes. Bill had plenty of 23 Though railro ad corporations provided the tracks, cars and locomotives attacked by 21 Standard Gauge May 16, 1895. 22 Standard Gaug e, Standard Gauge August 8, 1895. 23 Daily Advertiser, July 10, 1895.
192 capital. Express companies first arose in the 1850s as a way for wholesalers to quickly send c ommodities over multiple rail lines. A shipper could contract with an express company to send an item, and the express company would ensure that the shipment arrived as fast as possible, by sending it in specially marked express cars. Much of the success o f the express companies derived the way in which they smoothed over difficulties that often arose from the multiplicity of independent southern rail companies. As the name implies, the Southern Express was an mpany was born during the Civil War, when the Adams Express Company split in half to serve the respective combatants. After the war, the company remained in place, and even though its president lived in New York, it attempted to 24 Acting essentially as the nervous system for the disparate southern railroads and a channel to direct shipments of mone y and goods, the Southern Express grew in the 1880s and 90s, as the southern railroad network expanded to incorporate new areas. The end of Reconstruction and the depression of the 1870s led to a revived national economy and renewed economic development in the South, facts which meant more capital and cash coursing through the veins of the railroad network. This also created more targets for robbers like Burrow. ha uls. In the Texarkana robbery, Burrow took about $10,000 worth of Louisiana Lottery money from the express car of the St. Louis, Arkansas and Texas Train and he got $3,000 from the 24 A.L. Stimson, History of the Express Business; Including the Origin of the Railway System in America And the Relation of Both to the Increase of New Settlements And the Prosperity of Cities in the United States (New York, 1881), 127. Scott Reynolds Nelson, Iron Confederacies (Chapel Hill, 1999), 42 44.
193 express messenger at Duck Hill. 25 At Buckatunna, Burrow made off with $2,70 0 that belonged to the Mobile and Ohio Railroad Company, though his gang had to leave behind $7,000 in silver government money bound for Florida. 26 lack of preparation was apparent. Instead of robbing the No. 2 limited express train, which was carrying $17,000 worth of lottery tickets on its way to the Louisiana Lottery Commission, he robbed train No. 6. The real target for robbers were through trains, which stopped less frequently and carried commodities a nd money at higher rates of speed. 27 Railroad Bill dealt more in goods than large sums of money, as he exploited the commodities traversing the area on L&N freight trains. In a typical robbery he surreptitiously boarded an L&N freight train and pointed a Winchester rifle at a brakeman who spotted him. Telling the brakeman not to tell the conductor, Bill grabbed a box of clothing worth $200 and threw it off the train. 28 A week after this robbery, a L&N official reported that upwards of $1,000 of stolen me rchandise was scattered throughout the countryside, and the railroad sent detectives to both find the goods and the robber. 29 After a robbery, Bill distributed commodities along the line, and either he or his compatriots could gather them up later. A folkl orist claimed For local blacks, Railroad Bill seemed to serve as a Robin Hood type figure, redistributing commodities that otherwise would have passed them by. T hough his usual customers were 25 Picayune December Picayune December 16, 1888. 26 Advertiser September 26, 1889. 27 News September 3, 1890. 28 Daily Advertiser April 10, 18 95. 29 Daily Advertiser April 19, 1895.
194 blacks, who Carmer claims were forced to buy from him, even white men bought his goods since 30 One of the most touted new features of southern railroading in the New South was the regular and punctual arrival of trains. The ability to post and hew to a constant daily schedule was an ultimate goal of any railroad corporation, but the same schedules that made travel convenient for passengers, and freight shipments reliable for mer chants, also made robberies when trains entered isolated areas, like the swamp near Duck Hill, or a bridge over a river near Flomaton. Word that Burrow was operati ng in an area caused railroads to alter their normally scheduled shipments. After an engineer reported a suspected Burrow sighting near Decatur, the Louisville & Nashville sent their pay train carrying thousands of dollars up the track earlier than schedul ed, with a guard of a dozen armed men, to ensure its safe arrival. 31 An official with the money or 32 from the way in which he was able to master the regularly scheduled and rapid movements of trains that he targeted on a consistent basis. A detective hunting him told a reporter how Bill frequently robbed the No. 74 train on Saturday nights, boarding the train in an area where it moved slowly up a high grade. 33 Trains 30 Carmer, Stars Fell on Alabama 122. 31 News October 17, 1889. 32 Daily News September 19, 1890. 33 Daily Advertiser April 9, 1895.
195 that arrived at certain pl aces at regularly set times were easier to board and rob than trains that came erratically. corporations they attacked, but as the rob beries piled up, their activities sparked fearful discussions in the press that touched on broader unease surrounding railroad development. Rube and lives on s outhern railroads. In November 1888, the Picayune 34 In 1889, authorities captured a group snatching trunks off of the New Orleans and Northeastern Road. Using false keys, the culprits stole jewelry and other rleans boarding house run by implicated in these robberies. 35 railroads coincided with more covert, and more common forms of rail theft. was the first in the territory of the Southern Express in 17 years, and his crimes in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida marked the first outbreak of train robbery in these states. The obvious reference point for a southern train robber, Jesse James, was most active in the west, and his pro 34 Picayune, November 14, 1888. 35 Daily News, November 9, 1889.
196 Confederate sympathi es hardly made him a bogeyman for southern elites. 36 crimes were especially frightening to southerners due to the way in which they put passengers of eral the Railway Gazette is, for many passengers, worse than the loss of watches and purses. 37 The Duck Hill robbery, in which a passenger who dared to confront Burrow with a Winch ester rifle was shot and killed, valuables in the most availabl 38 In their response to his robberies, many observers recognized the extent to which Burrow used the latest railroad technology for nefarious ends. The Memphis Appeal that in these days of perfect railroad systems the officer s and passengers of a train can be so The paper blamed the Westinghouse air brake, which saved labor, thereby reducing the size of train crews, leaving engines defenseless in the face of criminals like Rube Burrow. The time saved by the brake increased profits for railroad companies, but this gain was counterbalanced by the outfitting of a security crew to guard trains from robbers. 39 Creating a cohesive railroad system allowed for faster transit, and improved service, but it also created space for the actions of a robber like Burrow. 36 T.J. Stiles Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War (New York 2002). 37 Railroad Gazette, October 19, 1894. 38 Appeal, December 18, 1888. 39 Appeal, December 17, 1888.
197 money, as the apparent ease with which Burr ow robbed his prey caused some editorialists to train their ire on the railroad companies themselves. The most famous quote attributed to train as it is to rob 40 The Constitution cracked that criminals who were thinking resolute man, with a couple of pistols, to capture a passenger train and go throu 41 As the Constitution danger. When he trusts his person or his property to the care of a railway company he feels that it is his right to be guaranteed a reason 42 The Picayune contended that one employees of cowardly 43 well. On two different occasions, he deployed troops to areas where Burrow was alleged to be. Once he sent the Birmingham Rifles to Blount County, and on another oc casion he deployed a unit to Lamar County. 44 40 Constitution, November 3, 1889 41 Constitution, September 5, 1890. 42 Constitution, November 19, 1891. 43 Picayune, September 3, 1890. 44 These two deployments are discussed in lett ers in this file, Alabama Governor (1886 1890: Seay), Administrative files, SG8,415 Reels 14 21, Alabama Dept. of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.
198 hoping to join the hunt. George Bartholomew, from Hannibal, Missouri wrote the governor in paid he pledged to capture Rube Burrow in four months if he was in the country, six if he had become a detective recommendation from Pinkerton detectives. 45 Just as Rube Burrow spoke to broader anxieties about the security of southern railroading, Railroad Bill arrival on the scene coincided with an upt ick in worry about the impact four days. 46 In November a self de travelled. 47 tramps flyin house knows she is addressed by a rough man in a rough voice demanding food or According to this author, tramps were harassing local women, including an eighty year old women who fainted while confronted by a six foot tall man, and a mother who had been forced to feed and clothe over a dozen tramps in the last day. If the police were unable to solve the 45 Letter to Thomas Seay from George Bartholomew, October 28, 1889, Alabama Governor (1886 1890: Sea y), Administrative files, SG8,415 Reels 14 21, Alabama Dept. of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama. 46 Daily News, February 22, 1894. 47 Pensacola Daily News, November 24, 1894.
199 48 When Railroad Bill gained notoriety, he put a distinct black face, a nd a catchy nickname on these broader anxieties, and when he began killing his pursuers, his activities seemed to advantages of the new railroad network to his advan tage, occurred on a low level for a while and he started out as mainly a nuisance for L&N employees, but Railroad Bill burst onto the pages of item in the Const itution noted that in March, a freight conductor on the L&N found Bill lying asleep at a tank by the rail line, and attempted to capture him with the help of some other train men. Bill woke up, attacked the men with revolvers, and scared them off. A secon d train showed up, but Railroad Bill captured this train and imprisoned the crew. Some white men formed a posse and pursued Bill to Bay Minette, and Bill shot one of these men, James Stewart, through the heart. 49 After this incident, the Sheriff of Brewton swore he would capture Railroad Bill. As the legendary version of this story goes, when Bill heard this he allegedly wrote a taunting letter to 50 But the sheriff did go party approached the spot on July 4, 1895, Bill ambushed them, mortally wounding the sheriff Standard Ga uge claimed 48 Daily News, D ecember 1, 1894. 49 Constitution, April 8, 1895. 50 Carmer, Stars Fell on Alabama, 123.
200 that the informant had set up the whole attack and betrayed the mayor. 51 Some did not believe Railroad Bill was responsible; at least one Escambia County resident floated the theory that Bill was nothing more than a scapegoat for the murder. Bi ll had never before been seen in this area, 52 Newspapers debunked this theory a week later, but the fact that this story was out there speaks to the ambiguity surrounding the search for Railro ad Bill. 53 Whatever the cause of the Independence Day killing, the impact was immediate. After word spread of the killing of the Sheriff, hundreds of armed men descended on the area to take part of a massive manhunt of the type never seen before in the area The train robberies were a nuisance, but the murder of the Sheriff threatened the entire community. According to the Pensacola Daily News, contended that the presence of so many amat eurs had actually hurt the effort by destroying any element of surprise and by throwing bloodhounds off the scent. 54 A traveler leaving a train at Brewton, Alabama in August 1895 would have encountered a veritable army of over 200 men with Winchesters patro lled the area around the depot. In addition to armed citizens, the group included an assortment of sheriffs, railroad officials and Pinkerton detectives. Armed guards were also posted up and down the L&N railroad line running out of the town. Excitement ran so high that business was virtually suspended, and a local barber complained that he had not shaved 51 Standard Gauge, July 4, 1895. 52 Age Herald, July 5, 1895. 53 tling Anyway, Birmingham Age Herald, July 7, 1895. 54 Daily News, August 5, 1895.
201 frontier town on the verge of an expected attack by Indians. 55 Even William Pinkerton himself was on the scene in southern Alabama. He passed through Pensacola on his way to Alabama, on 56 Anonymous, Ubiquitous and Supernatural As railroad officials, local authorities, amateur gumshoes and bounty hunters doggedly tracked Rube Burrow and Railroad Bill, both men used the attributes of the railroad network to anonymity. With trains constantly carryin g passengers throughout the South, it was quite easy for him to become lost in a sea of similarly rough looking white men. As Rube Burrow traversed various points in the southern railway network and as his legend grew, he became an almost ubiquitous prese nce in southern newspapers. In November 1889, a passenger agent of the ag ent swore this mysterious stranger was indeed Rube Burrow, and the agent rushed to a Birmingham News reporter to report his findings. By this point, alleged Rube Burrow sightings 57 The very next day, the same paper reported Rube Burrow sightings in Irondale and near Sand Mountain, two towns on opposite sides of Birmingham. At both locales, someone saw a suspicious group of heavily armed white men, and they assumed one must have been Rube Burrow and his gang. 58 A Blount 55 Advertiser, August 6, 1895. 56 Pensacola Daily News, August 16, 1895. 57 Birmingham Dail y News, November 5, 1889. 58 Birmingham Daily News, November 6, 1889.
202 from what the newspapers say. He was reported in Etow ah, Cleburne and Jefferson counties human credulity and should these rumors continue much longer people will conclude that 59 Even a mere rumor about the presence of Rube Burrow could shock an area. After Rube was said to be in the county, reside nts of Fayette County, Alabama became smuggled in six Winch or the Kansas City railroad. 60 Rube Burrow became so well known that most people simply assumed he was responsible for all robberies in the South. Before the investigation of the F lomaton robbery was complete, the Advertiser rube burrows said nine men in ten and the tenth man was forced to admit that it looks like the handiwork of the Lamar county outlaw and despe 61 Another Alabama paper poked fun at this tendency to blame Rube Burrow for all the crimes committed in the South, jokingly off Indian Territory. 62 As further evidence of the confusion surrounding his crimes, Rube Burrow was often territory. Bunch was a Louisiana schoolteacher turned brigand who gained notoriety for robbing a trai n sixty miles north of New Orleans on the New Orleans and Northeastern road in 1888. His 59 Blount County (Ala.) Herald, November 14, 1889. 60 Troy (Ala.) Messenger, July 25, 1889. 61 Montgomery Advertiser, September 3, 1890. 62 Birmingham News, November 26, 1889.
203 exploits were mostly confined to an isolated corner of southern Mississippi, meaning his crimes 63 In one humorous inci dent, Bunch robbed a New Orleans express train of securities, but lacked the knowledge to know their value, so he sent a letter to the New Orleans Board of Trade asking their value. 64 ns of his pursuers. Even while on the run in the isolated Florida panhandle in 1889, Burrow was able to use newspapers to track the movements of his pursuers. The Atlanta Constitution crowed that detective with the L&N noted that a number of yellowed clippings from the Constitution were found on Burrow at the time of his capture. The detective learned from people he stayed with that Burrow would insist on having a subscription to the paper wherev er he went, so he could track both the news of his own exploits and the efforts of detectives on his trail. He asked for the paper at every house he stayed at, 65 The self serving elements of this article aside, this highlights how crucial modern connections were to his career. Railroad expansion had made it so even the swamps of northwest Florida could receive timely copies of a newspaper from Atlanta. Along with newspapers, Rube Burrow took advantage of the new consumer goods offered by the railroad. While holed up in hiding in Lamar County, he ordered a disguise of false whiskers and a wig from a Chicago mail order house, but after the postmaster got suspicious and refused to deliver the package, Burrow allege dly shot him through the heart and killed him. 66 63 Railway World, August 27, 1892. 64 New Orleans Picayune, December 5, 1890. 65 Atlanta Constitution, October 12, 1890. 66 Carmer, Stars Fell on Alabama, 13 6.
204 and his connections to the spirit of capitalism sweeping the region came from Rufus Sanders, a Sunday columnist with th e Montgomery Advertiser. In a post Burrow was just one man, and even at the peak, his gang never had more than a few other members. But his rapid movement through the railroad network, the widespread news reports about his actions, and the ease at which one could blend in while traveling, made him seem d manifestation of the mood of progress sweeping the South, portraying the robber not as an upholder of traditional values, defending his way of life against the modern corporations, but as an intensely ambitious man with no higher goal than to win what Sa usual way, he opted for the quickest route to wealth and was warped beyond reproach by his lust for 67 attempts to elude his pursuers, who had become increasingly sheriff. Whenever Railroad Bill seemed to be surrounded, he hopped on a passing train to ride to a safer area. Because of his past experience in the railroad industry, Bill was able to board any 67 Montgomery Daily Advertiser, October 19, 1890.
205 train as long as it was goi ng below its normal speed. He also allegedly rubbed turpentine on his shoes to throw off the bloodhounds on his tail. 68 Authorities eventually realized that the only way to catch a criminal like Railroad Bill was to stop the circulation of the railroad netw ork. As authorities closed in on Bill near Castleberry, L&N officials ordered their train to continue through the town without stopping to keep Bill from making an escape by rail. 69 A few days n at a rapid rate and not stop 70 For the men who joined in the hunt, the attempt to fi nd Railroad Bill was marked by Pine Belt News today in one place, tomorrow his 71 In an interview with a reporter, a man who went to Brewton for the manhunt noted that everyon much prefer to find the outlaw then pass him off to the Sheriff or another off icer. 72 Indeed, Railroad Bill was so frightening to the white public, and his pursuers, because he seemed to be everywhere. At the height of the panic, Railroad Bills were found all across the South. A 68 Brewton (Ala.) Standard Gauge July 18, 1895. 69 Montgomery Daily Advertiser, August 1, 1895. 70 Birmingham Age Her ald, August 5, 1895. 71 Pine Belt (Atmore, Ala.) News, July 16, 1895. 72 Birmingham State Herald, August 14, 1895.
206 reporter tagging along on a manhunt captured the ubiq uity of Railroad Bill by noting he saw Montgomery Advertiser on a day in which four different reports placed Bill in Houston, Mississippi, Birmingham and southern Alabama. 73 Due to his skill at manipulating railroad connections, and his success at avoiding the numerous posses on his trail, southerners began to attribute supernatural powers to Bill. A that could change himself into any kind of animal he wanted to. While being pursued by a posse, he changed into a sheep, then watched the policemen pass. On another occasion, he turned into a dog, and joined the pack of bloodhounds pursuing him. The bloo dhounds lost the scent and the search ended in failure. Another time he turned into a fox to elude a white man hunting him. 74 A detective with the L&N later recalled that many thought that an ordinary leaden bullet could not kill him. Only 75 Newspaper accounts from the manhunt reinforced the link between Railroad Bill and supernatural powers for a different audience. A reporter on his trial noted that both blacks, and hought Bill had superhuman powers. One woman swore she saw him transform into a large white cow. And a live stock dealer described as one of negroes had been tell lurking around the station and the telegraph lines. It looked like the dog was sc outing the area, 73 Montgomery Daily Advertiser, August 10, 1895 74 Carmer, Stars Fell on Alabama, 122 125. 75 L&N Employees Magazine, Vol. 13, No. 9 (May 1927), 30.
207 and a detective with the man was certain the dog was Railroad Bill looking for information. 76 light h as Settled Itself U Th e search for these train robbers, which in both cases dragged on and frustrated authorities, eventually implicated broader portions of their community. With so many Rube Burrows running around the South, railroad officials consistently assumed a broader c onspiracy was behind the robberies. After the robbery at Duck Hill an official with the Illinois Central responsibility for the robbery on a gang living near Duck H ill that was known to residents and populace would mean ther outraged, and held a meeting to denounce both the statement and its author, and to declare that they were doing all they could to capture the robbers. In the end they forced both the Illinoi s Central and the Memphis Appeal, the paper that first printed the claim, to apologize. 77 The Illinois Central also linked Rube Burrow to an attempted train wrecking on the main line. Less than three weeks after the Duck Hill robbery, someone misplaced a sw itch at Brookhaven, over 150 miles South of Duck Hill on the IC mail line, and an official with the road suggested 76 Daily Advertiser, August 7, 1895. 77 Picayune, December 21, 1888.
208 78 To officials of the Illinois Central, i t seemed that a wide array of interests along their line in Mississippi were conspiring to rob their trains. Authorities and railroad officials also targeted Lamar County, the county where Rube Burrow had grown up, and where many family members remained. F or Lamar County authorities, the implication that Rube Burrow used their county to hide was a slander of the the County Probate officer penned a desperate lette in Lamar County, but the Pinkertons, and various detectives were having no luck in lack of trying to apprehend him f in the world. He has relatives and friends here more than any other place and he is familiar w ith many good men in the neighborhood where these things are w ill sacrifice their property and thought that a blight has settled itself upon us that may take the lives of some of our best citizens 79 78 E.F. Jeffrey to Stuyvesant Fish, January 10, 1889, In Letters ICRR. 79 Letter to Thomas Seay from W.A. Young, August 8, 1889, Alabama Governor (1886 1890: Seay), Administrative files, SG 8,415, Reels 14 21, Alabama Dept. of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.
209 Indeed, the stakes were high for Lamar County, as the area desperately sought the attention of railroad corporations to provide connections to the outside wo rld. But it would be the 80 outside railroad corporations, so crucial to the County elites made quick disavowals of his actions, and in August 1889, citizens held a meeting in Vernon and adopted a lengthy resolution, alluding to people in the county who had been gang. The citizens denounced the outlaws in their midst, and warned that further outlawry would be punished. Referring to attempts to lynch a captured friend of Rube Burrow, the resolution 81 So while some in the er lacked the broad base of support enjoyed by men like Jesse James, who drew on sympathetic ex Confederates and friendly newspaper editors. that looked like him. At the h eight of the manhunt in November 1889, the local paper in Blount who were passing through the country, and were supposed to be the notorious desperado Rube Burrow 82 In response to this alleged sighting, the sheriff of the county telegraphed the governor to ask for troops, and the governor immediately sent twenty five 80 Vernon (Ala.) Courier, Augus t 1, 1889. 81 (Ala.) Courier, August 8, 1889. 82 News Dispatch October 31, 1889.
210 soldiers with dogs. 83 They engaged the alleged Rube Burrow gang in a shootout, but in the end, the men turned out to just be two local moonshiners on the run after a fight with the a U.S. Deputy Marshal. 84 The notion that Rube Burrow drew support from local communities threatened economic development, drew condemnation and harsh wor ds, but when officials suspected that Railroad Bill drew support from local African Americans, the reactions from the white community were much more fearful and violent. Elites and community leaders in Lamar County tried, and mostly succeeded in distancin g themselves from Rube Burrow. But for the black population of southeast Alabama, it would not be as easy to separate from Railroad Bill. So it is clear that while the race of the robbers themselves was not a huge factor in explaining their success in robb ing trains, it did lead to different outcomes for the population that was alleged by authorities to have helped shelter them. The confusing ubiquity of Railroad Bill that was amusing to newspaper reporters and frightening for ordinary travelers became a ni ghtmare for African American populations along southern railroad corridors. Frustration with the hunt quickly turned into rage against the entire population of African Americans in the area. The New Orleans Picayune also complained about how Bill received aid from local blacks and it suggested Bill was coercing aid from local blacks with violence. It argued these people were between the devil and the deep blue sea, stuck between the demands of atomies with sundry pellets of 83 Alabama Governor (1886 1890: Seay ), Administrative files, SG8,415 Reels 14 21, Alabama Dept. of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama. 84 Blount County (Ala.) News Dispatch November 7, 1889.
211 to leave that section of the coun try? 85 Another railroad official told a correspondent that African him and seem to look upon him as something inhuman, they believe his life is bewitched, and this superstition serves the purpose of defeating our plans for capturing him. 86 As the Railroad Bill panic reached its height in August 1895, men in southern Alabama began to stop and arrest every African American on a train. Other blacks were kept in a gua rdhouse to keep them from slipping information to Bill. 87 One African American woman in Mobile received a letter from her husband in Pensacola informing her that he would not be able to visit her unless he walked, the reason being that two suspected Railro ad Bills had already been killed along the railroad between the two towns. 88 Another African American named Bill Thomas, a turpentine worker who allegedly shot a sheriff, was killed in a shootout in Chipley, Georgia. Some officials suspected Thomas and Ra ilroad Bill were the same person, so the L&N dug up his body and shipped it to Montgomery for further inspection. 89 Jacksonville authorities also thought they caught Railroad Bill, sending officials in Brewton a telegraph informing them of his capture. Af ter a comparison of pictures, they realized they had a man named D. McCoy, who had ended up in jail after threatening another man with a revolver. 90 Officials in Evergreen, Alabama caught a suspected Railroad Bill and the man was held in jail for a few days but authorities released him after L&N officials confirmed the man was not the outlaw. Once free, 85 Picayune, July 10, 1895. 86 Advertiser, April 10, 1895. 87 Montgomery Daily Advertiser, August 1, 1895. 88 Constitution, August 30, 1895. 89 Advertiser, August 17, 1895. 90 Daily News, September 18, 1895.
