In 1858, a new phase was given to the controversy by John Brown. Every one has heard of this remarkable man, who was regarded by some as a martyr, and by others as a dangerous crank. As one writer very aptly puts it, John Brown was both the one and the other. That his intentions were in the main good, few doubt, but his methods were open to the gravest censure, and according to some deep thinkers he was, in a large degree, responsible for the bitter feeling which made war between the North and the South inevitable. Probably this is giving undue importance to this much-discussed enthusiast, who regarded himself as a divine messenger sent to liberate the slaves and punish the slave-holders.
He conceived the idea of rallying all the colored people around him in the impregnable mountains of Virginia, and having drafted a constitution, he proceeded to unfurl his flag and call out his supporters. In October, 1859, he took possession of the United States Armory at Harper's Ferry, interfered with the running of trains, and practically held the town with a force of some eighteen men, of whom four were colored. Colonel Robert E. Lee quickly came on the scene with a detachment of troops and drove the Brown following into an engine-house. They declined to surrender, and thirteen were either killed or mortally wounded. Two of Brown's sons were among those who fell, and the leader himself was captured. He treated his trial with the utmost indifference, and went to the scaffold erect and apparently unconcerned. His body was taken to his old home in New York State, where it was buried.
Abraham Lincoln must not be included in the list of enthusiastic Abolitionists, although he eventually freed the slaves. In speeches made prior to the war he expressed the opinion that in slave States general emancipation would be ill-advised, and although his election was looked upon as dangerous to slave-holders' interests, the fear seems to have been prophetic in a large measure. It was not until the war had lasted far longer than originally anticipated that Lincoln definitely threatened to liberate the colored slaves. That threat he carried into execution on January 1st, 1863, when 3,000,000 slaves became free. The cause of the Confederacy had not yet become the "lost cause," and the leaders on the Southern side were inclined to ridicule the decree, and to regard it rather as a "bluff" than anything of a serious order. But it was emancipation in fact as well as in deed, as the colored orator never tired of explaining.
Such in outline is the history of the colored man during the days of enforced servitude. Of his condition during that period volumes have been written. Few works printed in the English language have been more widely circulated than "Uncle Tom's Cabin," which has been read in every English-speaking country in the world, and in many other countries besides. It has been dramatized and performed upon thousands of stages before audiences of every rank and class. As a descriptive work it rivals in many passages the very best ever written. Much controversy has taken place as to how much of the book is history—how much of it is founded upon fact and how much is pure fiction. The ground is a rather dangerous one to touch. It is safest to say that while the brutality held up to scorn and contempt in this book was not general in the slave States or on plantations in the South, what is depicted might have taken place under existing laws, and the book exposed iniquities which were certainly perpetrated in isolated cases.
That all negroes were not treated badly, or that slavery invariably meant misery, can be easily proved by any one who takes the trouble to investigate, even in the most superficial manner. When the news of emancipation gradually spread through the remote regions of the South, there were hundreds and probably thousands of negroes who declined absolutely to take advantage of the freedom given them. Many most pathetic cases of devotion and love were made manifest. Even to-day there are numbers of aged colored men and women who are remaining with their old-time owners and declining to regard emancipation as logical or reasonable.
Not long ago, a Northern writer while traveling through the South found an aged negro, whom he approached with a view to getting some interesting passages of local history. To his surprise he found that the old man had but one idea. That idea was that it was his duty to take care of and preserve his old master's grave. When the war broke out, the old hero was the body-servant or valet of a man, who, from the very first, was in the thick of the fight against the North. The colored man followed his soldier-master from place to place, and when a Northern bullet put an end to the career of the master, the servant reverently conveyed the body back to the old home, superintended the interment, and commenced a daily routine of watching, which for more than thirty years he had never varied.
All the relatives of the deceased had left the neighborhood years before, and the faithful old negro was the only one left to watch over the grave and keep the flowers that were growing on it in good condition. As far as could be learned from local gossip, the old fellow had no visible means of subsistence, securing what little he needed to eat in exchange for odd jobs around neighboring houses. No one seemed to know where he slept, or seemed to regard the matter as of any consequence. There was about the jet black hero, however, an air of absolute happiness, added to an obvious sense of pride at the performance of his self-imposed and very loving task.
Instances of this kind could be multiplied almost without end. The negro as a free man and citizen retains many of the most prominent characteristics which marked his career in the days before the war. Now and again one hears of a negro committing suicide. Such an event, however, is almost as rare as resignation of an office-holder or the death of an annuitant. Indifference to suffering and a keen appreciation of pleasure, make prolonged grief very unusual among Afro-Americans, and in consequence their lives are comparatively joyous.