212 the man with an unfortunate resemblance to Railroad Bill had no choice but to flee the area, 91 buckshot in order to claim the reward money. The gumbo salesman had hosted the suspected Railroad Bill at his home, but after the guest began to act suspiciously, Vaughn attempted to capture him. After the confrontation, Bill Vaughn ended up in prison and the suspected train robber ended up in a hospital in critical condition. Vaughn claimed he was certain that he had caught Railroad Bill, but a detective on the case viewed the wounded man and said it was not the infamous train robber. The manhunt did not end after this incident, so in all likelihood another innocent man had be en caught up in the violent search. 92 wide panic that proved deadly for many innocent African Advertiser number of negroes who were killed und er the impression that they were Slater will never be Texas. 93 An advertisement in the Pensacola Daily News up serenely in so many different localities that he now ranks with Marti, the Cuban patriot, so far as diversified death goes. 94 From what can be directly documented in the surviving newspapers, at least four men were shot, and two were arrested. 91 gomery Advertiser, July 10, 1895. 92 Daily News, July 13, 1895. 93 Advertiser, March 8. 1896. 94 Daily News, July 16, 1895.
213 Denouement In the end, t hese two men could only run for so long, and both met bloody ends in a small Alabama town. Rube Burrow tried to escape from a jail in Linden only to be gunned down in the ed into outlaw walked into the store to buy supplies, and a number of different white men shot him. Even with the readily viewable evidence of the physical bodie s, some wondered if Rube Burrow and Railroad Bill were actually dead. A story in the Pensacola News told an anecdote from a fake. After the stranger failed to deny th at he himself was Rube, the man suspected that the mysterious stranger was none other than the outlaw himself. 95 A letter from the Standard now that Railroad Bill had been laid to rest. For this writer, Railroad Bill was a bogey man and an easy scapegoat for a wide variety of criminal activity in the area. 96 Others even doubted whether Railroad Bill existed at all. A man from Evergreen claimed that Railroad Bill was entirely fabricated. He described an amateur detective named Hendrix from Texas, who was part of the posse of detectives chasing Bill, and who had brought a black man with him to Alabama. Hendrix allegedly had the black man sneak around and scare locals by dramatically informing them that he was Railroad Bill. If this story was to be believed, the manhunt was nothing more than a plot by Hendrix to keep up excitement and draw a paycheck from the L&N. 97 As late as the 1920s, some still believed Railroad Bil l was alive. Folklorist Carl Carmer wrote that there 95 Daily News, Octobe r 19, 1890. 96 Standard Gauge, March 12, 1896. 97 Daily Advertiser, August 7, 1895.
214 dead. 98 A litany of historians have sought to get to the bottom of the mystery and find the man behind identity is not that important. 99 Even if he did exist, the real culprit in this case was not Railroad Bill, it was the railroad itself. His sightings were typically co ncentrated around rail depots, he used and exploited rail transportation to escape, and he preyed on the commodities carried on rail cars. The elusiveness that fed tales of supernatural qualities was directly linked to his skill at boarding trains and his mastery of the L&N schedule. The outlaw was so inextricably linked to because transient African American laborers like him were indeed all over the South. The fact the expansion of the railroad network. but he still demonstrated that me n marginalized by the New South economy could still cause sensational crimes. William Pinkerton, the man in charge of the detective agency which had doggedly pursued Burrow across the South, worried that others would follow in his example, and he blamed t young men of small 98 Carmer, Stars Fell on Alabama, 125. 99 Southern Cultures (Fall 2003), 66 88 is the best of these attempts, focusing mainly on race as a lens to analyze the story
215 country towns. 100 become increasingly dangerous and violent, which could undercut booster claims of a New South safe for northern capital and tarnish the reputati on of the entire South. In a December 1890 editorial the New Orleans Picayune 101 southerners unaccustomed to robbery in this section of the country. Even though Flomaton was just north of the Florida border, a Jacksonville paper declared it was startling that such a crime with 102 the meager tally of money robbed, or the handful of murders they committed. Their lives exploited the forces remaking the railroad n etwork speed, rationality, and newfound connectivity and they personified these transformations. Failure to dampen these fears could lead to serious questions about the safety of rail travel, reliability of express shipments, or the value of new rail road connections, doubts that could cause more damage to railroads than the monetary losses from the robberies themselves, and doubts that could threaten the New South crucial. How would these anxieties be resolved and their crimes separated from the railroad network, and the values of capitalism and modernity that abetted their actions? 100 The North American Review Vol, 157, Issue 444, (Nov 1893), 530 541. 101 Daily Picayune, December, 23, 1890. 102 Daily News, September 5, 1890.
216 Creating Legends For Rube Burrow, the process of mythmaking was in full swing by t he middle of his career, and the New South press resorted to two frames to marginalize Burrow, and downplay the significance of his crimes. One common response among those searching for Burrow was to see his crimes as symptomatic of the sentiments of unciv ilized rural country folks. Railroad came to train robberies, the Railroad Gazette 103 In anoth er editorial, the Gazette face of the earth in which such train robberies can happen. 104 made much of his origins in the allegedly backward and uncivilized Lamar County. G.W. Agee, the Southern Express official in charge of the manhunt, noted that the part of Alabama had B from such strong and rugged natures, uneducated and untrained in the school of right and honesty, that comes the material of which 105 From the perspective of the demonstrated that was as much a creature of the railroad network as he was a country bumpkin. another was to paint him as a redistributionist Robin Hood figure. One of the most prolific 103 Railroad Gazette, February 8, 1895. 104 Railroad Gazette, October 19, 1894. 105 Agee, Rube Burrow, King of Outlaws 7.
217 chronic Atlanta Constitution, a publication that more than any other epitomized the values of the New South. Seeing an opportunity to hitch his journalism career to the train ro Barrett travelled to northern Alabama in fall 1889 at the height of public interest in the robber, to get the story behind the legend and hopefully secure an interview. He never actually got the interview, and instead he fabricated an e rival newspaper in Birmingham. After the fake interview was printed, a special train rushed thousands of copies of the Constitution to Birmingham. page interpretation of the outlaw as an expression of an anti capitalist challenge to rail corporations. The report has seldom fired at a man at a range of five hundred yards or less, without the bullet going true to capture him, and he reprinted excerpts from his interview with family friends of the Burrows. The fake interview, appearing two days later in the Constitution, continued the construction of robbing country 106 106 Constitution, Atlanta Constitution, November 10, 1889.
218 This p ortrayal of Rube Burrow as enriching destitute Alabamans with his ill gotten gains hardly squares with other evidence. In fact, when captured he was filthy and destitute, on the run and hounded by express companies, railroad detectives and policemen. 107 He l acked a broad base themselves from his actions as his career became notorious. In August 1889, they even went so far as to adopt a resolution, attacking people in the coun further outlawry would be punished. 108 A folklorist has debunked an apocryphal tale told about Burrow in which he gave a destit ute widow money to pay rent. The story both lacked any documentation, and it closely mirrored a key element of the Jesse James legend, leading this scholar to believe that Alabamans may have confused the two stories. 109 As further evidence of the power of th e Jesse James story, observers sought in inscribe the same sort of neo Confederate, anti Abbeville Times railroads and express comp anies, while those monopolies are allowed to go daily robbing the avenge the southern defeat in the Civil War. As a youth, Burrow had been exposed to tales of Yank ee atrocities and he robbed railroads since he associated them with northern influence. 110 And a newspaper in Florence claimed that the Burrow boys grew up in the county, and served in 107 Constutition, November 9, 1890. 108 Courier, August 8, 1889. 109 Dissertation: University of Pennsylvania, 1965), 171,175. 110 Abbeville (Ala.) Times, October 1 7, 1890, cited in William Warren Rogers, Violence and Outlawry in the New (MA thesis, Auburn University, 1979), 4.
219 the local Confederate regiments. However, it would have been impossible for Rube and his brother, born around 1860 to serve in the Confederate army. 111 Jesse James drew strength and sympathy from the notion that his robberies were revenge for Reconstruction era Northern abuses, but there is hardly any evidence that Burrow was fi ghting the same sectional battles. 112 One man even wanted to use Rube Burrow to teach Christian values of forgiveness. A self issue a pardon for Rube Burrow. Tate opene d his letter by discussing how innocent, law abiding, and god future lead a example for others to follow and end the bloody and expensive chase. 113 fabricated by E. W. Barrett in an effort to sell papers, or the ex Confederate robbing train to exact vengeance from the Yankees, were more compelling than the real Rube Burrow. In the decade an assortment 114 Indeed, the real 111 Montgomery Daily Advertiser, February 6, 18 88. 112 Stiles Jesse Jam es: Last Rebel of the Civil War. 113 Letter to Thomas Seay, November 9, 1889, Alabama Governor (1886 1890: Seay), Administrative files, SG8,415 Reels 14 21, Alabama Dept. of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama. 114 Some examples of contemporary Rube Burrow literature include, William Ward, Rube Burrow of sunny Alabama : the true story of the prince of train robbers (Cleveland: Arthur Westbrook, 1900), W.B. Lawson, Jesse James, Rube Burrows & Co. : a thrilling story of Missouri (New York: Street and Smith, 1894), F.E. Stout, Rube Burrow; or, Life, exploits and death of the bold train robber (Aberdeen, Miss, 1890), W.B. Lawson, The last of the Burrows Gang; or, Joe Jackson's last leap (New York: Street and Smith, 1894).
220 Rube Burrow was such a mystery, that journalists and commentators freely put their own interpretations on his actions. Linking Burrow to heroes like Robin Hood or Jesse James familiar outlaw figure. The meaning of Railroad Bill was similarly up for debate in the aftermath of his grisly Burgin Matthews has examined his portrayal, finding that the white press used the Railroad Bill story to enact the hierarchies of the emerging Jim Crow system. Alabama newspapers cade of the consolidation of Jim Crow racial hierarchies. Railroad Bill confirmed the notion that African Americans were criminal and black mobility was dangerous. 115 But along with casting Railroad Bill as a n archetypal black bad man, white Alabamans expun ged the anxieties of his criminal activities by commodifying all aspects of his life. Just as Rube Burrow was transformed into a media commodity, a stock character aping elements of m immediately after his violent death. Transforming Bill from a bogeyman to a commodity began immediately after his death, when attempts to profit on his demise began in earnest. The capturers of Bill fought over the hefty reward that had been promised to Texas newspaper even claimed he deserved part of the reward, due to his article that described a meeting with the outlaw on a train between Mobile and Pensacola three weeks before the killing. In the end, J.L. McGowan got half the promised money, as well as a lifetime free pass on the 115 Burgin Matth Southern Cultures (Fall 2003), 66 88
221 Louisville & Nashville Railroad. 116 In the same issue of the Pine Belt News e ever better about their purchase of a Railroad Bill memento, the ad noted that a percent of the proceeds of the sale would go to the family of the slain Sheriff of Br ewton. 117 resistance from local blacks, as from the beginning it was clear that Railroad Bill meant something entirely different to local African Americans. Railroad contested item, as both races sought to gain possession of his remains. Immediately after the shooting, authorities moved quickly to prevent blacks from literally taking the body. Sheriff McMillan telegraphed L&N superintendent M you possible get me to Atmore with switch engine? Am afraid negroes will take body away from McGowan. 118 The Mobile News aroused, and bold threats were m ade by the immense mob of negroes gathered there that they possible that never before in the history of the M. and M. road has any switch or any other before any violence, but African Americans in the area continued to show interest in t he remains of the robber. 119 116 Standard Gauge, March 19, 1896. 117 Pine Belt (Atmore, Ala.) News, March 10, 1896. 118 Montgomery Advertiser, March 8, 1896. 119 Daily News, March 13, 1896.
222 profit off of his demise. The man who killed Railroad Bill, Sheriff McMillan, himself tried his brought the body to Montgomery, where Louisville and Nashville railroad officials viewed the corpse and confirmed that it was indeed Railroad Bill. sheriff d ecided to charge admission to view the body. 120 After spending a few days in intervened and forced McMillan to move to a new town. He then tried public exhibitions i n Pensacola and Mobile, with the same result, and he ended up taking the body to Birmingham for embalming, where he set up yet another display of the body. 121 principally col as taken to Palmetto Beach where the public could view it. Interest in this attraction was so intense that the railroads even ran extra trains to Palmetto Beach, starting at 10:30 and leaving every hour, to accommodate the crowds. 122 A detective with the L &N later estimated that about 3,000 people mule Railroad Bill. 123 120 Constitution, March 10, 1896. 121 Constitution, March 19, 1896, Brewton (Ala.) Standard Gauge, March 26, 1896. 122 Daily News, March 14, 1896. 123 L&N Employees Magazine, Vol. 13, No. 9 (May 1927), 70.
223 Montgomery Advertiser, hardly a friend to Railroad Bill, was aghast at the exhibition of the body. The paper s be said to the credit of the community that comparatively few people paid an admission price of claiming it would serve a warning to other robbers, but the Advertiser argued this class already 124 widow for profiting from the wreck. After the Mobile Daily Register ran a story that mentioned that the widow of the sheriff that Bill killed in 1895 had been collecting money from the exhibitions, the widow wrote a letter to a few Alabama newspapers denying that she had profited from the exhibitions. 125 Bill would not be laid to rest until the end of March, when he was buried diggers carried out casket. 126 aftermath of lynchings, where whites rus hed to commemorate the execution, or collect and sell souvenirs. The spectacle of lynching with ritualized actions, large crowds and alleviated the amo ng white railroad travelers in Alabama. In perhaps the ultimate irony, this process inverted 124 Daily Advertiser, March 13, 1896. 125 Brewton (Ala.) Standard Gauge, March 26, 1896. 126 Daily News, March 31, 1896.
224 the horrors of his criminal actions. In life, Railroad Bill used the speed and reliability of the portation spirited his corpse away from blacks and aided the carnival the outlaw was truly dead and gone. Even after the burial, Railroad Bill lived on, and for black southerners, the story c as his legend spread, cementing his status as a folk hero and twisting hi s story in new ways. Word of his deeds were quickly translated into song. As Carl Cramer later wrote in dramatic Bill died. 127 The southern railroad network fos tered the spread of folk songs, as rapid circulation woods, far 128 The exa and dat song is nice enough fur de opery house. 129 So as soon as two years after Bill was killed, his song was widely known, at least among southern blacks. White folklorists, who descended on the region in the 1910s and 20s to recover African American oral traditions, are perhaps the best source for tracking the spread of this song. A 127 Carmer, Stars Fell on Alabama, 124. 128 Scott Reynolds Nelson, (New York, 2006) mak es a similar argument for the dissemination of the legend of John Henry through the work camps and mobile labor sites 129 Constitution, October 13, 1898.
225 chronicler of railroad folk songs fits the various Railroad Bill songs under the broad rubric of 130 Writing in 1911, folklorist Howard W. Odum also noted that the format of the song lent itself to open interpretation. Once the song started up, singers would make up verses that both said something extraordinary about Bill and that rhymed with the previous verse. Odum identified four different variants of songs about Railroad Bill. The first version could have been about any unemployed man up to no good. The first verse implied that this Railroad Bill not work, he also stole from a farmer, tried to kill the singer and stole from his wife. None of these activities were associated with the actual Railroad Bill; indeed they could have described virtually any man who was up to no good. Norm Cohen suggests that the source for these songs were other songs about characters 131 historical accuracy in that it detailed the actual manhunt for Bill. The singer listed goi ng down ten different trains looking for Bill, each verse lists a different train. In the process the singer Railroad Bill mighty bad man, Shoot dem lights out o' de brakeman's han', It's lookin' fer Railroad Bill. 130 Norm Cohen, Lon g Steel Rail: The Railroad in American Folksong, (Urbana, 1981), 125. 131 Cohen, Long Steel Rail, Song and Folk Poetry as Found in the Secular Songs of The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 24, No. 93 (July Sept 1911), 289 293.
226 Railroad Bill mighty bad man, Shoot the lamps all off the stan', An' it's lookin' for Railroad Bill. First on table, nex' on wall, Ole corn whiskey ca use of it all, It's lookin' fer Railroad Bill. Ole McMillan had a special train, When he got there wus a shower of rain, Wus lookin' fer Railroad Bill. Ev'ybody tole him he better turn back, Railroad Bill wus goin' down track, An' it's lookin' fer Railroad Bill. Well, the policemen all dressed in blue, Comin' down sidewalk two by two, Wus lookin' fer Railroad Bill. Railroad Bill had no wife, Always lookin' fer somebody's life, An' it's lookin' fer Railroad Bill. Railroad Bill was the worst ole coon, Killed McMillan by de light o' de moon, It's lookin' fer Railroad Bill. O!e Culpepper went up on Number Five, Goin' bring him back, dead or alive, Wus lookin' fer Railroad Bill. Standin' on corner didn't mean no harm, Policeman grab me by my arm, Wus lookin' fer Railroad Bill. Ole McMillan had a special train, When he got there wus a ole coon, Killed McMillan by And a final version has Bill go west, where he meets Jesse James and finds he is no match for the Missouri desperado. 132 132 Song and Folk The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 24, No. 93 (July Sept, 1911), 289 293.
227 The Railroad Bill folk songs reclaimed his memory for African Americans, providing a hero and an example of a man who took on both outside railroad corporations and the emerging Jim Crow system. But all of the elements of the violent events of the summer of 1895. While the actual hunt for Railroad Bill was a moment of confusion and random violence, the folk songs sanitizes the story, folding it into around rail corridors, and the outburst of violence directed towards random African American travelers. By the middle of the 20 th century the Railroad Bill story was appropriated and covered by white artists like Frank Hutchinson, the Highwaymen, and Gillian Welch, marking the final step in the whitewashing of the story and the tr ansformation of Railroad Bill from a stand in for the anxieties of modernity to a harmless folk hero. Songs that celebrate Railroad Bill for not taking a wife, or for never having a job, minimized the novelty of his crimes, and whitewash a moment of tensi on in the rapidly changing corner of southeast Alabama where he was active. In the Rube Burrow and Railroad Bill stories, two different agents were responsible for myth making, the New South press and traditions of African American folk song. But the concl usion is the same. The legendary versions of Rube Burrow and Railroad Bill both portray them as figures of resistance. The men are seen as resisting capitalism and fighting modernity by emerging Jim Crow segregation regime. Portrayals of these men as Alabama versions of Robin Hood, one for the rural white population and one for blacks, paints them as redistributive foes of the market or as
228 t class. 133 It was easy to frame their actions as in opposition to railroad corporations, which increasingly became targets of political critiques over the course of the 1890s in Alabama and the South at large. 134 Train Robbers and the Values of Capitalism Lo oking at the panic that was generated by the careers, fact or fiction, of these men, as it appeared in the press and other available sources poi nts to an alternate view, that their significance is heightened comes if we see them as products of modernity or embodiments of capitalism themselves. 135 Indeed, the emergence of Rube Burrow and Railroad Bill came at a critical juncture in the development of capitalism in Alabama and the South. Both men used the expansion and rationalization of the southern railroad n etwork, and their fortunes were hitched to the recently ascendant large corporations that controlled transportation in the region. Their actions on southern railroads crystallized very real fears about the dangers of systemization, the power of outside co rporations, and the threat of mobility. While they were active, these men made the values of New South capitalism speed, circulation and systemization dangerous for southerners and they were testament to how the southern railroad network heightened fea rs in the 1880s and 1890s. Southerners were more than just upset at railroad companies for monopolistic practices; they struggled to come to terms with the features of this new age of railroading that had been seen as regional saviors. The distinctive cul tural context of the South added extra 133 The social bandit formulation is drawn from two books by Eric Hobsbawm. Eric Hobsbawm, Bandits (Delacorte Press, 1969) and E.J. Hobsbawm, Primitive Rebels: Studies in Archaic Forms of Social Movement in the 19 th and 20 th Centuries (New York, 1959) 134 The political turn against railroads in Alabama is ably doc umented in James F. Doster, Railroads in Alabama Politics, 1875 1914 (Tuscaloosa, 1957) 135 Other examples of enchanted or fantastical figures produced by modernity are given in Michael Saler, "Modernity and Enchantment: A Historiographic Review," The Ameri can Historical Review Vol. 111, No. 3, (June 2006), 692 716.
229 In the end, the legendary versions of these men obscured these anxieties. So more than just an example of resistance to capitalism, the two Alabama train robbers provi de a lesson in how capitalism produces narratives that obscure its problems. As Michael Zakim argues in an overview of nineteenth century capitalism, the practices linked with the spread of capitalism ey become visible or in 136 Two narratives of resistance against the railroad ultimately obscured moments of crisis and an era of ambiguity about the ultimate meaning of the railroad. They also support the growing consensus that modernity and enchantment are linked. Instea d of writing folk heroes and seemingly magical beings out of the history of capitalism, it makes more sense to look at how modernity and capitalism produce characters like the daring robber Rube Burrow or the shape shifting, invincible Railroad Bill. 137 136 Ed. by Michael Zakim and Gary Kornblith, Capitalism Takes Command: The Social Transformation of Nineteenth Century America (Chicago, 2012), 284. 137 Michael Saler, "Modernity and Enchantment: A Historiographic Review," The American Historical Review Vol. 111, No. 3, (June 2006), 692 716.
230 CHA PTER 6 SOWING THE SEEDS OF PESTILENCE: YELLOW FEVER AND SOUTHERN RAILROAD S 1 From Sultry marches in the far South borne, Where its foul Spirit holds restless sway, It came to us, all desolate forlorn, While graves were many on its northward way. Beware, bew are of! Men you, helpless lot Though ye be pure as snow, it pardons not! From swamps morbific it doth now arise, And with an awful golden touch of death Can close in pain the light of laughing eyes, And stain and spoil with its consuming breath. Beware, ye cities, and all folk thereof; Beware its advent, ye that hate or love It wilding soars on hot and hurried wings, Grim harbinger of terrors and of fears; For it there are no vassals and no kings. Naught but sad dissolution and swift tears. Beware, bewa re, oh! People as you pray, The dreaded curse speeds sullenly your way! 2 Grenada, Mississippi, 1878 The train that steamed north from Jacksonville on September 11, 1888, contained no sual exports, the train contained 291 civilians fleeing an epidemic of yellow fever in Jacksonville. Promised safe refuge in Hendersonville, NC, where high altitude was thought to protect against the spread of the disease, their journey was fraught with p eril. Rations ran short, as terrified Georgia communities along the route refused to let the refugees leave the train, and offered supplies only at exorbitant prices. After twenty four hours the situation took a turn for the worse as symptoms of yellow f ever began to appear among some of the travelers. Panic quickly ensued. Individual 1 Another version of this chapter has been published as R. Scott Huffard Jr., "Infected Rails: Yellow Fever and Southern Railroads," Journal of Southern History, Vol. 79 No.1 (Feb 2013), 79 112. Reprinted with permission from the Journal of Southern History. 2 Poem by a New York Sun Writer, in John Parham Dromgoole, horrors of 1878. A list of over ten thousand victi ms, martyr death roll of volunteer physicians, nurses, etc. (Louisville, 1879), 60.
231 cars desperately tried to quarantine against each other, and some frightened travelers simply jumped off the train and scattered into the countryside. The beleaguered car avan finally arrived in Hendersonville at two A.M. on September 13, and residents of the town were lucky that their generosity was not repaid with a gift of yellow fever infection. This unmitigated disaster of an evacuation led the government official sup 3 To any observer living near a railroad, this scenario presented a horrifying specter. Thanks to new rail connections, a sick man The experience of this ill fated refugee train, and of the South as a whole during appearances of yellow fever speaks to a terrifying truth that the growth of the rai lroad network throughout the South was matched with the spread of a more ancestral foe yellow fever. As railroads and the logic of capitalism dictated the rapid circulation of people and products in the South, they also facilitated the spread of deadly microbes. Ever since the Mississippi Valley epidemic in 1878, railroads were inextricably linked with the spread of yellow fever. To southerners in epidemic years, the railroad constituted an incursion, an invasive force spreading disease and sowing misery Every time yellow fever appeared in the South, southerners were forced to confront the consequences of their new rail connections and deal with the corporations that controlled them. The fact that a large class of southerners attempted to literally hal t the wheels of commerce every summer an epidemic appeared casts New South capitalism in a new trated that the 3 Charles Adams, ed. Report of the Jacksonville Auxiliary Sanitation Association, of Jacksonville, Florida. Covering the work of the association during the yellow fever ep idemic, 1888, (Jacksonville, Fla: Times union print, 1889), 216 7.
232 incorporation of the South into a cohesive national railroad network caused problems that few could have anticipated. The very traits lauded by rail boosters speed, connectivity, incorporations of new space all went from benefits to en dangering entire communities when Yellow fever is not a new topic for historians, as numerous scholars have examined the disease. Either looking at specific epidemics, or broader windows of time, medical historians have ski llfully traced how yellow fever shaped the direction and mission of federal and state public health infrastructure and how the disease led to efforts to improve the sanitation of cities. More recent scholars have gone beyond the bounds of medical history, and used epidemics to look at broader issues, such as how the disease inspired sectional reconciliation and how control of epidemics inspired the American occupation of Cuba. Though some scholars have hinted at and at its devastating impact on the southern economy, none have explicitly linked its spread to railroads, and to capitalism at large. 4 Yellow fever was a constant threat in this time period, but this chapter focuses on two specific epidemics, in 1878 and 1888, and the experiences of two different states, Mississippi and Florida. The Mississippi Valley epidemic of 1878 demonstrated clearly that yellow fever could travel on railroads, as southerners learned that yellow fever epidemics meant life or deat h 4 The long established model for using an epidemic as a window into society is Charles E. Rosenberg, The Cholera Years: The United States in 1832, 1849 and 1866 (Chicago, 1962). When it com es to yellow fever in the South, standard narrative accounts include John H. Ellis, Yellow Fever & Public Health in the South (Lexington, 1992) and Khaled J. Bloom, The Mississippi Valley's Great Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1878 (Baton Rouge, 1993). Deanne Stephens Nuwer, Plague Among the Magnolias: The 1878 Yellow Fever Epidemic in Mississippi (Tuscaloosa, 2009) The National Board of Health, (PhD Dissertation, University of Maryla nd, 1974) and Margaret Humphreys, Yellow Fever and the South (Baltimore, 1992) look at how yellow fever shaped the directives of public health agencies. Humphreys makes an explicit connection between the disease and the southern economy, though her overal l argument is more concerned with public health agencies. Edward J. Blum, Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion and American Nationalism, 1865 1898 (Baton Rouge, 2005), 146 173, and Mariola Espinosa, Epidemic Invasions: Yellow Fever and the Limits o f Cuban Independence (Chicago, 2009), 1 9, have recently used yellow fever to look at other issues in southern history.
233 for communities. Ten years later, the Florida epidemic of 1888 provided a test case for management of a network movements in the summer and fall of 1888 demonstrated the lingering impact of the conflicts generated by the 1878 epidemic and the inability of federal and state regulation to keep commerce moving. Rather than ameliorate tensions, the connectivity fostered by the rapid expansion of southern railroads in the 1880s only increased the potential for yellow fever to wreck havoc with the southern economy. Tracking Yellow Fever Excitable newspaper writers gave yellow fever the curiously affectionate moniker, century Americans seemed anythin g but kind. Today we now know that yellow fever is transmitted solely through the bite of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. After a mosquito bites an infected person, it can then transmit the disease to anyone else it bites. A few days after contact with the disease, sufferers experience an acute fever and in dreaded black vomit, which gets its color from blood digested in the stomach. To add to the horror of th e ailment, newspapers eagerly supplied lurid descriptions of deathbed scenes to readers. The invention of a yellow fever vaccine has given health officials a means to prevent infection, but once the disease sets in there is still no known cure. 5 A number of geographic and climactic factors dictated where yellow fever could take hold. Because the disease only became epidemic in an area once a critical mass of mosquitoes and humans was present, yellow fever was typically the scourge of crowded urban areas w ith ample damp areas where mosquitoes could breed. The plague bearing mosquitoes could only 5 http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/YellowFever/index.html; Internet; accessed October 25, 2011.
234 first frost of the year killed off the mosquito vectors, an epidem ic would end. Yellow fever could only last year round in extreme southern parts of Florida, so it had to be imported from tropical areas to start an American epidemic. Therefore, most epidemics in the U.S. started in southern port cities that traded heav ily with the tropics. Spreading the disease to new areas happened when either infected persons or mosquitoes traveled, and without fast transportation like the railroad, early epidemics rarely spread far from coastal urban centers or areas along rivers. Specifically, railroads carried the disease in one of two ways. Infected passengers fleeing an infected city could easily spread the disease to areas where the Aedes aegypti mosquito already was present. An incubation period of a few days meant infected people could travel long distances without realizing the threat they posed. Alternatively, the trains themselves could harbor the mosquitoes, as dirty, damp freight cars provided excellent breeding grounds. Once the train stopped in a town, these mosquit oes could exit the train, bite new victims, and start a new epidemic. cl aiming victims was reason enough to cause panic, but the mysterious way it seemed to spread only added to the horror during epidemic years. By the 1870s, the medical community knew that the disease was transportable, but the exact method of transmission w as unknown. Some latch onto freight and baggage, and many believed that filthy areas of cities bred the disease. Coastal quarantine efforts suggest that offic ials knew ships could import the disease, but beyond that yellow fever seemed to move with no discernable pattern. In 1853, the disease struck New
235 Orleans, moving through the city in ways that seemed random to city officials. At every step, the disease c onfounded authorities and behaved in unexpected ways. 6 The diversity of opinion on the method of transmission demonstrates that no one in 1878 really knew how yellow fever behaved. Thus, the 1878 epidemic was so important since it provided a clear patter n and confirmed suspicions that the infection could travel and it surprised southerners by exploiting a new form of transportation. By the end of 1878, southerners sti ll did not understand how yellow fever spread, but they did know that areas close to railroads suffered heavily in the epidemic. diversity of beliefs about the diseas e in local communities. The real significance of the 1878 epidemic for this story is not in the specific theories of transmission but in the newfound recognition of the railroad as a dire threat to public health. More than just a key moment in the histor the railroad network spreading throughout the region, a turning point that would have lasting repercussions. New Connections and New Dangers The impact of the 1878 ep idemic was most heavily felt in New Orleans and Memphis, but for southerners, the most novel aspect of the epidemic was the devastation it wrought in Mississippi. Yellow fever in New Orleans was not a surprise, and Memphis had experience with quarantines harmful to New Orleans, killing at least 9,000 city residents. From New Orleans, the disease 6 Humphreys, Yellow Fever and the South, 17 44 provides the definitive discussion of the evolving research on the disease. This distillation of the various theories of transmission comes from Nuwer, Plague Among the Magnolias, 15. Ari Ke lman, A River and Its City: The Nature of Landscape in New Orleans (Berkeley, 2006), 88 9 covers the 1853 epidemic.
236 spread into dozens of other towns in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Tex as. But most significantly, yellow fever only attacked areas with water connections in 1853. In 1853 authorities focused their quarantine mainly on water transportation and on the refugees that fled on foot or by horse. Gulf Coast ports like Mobile and Galveston, and river ports like Baton Rouge and Natchez were hit hard but interior areas of Mississippi were largely spared. 7 But by 1878, railroads had brought Mississippi into much closer contact with New Orleans. The line that most epitomized these clos e connections with the Crescent City was south route between New Orleans and Jackson, Tennessee that would eventually become part of the Illinois Central system and stretch all the way to Chicago. Be fore the war, developers cobbled together this line through the state railroad bore fruit, and the final rail was driven into place in a line linking New Orleans and Jackson, Mississippi. North of Jackson, this road linked up with the Mississippi Central, a separate corporate entity that ran north to Grand Junction, Tennessee. The Mississippi Central was finished on the eve of war, on January 31, 1860, meaning t hat for the first time a traveler could theoretically ride all the way from New Orleans to Maine by rail. The development of this rail corridor spurred the construction of other connecting lines. The assistance of the state of Mississippi and generous con tributions from Memphis merchants led to the Mississippi And Tennessee Railroad, which ran from Memphis to Grenada and which was completed in July 1861. Most significantly, this line connected the vitally important river trade with the railroad network. 8 7 John Duffy, Sword of Pestilence: The New Orleans Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1853 (Baton Rouge, 1966) 115 128, 167. 8 Thomas D. Clark, A Pion eer Southern Railroad from New Orleans to Cairo (Chapel Hill, 1936), 76, 96, 111.
237 of Union raids, and the destruction essentially ground circulation on t he railroad network to a halt. While operators quickly restored some basic operations on these lines, it would take time for the network to fully recover. The state lacked the capital necessary to repair the damage and build new connections and even twelv e years after the war, traffic on the Mississippi Central line 9 The state passed the Subsidy Act in 1871, appropriating four thousand dollars for every mile of track a compa ny laid, but this measure failed to spur significant development in the depressed economy and uncertain political environment of the 1870s. 10 Outside investors would be essential to any reorganize the bankrupt Mississippi Central line. His efforts led to the formation of The New Orleans, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad, a conglomerate created by a merger of the Mississippi Central and the New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern roads. By 11 So in the twenty five years between the 1853 and 1878 epidemics, railroad development created a network in Mississippi for the disease to attack. Mississippi had only three railroad lines in 1853, but by 1880 1,127 miles of track crossed the state. 12 9 H. V. Poor, Manual of the Railroads of the United States for 1877 1878, Showing their Mileage, Stocks, Bonds, Cost, Traffic, Earnings, Expenses and Organizations: With a Sk etch of their Rise, Progress, Influence Etc. (New York, 1877) 812. 10 Bradley G. Bond, Political Culture in the Nineteenth Century South: Mississippi, 1830 1900 (Baton Rouge, 1995), 196 203. 11 Stover, Railroads of the South, 155 185. 12 Nuwer, Plague Amon g the Magnolias, 22.
238 Yellow Jack Rides the Rails would be confronted with a deadly cargo of pathogens and infected refugees. In July 1878, New Orleans residents began falling ill with familiar symptoms, and officials soon realized yellow fever was back. The epidemic began like so many others beforehand, with a few scattered cases in New Orl eans that were introduced by sea trade with infected ports in the Caribbean. infected ports before arrival in New Orleans. 13 Investigation would later reveal th at the Emily B. Souder, 14 Southerners suspected that yellow fever could travel on boats, so it was no surprise that a patchwork of quarantines popped up all across Mississippi and Louisiana when the New Orleans Board of Health announced the existence of yellow fever in the city. But these early quarantines were focused primarily on water routes of transportation. As localities across the region mobilized to confront the threat o f yellow fever, the press savagely ridiculed the areas that attempted to quarantine their railroads. As evidenced by dismissive comments and complaints, plenty of people either did not take the threat seriously or they doubted the possibility of yellow fe ver moving by rail. New Orleans merchants bitterly complained about quarantines that threatened to destroy their business, especially since many doubted the transmissibility of the disease. When Mobile declared a rail quarantine, shutting down the major rail route east of the city, the Picayune accused Mobile residents of having a 13 Constitution, July 28, 1878. 14 (PhD Dissertation, University of Maryland, 1974), 122.
239 15 The Atlanta Constitution car. 16 Another Picayune editorial in early August attacked small towns for local quarantines by 17 For merchants and railroads, quarantines were useless hindrances to trade, and it was useless and illegal to halt circulation on the network. Officials with the Illinois Central Railroad also saw little threat at this early stage of the epidemic. On July 31, an official noted that Mobile had quarantined against New Orleans, whi 18 As furt quarantines. Some even took an entirely opposite approach. Holly Springs, a town in northern Mississippi along the New Orleans, St. Louis and Chicago Railroad, invited refugee s from infected towns to come and wait out the epidemic. The town had never experienced an epidemic before, and residents believed the area was impervious to infection. As a resident later the purity of their atmosphere 15 Picayune, August 9, 1878. 16 Constitution, August 1, 1878. 17 New Orleans Picayune, August 3, 1878. 18 F. Chandler to J.C. Clarke, July 31, 1878, New York Office In Telegrams, ICRR
240 19 Towns mistakenly believed there 20 They assumed that since an area did not have yellow fever in the past, it would be safe in 1878. For Holly Springs, and other towns that welcomed refugees, the epidemic was an opportunity to prove their healthy climate and to profit from a stream of new visitors. Medical opinion supported this decision, as evid enced by a lengthy article from a Louisville doctor applauding Holly Springs for its decision to invite in refugees. Quarantine in areas as far north as Louisville, he contended, would be as rational as a yellow fever quarantine in the North Pole. 21 The Su rgeon General of the Marine Hospital Service even argued that land quarantines were useless, since only sea faring vessels could transmit the disease. He contended that freight could spread infection, but only after spending time in damp holds of ships. 22 The railroad was simply not widely acknowledged as a potential means of transport for yellow fever. Despite repeated claims of health and safety in the Magnolia State, it became apparent that something was different about this epidemic. Instead of rema ining in New Orleans, Yellow Jack began to rear its head in entirely new locations. As a woman described the situation in New 23 Observers 19 The epidemic of 1878, in Mississippi. Report of the yellow fever relief work throu gh J.L. Power; a practical demonstration of the generosity and gratitude of the American people (Jackson, Miss., 1879), pg. 136. 20 J.M. Keating, A History of the Yellow Fever. The Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1878, in Memphis Tenn. Embracing a complete list o f the dead, the names of the doctors and nurses employed, names of all who contributed money or means, and the names and history of the Howards, together with other data, and lists of the data elsewhere (Memphis, Tenn., 1879), 134. 21 Louisville Commercial, August 18, 1878. 22 Memphis Daily Appeal, August 7, 1878. 23 Kate Simpson Letter, #1187, SHC.
241 highway of commerce, the Mississippi River. Steamboats plying the river between New Orleans and Memphis had spread yellow fever in 1853, and when disease broke out in river towns like Vicksburg a nd Memphis, the steamboats again seemed to be likely vectors of transmission. One boat in particular, the John Porter took much of the blame. An early history of the epidemic house, carrying death and destruction to n early all who had 24 Steamships like the John Porter river was not new. However, the appearance of the disease in Grenada, Mississippi was quite a shock. Far removed from the Mississippi River, and located in the northern part of the state, Grenada may have seemed an unlikely candidate for an epidemic, but it straddled two major rail arteries, the New Orleans, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad, and the Mississippi and Tennessee, both of which were transporting potentially infected refugees and mosquitoes. Despite full regarding quarantine rules. Like Holly Springs, many residents assumed yellow fever could not spread there, so officials only established a partial quarantine. Trains were allowed to stop, but not discharge passengers, and only e report later noted that these rules were simply not obeyed, and the quarantine was essentially nonexistent. 25 When citizens began to fall ill with yellow fever, newspapers first blamed the sicknes s on a disgusting sewer in the middle of town. A number of dead and decomposing animals were found in this sewer under a stable, and many assumed the foul vapors emanating 24 J.M. Keating, History of the Yellow Fever, 95. 25 Report of the Mississippi State Board of Health, For the Years 1878 (Jackso n, Miss., 1879), 42.
242 from the area were the cause of the disease. 26 Always critical of quarantines, the New Orleans Picayune wryly noted, "opening an old sewer caused yellow fever in Grenada. There is nothing like a strict quarantine." 27 the Grenada outbreak was Mrs. Fields, a woman who lived two blocks away from the railroad depot. A week before falling ill, she had visited the railroad depot to put her daughter on the train. At the same time, workers were unloading and disinfecting a few cars loaded with freight b ound for Memphis. She also had purchased a dress from New Orleans, and she reportedly fell firmed, but it was clear that connections to the outside world, specifically the rail link with New Orleans, had caused the infection. 28 From this one case, Grenada developed a full fledged epidemic. The same rail network that infected Grenada abandoned it when the disease raged, as most trains neglected to stop in the town at all. Locomotives on the New Orleans, Chicago and St. Louis flew by Grenada on August 14, with their whistle blowing. 29 Trains treated the stricken town like a flying through the town at 40 miles an hour with windows and doors sealed shut. When a train did arrive as a special request of a well connected official who wanted to get his family to safety, a loitering crowd near the depot fled in a panic, vanishing 26 Times, August 28, 1878. 27 New Orleans Picayune, August 22, 1878. 28 The epidemic of 1878, in Mississippi. Report of the yellow fever relief work through J.L. Power, 160 2, Report of the Mississippi State Board of Health, For the Years 1878 4. 29 J.M. Keating, History of the Yellow Fever, 378.
243 within two minutes. 30 and killed 367, a staggering toll in a town with a pre epidemic population of about 2,500. 31 first inland foothold outside of New Orleans in 1878. Grenada may have served as the prime example of Yellow Holly Springs, the town along the New Orleans, St. Louis and Chicago that invited refugees to come and wait out the epidemic, became another flash point of the epidemic when the first yellow fever case broke out there on August 18. A short ride away from Grenad a on the railroad, yellow fever easily made the trip. Contrary to expectations that the disease would not flourish there, it struck with a vengeance, infecting 1239 and killing 309 residents. 32 In the aftermath of the disaster at Holly Springs, it was saf e to say the town would not invite refugees from future epidemics. A newspaper in Holly Springs came out in the rat ever again threatened. 33 Greenville, Mississippi, also became a site of tragedy, and residents were quick to blame the railroad for their woes. Greenville was located along the Mississippi River, in the rich agricultural region known as the Delta. Spiri ts there were high when the town received its first railroad connection in May of 1878. The Greenville, Columbus and Birmingham Railroad, a narrow gauge road in the northern part of the state, completed laying track to the town and 30 Constitution, August 30, 1878. 31 John Parham Dromgoole, and horrors of 1878. A list of over ten thousand victims, martyr death roll of volunteer physicians, nurses, etc. (Louisville, 1879), 114. 32 Nuwer, Plague Among the Magnolias, 117. 33 Raymond (Miss.) Hinds County Gazette, November 20, 1878.
244 Greenville joined the ra ilroad network. Commentators enthusiastically predicted the arrival of twenty thousand bales of cotton on the new road in its first year of operation. 34 When the disease hit Greenville in early September, it struck with particular ferocity. Only 33 of the residents escaped infection with yellow fever, and 387, including the mayor, died. At one point, only five white residents were free of infection. As a report afterward ruefully commented, 35 Whether th e railroad or river brought the disease is arrival on railroad employees working for the new road. 36 Instead of the anticipated boom in commerce, new connection s had virtually destroyed the community of Greenville. By late August, newspapers and other observers could notice patterns in the way Yellow Jack travelled. Besides the Mississippi River vector, three clearly traceable paths spread the disease deep into the southern interior along railroads. The New Orleans, St. Louis and Chicago Railroad, which would soon become part of the Illinois Central, carved a northerly swath of destruction through the middle of the state, striking Holly Springs and Grenada, amon g others. As towns along this line fell prey to the disease, corporate officials consistently underplayed the overseeing the southern half of the line noted tha 37 Clarke tried his best to keep his road running, even as fever enveloped virtually every junction on the line. On August 28 he noted that many engineers were refusing to run tr ains through Grenada, and on September 5 told a subordinate at Water Valley 34 Hinds County Gazette, May 1, 1878. 35 Dromgoole, 113. 36 John C. Willis, Forgotten Time: The Yazoo Mississippi Delta after the Civil War (Charlottesville, 2000), 210. 37 J.C. Clarke to W.H. Osborn, August 16, 1878, New York Office In Telegrams ICRR.
245 that engineers had nothing to fear from the disease. 38 the continual 39 was keeping the company from running train s in Mississippi and he noted that the Vicksburg and 40 The threats to wreck trains along this route could not prevent the disease from spreading east from Vicksburg and the river to previously healthy towns in central Mississippi. Yellow Jack arrived in Vicksburg from the ill fated steamship John Porter and from Vicksburg the disease could be traced a long the railroad ill and 64 died. 41 Citizens at Meridian, another crucial railroad junction along the Vicksburg and Meridian, tried to stop the running of a medicine train to relieve Lake, but the superintendent of the road kept trains running anyway, and only the action of the state board of health got him to halt traffic. 42 These efforts to stop traffic were not enough to save Meridian, which developed an epi demic that infected 382 and killed 82. 43 The first death in Meridian was from Lewis Carter, a 38 J.C. Clarke to W.H. Osborn, August 28, 1878, New York Office In Telegrams ICRR. 39 J.C. Clarke to R. Colquhoun, August 28, 1878, J.C. Clarke Out Letters ICRR. 40 William K Ackerman to Osborn, August 25, 1878, William K. Ackerman Out Letters ICRR. 41 Dromgoole, 117. 42 Vicksburg Daily Herald, Times, September 1 0, 1878. 43 Dromgoole, 120.
246 black railroad employee charged with the task of bringing mail to trains from the post office. 44 In addition to infecting towns along the line, the disease took a heavy toll on the Vicksburg & 45 Once the disease took root in Memphis the Memphis and Charleston road emerged as a final rail vector. From Memphis the railroad spread yellow fever into small towns to the east in Tennessee. The situation became so dire along the road that the railroad company had to run special daily relie f trains full of supplies. Correspondents traveling with these relief trains 46 Another ks ago, is now being echoed on every breeze that comes wafted to us from the small towns along the line 47 The historical record does not leave enough evidence to definitive ly pin down the exact way yellow fever arrived in each town, but it does demonstrate how southern attitudes towards their new connections were shifting over the summer of 1878. Yellow fever was clearly moving along rail lines, and reports from journeys a long the rail corridors penetrating infected areas showed that southerners recognized this fact. On a journey from Winona to New Orleans along the New Orleans, St. Louis and Chicago road, a correspondent noted the presence of heavily armed guards at every station. A farmer riding a wagon immediately turned his cart away as the 44 The epidemic of 1878, in Mississippi. Report of the yellow fever relief work through J.L. Power; a practical demonstration of the generosity and gratitude of the American people (Jackson, Miss., 1879) 179. 45 Eighteenth Annual Report of the President and Board of Managers, to the Stockholders of the Vicksburg and Meridian Railroad Company, For the Fiscal Year, Ending February 28, 1879 (Vicksburg, 1879), 17. 46 Daily Appeal, October 12, 1878. 47 Keating, History of the Yellow Fever, 179.