One has to go down South to appreciate the colored man as he really is. In the North he is apt to imitate the white man so much that he loses his unique personality. In the Southern States, however, he can be found in all his original glory. Here he can be regarded as a survival of preceding generations. In the South, before the war, the truism that there is dignity in toil was scarcely appreciated at its full worth. The negro understood, as if by instinct, that he ought to work for his white master, and that duties of every kind in the field, on the road and in the house, should be performed by him. For a white man who worked he entertained feelings in which there was a little pity and a great deal of contempt. He has never got over this feeling, or the feeling which his father before him had. Down South to-day the expression "po' white trash" is still full of meaning, and the words are uttered by the thick-lipped, woolly-headed critics with an emphasis and expression the very best white mimic has never yet succeeded in reproducing.
George Augustus Sala, one of England's oldest and most successful descriptive writers, talks very entertainingly regarding the emancipated slave. The first trip made to this country by the versatile writer referred to was during the war.
He returned home full of prejudices, and wrote up the country in that supercilious manner European writers are too apt to adopt in regard to America. Several years later he made his second trip, and his experiences, as recorded in "America Revisited," are much better reading, and much freer from prejudice.
"For full five and thirty years," he writes, "had I been waiting to see the negro 'standing in the mill pond.' I saw him in all his glory and all his driving wretchedness at Guinneys, in the State of Virginia. I own that for some days past the potential African, 'standin' in de mill pond longer than he oughter' had been lying somewhat heavily on my conscience. My acquaintance with our dark brethren since arriving in this country had not only been necessarily limited, but scarcely of a nature to give me any practical insight into his real condition since he has been a free man—free to work or starve; free to become a good citizen or go to the devil, as he has gone, mundanely speaking, in Hayti and elsewhere. Colored folks are few and far between in New York, and they have never, as a rule, been slaves, and are not even generally of servile extraction. In Philadelphia they are much more numerous. Many of the mulatto waiters employed in the hotels are strikingly handsome men, and on the whole the sable sons of Pennsylvania struck me as being industrious, well dressed, prosperous, and a trifle haughty in their intercourse with white folks.
"In Baltimore, where slavery existed until the promulgation of Lincoln's proclamation, the colored people are plentiful. I met a good many ragged, shiftless, and generally dejected negroes of both sexes, who appeared to be just the kind of waifs and strays who would stand in a mill pond longer than they ought to in the event of there being any convenient mill pond at hand. But the better class darkeys, who have been domestic slaves in Baltimore families, seemed to retain all their own affectionate obsequiousness of manner and respectful familiarity. Again, in Washington, the black man and his congeners seemed to be doing remarkably well. At one of the quietest, most elegant and most comfortable hotels in the Federal Capital, I found the establishment conducted by a colored man, all of whose employes, from the clerks in the office to the waiters and chambermaids, were colored. Our chambermaid was a delightful old lady, and insisted ere we left that we should give her a receipt for a real old English Christmas plum pudding.
"But these were not the mill pond folk of whom I was in quest. They were of the South, as an Irishman in London is of Ireland, but not in it. I had a craving to see whether any of the social ashes of slavery lived their wonted fires. Away down South was the real object of my mission, and in pursuit of that mission I went on to Richmond."
Mr. Sala proceeds to give a most amusing account of his ride from New York to Richmond, with various criticisms of sleeping-car accommodation, heartily endorsed by all American travelers who have read them. Arriving at Richmond he asked the usual question: "Is not the negro idle, thriftless and thievish?" From time immemorial it has been asserted that the laws of meum and tuum have no meaning for the colored man. It is a joke current in more than one American city, that the police have standing orders to arrest every negro seen carrying a turkey or a chicken along the street. In other words, the funny man would have us believe that the innate love of poultry in the Ethiopian's breast is so great that the chances are against his having been possessed of sufficient force of character to pass a store or market where any birds were exposed for sale and not watched.
It is doubtless a libel on the colored race to state that even the majority of its members are chicken thieves by descent rather than inclination, just as it is a libel on their religion to insinuate that a colored camp meeting is almost certain to involve severe inroads into the chicken coops and roosts of the neighboring farmers. Certain it is, however, that chicken stealing is one of the most dangerous causes of backsliding on the part of colored converts and enthusiastic singers of hymns in negro churches. The case of the convert who was asked by his pastor, a week after his admission to the church, if he had stolen a chicken since his conversion, and who carefully concealed a stolen duck under his coat while he assured the good man that he had not, is an exaggerated one of course, but it is quoted as a good story in almost every State and city in the Union.
Mr. Sala objects very much to judging a whole class of people by a few street-corner or cross-road loungers. The negro he found to be superstitious, just as we find them to-day. Even educated negroes are apt to give credence to many stories which, on the face of them, appear ridiculous. The words "Hoodoo" and "Mascot" have a meaning among these people of which we have only a dim conception, and when sickness enters a family the aid of an alleged doctor, who is often a charlatan of the worst character, is apt to be sought. It will take several generations to work out this characteristic, and perhaps the greatest complaint the colored race has against those who formerly held them in subjection, is the way in which voodoo and supernatural stories were told ignorant slaves with a view to frightening them into obedience, and inciting them to extra exertions.