247 from the tracks in all directions. 48 A doctor traveling through Grenada to the country to the north had a similar experience. As the train stopped to drop off nurses for Grenada, the nurses were told they had to jump from the train as fast as possible. The train could not stop any longer because of quarantine rules to the north. Apparent ly, other towns feared that even a short stay of a train in Grenada would infect the locomotive. 49 Another correspondent on a train traveling through the infected areas around Memphis poked fun at the fear of trains exhibited in the impression must be made that they used black vomit on trains as a breaking bottles of vomit in uninfected areas. 50 Jokes about rural fears of trains could be dismiss ed as the standard mocking of country rubes by city folk, but they also underscored a crucial fact, which is that these rural southerners clearly had begun to see the arrival of new trains as a serious threat. In a reminder that the spread of yellow fev er was never inseparable from the racial context of the South, the same railroad network that allowed for the dissemination of pathogens and refugees hampered the movement of African Americans. Yellow fever was not colorblind, as it was less virulent amon g black populations. Blacks may have been scapegoats for other 51 Whether due to a gen etic advantage from African blood, or prior acclimation, yellow fever claimed a lower 48 Picayune, September 26, 1878. 49 Picayune, October 10, 1878. 50 mphis Daily Appeal, October 22, 1878. 51 Keating, History of the Yellow Fever, 13.
248 proportion of blacks than whites in every epidemic. In general, white southerners did not see blacks as vectors of transmission, due to their perceived immunity from the disease. 52 But while yellow fever may not have discriminated, the railroad network that let fearful southerners flee did. Impoverished blacks lacked the ability to pick up everything and leave when the epidemic struck, and the urban centers of many affect ed towns were almost entirely African American at the height of the epidemic. Authorities in Memphis removed 5,000 of the Memphis camp complained that the 5,000 Afr simply let the refuge es starve. 53 A manager with the Howard Association, which provided relief 54 This p attern of white flight and black immobility was repeated all across infected areas. The railroad network facilitated the spread of the disease, but its denial of mobility to blacks ensured that poor blacks would most heavily feel the economic and social d isruptions caused by the disease. hot Just as southerners became wary of the dangers of open commerce afforded by efficient railroad connections, they also improved the methods of tamping epidemics in the wake of these 52 103. 53 Dromgoole, 71. Edward J. Blum, Reforging the White Republic epidemic. 54 John Stone Marshall Papers (correspondence). Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, Mississippi. September 18, 1878.
249 new developments. The towns that did escape infection in Mississippi exhibited one of two characteristics. Some were isolated from both the river and major rail corridors. Despite the recent gains in railroad construction, Mississippi still contained many areas without railroads, and these towns found it easy to keep out infection. Yazoo City was both inland from the river and lacked railroad service, and thus suffered only 17 cases. Isolated from major avenues of commerce yellow fever did not appear there until October 1. 55 The other towns that escaped instituted rigid quarantines. For some small railroad towns in Mississippi, it was not hard to drop off the network. In Macon, officials later noted they were contract the fever from travelers on railroad and by wagon roads, from tramps, from forbid stoppage of trains and shut its doors to all strange individuals, and was t hus able to escape infection. Oxford was similarly exposed thanks to trains passing through on the New Orleans, St. Louis and Chicago, but strict quarantine kept yellow fever away. The most emphatic response practices came from Adams County, which hugged the Mississippi river and also contained a railroad. Officials in this county, which included the gun will give a co 56 The Mississippi Board of yellow fever is exotic and that it only exists in this state by importation, that it is transportable in vessels, railroad cars, clothing, goods, etc., and that efficient quarantine regulations are 57 Dr. John Dromgoole, who chronicled the history of the 55 Nuwer, Pla gue Among the Magnolias, 115. 56 Report of the Mississippi State Board of Health, For the Years 1878 57 Report of the Mississippi State Board of Health, For the Years 1878
250 winged monster ha s taken a wide flight of desolation this year, but traveled by rail, and the fear is that rapid intercommunication hereafter may be a fruitful source of its rea 58 The 1878 epidemic thus opened up the fault lines of a conflict that would rage every summer until the eradication of yellow fever in 1905. On one side stood merchants and railroad corporations worried about the deleterious ef fects of shotgun quarantines on business. New Orleans merchants especially protested these local quarantines. If towns in the Mississippi Valley could shut down railroads at the slightest suspicion of yellow fever in the city, New Orleans would have no ho pe of trading goods in the summer. 59 On the other side of this debate were local communities wishing to assert their right to quarantine and control the movement of ies and summer. 60 necessary destroy every railroad and burn every steamboat coming with fever again appeared in the region. 61 With the health, and the very existence, of a community at Medical historians who document the development of public health infrastructure in the public health organizations slowly developing to institute rational quarantine laws that kept the 58 Dromgoole, Dr. Dromgo 21. 59 Picayune, November 22, 1878. 60 Daily Appeal, November 23, 1878. 61 Raymond (Miss.) Hinds County Gazette, December 25, 18 78.
251 South healthy and that allowed for free commerce. In the ten years since the 1878 epidemic, doctors, health officials and merchants waged a vigorous debate over how to properly control an qua business and were crippling to businessmen reliant on railroads to ship goods. As Margaret al interests began to shape southern public health directives. In New Orleans and other southern cities, businessmen were prominent in efforts to establish sanitary organizations and to create more standardized Boards of Health. Across the South, states established Boards of Health with the goal of providing for rational and orderly quarantines in the event of an outbreak. 62 The federal government also responded to the epidemic with the creation of the National Board of Health. The epidemic directly ins pired the legislation creating this Board, and prevention of yellow fever was the focus of the overwhelming majority of its activities. The activities of the National Board of Health speak to the newfound fear that railroads were a vector spread. In 1879 the board put out a series of rules and regulations for railroads that demonstrated they realized railroads could spread the disease, but they had no clue as to the exact method. As a general rule, railroad corporations were expected to keep road beds, tracks between unsanitary conditions and yellow fever. The board also suggested that railroad cars should be ventilated whenever possible, and up holstered seats, mattresses, pillows, curtains and carpets in sleeping cars should be whipped or beaten periodically to keep out dust. The 62 Humphreys, Yellow Fever and the South, 56 7. Chapter 3 discusses how businessmen influenced public health legislation.
252 regulations stated that any car leaving a town with yellow fever infections had to be cleaned and fumigated with sul fur. 63 epidemic, laying out specific regulations for travel between towns that were defined as infected, which meant that they had any cases of fever, and towns that were defined as dangerously infected, where cases occurred as a result of infection incubating within the locale. Any train the conductor with a certificate declaring that the train and its passengers were healthy. When a train ran through an infected or dangerously infected town, it would not be allowed to go slower than 10 miles per hour. While sleeping cars or any upholstered cars were not allowed to leave traveling on the network in infected areas had to carry certificates of health, which were 64 Th e broader success of these measures can be seen in the fact that there was never another epidemic as devastating as 1878 had proved. Indeed, an outbreak in Memphis in 1879 fizzled out without spreading far outside the city limits, and the appearance of yel low fever in Pensacola and Brownsville, Texas in 1882 similarly did not lead to a wide scale outbreak. But it that the outbreaks that followed the 1878 epide mic were simply less virulent or the wide ranging spread of the 1878 epidemic may have acclimated large portions of the South and decreased the number of potential targets for the disease. 65 63 Annual Report of the National Board of Health, 1879. (Washington, 1879), 303 304. 64 Annual Report of the National Board of Healt h, 1879. (Washington, 1879), 303 304. 65
253 But while the lethal impact of yellow fever had lessened, the shot gun quarantines, and the widespread fear that railroads would spread the disease, were not eliminated by the new regulations. In other words, the fundamental conflict between local prerogatives and the movement of the railroad network did not disappear wi th the creation of boards of health. The death toll may have dropped in subsequent outbreaks, but the virulence with which southerners contested the free movement of goods and people only increased. Legislation ameliorated the worst of the quarantine woe both move goods and protect health. Similarly, southerners had little faith in the new public health institutions. Refocusing attention away from public health infrastructure and to wards towns along railroads shows how the fear of yellow fever only intensified as railroads spread and further connected the region. From the perspective of the railroad network the situation could hardly be labeled a period of increasing confidence. Yel circulation dictated by the logic of capita l only grew wider in the intervening years. When yellow fever appeared in Florida, a state whose geography was transformed by dramatically by railroad construction in the 1880s, it threw questions about control of the rail network into stark relief. Richa fever to Jacksonville by riding a train from Tampa on July 28, 1888, touching off an epidemic that send shockwaves of fear throughout the South. 66 The disease found a fertile gr ound for expansion in Jacksonville, as both the city and the state had experienced dazzling amounts of 66 Tampa Bay History, 8 (Fall/Winter 1985), 18.
254 growth in the previous decade. The rapid increase in population and economic activity might ver, it meant more carriers to infect and more high speed connections with other communities. The 1888 version exploited a new network of connections, as the presence of new railroad lines and the memory of the 1878 epidemic transformed what in prior years would have likely been a localized nuisance into a public health crisis of the highest degree for the whole nation. Yellow Jack had good reason to enjoy his sunny new surroundings. In 1888, Jacksonville was in the midst of a meteoric rise from a sleepy and a quintessential example of a New South city forged by the railroad. Postwar Jacksonville continued to rely on the lumber trade until the railroad boom of the 1880s remade the city into the premier market hub for Florida. A historian of Jacksonville labeled 1879 1881, the beginning 67 By 1885, a tourist guide 68 railway traffic, the iron roads running like 69 Any tourist visiting Florida passed through this railway octopus centered at Jacksonville, either staying in one of its man y hotels, or continuing south to one of the hotels lining the St. Johns River. 67 T. Frederick Davis, History of J acksonville, Florida and Vicinity: 1513 to 1924, (Gainesville, 1964) 160 1. 68 Reau Campbell, Winter Cities in Summer Lands: A Tour Through Florida and the Winter Resorts of the South (Cincinatti, 1885), 8. 69 Lady Duffus Hardy, Down South (London: Chapman an d Hall, 1883), 130.
255 years after the most development was limited to the northern third of the state. To spur construction, the state adopted new policy giving massive land grants to railroad developers in 1881. Under the auspices of the Internal Improvement Fund, the state sold land to railroad companies and capitalists at bargain prices to promote development. By 1884, the Democratic legislature had given 22,360,000 acres to rai lroad companies, despite the fact that only 14,831,739 of these acres were considered to be in the public domain. 70 However dubious the method was, the results were exactly what the policy makers had intended. The 1880s were a record decade nationwide for railroad construction, and Florida experienced the dizzying boom more so than any other 528.6 to 2,470. 71 The percentage increase in Florida railroad mileage from 1880 to 1890 was an incredible 367.4, while the national percentage increase was 86.2. The only areas to surpass open western territories such as North Dakota and Washington. 72 When yell and a region that had seen a compressed period of dramatic change. Rapid railroad construction had outpaced the creation of government institutions needed to regulate commerce, as Florida lacked a state board of health. Instead, Florida passed a law allowing first cities, and later 70 Edward C. Williamson, Florida Politics in the Gilded Age, 1877 1893. (Gainesville, 1976), 89, 97. 71 Stover, Railroads of the South, 94, 186 206. 72 Department of the Interior, Census Office, Report on Transportation Business in the Uni ted States at the Eleventh Census: 1890, Part I: Transportation by Land (Washington, 1895) p.4.
256 individual counties, to create Boards of Health. 73 As in many other epidemics, the effects of the 1888 epidemic went beyond the death toll. In fact the virulence of the 1888 yellow fever the deadly pathogens, 427 people had died in Jacksonville. The disease did not actually spread far outside Jacksonvill e either. Isolated cases appeared in Alabama and Mississippi, but the disease only became epidemic in Gainesville, Maclenny, and a few other small communities in North Florida. 74 mou network and did far more damage than the actual spread of the dise ase. Actual cases of yellow fever were confined to a few areas, but the quarantine panic gripped the entire South. For a few connected rural towns. Mindful of the lessons from 1878, towns along lines emanating from Jacksonville quickly confirmed. The railroad quickly became the focal point for quarantines throughout F lorida. A 75 Brief newspaper dispatches captured the wide geographical swath of the panic in Flor ida. The citizens of New Berlin, an 73 Report of the State Board of Health for 1892, in Message of Francis P. Fleming Governor of Florida, to the Legislature, regular session of 1891. (Tallahassee, 1891), 27. 74 Florida Historical Quarterly 19 (1940) 95 108. This article presents a strictly narrative account of the epidemic, focusing on the events that occurred in the city. 75 Ed win Rennolds Diary, August 12, 1888, University of Florida Special Collections, Smathers Library Gainesville, Florida.
257 76 with firearms greeted trains arr iving in Hampton, and 250 men guarded the ancient city of Saint Augustine, an expensive but effective quarantine paid for with $20,000 from hotel and railroad developer Henry Flagler. 77 At the railroad junction of Palatka, 155 armed men turned back a grain shipment from Jacksonville. 78 79 The guard in Gainesville made escaping the state even more difficult, since the town contained the only route north that did not pass throug h Jacksonville. Farther to the south in Ocala, citizens furiously interrogated each other as to their previous whereabouts, and the town council suggested not allowing any train to go slower than twenty miles per hour through Marion County. 80 Trouble on th e Waycross Short Line lines. Every line had to deal with shotgun quarantines, but the most intense conflict over quarantines happened just to the north of Jacksonville. As the disease became epidemic in the city, residents hoped to use railroads to flee to the North. However, shotgun quarantines in Waycross, Georgia, and Callahan, Florida, blocked the way. The blockade at Waycross was especially ironic, as just a few ye ars earlier the completion of the Waycross Short Line linking 76 Charles Adams, ed. Report of the Jacksonville Auxiliary Sanitation Association, of Jacksonville, Florida. Covering the work of the ass ociation during the yellow fever epidemic, 1888. (Jacksonville, 1889), 197. 77 Morning News, August 22, 1888, Savannah Morning News August 27, 1888. 78 Banner August 24, 1888. 79 Savannah Morning News, A ugust 15, 1888. 80 Banner August 17, 1888.
258 completed construction of this line in April 1881, it directly linked the largest metropolis in Flor journey north on the Short Line to the Georgia town of Waycross, where they could connect to trains to other Georgia cities and to the rest of the nation. Instead of fourteen hours, the trip from Jacksonville to Savannah now took only six hours. More so than any other rail line, the 81 At the northern terminus of a line directly emanating from a plagued city, the town of Waycross also became the focal point of disputes over quarantines. Not only did Waycross have yellow fever as well. T he town was a junction that provided rail connections to Savannah, Brunswick, Atlanta, and Macon, among other Georgia cities. Atlanta may have welcomed refugees, but Savannah and Brunswick maintained strict quarantines against Florida passengers. When fe ver broke out in Jacksonville, shotgun wielding citizens in Waycross took to the tracks to make sure no one left trains passing through the town. Under pressure from both the local citizenry and from other Georgia cities to the north, the Savannah, Florid a & Western acted to shut off traffic from the afflicted city. The railroad company altered its schedule and stopped running all but one passenger train from Jacksonville to Waycross. 82 A newspaper correspondent called the situation on this one daily train locked car at Waycross, and the crowded car was filled with hungry refugees crying out for food. 83 To further ensure that no yellow fever refugees made it to Waycross, the town council 81 Gregg M. Turner and Seth H. Bramson, The Plant System of Steamships and Hotels (Laurys Station, PA, 2004), 32 54. 82 Morning News August 11, 1888. 83 Times Union August 14, 1888.
259 approved a resolut ion offering a ten dollar reward for anyone who arrested a yellow fever refugee in the town. 84 A similar scene took shape further down the Waycross Short Line, in the small town of Callahan, Florida. Hardly anyone lived in Callahan, yet it was a vitally imp ortant junction in northeast Florida, as passengers from the Florida Central needed to disembark there to catch the Florida & Western that neither north nor southb ound trains would be allowed to stop at the town. According to their ultimatum, if any train stopped, the citizens would tear up the railroad track and cut off traffic for good. To show they meant business, citizens took to the tracks with guns to enforce the restriction. Fernandina, a port city in the same county, sent a detachment of fifty team tried to make a connection at Callahan to journey north, a train instead dropped them off a wandered a few miles to another railroad tr ack before a sympathetic conductor picked them up. 85 For the Savannah, Florida & Western, the shotgun quarantines at Waycross and Callahan presented a particularly thorny problem. The railroad owned the lines, yet local citizens prevented the operation of was hopeful for a quick end to the epidemic so there would be no disruptions in shipping the 84 Morning News, August 25, 1888. 85 Morning News, cksonville Times Union, Constitution, August 12, 1888.
260 lucrative orange crop out of Florida. 86 The quarantine also short needed boxcars in the town. In an interview with the Savannah Morning News the corpora te superintendent was anyway, with the plan of letting passengers off ou tside of town if authorities interfered. 87 However, a few days later the paper reported that trains were still unable to stop in Callahan. 88 As the noose of quarantine tightened around Jacksonville, the number of new infections began to rise. Yellow Jack clearly was sticking around the city until the first frost. Not wanting to deal with yellow fever refugees anymore, and under pressure from Georgians and railroad town residents, the Savannah, Florida & Western eventually decided to close the Waycross Sho rt Line to passenger traffic altogether on August 26, 1888. Railroad lines to the west of Jacksonville were similarly tied up by local quarantines, so the closing of the Waycross Short Line totally isolated the city. Many citizens who had stayed in the ci ty now wanted to leave, but citizens of Waycross and the Savannah, Florida & Western Railroad, blaming both for trapping them in the stricken city. Hotheaded citizens in Jacksonville even began to talk of using force to open traffic. 89 Jacksonville refugees in Atlanta lambasted the Savannah, Florida & Railroad in a meeting, with one speaker claiming that the company owned and ran the entire town of 86 Morning News, September 6, 1888. 87 Morning News, August 17, 1888. 88 Savannah Morning News, August 29, 1888. 89 Times Union August 27, 1888.
261 Waycross. 90 However, it was not just the railroad and railroad towns that kept Jacksonville isolated. John Hamilton, The Surgeon General of the Marine Hospital Service sent a statement to freedom of dreadful ravages of yellow fever in the towns along the railroad lines leading out of New Orleans 91 The dispute along the Waycross Short Line proved to be more than local government or the Savannah, Florida & Western could handle, as only the federal government could restore order on the Waycross Short Line. With the assi stance of the Federal Government, Georgia border. At Camps Perry and Mitchell, citizens could wait for ten days, then head north unmolested with a clean bill of health Conditions at these camps were far from ideal at first. The tents were old and did not keep out rain, the heat was unbearable, and women and children who mad situation, ameliorating poor living conditions and establishing segregated living quarters for the black refugee population. 92 In a sense, the segregation of the refugee camp mi railroad passenger cars. Just as the racial mixing in the camp was resolved with racial separation, conflicts over southern rail accommodations in this period invariably involved 90 Constitution August 29, 1888. 91 Adams, Report of the Jacksonville Auxiliary Sanitation Association, 212. 92 Adams, Report of the Jacksonville Auxiliary Sanitation Association, 214.
262 segregated solutions to rationalize the chaos and racial intermingling of rail travel. 93 For white southerners, Yellow Jack was not the only dangerous passenger on the newly constructed railroad network. African American travelers similarly had to be controlled and segregated by a wave of legi just passed in 1887, and seven other states passed laws segregated railroads between 1888 and 1891. 94 In another example of how the movement of southerners was structure d by race, one only has to look at the situation in Jacksonville during the epidemic. Whites with money were able to secure passage on refugee trains and wait out the epidemic in areas to the North, but this option was not available for working class black s. A census taken in Jacksonville after most of the refugees had left in September found about 14,000 people in the city, and 9,800 of them were black. 95 sundered, thousa nds were thrown out of work. The city leaders created a Committee on Sanitation to provide jobs for the unemployed and to clean up dirty areas of the city. However, on November 18 the city abruptly announced that it was cutting the amount of jobs in half d ue to a money shortage. Only a massive mobilization under the auspices of the Knights of Labor, got city officials to keep providing work for the working class blacks stranded in the city. 96 93 Hale, Making Whiteness, 126 136 notes how the railroad introduced uncertainty into the strict culture of segregation. 94 William Cohen, At Freedoms Edge: Black Mobility and t he Southern White Quest for Racial Control, 1861 1915 (Baton Rouge, 1991), 217 220 provides a helpful chart of when various southern states passed segregation laws. 95 Adams. Report of the Jacksonville Auxiliary Sanitation Association, 24. 96 Adams, Report o f the Jacksonville Auxiliary Sanitation Association, 129. 96 Paul Ortiz, Emancipation Betrayed: The Hidden History of Black Organizing and White Violence in Florida from Reconstruction to the Bloody Election of 1920 (Berkeley, 2005) 50 2, Melton Alonza McL aurin, The Knights of Labor in the South (Westport, Connecticut, 1978) 92 97.
263 It took the power of t he federal government to restore order to the chaos on the Waycross Short Line, but most of the quarantine disputes in 1888 remained unresolved. The movement of goods through Florida an activity for which citizens previously lauded the railroads was severe ly restricted by local quarantines. South of Palatka, Edwin Smith ran a country store not unlike the ones that proliferated across the South as railroads arrived. Smith attempted to order fertilizer from the Armour Company in Chicago, only to learn that th ey were not taking orders due to the closing of their Jacksonville warehouse. 97 He also tried Wilkinson and Co. Bone Fertilizers in New York only to learn that they could not ship until quarantine was lifted from Fernandina, a port north of Jacksonville. 98 without fertilizer in 1888, and many other Floridians went without essential products. Savannah wholesale traders, who supplied many Florida merchants, reported in August that country merchants were ord 99 However, Savannah eventually came to benefit from the epidemic, as South Florida merchants began ordering goods from there instead of Jacksonville. Instead of using the Waycross Short Line, goods from Sa vannah traveled around Jacksonville, moving further to the West before heading south into Florida via Gainesville. 100 To solve the problem and get commerce running again in Florida, Jacksonville officials organized a conference of county health officials a nd representatives from a number of Florida 97 Letter from Armour Company to Edwin Smith, October 10, 1888, Edwin Smith Papers 1884 1896, Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Flo rida, Gainesville, Florida. For more on the Southern country store, see Ayers, Promise of the New South Chapter 4. 98 Wilkinson and Co. Bone Fertilizers, October 8, 1888, Edwin Smith Papers 1884 1896. 99 Morning News, August 15, 1888. 100 Morning News, September 18, 1888.
264 railroad companies. On August 28, officials from ten counties and five railroad companies gathered at Orange Park to grapple with the impact of these haphazard quarantines. The debate over local quarantines, an d the subsequent failure to solve their riddle, illustrates just how hard it was to overcome fears of Yellow Jack. They also illustrate the ways in which railroad connections carried ominous, as well as profitable, cargos to Floridians. 101 Jacksonville o fficials opened the conference with a plea to open commerce by letting money by express to Tampa from Jacksonville, or iron pipe and machinery, to enable a saw mill to continue operations, because of quarantine restrictions, it was time to inquire whether this 102 The president of the Marion County Board of Health argued for the maintenance of quarantines. Under pressure residents of his county, he stated that he would not permit any goods from Jacksonville in his county. Angry over the unauthorized shipment of two cars of that would be able to supply all of southern Florida. 103 The difficul ties of creating a fair quarantine policy that served both the interests of the people and of the railroads was best illustrated by the presence of J.E. Ingraham, one of Henry 101 Adams, Report of the Jacksonville Auxiliary Sanitation Association, 200. 102 Adams, Report of the Jacksonville Auxiliary Sanitation Association, 203 4. 103 Adams, Report of the Ja cksonville Auxiliary Sanitation Association, 201.
265 ence he represented both the Osceola County Board of Health and the South Florida Railroad. As a railroad official, Ingraham was conscious of the need to make a profit for his employer. He argued that freight traffic needed to be opened before the maturation of the orange crop. 104 With men like Ingraham in charge of quarantine policy in some areas, one can see the basis for Marion s. How could Floridians be certain that a railroad official would put the health of the public above the health of their corporation? In the end, the representatives at the conference reached a tentative agreement over the movement of goods. Conference a sugar, coffee, bacon, lard, butter, potatoes, corn and oats in barrels; hardware and machinery, e. Merchants would now be able to order supplies from Jacksonville, and the problem of the local quarantine seemed to be solved. Jubilation over this settlement was short lived, as most counties quickly sent word that they would still not accept freight f rom Jacksonville. Marion County, ssage confirming that a board of health would follow the 105 104 Adams, Report of the Jacksonville Auxiliary Sanitation Association, 202 3. 105 Adams, Report of the Jacksonville Auxiliary Sanitation Association, 206 7.
266 ntines, it would be quarantine officials simply destroyed shipments of goods. An entire carload of fresh fish on its way to Albany, Georgia, from Cedar Key was dum ped into a river near Gainesville. 106 The frantic ravings of a letter sent to Edwin Smith by a Northerner capture the fear of starvation caused by the quarantines. A mother sent the letter to her daughter who had recently immigrated to Florida. She had not heard from her in a while, probably because of the disrupted mails. She h 107 Despite widespread shortages, there were no reports of starvation from quarantines. Still, the shortages surely caused Floridians to doubt the reliability of their new railroad lines. In summer and fall of 1888, their new connections only brought fear, and not the commodities they usually carried. uarantines But the 1888 epidemic was more than just a Florida problem. Yellow Jack had wrecked havoc with the econo mies of Florida and Georgia, but its final, and perhaps most devastating economic blow came when isolated cases of yellow fever were found in Decatur, Alabama, and Jackson, Mississippi in September. These cases did not develop into a full fledged epidemic, yet a few cases were all it took for a panic to start. Quarantines entirely halted railroad traffic in the Mississippi Valley for about a week in September. Mindful of the horror of 1878, some Mississippians even followed through on their threat to destr oy railroads. A newspaper 106 Savannah Morning News, September 19, 1888. 107 Let ter to Edwin Smith, November 5, 1888, Edwin Smith Papers 1884 1896, Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.
267 108 All across the South, people looked back to 1878 fearfull y. M.F. Surghnor, a woman in Monroe, Louisiana, recorded her fears in her diary as the disease threatened to move west from Jackson, a town 1888. 109 At the height of the panic, the Atlanta Constitution wryly captured the magnitude of the mo ving about in the bushes need not fear that another revolution is about to break out its 110 Mississippi had a more highly developed public health infrastructure than Flor ida, but the After a case was found along the line of the Natchez, Jackson & Columbus Road, the board gave the railroad permission to continue running trains, b Faced with this threat to the their property, the railroad was forced to halt traffic. 111 In Meridian, the local p the railroads, to whom, of course, a strict quarantine is productive of much trouble and 108 Daily Picayune, September 28, 1888. 109 M.F. Surghno r Diary, September 23, 1888, Mss. 647, Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 110 Atlanta Constitution, September 17, 1888. 111 Commercial, September 25, 1888.
268 112 A Grenada paper blamed excavation work along railroad lines in Jackson for the handful of cases there. 113 Just as in the 1878 epidemic, Illinois Central officials struggled to keep their employees at their posts. Three officers with the IC deserted their posts to bring their families to the North, alizing effect on the men, who naturally look to their officers for an example 114 Engineers who had lived through the 1878 epidemic were the most fearful. An official with the railroad noted that during the 1888 sca re the 115 At the high point of the panic in September, local quarantines held sway at over 150 po ints along the Illinois Central. 116 But in September and October 1888, oped by public health agencies and railroad corporations had fallen to pieces. The increased rationalization and standardization of southern railroads only increased the potential for chaos when southerners feared infection. The towns that set up shotgu n quarantines had to balance the need to retain provisions with their desire for safety. As towns began to relax quarantines as they ran low on supplies, two 112 New Mississippian September 5, 1888. 113 Sentinel October 13, 1888. 114 E.T. Jeffrey to Morey, September 27, 1888, E.T. Jeffrey Out Letters, ICRR. 115 E.T. Jeffrey to James Fentress, October 1, 1888, E.T. Jeffrey Out Letters, ICRR. 116 Sentinel, September 29, 1888.
269 pro 117 regulation. After Yazoo City ran out of meat, town officials requested a special shipment of these people to their senses quicker than a lack of food consequent upon their arbitrarily stopping the wheels of commerce 118 After the sc are, the Illinois Central even considered suing communities along the line where shot fever is allayed and we business, doubtless the statutes of Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky prescribe severe p 119 In the end, the arguments of E.T. would resort to legal action speaks to the outrage they felt at the i nterference of traffic. 120 For the rest of the South, the blame for the mess in 1888 fell squarely on the shoulders of Florida. In the years after the 1878 epidemic, all the other Southern states organized boards of health to coordinate response to epidemic s, and most were confident that another epidemic could 121 But the problems in 1888 were more than just a failure of state 117 Commercial, September 29, 1888. 118 E.T. Jeffrey to Stuyvesant Fish, September 29, 1888, In Letters, ICRR. 119 Stuyvesant Fish to James Fentress, October 13, 1888, Out ICRR. 120 E.T. Jeffrey to Stuyvesant Fist, October 19, 1888, In ICRR. 121 Humphreys, Yellow Fever and the South, 114
270 and fede ral health authorities. New public health agencies could not prevent 150 separate towns along the Illinois Central from setting up blockades, or widespread vigilante attacks on bridges and rail lines. The link between the railroad and disease, seared into 1878 epidemic, overcame any efforts by officials to eliminate shotgun quarantines. Southerners fundamentally did not trust corporations to safely move goods and passengers in epidemic years. A quote from J.T. Harahan, Vice Pres ident with the Illinois Central, in 1897, told all one needs to know about the trust Mississippians had for railroad corporations. Harahan had extensive experience with the L&N Railroad in the previous epidemics and he wrote to the Illinois Central Preside management and felt that it would do whatever was necessary to protect them as well as to prevent the disease form spreading 122 Even beyond the 1888 epidemic, attacks on trains and railroad property continued to persist whenever yellow fever made an appearance at a point on the southern railroad network. After yellow fever appeared in southern Mississippi and the small town of Edwards in September 1897, southerners again railroad corporations clearly did not exist. Mississippi again was the focal point of attacks and threats on railroads, especially after a rumor that the fever had reached Jackson. E.P. Skene, longtime employee with the IC, received numerous telegram reports of the chaos engulfing his line in 1897. On September 16, several quarantine officers shot into a cab of an IC train at Durant to try to stop the train. And two days later, unknown r esidents of Jackson tore up part of 122 J.T. Harahan to James Dunn, September 7, 1897, In Company Collection, Newberry Library, Chicago.
271 123 The Jackson Daily Bulletin, condemned this act, yet agreed with the sentiment behind the 124 125 In Washington County, the head of the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley branch of the other officials hoped to move a shipment of grain from Memphis but declined, as they would of goods from a city where yellow fever was suspected. 126 Just as in 1888, the ultimate death toll of the 1897 epidemic was small, but the quarantines were just a s, if not more virulent. The experience of 1897 certainly demonstrated that people did not have confidence in the ability of railroad corporations to keep them safe. Southern health authorities and railroad officials agreed that the only solution wa s for the federal government to get involved. IC general counsel James Fentress argued forcefully for a any difference between a foreign enemy sending troops u pon our shores and destroying our people and a foreign disease imported from foreign shores, that kills more than are killed in 127 Legislative action after the 1897 epidemic centered on a bill that would have 123 W.S. King to All Concerned, September 16, 1897, E.P. Skene In Telegrams, A.J. Greif to E.P. Skene, September 18, 1897, E.P. Skene In Telegrams, ICRR. 124 Jackson Daily Bulletin, September 18, 1897. 125 A.A. Sharp to E.P. Skene, October 28, 1897, E.P. Skene In Telegrams, ICRR. 126 M. Gileas to E.P. Skene, October 30, 1897, E.P. SKene, In Telegrams, ICRR. 127 Ja mes Fentress to Stuyvesant Fish, January 31, 1898, In CRR.
2 72 strengthened the powers of the Marine Ho spital Service but just as this bill was being debated, the U.S.S. Maine exploded in Havana Harbor, leading the U.S. into war with Spain, and ending the push for more federal involvement in quarantine matters. 128 In the end, it was not federal regulation, b ut federal government involvement in another venue foreign war that did finally solve the problem of the shotgun quarantine. As historian Mariana Espinosa argues, the control and suppression of the yellow fever threat was a motivating factor in the occ upation of Cuba during and after the Spanish American War. 129 The threat of yellow fever faded only after the discovery of the mosquito vector by Walter Reed, and the st epidemic, in 1905, was managed by a concerted campaign to halt mosquito breeding, and only 130 Yellow Fever as a Crisis of Capitalism The yellow fever epidemics that periodically swept the South in the 1880s and 90s have been treated as public health problems, retold in medical histories, as part of a march to progress and the ultimate eradication of the disease. In a broad sense, these histories are correct, as public health auth orities did eventually wipe the disease off the map in the southern United States, and the nation never again experienced an epidemic as deadly as that in 1878. The moral of these accounts is obvious only through vigorous federal governmental regulation and the creation of state boards of health could the disease be managed. 131 But the lower death toll in the post 1878 epidemics obscured the fact that the economic chaos wrought by yellow fever, and the impact on 128 Humphreys, 142 146. 129 Espinosa, Epidemic Invasions. 130 Humphreys, Yellow Fever and the South, Chapter 5. 131 Two of the most prominent works that make this general argu ment are Humphreys, Yellow Fever and the South, and John H. Ellis, Yellow Fever & Public Health in the South (Lexington, 1992).
273 the railroad network only grew as more area s were folded into the railroad system. Memory of how the 1878 epidemic travelled by rail, combined with new railroad development and greater efficiency of traffic heightened the fear of the disease and only increased the appeal of the shotgun quarantine. Though we now know the 1878 epidemic was the unmatched in its virulence, residents of southern railroad towns had every reason to fear a repeat occurrence of this epidemic. Looking at yellow fever epidemics and scares as products of a more interconnected railroad network reframes this story as one about the relationship between the South and capitalism and modernity itself. For one, yellow fever was a marker of sectional difference and a reminder that railroad development in the South led to unique results The link between railroads and yellow fever also offers a significant counter narrative to the tale of economic progress told by New South boosters. Every summer nervous residents of towns like Grenada, Waycross and Meridian, worried that the increased s peed and efficiency of the railroad network would deliver Yellow Jack. Shotgun quarantines in these towns constituted moments of contestation to the incessant circulation of the network, moments that made tangible the often abstract economic forces at work on the New South. When a steamboat captain hid yellow fever cases among his crew, a New Orleans merchant concealed the presence of the disease in his city, or when railroad companies ran a train full of potentially infected freight and passengers against the wishes of towns along the line, the dangerous downside of this logic of the market revealed itself. The load of dresses, or via a crowd of strangers, was a new fear of the years between 1878 and 1905, another anxiety of the railroad age in the South.
274 CHAPTER 7 GOBBLED UP AND BOTTLED UP: THE CONSOLIDATION OF THE SOUTHERN RAILWAY In 1906, the president of the Southern Railway, Samuel Spencer met a tragic, i f Returning from a hunting trip in Virginia, another train following faulty signals crashed into his train outside Lynchburg. In the aftermath of this accident new spaper pages across the nation were overflowing with commemorations. Expressing a sentiment typical in the southern press, a he fashioned out of chaos. 1 Northern papers agreed the Boston Globe type of the new south, not the old south reconstructed, but of the real new south, to which slavery, secession and the passions of the civil war are as much ancient history as they are to us 2 There were some hints of doubt amidst the commem oration at least one made him the target of bitter attacks. 3 Yet t he overall point that Spencer was one of the New 1 Newspaper clipping from the Charleston Courier, November 30, 1906, in the Samuel Spencer Papers, #3477, Folder 369, Vol 9, S HC 2 Newspaper clipping from the Wall Street Journal, December 8, 1906, in the Samuel Spencer Papers, #3477, Folder 369, Vol 9, SHC. 3 Newspaper clipping from the New Orleans Item, November 30, 1906, in the Samuel Spencer Papers, #3477, Folder 369, Vol 9, SHC.
275 remained. An Atlanta railroad contractor even went so far as to call 4 These points were only further reinforced in 1910, when employees gathered to commemorate his life and unveil a monument in his honor in Atlanta. In the dedication speech, was a Georgian and he saw her i president of the Southern as the savior of the region. When Spencer assumed the role of beginning, an d that there was in this, his native state, and these other states of the South, a erent system of 5 Samuel Spencer was perhaps the most well known southern face on the trend of railroad consolidation in the 1890s. By 1900, 5 major companies, the Southern Railway, Atlantic Coast Line, Seaboard Airline, Illinois Central and Louisville & Nashville, controlled roughly 60 independent rail l ines reached an end. 6 In life Spencer portrayed the meteoric growth of his company, a rapid consolidation of southern railroads under one corporate shell, as natural, inevitable and necessary for the economic well being of the region and in death, Spencer became 4 Newspaper clipping from the Atlanta Constitution, November 30, 1906, in the Samuel Spencer Papers, #3477, Folder 369, Vol 9, SHC. 5 In memoriam Samuel Spencer, exercises at the unveiling of the monument erected by the employees of the southern rai lway company page 26 28, in the Samuel Spencer Papers, #3477, SHC. 6 Stover, R ailroads of the South, 1865 1900 (Chapel Hill, 1955), 275.
276 representative of the New South union of northern capital and southern industrial development. efficiency provided by consolidation was a major selling po int. As far back as 1880, Grady a system grand 7 The relentless logic of capitalism compell ed consolidation and the creation of large systems. The birth of the Southern formed a classic example of the creative destruction necessary to the operation of capitalism born. 8 But the that this was a natural, preordained and welcomed process. Indeed, in 1898, the roads officials were so perplexed by how the public loathed the company in its early years that they sent out a which at first was very distrustful of the management of the southern (largely on sectional jealousy created by the size and success of the 9 10 resistance in many unexpect ed corners, and this chapter will chart the rise and fall of anti Southern sentiment as it appeared along the line of the road in two states Georgia and North 7 Atlanta Constitution, February 13, 1880. 8 Richard White, Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and t he Making of Modern America, (New York, 2011) 188 197 examines the creative destruction of a series of overbuilt railroads in Kansas. 9 P.I. Welles to W.H. Barrett, November 2, 1898, Samuel Spencer President s Files, Box 61, File 3112, SRHAC. 10 R.L. Verno n to W.A. Turk, October 3, 1898, Samuel Spencer President s Files, Box 61, File 3112, SRHAC.
277 Carolina. These two states formed the core of the systems main line, and in both states, the So Official railroad histories sponsored by the Southern offer what amount to hagiog raphic odes to president Samuel Spencer and steer their analysis clear of the torturous birth of the road. The the financial maneuverings behind the consolidation. 11 This chapter seeks to both reclaim the history of resistance to the Southern, and to resurrect antimonopoly as a force in the New South. Critiques of the Southern Railway showed up in a wide array of o ften unexpected venues. Historians of the Gilded Age South typically reserve anti monopoly sentiments for the Populist Party and agrarian rubes, but the lawyers, an d a whole host of characters. 12 Typically attacks on railroad monopolies are seen in histories of the West, where the Octopus question has dominated the literature on railroad The Octopus, schola rs of 11 The Southern Railway: Road of the Innovators (Chapel Hill, 1985). Maury Klei n, The Great Richmond Terminal: A Study in Businessmen and Business Strategy, almost solely on the strategies and machinations of the corporate leadership and less on the public reaction to the consolidation. 12 The literature on southern Populism is vast, yet incomplete when it comes to the issue of railroad regulation and anti monopolism. The field has largely been characterized by biographies of important fig ures like Steven Kantrowitz, Ben Tillman & the Reconstruction of White Supremacy (Chapel Hill, 2000) and C. Vann Woodward, Tom Watson: Agrarian Rebel, (New York, 1963), regional or state oriented studies like Steven Hahn, The Roots of Southern Populism: Ye oman Farmers and the Transformation of the Georgia Upcountry, 1850 1890 (New York, 1983), Barton C. Shaw, The Wool (Baton Rouge, 1984) and Matthew Hild, Greenbackers, Knights of Labor and Populists: Farmer Labor Insurgenc y in the Late Nineteenth Century South (Athens, 2007), or Southern Populism has occupied marginal spaces in surveys of American Populism as a whole, as in Charles Postel, The Populist Vision (New York, 2007). Bruce Palmer, Man over Money: The Southern Popu list Critique of American Capitalism (Chapel Hill, 1980), 114 117 only devotes 3 pages to a discussion of anti monopoly in southern populism. Typically discussions of anti railroad sentiment are reserved for studies of the Progressive Era, see James F. Dos ter, Railroads in Alabama Politics, 1875 1914 (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1957).
278 western history have waged a length debate about the role of the Southern Pacific Railroad in politics. 13 However, the metaphor of the octopus, the standard symbol of a grasping monopoly, also appeared in the South as the Southern Railway spread its influence through the region. Finally, this chapter addresses how this resistance was smoothed over, and how in the end, the Southern, and other large railroad conglomerates were able to win out over an alternate vision of local development. Though there a re certainly parallels with the West, the southern context of this story makes this story unique. The Southern Railway explicitly branded itself as a Southern road, hitching itself to the tenets of New South mythology, and the system was able to exploit an d prey upon the distractions of racial issues in key elections. An examination of the formation of the Southern Railway surely does not tell the story of every failed southern line, but it does demonstrate the torturous and contingent nature of railroad c onsolidation in the South. And of all the railroads in the South, the Southern Railway was certainly the most aggressive in hitching its business goals to a message of region wide redemption. Vast and C S ystem The Southern Rai lway was not the first large railroad system in the South in fact it was wide rail network dated back to the Civil War, when the Confederate government physically p atched together roads that were originally built to serve states and localities, not a wider region. The Richmond and Danville was perhaps the most essential line of this Confederate system. This road at first served simply its eponymous cities in Virginia but gained immense importance after 13 White, Railroaded, is the most recent attempt to recover anti monopolism from the dustbin of political history, though he focuses solely on critiques of transc ontinental lines in the west. The contours of the Octopus debate are best laid out in William Deverell, Railroad Crossing: Californians and the Railroad, 1850 1910 (Berkeley, 1994) which examines critiques of the Southern Pacific, and Richard J. Orsi, Suns et Limited: The Southern Pacific Railroad and the Development of the American West, 1850 1930 (Berkeley, 2007) which debunks the mythology surrounding the event and offers a more sympathetic view of the corporations actions.
279 the Confederate government built a connecting line between Danville and Greensboro, which allowed access to the state owned North Carolina Railroad, and a whole chain of lines connecting Richmond and Atlanta. 14 The Conf ederate government that operated this system fell and after the war, the struggle to control these lines continued between southern state governments and northern capitalists. Tom Scott, president of the Pennsylvania Railroad, saw an opportunity to create a southern railroad empire and in 1873 he created the Southern Railway Security Company (SRSC), a holding company with which he intended to purchase the various pieces of his system. The SRSC only lasted until 1876, when it sold off most of its holdings, but before its demise it succeeded in forging a unified rail corridor between Atlanta and Richmond. 15 Historians have mixed opinions on the ultimate importance and legacy of the SRSC, but for this hat, no matter the financial success of the holding company, it paved the way for future consolidation. 16 After the SRSC fell apart, the next major attempt to consolidate this corridor into a single system came from the Richmond & West Point Terminal. Like the SRSC, the Richmond Terminal did not actually buy railroads, opting instead to simply purchase majorities of their stock. The core of the Terminal was the Richmond and Danville company, but the end of the 14 Scott Reynolds Nelson, Iron C onfederacies: Southern Railways, Klan Violence and Reconstruction (Chapel Hill, 1999) 15 Nelson, Iron Confederacies details this history and makes a strong case for the importance of the SRSC in setting the cours e of not only southern railroading, but also the region s economic development at large Other railroad The Journal of Southern History, Vol 6 6, No. 4, (Nov. 2000) 891 Albert J. Churella, The Pennsylvania Railroad: Volume 1, Building an Empire, 1846 1917 (Philadelphia, 2013). 438 446 argues that unfair scapegoating of Tom Scott was the real long trends than SRSC policy or conspiracy. At the very least it is clear that the SRSC laid the foundation for the idea of a southern railway conglomerate. 16 Fairfax Harrison, The Legal Development of the Southern Railway (Washington D.C., 1901), 20.
280 1880s the company also controlled two other majo r systems, the East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia and the Central of Georgia. In another parallel to the short lived SRSC, speculative manipulations doomed the company in 1892. After a three way deal involving the purchase of the Georgia Company, an epheme ral holding company, went sour, the stock of the Central of Georgia Railroad crashed, saddling the holding company with debt and destroying the reputation of the Terminal. A scathing expose in the New York Herald dividend complicated that the average investor is utterly unable to form any idea of its financial status for to these charges, which 17 A March 1892 editorial in the Railway Gazette noted that while the Terminal actually only owned 180 miles of road, the holding company somehow controlled 3,320 miles of railroad in the South. The a uthor claimed the system could potentially make profits if the stock price of its roads increased, but he doubted that such a speculative enterprise would be a success. As pieces of the unwieldy conglomerate began to default on interest payments, they fel l into receivership. The Danville system officially went under on June 15, 1892 and the Terminal Company a few days later. By late 1892, the Richmond Terminal system and all the lines it owned were in receivership and waiting for some sort of financial r eorganization. 18 But though the formation of the Southern Railway would be the ultimate solution to this problem, it was not preordained that these scattered remnants would easily consolidate under one corporate roof. Even though a committee had recommended 17 Maury Klein, The Great Richmond Terminal: A Study in Businessmen and Business Strategy, (Charlottesville, 1970), 188 190, 235 237. 18 E.G. Campbell, The Reorganization of the American Railroad System, 1893 1900, (New York, 1938), 95.
281 the Gazette favor reor 19 that controlled it. With investors more interested in short term profits than long term development, packaging disparate rail lines under the roof of mysterious holding companies, and with traders bartering stocks like playing cards, assigning stock prices that held no relation to the actual condition of lines, the SRSC and the Richmond Termi nal both embodied the worst aspects of the broader trend of the financialization of southern railroad lines. Maury Klein, the historian speculation that surro unded its birth. 20 This was the stuff that enthralled Henry Grady in his 1880 visit to Wall Street, but the crash of the Richmond Terminal showed the darker side of the freewheeling world of railroad stock bartering. 21 The precipitous collapse of the Richmon d Terminal and the southern lines under is control coincided with the national economic decline in the wake of the Panic of 1893. A few other railroad lines i nto receivership. For the nation as a whole, 128 lines with over 100 miles fell into receivership during the 1890s, and 33 of these were southern roads. 15 of these southern receiverships were associated with the collapse of the Richmond Terminal system. The exact timing of the financial trouble varied by region, but in the South the most failures occurred in 19 Railroad Gazette, March 25, 1892. 20 Klein, T he Great Richmond Terminal, 203, 291. 21 See Chapter 2
282 1892, when the Richmond Terminal collapsed. 22 Southern rail lines outside the purview of the fallen Richmond Terminal suffered in a national climate of retrenchment, and a newfound suspicion of high railroad stock prices. Every railroad started off in debt, as a natural result of the construction costs necessary to build a track, buy rolling stock and pay employees. Successful railroads would earn the ir way out of debt by paying down the interest on the original bonds but if a road failed to meet these appoint a receiver to operate the railroad until some sort of financial reorganization could occur. Either outside investors would swoop in to save the road and restructure bond payments, or the road would go up for sale at a foreclosure auction, usually to be bought by a larger system with available capital. The hard times of the 1890s set in motion a wave of receiverships in the South and they pointed out a serious flaw with the boom of the 1880s simply too many railroads had been built. Over construction made it nearly impossible to operate these lines at a profit. In seeking to ailroad had been built, and roads had to shell increased the indebtedness of roads, and helped usher in receiverships. 23 22 Stover, Railroads of the South, 257 258. 23 The Twenty First Report of the Railroad Commission of Georgia, from October 15, 1892 to October 15, 1893 (Atlanta, 1893), 3.
283 Residents of southern towns along recently built railroad corridors experienced the shockwaves of the panic as their local railroad dreams went up in smoke. In Macon, the men behind the GSF, flush with the succes s of the GSF, turned the sights on a line linking Macon to Birmingham, and is burgeoning steel industry, and another to Savannah and the sea. As a chain of railways reaching from the prairies to the sea, with Macon in the center of the great center of this grand scheme. 24 poses as for the good of Macon, for if an outside line purchased the road, the boosters who built it would stand to make a fortune from their stock holdings. On February 21, 1891, news broke that the Seaboard Air Line was about to lease the Georgia Souther shot up to $400 from $250 per share in a matter of hours. 25 But the president of the Seaboard Air recover their money. Trying to recover their debts, McTigh & Co. filed an application calling for a receiver for the company due to the $400,000 the company owed contractors for work on the related railroad lines, the Macon & Atlantic and the Macon & Birmingham. 26 A judge approved t he petition, putting W.B. Sparks in charge as a receiver and the road would await its ultimate fate once courts settled the various disputes among bondholders of both the railroad and the crooked Macon Construction Company Many of the new roads built in t he 1880s traversed sparsely settled corners of the country, and held little hope of hauling enough freight to turn a profit. As the Cape Fear & 24 Con stitution, May 12, 1895. 25 Weekly Telegraph, February 21, 1891. 26 (Ga.) Daily Enquirer, March 24, 1891.
284 Yadkin Valley Railroad, a road stretching through largely unpopulated swathes of North Carolina countryside on i ts way from Greensboro to Wilmington, tumbled into debt in 1893, the int erest just paid on Cape Fear and Y V bonds was fully earned without suffering any depreciation of physical condition of the property. We do not now get in the papers any report of earnings and so have no information. 27 A Baltimore man asked advice on wheth er he and some for connection with the Norfolk Southern was going to bear fruit. 28 Another man thinking about the interest it pays so punctually or whether it has to be borrowed. I also wish to know whether you think it will ev 29 The fate of the CFYV RR demonstrated some hard truths about the tough times of the 1890s lines that already were in a precarious position had little hope of surviving the crippling depr ession of the 1890s, and the failure of southern railroad properties hurt bondholders of all stripes. By 1893, the landscape of the South was littered with railroads that were for the most part physically intact and still oper ating but financially ruined. Ultimately the task of picking up the pieces of the Richmond Terminal and the other indebted roads fell to the only entities with enough capital to build a regional network of railroads in the South Wall Street bankers 27 L.D. Alexander to William A. Lash, June 26, 1893, in the William A. Lash Pap ers, #3900, SHC. 28 John R. Kelso Jr. to William A. Lash, December 23, 1892, in the William A. Lash Papers, #3900, SHC. 29 A.A. White to William A. Lash, July 13, 1893, in the William A. Lash Papers, #3900, SHC.
285 nam issued its first plan to reorganize southern railroads. The challenge was immense. Beyond the necessary financial wizardry needed to render the roads solvent, the proposed system faced serious physical issues. Roads struggling to pay debts also struggled to keep up a solid record of maintenance, and the report noted that while most other American railroads have been implementing improvements to the roadbeds and equipment, th e Terminal lines could not, due to put in such physical condition and furnished with such equipment as shall enable them to encourage the growth of the sections through which they pass, and to carry a well, and new railroad company that united all the lines that pr eviously were under the purview of the 30 The first plan would later be amended with a second one, but the overarching goals of reorganization remained the same. In addition to the financial reconstitution of the company, Morgan and the reorganization committee needed to rehabilitate the image of the corporation in the eyes of both southern consum ers and stockholders. Accusations of carpetbag influence and fear mongering about Yankee control helped doom the SRSC back in the 1870s, and if anything the men behind the 30 From page 4 9 from the Reorganization Plan found in Samuel Spencer President s Files, Box 2, File 26, SRHAC.
286 Southern Railway were even more explicitly connected with Wall Street and northern influence. 31 redemption. The rebranding of the road started at the very top, and Morgan and his associates tapped Samuel Spencer, a man uniquely suited to play the role of president of the Southern these rebranding efforts. He was a native souther ner, born in 1847 in Columbus, Georgia. He degrees at the University of Georgia and the University of Virginia. After his education was complete he rose through the ranks of a number of railroad companies until he became president of the Baltimore & Ohio. After resigning this office he worked for Morgan as a railway expert So uthern Railway. Who better than a southern native and a Confederate veteran to usher in a new southern railroad empire? 32 The sentiments of an Atlanta lawyer, who wrote to Spencer after uthern man is at the head of this great enterprise, upon which the future prosperity of the S were common. 33 1894, W.H. Green scouted out pot ential office locations for the new corporation in Richmond, were located in Richmond, then people in Georgia and the Carolina might complain. Some 31 Nelson, Iron Confederacies, Chapter 4. 32 Campbell, The Reorganization of the American Railroad System 156 157 33 John T. Glenn to Samuel Spencer, June 19, 1894, Samuel Spencer President s Files, Box 4, File 56, SRHAC.
287 Atlanta newspapers had already mentioned Atlanta as the best location of the headquarters. are still a Virginia concern, and operating the property in the interest of Rich would be a great option, as the new system would control at least four of the nine lines entering of course placing the headquarters in Atlanta any rate, Green suggested the headquarters should at least be along the main line so business could be conducted swiftly. Ultimately the headquarters would be established in Washington, but the tough nat ure of the decision speaks to how the new corporation tried every avenue to establish itself as a railroad for the South. 34 The leadership of the Southern Railway wanted the new company to break with the past, and the iconography of the line reflected this fresh start. The road picked a new trademark in July flight of the trains of the famous Piedmont Air Atlanta Constituti on come up with Line speed 35 The rebranding effort also extended to the names of routes, but the company had to take pains to balance their desire for a fresh start with the established patterns and habits of travelers 34 W.H. Green to Samuel Spencer, June 2, 1894, Box 16, in the Samuel Spencer Papers, #3477, SHC. 35 Constitution, July 22, 1894.
288 and shippers. A December discussion between Vice President W.W. Finley and Samuel Spencer addressed this need to affix the name of the new corporation firmly in consumers Spencer wrote Finley to suggest that they do away with the old trademark of the Piedmont Air Line, the previous name for the route between Atlanta and Richmond. get down as soon as possible to the southern railway being k agreed in principle, but he noted that this name held great significance to shipping interests, so he 36 Spencer also wanted to do away with rather undesirable to keep alive in this way the name of a railroad company which has ceased to Finley argued that they should keep this designation, at least for the special dispatch line, as spatch is so well and favorably known in new England and the east where its agents are located and from which along the line, so the old name still made sense. 37 Executive order No.1, issued by Samuel Spencer on July 1, 1894, officially brought the owned the lines. In addition all property and materials owned by the receivers immediately became the property 36 Samuel Spencer to W.W. Finley, December 3, 1895, W.W. Finley to Samu el Spencer, December 6 1895, Samuel Spencer President s Files, Box 26C, File 65, SRHAC. 37 Samuel Spencer to W.W. Finley, March 20, 1897, W.W. Finley to Samuel Spencer, March 21, 1897, Samuel Spencer President s Files, Box 43, File 1578, SRHAC.
289 of the Southern Railway Company. 38 In one quick motion, a massive new system was born. To on of the Southern Railway was an economic necessity for the South. ailway company biographer of Morgan would ca achievements. 39 Celebrants of the new system even used metaphors of nature to describe the road. The Raleigh News Observer, which later became a steadfast critic of the Southern, lauded the creatio Observer place of death and 40 Even the directors of some of the roads being folded into the Southern system also the Richmond Terminal, the board of the Central consolidation of many of the most important Southern roads into large systems and trunk lines, 41 38 Executive Order No.1, July 1, 1894, Box 3, File 32, Samuel Spender Files, SRHAC. 39 Campbell, The Reorganization of the American Railroad System, 158 159 40 News Observer, July 4, 1894. 41 Fifty Sixth Report of the President and Dire ctors of the Central Rail Road and Banking Company of Georgia, to the stockholders, (Savannah, 1891), 7.
290 Southern Railway boosters couched the coming of the corporation using the same well worn talking points used by New South boosters sinc e the end of Reconstruction. An interview with Colonel Andrews in February 1895 hit all the usual notes low prices for land, favorable laws for business, and inviting outside investment. 42 The road also began to crank out y early publications like The Southland in 1898, which provided extensive information about the resources and major industries of each southern state, as well as a discussion of the various ways in which the Southern Railway was aiding the project of regiona l industrial growth. As The Southland the South has been one of the more noteworthy movements in the industrial and commercial with startling clearness and in incontrovertible figures the majesty and rapidity of its unparalleled 43 These publications represented nothing less than a full hearted embrace of the New South mythology first crafted by boosters in the 1880s, and they placed the Southern Railway at the heart of the project of regional salvation. natural result of reckless railroad construction, plenty o f southerners contested the rise of this new corporate behemoth. As the Southern Railway began to expand its territory through acquisitions, more and more communities fell under its influence. As opposed to the institutional murkiness of previous conglome rates like the Richmond Terminal, a collection of lines so confusing that even investors could not understand, or the Southern Railway Security Company, an ephemeral holding company that lasted only a few years, the Southern Railway constituted a 42 News Observer, February 5, 1895. 43 Frank Presbrey, The Southland, An Exposition of the Present Resources and Developme nt of the South (Washington D.C., 1898).
291 clear tar get. The Southern Railway put a tangible face on railroad consolidation in the South, clear evidence of the increasing power of transportation monopolies, and the control of the a message of Party Paper monopoly that the south has ever 44 The Octopus C omes to Georgia The a rrival of the Southern Railway on the scene of southern railroading immediately sent shockwaves through the management of other roads in the region. In a special report to the e impact of had lots of available capital, and could raise more quickly due to its good credit. With unified leadership among the previously disparate roads, the L pointed out that the South was littered with orphaned southern roads in receivership, ready for purchase by outside part ies. Smith suggested that the L&N try to acquire some of these lines, but not overtly, as such a direct effort would lead the Southern to drive up the price. 45 were well founded, as the Southern embarked on a buying spree after its birth. Alth ough the reorganized Southern Railway had untangled the puzzle of the complicated Richmond Terminal system, 18 other southern railroads unrelated to the Terminal also fell into receivership in the 44 Atlanta October 2, 1896. 45 Louisville & Nashville Annual Reports: Special Report to the President, 1894 1895, Box 40, Fo lder 19, L&NRR.
292 1890s. 46 For a growing conglomerate, the insolvent roads pro vided opportunity to expand, as the failed roads entered foreclosure. The battle over the growth of the system took center stage in Georgia, a state that by 1900 boasted over 5,000 miles of railroad, and a state that also happened to be the childhood home of monopoly clause. corporation to buy shares or stock in any other corporation in this state, or elsewhere or to make competition in their respective businesses or to encourage monopoly. Any such contract or 47 There was precedent for the use of this clause. When the Terminal organizers secured a lease of the Central of Georgia in 1891, they took complicated steps to try to ski Pacific, which in turn was leased to the Richmond & Danville, which itself was directly owned by the Terminal holding company. 48 These maneuvers were not enough to stave off an 1892 lawsuit, which invoked the anti monopoly clause and successfully blocked the outside ownership of the Central of Georgia Railroad for a short period of time. 49 In 1895, the Southern began a buying spree in Georgia that started small. The first of the se roads was the insolvent and in all regards failed corporation, the Atlanta & Florida 46 Stover, Railroads of the South, 257 258. 47 The Twenty First Report of the Railroad Commission of Georgia, from October 15, 1892 to October 15, 1893 (Atlanta, 1893), 119. 48 Klein, The Great Richmond Terminal, 225. 49 Stover, Railroads of th e South, 251.
293 Railroad, a line extending South of Atlanta that despite its ambitious name, actually terminated in Fort Valley, nowhere near Florida. When L&N president Milton Smith a nd Samuel Spencer met in Kennesaw, Georgia on October 28, 1894 to discuss the status of the indebted roads in on June 22, the Southern acquired control of th is line for $275,000. 50 Along the line of the purchased road, the Houston County Home Journal rued the fact that Southern ownership spelled extended south of For t Valley 51 The Tifton Gazette ailway has gobbled up the Atlanta and Florida, and some of the exchanges fear that it may get a corner on the Atlantic Ocean. If that could be accomplished the editors might then travel on a pass to Europe. 52 even a seemingly insignificant purchase of a small unprofitable road like the Atlanta & Florida L&N traffic agent in Atlanta asked officials with the Atlanta & Florida to furnish them some cars to ship melons, but the road responded that this lenient arrangement of car along the territory of the purchased line now had no choice but to use Southern Railway cars. 53 When the Southern bought another small and insolvent line, the Georgia Midland, in 1896, the Atlanta Constitution ality about the 50 Constitution, June 22, 1895. 51 Houston County (Ga.) Home Journal June 27, 1895. 52 Tifton (Ga.) Gazette, June 28, 1895. 53 To August Belmont, June 26, 1895, Louisville & Nashville Annual Reports: Special Report to the President, 1894 1895, Box 40, Folder 19 L&NRR
294 54 From the perspective of Atlantans, this consolidation only brought benefits to cities along this 55 When the first train Constitutions were out to meet this t his Constitution argued consolidation was a boon to hinterland residents, but as we will see, for some, especially merchants in Griffin, the monopoly control of the Southern was a mighty steep price to pay for faster Constitutions. 56 Griffin would later form the basis of a serious challenge to the rate policy of the Southern. Merchants in Griffin may have gotten their Constitutions sooner, but they still waited to receive the other benefits of consolidation, one of which would ostensibly be lower rates. In April 1897, M. H. Brewer, a wholesale grain merchant in Griffin presented his case to the Georgia Railroad Commission asking for a reduction of rates. In a ro om packed with railroad rates in the state by 33 1/3 percent. His 54 Constitution, July 3, 1896. 55 Constitution, July 17, 1896. 56 Constitution, July 20, 1896.
295 57 At one point Brewer even between Atlanta and C 58 Investigation by Southern officials would later uncover that Brewer had been receiving illegal consolidation. And Brewer used his campaign to extract personal concessions from the Southern, such as free dinners and hotel rooms. 59 tapped into a powerful argument that resonated across Georgia and the South at large where were the benefits of consolidation in towns like Griffin? and the Georgia Southern & Florida The complaints of Griffin were echoed by a host of towns that lost out to the benefits of competition in the wave of consolidation, especially when the Southern set is sights on two larger systems in Georgia, the Georgia Southern & Florida (GSF) and the Central of Georgia line as receiver, and a foreclosure auction awaited the conclusion of various legal battles among bondholders. Further down the GSF line, in the swiftly growing town of Tifton, rumors swirled Tifton Gazette be worrying the public mind is, who will be the purchaser? Some say the Plant System, others the Seaboard Air L ine, and still others the bondholders represented by the committee. 60 A or is that it will be bid 57 Constitution, April 21, 1897. 58 Quote found in Thomas, Lawyering for the Railroad, 208. 59 Thomas, Lawyering for the Railroad, 206 209. 60 Tifton (Ga.) Gazette, February 8, 1895.
296 off by a syndicate of workingmen. 61 Though the purchase of bonds occurred slowly over a long stretch of time, the Southern officially announced it had purchased a majority on June 6, 1895. Sparks himself was surprised; noting that he had assumed H.B. Plant, head of a system that formed a regional rival to the Southern, would buy the road. Even the railroad friendly Macon Telegraph roads have been operati ng as competing lines, and therefore one cannot be purchased by the Southern would be able to openly control the GSF. 62 The first major opponent of the purchase of was naturally W.B. Sparks, the former president and receiver of the GSF who stood to lose the railroad properties he had built and managed for so long. After the Southern secured control of the GSF, a power struggle reputed between Sparks, the old GSF manager, and William Shaw, the new Vice President shipped in from Baltimore with the support of the new owners. After a power struggle in September, the Sparks in h is spot as general manager. 63 Sparks was actually asked to resign but he refused and remained in his office, so at one point two men claimed to be in charge of the GSF, until he was officially removed at the next stockholders meeting. 64 Spencer privately arg ued against keeping practically with the company, although not directly and who is mixed up with the management of a model farm, and also with a bankrupt railroad 61 Tifton (Ga.) Gazette, March 29, 1895. 62 Telegraph, June 6, 1895. 63 Atlanta Constitution, September 10, 1895. 64 Atlanta Constitution, September 11, 1895.
297 prominent role. 65 The Southern and the new management of the GSF cut ties with Sparks, but this would not be the last they heard of the disgruntled former receiver. In a confirmation of the new control of the GSF, the Spencer would hold every year until his death. 66 for the fact that his arguments tapped into sentiment that was common in Macon. The headquarters of the GSF, Macon, would indeed constitute the center of resistance to consolidation of the Southern in Georgia. By now losing its struggle for primacy among Georgia cities to Atlanta, Macon boosters had desperat ely built new railroads in the 1880s to spur competition that they hoped would bring down freight rates and lead to economic development. From the start, Spencer and the leadership of the Southern knew that its consolidation strategy could be a tough sell in Macon. Before the purchase went public, Spencer kept in touch with N.E. Harris, his division council in Macon and the future governor of Georgia, asking him to cont to indicate the advantages, both to Macon and to the South Georgia country, in having the southern railway take this line and operate it in connection with its large system. 67 Spencer also took pains to draw a distinction between the GSF and other recently acquired roads. While J.M. the Georgia Southern and Florida line shown th e same as the Cincinnati Southern and Alabama 65 Samuel Spencer to J.F. Hanson, October 1, 1895, Samuel Spencer President s Files, SRHAC. 66 Samuel Spencer President s Files, Box 7, File 92, SRHAC. 67 Samuel Spencer to N.E. Harris, June 13, 1895, Samuel Spencer President s Files, Box 12, File 187, SRHAC.
298 Great Southern just at this time. 68 Treading delicately around local opinion, Spencer did not purchases. Anxiety in M acon was running so high, that Spencer decided to send his right hand man shops will be closed, everybody discharged and the general gobbling up process gone through GSF as part of its system. It must be operated independently under its own board of directors and officers and the Southern Railway will simply be a majority stock holder. 69 N.E. Harris, the sources: officers of the GSF anxious to m aintain their positions with the line, and bondholders who have not yet sold their bonds. The former were hoping to stir up discontent to keep their jobs, while the latter were simply trying to force the Southern to buy their bonds at a fair price. 70 Howev retinue of employees and officers would be turned off and their liveli hood stopped without notice. 71 In Tifton, the Gazette 68 Samuel Spencer to J.M. Culp, June 11, 1895, Samuel Spencer President s F iles, Box 12, File 187, SRHAC. 69 Samuel Spencer to A.B. Andrews, June 12, 1895, Samuel Spencer President s Files, Box 12, File 187, SRHAC. 70 N.E. Harris to Samuel Spencer, June 10, 1895, Samuel Spencer President s Files, Box 13, File 192, SRHAC. 71 N.E Harr is to Samuel Spencer, June 12, 1895, Samuel Spencer President s Files, Box 13, File 192, SRHAC.
299 it seemed that the previous leadership would remain in charge. 72 Prominent men in Macon besides Sparks also rose to challenge the Southern, tapping into anxieties in the community at large. With his partner Robert Guerry, Joseph Hall served as general counsel for the Georgia Southern and Florida in Macon. For small city lawyers like Hall, railroad business was the most lucrative field of work available, and southern lawyers typically had to choose sides as either railroad, or anti railroad. Unfortunately for Hall, the new management began to shove h im out the door after the purchase of the GSF. First the Southern lowered his salary to $4000, then an attorney with the Southern directly informed him his services were no longer needed. 73 Hall pointed out that his firm represented the road through its tr pany cut ties with them anyway. fate was decided. 74 Hall sought to use his past loyalty and service as an argument for keeping his been precisely the reason why he was let go. A man with such intimate knowledge of the prede 72 Tifton (Ga.) Gazette, June 21, 1895. 73 Guerry & Hall to Skipwith Wilmer, June 10, 1895 and June 14, 1895, Samuel Spencer President s Files, Box 4 Folder 50 A SRHAC. 74 Guerry & Hall to Skipwith Wilmer, November 5, 1896, Samuel Spencer President s Files, Box 4, File 50A, SRHAC.
300 Old enemies, especially those as powerful as lawyers had a tendency to linger, and Hall continued to fight the Southern in a number of venues. He next assailed the company du ring the trial of Tom Shaw, a man accused of deliberately wrecking a Southern Railway train near Macon to kill his wife and collect insurance payments. As discussed in Chapter 4 train wreckers were often a fabrication of corporations more than an actual t hreat, but in this instance the wreckers actually did exist. In his defense of Shaw, Hall focused not on the actual facts of the case, which were damning to his client, but on the corporate power and wide ranging influence of the Southern. Hall framed it a standing here before you oppressed by this great corporation, extending from Virginia throu gh the fact that Hall turned to an anti monopoly line of defense speaks to how powerful these arguments even alluded to to put aside their prejudice against the Southern Railway and judge the case on its merits. 75 When Hall resurfaced in the Georgia Legis lature in 1901, he continued his crusade against the Southern, and presented a different version of his dismissal, claiming not that he was could do much work 76 Halls conversion from loyal attorney for the GSF to bitter foe of the Southern may be dismissed simply as sour grapes, but in 75 W.F. McCombs, The Stone Creek Wreck: A Modern Will The Wisp (London, 1898), 103, 159, 166. 76 To Spencer, January 31, 1901, Samuel Spencer President s Files, Box 4, Folder 50A, SRHAC.
301 his arguments during the Shaw trial he tapped into the broader currents of discontent and as a lawyer, he gave an influential voice to anti monopoly sentiment in Macon. occurred on the line outside the town on August 31, 1895. Upwards of 50 passengers on a crow ded excursion train were injured, and the Southern Railway management saw this as an opportunity to sway public sentiment by settling quickly and immediately paying out financial ment of these cases us to have Mr. Harris and his firm make settleme nts. 77 This would be in sharp contrast to the typical strategy after train wrecks, which as we have seen, was to shirk responsibility and vigorously contest claims, and in some cases blame wrecks on wreckers. Samuel Spencer generally agreed with this stra tegy but he worried that people would take advantage of the road and present large bogus claims. Being judicious in paying claims would succeed at first but proc the sentiments in the Macon case have been well made. 78 And in a f inal testament to the widespread hostility to the purchase of the GSF, the local business community also got involved in the opposition to the Southern. The chairman of the transportation committee of the Macon Chamber of Commerce wrote to Spencer to expre ss 77 W.H. Baldwin to Leslie Ryan, September 1, 1895, Southern Railway Executive Files, Box B, SRHAC. 78 Samuel Spencer to Leslie Ryan, October 7, 1896, Samuel Spencer President s Files, Box 13, File 213, SR HAC.
302 and its control of the traffic of the principal lines entering and centering in Macon is viewed with oped the Southern Railway would under your control in Mac on will be disturbed as little as possible; some of our best and most conservative citizens are the shop men and other employees of the Railroad Companies here. 79 In response to the Chamber of Commerce letter, Spencer penned a lengthy response that was ev entually published in major newspapers and widely distributed as a defense of railroad consolidation in the South. Spencer started by addressing the specific concerns of Macon, center. He also claimed his company would operate the Central of Georgia independently, and noted that the Southern only held a majority of GSF securities. Spencer knew about the importance of future as to the details of corporate management. 80 Moving towards the broader topic of corporate consolidation, he argued the trend toward of needless railroads throughout the South and the hopeless struggles to sustain them when 79 S.R. Jacques to Samuel Spencer, June 12, 1895, Samuel Spencer President s Files, Box 12, File 188, SRHAC. 80 Samuel Spencer to S.R. Jacques, July 10, 1895, Samuel Spencer President s Files, Box 6, File 84 SRHAC Excerpts of this letter also appear i n the Railway Gazette, August 2, 1895
303 to consolidate not pe be too burdensome is to be attached to some larger system and be nursed and supported in return 81 The concerns of Macon citizens and the counter arguments of Samuel Spencer point to a critical conflict in this decade. For Spencer, the needs of the system, and the crushing logic of capitalism, demanded efficiency and took precedence over the needs of individual towns and sma ll insolvent rail lines. Rate structures, and corporate payrolls had to match the dictates of the large company, not the wishes of Macon residents. For residents of Macon, and other southern railroad towns that found their rail lines controlled by large outside corporations, consolidation indeed. Who O wns the Central of Georgia Railroad? Macon was not the only Georgia city to be gobbled by the Southern. An especially complicated and contentious acquisition of the Southern was the Central of Georgia, an old and formerly state owned system based in Savannah. The Central was weighted with great sentimental significance for Georgians. In an 1894 speech in Atlanta, Tom Wats on called the line the pride of Georgia built with Georgia courage, with Georgia 81 Samuel Spencer to S.R. Jacques, July 10, 1895, Samuel Spencer President s Files, Box 6, File 84 SRHAC Excerpts of this letter also appear in the Railway Gazette, August 2, 1895
304 82 In fall of 1895, at the same time the Southern was reorganizing the leadership of the GSF, the system also took steps to exert control over the reorganized shell of the Central of Georgia. As a key element of the Richmond Terminal, the final piece of Samuel road by pur chasing it at a foreclosure sale, but as an attorney with the road later admitted, the ee, a body temporarily organized to facilitate the complex reorganization and that remained intact, took the competition clause. 83 But behind these cloaking maneuvers, it seemed clear to observers in Georgia that the controlling this property. On October 30, Samuel Spencer himself showed up in Savannah to represent the Southern dur ing the official transfer from the old receivers to its new owners. At a ownership. Even though his presence served as a symbolic indicator of the arrival of the So uthern, his speech attempted to assuage the fears of Savannah residents. He argued that the be opened to those lines which are competitors of the Souther does not reach Savannah, but the Central does and the Central is as free now as it ever was to build up your city. 84 82 Atlanta May 25, 1894. 83 Fairfax Harrison, The History of the Legal Development of the Southern Railway (Washington D.C., 1901), 558. 84 Morning News, November 1, 1895.
305 The acquisition of the Central would be the final piece of a puzzle that, in the eyes of the Georgia Rai lroad Commission, indicated that the Southern had acquired an effective monopoly actions, its powers to act were quite limited. The 1895 annual report described the South buying spree, detailing the purchase of the Atlanta and Florida and the Georgia Southern and Florida roads and it noted t ailway company is the real owner of all the stock of the Central Railway and Banking C om pany B etween all of these factors the line operated 778.64 miles of railroad in Georgia directly. The report was explicit in could only recommend legislation, 85 In Plant Sy stem, the next largest competitor for the Southern, had only 616.25 miles. The state had a total of 5,291.41 miles at this point, so by 1896 the Southern had control of over 40% of the 86 The Commission did its best to untangle the web Commission tried to figure out who controlled the GSF and a month later, the Commission o appear before the commission to show who actually owned the or as part of a system in order to exercise its most important power to set freight rates. Proof 85 Twenty Third Report of the Railroad Commission of Georgia From October 15, 1894 to October 15, 1895 (Atlanta, 1895), 7. 86 Twenty Fourth Report of the Railroad Commission of Georgia, From October 15, 1895 to October 15, 1896 (Atlanta, 1896), 12.
306 t hat the Central and GSF were owned by the Southern would allow the Commission to lower freight rates throughout the state, a boon to shippers and local merchants and a blow to the Southern. The Savannah Morning News the Central for the purpose of ascertaining whether or not it is owned or controlled by the Southern Railway 87 But the Constitution reported that its contacts in the railroad industry assumed the Central would make some kind of showing that would allow it to work around the constitution, 88 In a series of hearings held in the summer of 1896, officials with the two roads were intransigent, even out right hostile, to the commissions inquires. H.M. Comer, the president of the ories is the technical point that is giving the railroad commissioners some trouble. 89 By July, the Commission still could not figure out who owned the Central of Georgia. An official with the Central claimed the n, who do not constitute the Southern Railway interest they represented, and the Commission wondered why these men were not before the Commission. 90 In effect, the hearing only spoke further to the weakness of the Commission, 87 Morning News, May 30, 1896. 88 Constitution, April 14, 1896. 89 Morning News, June 1, 1896. 90 Morning News, July 30, 1896.
307 which did not even how the power, or wherewithal, to determine who exactly owned the major railroad corp orations in the state. Finally, in October, the Commission got Samuel Spencer himself to testify before the Commission. The Morning News Southern railway owns the Central of Georgia, and then agai n it does not own it. The Southern owns 12,000 of the 27,000 shares of the Georgia Southern and Florida, but it does not own a now you d combination, was in a position to know all about the inner workings of the buying and selling of railroads that explain the complicated construction of the Southern Railway. 91 In the end, the Commission could not figure out who controlled these lines, so the body had to alter its own rules, in order to exert its rate setting powers over the Southern. Instead of which are under the management or control by lease ownership or other wise of o ne and the same company and all connecting railroads a majority of whose stock is owned or controlled, oads has a separate board of directors shall 6 to the lower class 4 rates that the body applied to the rest of the Southern. 92 Later William 91 Morning News, October 22, 1 896. 92 Twenty Fourth Report of the Railroad Commission of Georgia, From October 15, 1895 to October 15, 1896 (Atlanta, 1896), 37.
308 Shaw wrote to Spenc 93 n state towards the railroads, and from the attitude of the railroad commission of Georgia, I think that body only requires the slightest pretext to order further 94 Beyond rate setting, the Commission did not have any other powers to act against the consolidation and combinations which promote derelict in our duty if we failed to call the attention of the law making power to the steady progress and growth of th 95 In the end, the Central would retain independence in name indeed, the Southern would not officially take possession of the Central until 1963. 96 Yet, the entire episode and period of confusion in Savannah points to a probl em typical among regulatory bodies hoping to sort out railroad purchases consolidation was a deliberately complicated process, so much that for a few years, Georgians had no idea who actually controlled the ir most cherished state funded project. 93 William Shaw to Samuel Spencer, November 25, 1897, Samuel Spencer President s Files, Box 54B File 14, SRHAC. 94 Shaw to Samue l Spencer, April 16, 1897, Samuel Spencer President s Files, Box 52, File 2032, SRHAC. 95 Twenty Fourth Report of the Railroad Commission of Georgia From October 15, 1895 to October 15, 1896 (Atlanta, 1896), 13. 96 Burke, The Southern Railway 236 238.
309 an organized effort will be made at the railways. 97 On November 22, the first anti railroad legislation of the session appeared from a Mr. Johnson from Hall Cou commission to the governor, in which that body refers to the tendency of the railroads to consolidate, and expresses doubt as to the effect of this tendency upon the interests of the p companies in the state that appear to come under the provisions of the act quoted 98 Political support for such a measure came largely from the Georgia Populist Party, which reached its apex at about the same time as the consolidation of the Southern, Populists already upset about concentrations of power and wealth in Wall Street were understandably aggrieved about the rapid rise of a J.P. Morgan backed corporate behemoth in the South. In Georgia, Tom found in the Southern a ready foil for editorial rage. In response Southern R ailway system has bought all the competing lines in Georgia, with three exceptions and is today the most daring and conspicuous crim 97 To A.B. Andrews, October 14, 1895, Samuel Spencer President s Files, Box 24, File 740, SRHAC. 98 Morning News, November 22, 1895.
310 with all his will power and pluck, does not dare to raise his finger again st the Democratic millionaires who are wiping their feet upon the fundamental laws of the state. 99 attacks later turned personal, as he would call the Georgia a foreign master, trained, uniformed, armed and p lost to the railroads. 100 blunt ed by the fact that the Southern was hard at work filling the 1894 legislature with friends and allies. In March 1894, before the Southern even legally existed, A.B. Andrews furnished Spencer with a list of reliable attorneys in Atlanta who should be retai ned by the new corporation. These men were already working for the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia organization or consolidation of the roads. 101 In 1894 W.A. Henderson toured the line and me t with citizens, and lawyers, who did not know the real purpose 102 Le 99 October 25, 1895. 100 C. Vann Woodward, Tom Watson: Agrarian Rebel, (N ew York, 1963), 377 378. 101 A.B. Andrews to Samuel Spencer, March 19, 1894, Box 15, in the Samuel Spencer Papers, #3477, SHC. 102 W.A. Henderson to Samuel Spencer, May 3, 1894, Box 16, in the Samuel Spencer Papers, #3477, SHC.
311 ction of good men, who would aid us in our efforts to get some favorable result at the next session of the legislature. 103 The main incorporation process for rail roads and altered the anti monopoly clause in the 1877 company within or without this State, or to lease or purchase the stock and property of any other such company and hold, use and occupy the same in such manner as they may deem most line of railroad or enter into any contract with a competing line of railroad calculat ed to defeat or 104 of an unusually contentious gubernatorial campaign. Much of the attention in Georgia politics was focused on a hotl y contested gubernatorial race between George Atkinson, a younger new brand of reform minded Democratic politician and Clement Evans, a Civil War veteran allied h oped to use it to their advantage. As W.A. Henderson argued that this race and the election of interests in the background. 105 The Southern, then opted to steer clear of the contested 103 H.M. Comer to Samuel Spencer May 4, 1894, Box 16, in the Samuel Spencer Papers, #3477, SHC. 104 Acts and Resolutions of the General Assembly of the State of Georgia, 1892, 49. 105 W.A. Henderson to Samuel Spencer, April 28, 1894, Box 16, in the Sam uel Spencer Papers, #3477, SHC.
312 d gain more by making a quiet canvas with a view to getting such a legislature as would be favorably inclined than to risk antagonism by an open support and canvas for either of the candidates for governor. 106 when he travelled around the state to points along the Southern. In his report to Spencer he my matter was brought up quite casually and incidentally most of these candidates I have not met cand idates were railroad lawyers, already on the payroll of the road. Henderson bragged that to 107 Out in the hustings, the 1894 campaign was one of the most violent Georgia had seen. With the Populist Party threatening to break Democratic control of the state, the race was characterized by race baiting, violence, voter intimidation and outright fraud. Tom Watson lost his congressional seat in a race marked with irregularities and launched a vigorous challenge to contest the results. In the race for Governor, Populists were incredulous that their candidate had lost to Atkinson. The election of 1894 has thus understandably received attention from historians of Populism, as a high water mark when the Populist protagonists are beaten back by the race card, or as a missed opportunity for a third party victory. But an overlooked facet of this contest 106 H.M. Comer to Samuel Spencer, May 24, 1894, Box 16, in the Samuel Spencer Papers, #3477, SHC. 107 W.A. Henderson to Samuel Spencer, May 3, 1894, Box 16, in the Samuel Spencer Papers, #3477, SHC.
313 is that it also helped fill the legislature with allies of the Southern, like N.E. Harris, who won his seat in Macon. 108 Money and influence from the Southern Railway helped defeat Populist candidates and se cure a friendly legislature for the corporation, just before a major move into Georgia. The Populists that did make it into the legislature lacked the clout to impact the legislative agenda. At its high point in 1894, the Georgia Populist party only contro lled 21 percent of the seats in the General Assembly. A historian of the party in Georgia noted that one gislator, issued a number of resolutions demanding that the governor enforce state laws against railroad monopolies, but otherwise, the their high point in 1894, t he Georgia Populist Party collapsed quickly, the ultimate death knell being a futile attempt to fuse with Republicans in 1898. 109 implacable enemy in the legislature. After an anti railroad bill was defeated, the legisla tor that for two minutes, the octopus swallowed 7 of them. 110 The metaphor of the railroad as a grasping octopus swallowing all in its path, was common in the We st, where the Southern Pacific seemed of the Southern Railway. 108 This election is detailed in Woodward, Tom Watson: Agrarian Reb el, 259 277, Barton C. Shaw, The Wool Hat (Baton Rouge, 1984), 102 123. 109 Shaw, The Wool Hat Boys 126 134, 194. 110 To Samuel Spencer, December 7, 1895. Samuel Spencer President s Files Box 24, File 740, SRHAC.
314 Indeed a survey of the actual laws passed by the Georgia legislature between 1894 and 1896, th An 1894 act allowed railroads to run cars with perishable goods on Sundays, and one clarified the proves of fixing liens on railroads. 111 The 1895 session contained few laws relating to railroads, the only notable act being one that defined the rights of purchasers of railroads, an act extremely favorable to the Southern. 112 The only adverse legislation coming out of the 1896 session was a law that let the Railroad Commiss ion compel testimony and one that held receivers liable for damages caused by the operation of their roads. 113 Fighting the 99 Year Lease in North Carolina The politics of anti consolidation resonated in more than just Georgia. The issue appeared in strange places, and at times, threatened to upset the traditional Bourbon alliance of northern capital and the Democratic Party. This occurred when the fight against the Southern by a coalition of Republicans and Populists, proved a much tougher foe to control. The roots of the conflict over the lease of the North Carolina Railroad stretched back into Reconstruction, when the Richmond & Danville first leased the line for 30 years. The state owned link constituted a vitally important link in the system. Just as W.B. Sparks took charge of anti consolidation efforts in Macon, the explosion of the lease issue was aided by yet another jilted, but powerful figure, Greensboro lawyer David Schenck. Leslie Ryan, assistant counsel for the Southern informed 111 Acts and Res olutions of the General Assembly of the State of Georgia, 1894, 65 66. 112 Acts and Resolutions of the General Assembly of the State of Georgia, 1895, 62. 113 Acts and Resolutions of the General Assembly of the State of Georgia, 1896, 57, 63.
315 conformity with the reorganization of the other departments of this company, there seems to be no busine 114 railroad has given me a salary of 2500. The last year it has not required scarcely any work from establishing a battlefield park at the site of the Battle of Guilford Court House. 115 Schenck also failed to carry the company line in the aftermath of the train wreck at Bostians Bridge. He refused to sign petitions removing the damage lawsuits to Charlot 116 From the perspective of the Southern Railway, Schenck was a 60 year old lawyer, in ill health and near the end of his career, who failed to tote the company line in its handling of train wrecks, so it only made sense to cut ties as quickly as possible. In 1895, the Southern Railway was looking to firm up control of its line through North Carolina. Governor Carr offered the road a 99 year lease of the state owned North Carolina Railroad. Populists suspe cted the lease was really made because the Southern wanted to secure a deal before a new legislature swept into power. 117 The directors of the NC RR justified the lease ad (no longer than ours) running between two interior towns cannot exist, if those who control the 114 Leslie Ryan to David Schenck, May 11, 1895, Samuel Spencer President s Files, Box 10, File 141, SRHAC. 115 Diary, October 14, 1893, in the David Schenck Papers #652, SHC. 116 Diary, December 17, 1894, in the David Schenck Papers #652, SHC. 117 Caucasian August 29, 1895.
316 railroad that has occupied its territory, want it. 118 Schenck blasted the Southern Railway in a letter that took up the entire front page of the Caucasian in December, 1895. He suggested the state follow the path of South Carolina and bar foreign corporations from owning roads in the house to do their dirty work. After buying up all the roads in the R&D system the road was 119 lease heated up in 189 6. A July 1896 letter to the Caucasian expressed outrage that roads built when the Southern railway will control all the railroads in North Carolina. 120 North Carolina Populists also resorted to anti Semitic attacks on the line, with the Caucasian at one point 121 Populists and Republicans took over the legislature and the governorship in 1896, and th e new Republican Governor Russell made annulling the 99 year lease a centerpiece of his legislative agenda. A coalition of strange bedfellows pushed for the annulment of the lease in 1897, including Republican Governor Russell, Populist allies in the legis lature and the ardently Democratic Josephus Daniels, editor of the influential Raleigh News Observer, the largest paper in the state. In the 1897 legislature session, foes of the Southern unsuccessfully attempted to 118 Amendments Thereto of the North Carolina Railroad Co. With the By Laws, Mortgage and Lease, (Raleigh, 1896), 98. 119 Raleigh Caucasian December 5, 1895. 120 Caucasian July 23, 1896. 121 Raleigh Cau casian March 18, 1897.
317 break the lease, and the Southern eventu ally got Federal Judge Simonton to issue an injunction 122 but both Democrats and Populists continued to invoke the specter of Southern Railway domination to attack each other. By summer of 1897, Josephus Daniels was linking Must to the gold bugs, to the Southern Railway, to the trusts, and to everything else that had the money to pay for them. 123 Another Daniels editorial noted the 124 Th e Caucasian, that the Democratic Party was actually controlled by railroad lawyers. The paper argued that the e nigger to be made the issue away from the schemes that are being laid by the overseer and his help. 125 This observation turned out to be prescient, as instead of a contest framed around the issue of railroad consolidation, racial issues consumed the 1898 election. North Carolina Populists offered to fuse with Democrats and form an anti monopoly party which would united front against the Southern 122 Jeffrey J. Crow, "Populism to Progressivism" in North Carolina: Governor Daniel Russell and His War on the Historian 37:4 (1975:Aug.), 649, and Jeffrey J. Crow and Robert F. Durden, Maverick Republican in the Old North State: A Political Biography of Daniel L. Russell (Baton Rouge, 1977), 79 96. 123 News Observer August 20, 1897. 124 News Observer August 29, 1897. 125 Raleigh Caucasian September 9, 1897.
318 Railway and keep the anti lease issue alive, but Democrats, sensing an opening on racial issues, declined this o ffer. 126 Instead of a campaign based on the still controversial 99 year lease, Democratic chairman Furnifold Simmons opted to unleash a campaign based on White Supremacy, playing on fears of black rule and domination and fabricating a series of perceived ass aults on white women. A violent electoral landslide in 1898, marked by an outright coup and race riot in Wilmington ended fusion rule. 127 So in North Carolina, as in Georgia, allies of the Southern secured their goals of non s acquisitions in crucial elections Georgia in 1894 and North Carolina in 1898 that swung not on anti monopoly sentiment, but on race. White Supremacy as a political force drowned out the critiques of the Southern. Immediately after this election, a So past 10 months, due largely to the stand taken by the authorities against the lease of the North ttempt by some at personal 128 However, the drumbeat of white supremacy and the hotly contested election that put the issue of the lease in the background seemed a more likely cause. W.B Sp arks and the Railroad Question in Georgia Press Just as the 99 year lease issue began to fade in North Carolina, W.B. Sparks, the aggrieved former president of the GSF, and self appointed spokesman of the anti consolidation movement in Macon made a final e ffort to challenge the purchase in the courts. In April 1897, 126 Raleigh Caucasian June 2, 1898. 127 Glenda Gilmore, Gender and Jim Crow: Women and the Politics of White Supremacy in North Carolina, 1896 1920 (Chapel Hill, 1996), Ch. 4. 128 J.A. Dodson to W.H. Ped dle, November 15, 1898, Samuel Spencer President s Files, Box 61, File 3112, SRHAC.
319 raise a fund to be used in defraying the cost of a legal attack upon the Southern R Spa rks had been approaching a number of people for a new lawsuit that would place the Southern Railway under receivership. 129 The mouthpiece for this assault on the Southern was the Macon News, whose lengthy diatribes against the corporation ended up on Spencer the chains have been permanently fastened about them a nd they are left powerless to help Tennessee & Virginia, to the GSF and the Central of Georgia, and noted that all the railroad lines into and out of Macon were now under Southern Railway control. Without competing freight merchants would be doomed to forever play second fiddle to other Georgia cities. Sparks proposed raisi 130 The journalistic barrage continued in the Macon News a few days later, with a front page article that ent more on plans. Every line that the city and its residents had funded with bond purchases was supposed to remain independent so there would 129 William Shaw to Samuel Spencer, April 17, 1897, Samuel Spencer President s Files, Box 52, File 2032, SRHAC. 130 News, April 29, 1897.
320 be as much competition as possible, but now with eleven railroads centering on the city, only one was independent. 131 The Sou presented a petition to put the Southern into the hands of a receiver due to its violation of the since its or character of the interests which the Southern Railway holds in the stock of the Central of road held actual control. 132 The stakes of this petition were high the Macon Telegraph argued, ed are tremendous. It stands to reason that if the southern, which is now in the full tide of its development as one of the greatest of American trunk lines, should be embarrassed at this juncture in its affairs, its service would be seriously crippled and untold loss would be inflicted upon the owners of its shares and its securities. 133 Once again, defenders of S at to put the southern railway company into the hands of a receiver would strike a blow from which the south would not recover in twenty five years 134 The leadership of the Southern dismissed the attempt at first, failing to realize the broad base of oppos 131 News, May 3, 1897. 132 Constitution, June 8, 1897. 133 Telegraph, June 5, 1897. 134 Walter B. Hill to Samuel Spencer, J une 5, 1897, Samuel Spencer President s Files, Box 52, File 2032, SRHAC.
321 annoy but I do not apprehend any serious danger from it. The application is made by malcontents led by sparks and his counsel who were dropped out of the Georgia Southern a nd Florida for unfitness for their positions. 135 Acme Brewing Co and Dunlap Hardware Co not important element in that business 136 The Savannah Morning News also intimated that there was a ----in the a ploy on the part of Sparks to become receiver of the Southern. 137 But the memoir of N.E. suggested that there was more to 138 It may seem convenient to dismiss the petition as sour grapes from Sparks, but even those opposed to the receivership bid admitted that the petitioners had a legitimate argument about consolidation. The Telegraph, the newspaper in Macon adamantly opposed to this effort, printed a series of int erviews with prominent businessmen in the city. A cotton merchant noted that the rving out niches businessman admitted that while he did not know who owned th e roads in the city he thought it 135 Samuel Spencer to G.W. Maslin, June 6, 1897, Samuel Spencer President s Files, Box 52, File 2032 SRHAC 136 JSB To Samuel Spencer, June 6, 1897, Samuel Spencer President s Files, Box 52, File 2032 SRHAC 137 Morning News, June 23, 1897. 138 Nathaniel E. Harris, Five Years (Macon, 1925). 268 270.
322 in the hands of a receiver. 139 Savan nah Morning News, one of the papers leading the editorial fight ens people of Georgia are no longer the owners of the railroads. The efforts of manipulators have e owners had no local or state interests. 140 The additional power of the petition can be seen in how, for a brief period of time, it 1897, Georgia newspapers waged an started in the Macon News response the Macon Telegraph took up the issue on the side of the railroads, the Atlanta Constitution also saw fit to chime in, and two papers in Augusta took opposite sides of the issue. on the side of the railroad, its competitor would come out against the railroad. This situation meant that the Macon Telegraph, a 139 Teleg raph, June 6, 1897 140 Morning News, June 24, 1897.
323 Republican publication that advocated a position in the minority in Georgia, was the only one left to defend the Southern Rai lway. McWhorter thought the best solution would be for papers on 141 But just as the Southern had filled the legislature with allies, the railroads of Georgia had well Atlanta Constitution, the roads had essentially what amounted to a paid employee at the Constitution. As Georgia papers debated the receivership issue, William Shaw reminded Spencer to the Atlanta constitution giving such data and facts connected with railroads and their business as will tend to give the public in Georgia a better understanding of such matters and thereby create a more kindly feeling towards corporations. 142 Some of th ese ties of control were clearer than others and as the controversy over the receivership petition raged, Georgia newspapers of all political stripes accused each other of being owned or controlled by the Southern. The explicitly anti railroad Macon News also attacked the Savannah Morning News, Morning News in turn stated t the Southern railway. 143 141 Hamilton McWhorter to A.B. Andrews, May 17, 1897, Samuel Spencer President s Files, Box 47, File 1834, SRHAC 142 William Shaw to Samuel Spencer, June 10, 1897, Samuel Spen cer President s Files, Box 52, File 2032 SRHAC 143 Morning News, June 13, 1897.
324 Macon Telegraph, which is kept busy denying that it is owned by the Southern Rai lway, and that it is not republican in its politics, is at this late day, advising the people to watch and wait for the 144 The rumors about Southern ownership of the Telegraph must have spread far, as in 1899 an attorney from Washingto n DC wrote to Spencer asking if he would sell the Macon Telegraph, Macon. 145 Even though the Southern itself may not have controlled the Telegraph, a good the Central. Later Harris would use his influence with Spencer to get Hanson appointed as chairman of the board of the Central. 146 The petition was eventually withdrawn after its supporters realized Governor Atkinson would not act on it, and one observer argue d the withdrawal was to prevent their embarrassment at its failure. 147 passes an ns. 148 From there the 144 Hawkinsville (Ga.) News and Dispatch, October 21, 1897. 145 F.W. McReynolds to Samuel Spencer, January 9, 1899, Samuel Spencer President s Fil es, Box 69, File 3349 SRHAC 146 Harris, Autobiography 270. 147 Glenn to Samuel Spencer, June 19, 1897, Samuel Spencer President s Files, Box 52, 203, SRHAC. 148 N.E. Harris to Samuel Spencer, June 21, 1897, Samuel Spencer President s Files, Box 52, 2032, SRHA C.
325 issue moved into the courts, where H.M. Comer talked to Judge Speer and reported that though Macon. 149 It is no surprise that the corporation h ad little to fear from Judge Speer. When the Southern Railway was formed in 1894, Speer wrote to Spencer, noting that while he had been a failure to protect the r ights of northern of non resident investors because of a failure of duty on 150 So it was no surprise that the anti monopoly court cases eventually petered out. 151 In the end, a judge dismissed the case in 1901, and at this point many of th e original complainants had complainants withdrew the accusations. Th e complainants stated that they would have had to would amount to an expense far out of what they could afford. 152 But despite its failure, the Sparks petition and subsequent debate gave voice, however muffled by the railroad friends press, to an alternate vision of corporate consolidation in Georgia, a final attempt to curb the rise of the Southern. The Southern Railway Triumphant Backed by northern investors and bo ndholders, major conglomerates like the Southern Railway stood ascendant across the South by 1900. Of course, this would not be the end of 149 H.M. Comer to Samuel Spencer, June 9, 1897, Samuel Spencer President s Files, Box 52, File 2032, SRHAC. 150 Emory Speer to Samuel Spencer, July 27, 1894, Samuel Spencer President s Files, Box 4 File 56, SRHAC. 151 N.E. Harris to Samuel Spencer, April 12, 1899, Samuel Spencer President s Files, Box 54B File 14, SRHAC. 152 Constitution, February 16, 1901.
326 attempts to control the octopus of railroad power. Progressive era regulation would target freight rates, but it wo uld not challenge the notion that large corporations had to control railroads. The anti monopoly sentiment of the 1890s, emanating from Macon, Savannah, and North Carolina, stood counter to the assumption that bigger is better, and that large systems shou ld dominate transportation. An alternate vision of economic development, with locally oriented railroads like the GSF and CF YV RR or state owned roads like the Central of Georgia or the North Carolina in the 1890s. 153 The ultimate failure of these attempts to break up the Southern Railway should not obscure the important moment of transition. After the Southern had beaten back the most serious challenges to the structure of the company, Samuel Spencer, t pursuing a strictly business like course. 154 legislature, and newspaper pag es speaks to the widespread resistance to the consolidation of the legislators and judges, deliberately confusing financial manipulations, and violent elections. Descriptions of the Southern as a natural result of over construction, a regenerative force of regional redemption, stand in sharp contrast to the arguments eman ating from towns along the line. For the wide cast of characters in this chapter small town merchants, jilted lawyers, 153 Gerald Berk, Alternative Tracks: The Constitution of American Industrial Order, 1865 1917 (Baltimore 1994) most persu national systems and railroads that served national, not local goals. 154 J.S. Lemond to D.W. Lum, November 15, 1898, Samuel Spencer President s Files, Box 61 File 3112, SRHAC; H.F. Coe to J.A. Dodson, November 14, 1898, Samuel Spencer President s Files, Box 61, File 3112 SRHAC; Samuel Spencer to W.W. Finley, October 10, 1898, Box 61, File 3112, SRHAC.
327 Populist editorialists, opportunistic politicians, and more the Southern was a constrictive force, bottling up communities and gobbl ing up railroads
328 CHAPTER 8 CONCLUSION Southern Railroads in 1900 As the conflicts and anxieties detailed in this project for the most part petered out by 1900, the turn of the century is an apt closing point for this study. The southern railroad indust ry entered the twentieth century reconstituted in what is essentially its modern form. In 1900, five major corporations the Southern Railway, Atlantic Coast Line, Seaboard Air Line, Illinois Central and Louisville & Nashville controlled about 60% of th those who wanted railroads as a measure of sectional independence, the fact that the vast majority of the stockholders and directors of these corporations were based in the North was not a welcome sight. 1 The struggle for the n ext few decades was over the regulatory power of state doomed by regulation or saved to live another day. 2 Southerners came to live with the monopoly of the Southe rn Railway progressive politicians continued to use railroad power as a foil, but their attacks lacked the edge of the anti monopoly politics of the 1890s, which directly challenge the notion that bigger is better, and that the needs of the system should take precedent over the needs of the local. 3 independence, instead went down in history as the inspiration for a Supreme Court case that 1 Stover, Railroads of the South, 1865 1900, 2 Albro Mar tin, Railroads Triumphant: The Growth Rejection and Rebirth of a Vital American Force (New York, 1992) vociferously argues that regulation killed the American railroad industry, though his position is by no means orthodoxy among scholars of railroad histor y. 3 The best study of the anti railroad issue in post 1900 southern politics is Doster, Railroads in Alabama Politics Gerald Ber k, Alternative Tracks: The Constitution of American Industrial Order, 1865 1917 (Baltimore, 1994) makes the case that the deat h of an alternative model of industrial development died with the consolidation of railroads into large conglomerates.
329 enshrined the practice of charging higher rat es for noncompetitive points. Merchants in Troy had hoped the court would allow the ICC to step in and reduce rates in towns like Troy, Macon and 4 In Georgia the Railroad Com mission noted the impact of this ruling on the cries for rate reduction coming from under which all attempts to give the smaller towns equitable rates will be futile 5 The CF YV Railroad, built to connect Greensboro and Wilmington, ended up dismembered and totally gobbled up, with one half going to the Southern Railway and one half going to the Atlantic Coast Line. By 1900, Jim Crow legislation had largely solved the ambiguous position of African American travelers, which so puzzled white travelers and threw a wrench into their orderly travel narratives. The last southern state to officially segregate travel, North Carolina, did so after the 1898 election that violent ly swept the Populist Republican coalition out of power. The fiction of separate but equal accommodations, enshrined by the Plessy v Ferguson case, provided structure and clarity to southern travel, and though African Americans would continue to resist Jim Crow, segregation would remain standard on southern railroads until the 1960s. 6 The threat of yellow fever also faded in the new century. Yellow Jack paid his last visit to the southern railroad network in 1905, and once again legal and illegal quarantine s popped up to stop the spread of the disease. But in 1905, the more important developments to control Yellow Fever occurred within cities, where public health officials waged a vigorous effort to exterminate 4 1966, 175 183. 5 Twenty Si xth Report of the Railroad Commission of Georgia, From October 15, 1897 to October 15, 1898 (Atlanta, 1898), 12. 6 Hale Making Whiteness, 125 138.
330 mosquitoes, which by this point had been firmly transmitted. 7 After twenty seven years of fear, Mississippians, and others along rail corridors could finally trust that the next train would not bring a shipment of death and the dreaded black vomit, along with its us ual freight. And though the South would continue to bear witness to horrible train wrecks, the numbers fell from the peak of the 1890s as companies repaired broken down track and instituted more safety measures. 8 The specter of train wrecking would never again haunt the South as it the menace of their crimes, as they drifted into myth and legend as fighting the system, rather than exemplifying the feat ures o f the modern rail network Train robbers in general thrive on transitional periods, and improved security and the end of the golden age of rail transportation made the crime increasingly difficult and unprofitable. Perilous Connections Time may have dulled the impact, or blurred the memory of these troubles on the southern railroad network, but focusing on these moments reveals the main argument of this Perilous Connections that the spread of the values of connectivity, circulation, speed, standardizatio n and consolidation was problematic in the South. As military and political Reconstruction ended in 1877, economic and cultural forces aligned in the South to create a boom in railroad construction. In the minds of the boosters, new railroads would con nect the region, develop untapped hinterlands, build up local economies, and most importantly, provide testament that a New South had risen from the ashes of War and Reconstruction. Boosters avidly 7 Espinosa, Epidemic Invasions details the eradication campaign in Cuba. Humphreys, Yellow Fever and the Sou th Chapter 5. 8 Aldrich, Death Rode the Rails, 70. 97, notes the precipitous decline in railroad accidents after the turn of the century.
331 rode the rails, disseminated vivid descriptions of travel to bolster their message of regional revival, and celebrated the arrival of the values introduced by the railroad. But new connections, rapid circulation and corporate consolidation also introduced new anxieties to southern life as the unique southern co ntext introduced problems with railroad development. Yellow Fever spread far inland from its old seaside haunts, trains derailed and wrecked in record numbers, violent train robbers terrorized passengers and residents of railroad towns, and independent lin es collapsed into debt in the 1890s, only to be reorganized under the banner of companies with near monopoly power. These problems were more than just issues of anger against railroads they constituted expressions of resistance to the values of capitali sm itself. The expansion of capitalism depends on new connections, faster circulation, standardization, and efficiency through consolidation, and the counter narratives presented in this work speak to a larger truth about how the spread of capitalism, as both an economic system and as a cultural force, was a contested process. This story also provides insight into the process by which capitalism normalizes the anxieties created by its expansion. The cultural power of the New South narrative, which posited a region redeemed by industry like railroads and textile mills, endured long into the twentieth century, and rendered difficult any attempt to criticize the role of the railroad in the critical years after Reconstruction. The overarching mythology of the N ew South served to cement the link between railroads and southern progress, but the words of these boosters were not the only factor that helped normalize the anxieties of the railroad age in the South. Racial assumptions linking blacks with criminality he lped affix the train wrecker as a scapegoat for the pressing issue of increasing numbers of train wrecks. Train robbers were remembered as resistance to capitalism, attacking the system, instead of as products of modernity itself. In Rube Burrows case Alab amans linked
332 him with the legend of neo Confederate Lost Cause apologist Jesse James, and black folk culture folded Railroad Bill into a long tradition of black Bad Men resisting Jim Crow. Yellow fever has been written about in history books as a public he alth problem, which it undoubtedly was. Yet tracing the period between 1878 and 1905 as one of increasing confidence obscures the fact that the problem of shotgun quarantine and fear of yellow fever riding the rails, actually got worse as the South became more inter connected. For regional boosters, Samuel Spencer the ex Confederate who headed the consolidation and growth of the Southern Railway could not be seen as a Yankee tool, or the head of an Octopus like monopoly. Though the narratives here are e xplicitly focused on the South, it is important to note that Perilous Connections has parallels to a global story. The incorporation of new space into the global web of networks is a critical development in the history of capitalism, providing new commodit ies, mobilizing new labor forces, and enriching developers. Incorporation of a new area into a market economy previously meant an improved road, river transportation, or a new canal, but in the late nineteenth century, the railroad was the definitive leadi ng edge of this markets moved into new areas. 9 The language of speed, energy and the virtues of connectivity motivated boosters not just in the South, but also in Latin America, Asia, rural France, and a myriad of other areas. 10 9 This shift in global political economy is best summarized by Sven Beckert, "Emancipation and Empire: Reconstructing the Worldwide Web of Cotton Production in the Age of the American Civil War," The American Historical Review Vol 109, No. 5, (Dec 2004), 1405 1438. 10 The story of global railroad development is in some regards still a fragmented one. One recent synthesi s is Christian Wolmar, Blood, Iron and Gold : How the Railroads Transformed the World (New York, 2010). Other influential works addressing railroad development in a global context include, Alisa Freedman, Tokyo in Transit: Japanese Culture on the Rails and Road (Stanford, 2011), 1 12. A. Kim Clark, The Redemptive Work: Railway and Nation in Ecuador, 1895 1930 (Wilmington, 1998), 6. Michael Matthews, Railway Culture and the Civilizing Mission in Mexico, 1876 1910 (PhD Dissertation, University of Arizona, 200 8).
333 The forging of new connections continues to be crucial to the spread of capitalism. The story of the uncertainty associated with these new connections is a common one that goes beyond th e railroad. A new technology or innovation this could be new ships, integrated highways, cars, even the internet arrives and promises to forge connections, and in doing so improve the lives of those who use it, and render irrelevant anyone who refuses to connect. Caught in the grips of the phantasmagoria of progress, rapid expansion, and a mad rush to connect, ensures. Connecting to the network is what everyone wants, but there is no turning back once the new ties have been forged. This was a lesson le arned by residents of southern towns like Grenada in 1878, Statesville in 1891, Brewton in 1895, and Macon in 1895. Connecting to the network can mean a loss of control to outside corporations, distant forces, and the logic of the market. Counter narrati ves of resistance and anxiety spring up, only to be defeated and written out of the history of capitalism once the panic fades and the transitions are normalized. 11 For modern Americans, it is a story we should be familiar with. The harsh reality of the exp ansion of the logic of capitalism goes down more easily when packaged in a neat and tidy story. Long haul trucking, an economic force that led directly to the rise industrialized agriculture the Wal Mart economy of big box stores, centralized distribution and the death of local business, lingers in the cultural imagination as a venue for independence. Wal Mart itself emerged from a hinterland region with a history of anti corporate Populism, cloaking its spread in a heartland friendly message of Christian f amily values. 12 The devastating crash of the economy in 2008 was the fault of reckless lenders, or over generous government programs, and not the inherent result of a financial system that incentives risk taking and offers bailouts as a 11 This formulation is inspired mainly by the view of history laid out in Benjamin, Arcades Project 12 Shane Hamilton, Mart Economy (Princeton, 2008), Bethany Moreton, To Serve God and Wal Mart (Cambridge 20 09).
334 backup plan. 13 In sho rt, the stories told about economic development and the spread of capitalism, by boosters, reporters, historians, and in cultural remembrance, matter. The nineteenth century South may seem a distant, and in many aspects, horrifying, land to us in the twent y first century, but in effect we are living through a similar period of expansion through connection. Improvements in transportation networks whether they be constituted of superhighways, air travel, or high speed rail readily increase speeds of trans it and circulation. But as always, dangers, monsters, and new horrors threaten to emerge from the core of these most modern of developments. Terrifying diseases like SARS, Ebola and Avian Flu threaten to unleash global pandemic by travelling via the global air network. Terrorists exploit modernity to cause catastrophes and attacks of ever more sensational magnitude. Allegedly democratizing technologies like the Internet remain contested terrain will Google, Facebook, Twitter and the other corporate behemo ths of the information age use their powers for good, and spread democracy and egalitarian values? Or will the rush to monetize connections render these sites nothing more than conveyors of advertisements, or even more ominously, lead to easier surveillanc e and lay the groundwork for a new globalized panopticon? These are questions far Perilous Connections will at least give pause to those engaged in the headlong rush to connect and integra te the World. Southern Crescent Hear those Bells Ring A gain In this age of global capital, the Illinois Central corridor, site of Civil War raids, vector f amous wreck, and track of the iconic City of New Orleans passenger train, is actually now controlled by a Canadian corporation. Some of the Mississippi towns along this iconic lack rail 13 These arguments about the 2008 financial crisis are best summarized in the film, The Inside Job 2010.
335 service entirely now, a faded or worn right of way all that remains of a once vital connection. In many of the small southern towns first built by and later abandoned by, the railroad, often nothing remains but a decrepit depot, a decaying trestle, or a faded mural of a train near a blighted downtown. Riding a bike on one of the nation s many rails to trails projects, is now a more accessible way to view the landscapes the railroads molded. Old abandoned rail corridors are often nothing but safety hazards and nuisances to redevelopers. Or they have become targets for ghost hu 1891 wreck outside Statesville, even can hold claim to a ghost story. Over the years other visitors to the site have claimed to see a uniformed man with a gold watch or hear the screams of doomed passengers a nd the clang of crashing metal. Statesville has since been host to ghost hunters and paranormal researchers, who converge on the site every August 27 hoping to catch a glimpse of this haunted train. In 2010, tragedy struck this annual paranormal gathering when a party of ghost hunters encountered an actual freight train barreling down the track. The group fled, but one man was tragically struck and killed. 14 corridors In an age of rising oil prices, will increased rail transportation hold the answer to building a more sustainable transit system? 15 The railroad may have lost some of its symbolic power, yet it remains a harbinger of modernity, even for those of us in the twenty first century. Barack Obama invoked the symbolic power of high speed rail in his 2011 state of the union address, pushing for new development to cure American economic woes and connect the nation 14 http://edition.cnn.com/2010/US/08/27/north.carolina.ghost.train/index.html Statesville Record & Landmark, August 30, 2010. 15 John R. Stilgoe, Train Time: Railroads and the Immi nent Reshaping of the United States Landscape (Charlottesville, 2007) most persuasively makes the case that railroads are on the way back.
336 for the new century. It is too early to see the res ults of this push but high speed rail also has take root in China, where a massive investment project is connecting the nation. Though of course, the rapid drive to build these new railroads is not without lapses in safety and high levels of corruption. 16 S outhern railroads now conjure up thoughts of nostalgia, for an imagined past of glamorous passenger trains like the Dixie Limited, City of New Orleans and Southern Crescent. 17 The ambiguous memory of the railroad in the South can be also be seen in song, in the many train wreck ballads that survive to this day, or the widespread songs inspired by John Henry, and of course, Railroad Bill. 18 R.E.M. crystallized the southern renaissance in song in Driver 8, a driving and dark song that captures the duality of th e southern railroad. No one can tell what the future of the southern railroad network can hold but perhaps one day we will, in the 16 New Yorker, Octobe r 22, 2012. 17 Joseph R. Millichap, Dixie Limited: Railroads, Culture, and the Southern Renaissance (Lexington, 2002), Chapter Ten, captures some of the still conflicted meanings of southern railroads in the late twentieth century. 18 Katie Letcher Lyle, Sca lded to Death by the Steam: The True Stories of Railroad Disasters and the Songs that were written about them (Chapel Hill, 1991), Nelson, Steel Drivin Man, coda.
337 LIST OF REFERENCES Primary Sources Manuscript Collections Alabama Dep artment of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama. Alabama Railroad Commission Letterbook Alabama Governor (1886 1890: Seay), Administrative files Filson Historica l Society, Louisville, Kentucky. Accident Record Book of the Nashville, Chat tanooga, an d St. Louis Railway Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. M.F. Surghnor Diary Sylvester Cary Scrapbook Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, Mississippi Mississ ippi State Railroad Commission Minute Book John Stone Marshall Papers Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois. Illinois Central Railroad Collection Southern Historical Collecton, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. B.F. Long Papers Bennehan Cameron Papers Charles Iverson Graves Papers David Schenck Papers Grady Family Papers Kate Simpson Letter Samuel Spencer Papers Virginia and North Carolina Construction Company Record Book William A. Lash Papers William Stevens Powell Material for Iredell and Adjacent Counties Southern Railway Historical Collecton, Kennesaw, Georgia. Samuel Spencer President s Files Southern Railway Executive Files Tulane University Special Collections, New Orleans, Louisiana. Vertical Files University Archives and Recor ds Center, Univer sity of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky. Louisville and Nashville Rail road Company Records, 1850 1982
338 University of Florida Special Collections, Smathers Library, Gainesville, Florida. Edwin Rennolds Diary Edwin Smith Papers 1884 18 96 Newspapers and Periodicals Andalusia (Al.) Covington Times, Asheville Daily Citizen Atlanta Constitution Atlanta Atlanta The Sunny South Birmingham News Birmingham State Herald Blount County (Ala.) News Dispatch Brewton (Ala.) S tandard Gauge Charlotte Chronicle Columbus (Ga.) Daily Enquirer Concord (N.C.) Weekly Standard Fayetteville Observer Grenada (Miss.) Sentinel Greensboro Patriot Harpers Weekly Hawkinsville (Ga.) News and Disp atch Hickory (N.C.) Press and Carolinian Houston County (Ga.) Home Journal Jackson Daily Bulletin Jackson New Mississippian Jacksonville Times Union Louisville Commercial Macon News Macon Weekly Telegraph Memphis Appeal Milledgevi lle Union and Recorder Montgomery Advertiser Morganton (N.C.) Herald New Orleans Times New Orleans Picayune The North American Review Ocala Banner Palatka (Fla.) Daily News Pensacola Daily News Pine Belt (Atmore, Ala.) News
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355 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Scott Huffard is originally from Pennsylvania, having received degrees in history and political science at Pennsylvania State University in 2007. He has a master s degree in American history from the University of Florida and will receive a doctorate in May 2013. In the course of writing this dissertation he has probably spent entirely too much time listening to train songs.