For absolute ignorance and apparent lack of human understanding, the negro loafer to be found around some of our Southern towns and depots may be quoted as a signal and quite amusing example. The hat, as Mr. Sala humorously puts it, resembles an inverted coal scuttle or bucket without handles, and pierced by many holes. It is something like the bonnet of a Brobdingnagian Quakeress, huge and flapped and battered, and fearful to look upon.
"Hang all this equipment," this interesting writer goes on to say, "on the limbs of a tall negro of any age between sixteen and sixty, and then let him stand close to the scaffold-like platform of the depot shanty and let him loaf. His attitude is one of complete and apathetic immobility. He does not grin. He may be chewing, but he does not smoke. He does not beg; at least in so far as I observed him he stood in no posture and assumed no gestures belonging to the mendicant. He looms at you with a dull, stony, preoccupied gaze, as though his thoughts were a thousand miles away in the unknown land; while once in every quarter of an hour or so he woke up to a momentary consciousness that he was a thing neither rich nor rare, and so wondered how in thunder he got there. He is a derelict, a fragment of flotsam and jetsam cast upon the not too hospitable shore of civilization after the great storm had lashed the Southern sea to frenzy and the ship of slavery had gone to pieces forever. Possibly he is a good deal more human than he looks, and if he chose to bestir himself and to address himself to articulate discourse, could tell you a great many things about his wants and wishes, his views and feelings on things in general which, to you, might prove little more than amazing. As things go, he prefers to do nothing and to proffer no kind of explanation as to why he is standing there in a metaphorical mill pond very much 'longer than he oughter.'"
One turns with pleasure from the severe, but perhaps not overdrawn, character sketch of the colored loafer, to the better side of the modern negro. The intense desire for education, and the keen recognition of the fact that knowledge is power, point to a time when utter ignorance even among the negroes will be a thing of the past. Prejudice is hard to fight against, and the colored man has often a considerable amount of handicap to overcome. But just as Mr. Sala found the typical negro, "standing in the mill pond longer than he oughter," a sad memento of the past, so the traveler can find many an intelligent and entertaining individual whose accent betrays his color even in the darkest night, but whose cute expressions and pleasant reminiscences go a long way towards convincing even the sternest critic that the future is full of hope for a race whose past has in it so little that is either pleasing or satisfactory.
OUR NATIONAL PARK.
A Delightful Rhapsody—Early History of Yellowstone Park—A Fish Story which Convulsed Congress—The First White Man to Visit the Park—A Race for Life—Philosophy of the Hot Springs—Mount Everts—From the Geysers to Elk Park—Some Old Friends and New Ones—Yellowstone Lake—The Angler's Paradise.
Yellowstone Park is generally included in the list of the wonders of the world. It is certainly unique in every respect, and no other nation, modern or ancient, has ever been able to boast of a recreation ground and park provided by nature and supplied with such magnificent and extraordinary attractions and peculiarities. It is a park upon a mountain, being more than 10,000 feet above the level of the sea. Irregular in shape, it may be said to be about sixty miles across on the average, and it contains an area of 3,500 square miles.
Mr. Olin D. Wheeler, in an admirable treatise on this park, in which he describes some of the many wonders in the marvelous region traversed by the Northern Pacific Railroad, thus rhapsodizes:
"The Yellowstone Park! The gem of wonderland. The land of mystic splendor. Region of bubbling caldron and boiling pool with fretted rims, rivaling the coral in delicacy of texture and the rainbow in variety of color; of steaming funnels exhaling into the etherine atmosphere in calm, unruffled monotone and paroxysmal ejection, vast clouds of fleecy vapor from the underground furnaces of the God of Nature; sylvan parkland, where amidst the unsullied freshness of flower-strewn valley and bountiful woodland, the native fauna of the land browse in fearless joy and wander wild and free, unfretted by sound of huntsman's horn, the long-drawn bay of the hound, and the sharp crack of the rifle.
"Land of beauteous vale and laughing water, thundering cataract and winding ravine; realm of the Ice King and the Fire King; enchanted spot, where mountain and sea meet and kiss each other; where the murmurs of the river, as it meanders through heaven-blest valleys, becomes harsh and sullen amid the pine-covered hills which darken and throttle its joyous song, until, uncontrollable, it throws itself, a magnificent sheet of diamond spray and plunging torrent, over precipices, and rolls along an emerald flood betwixt canon walls, such as the eye of mortal has seldom seen."
The history of this park is involved in a good deal of mystery. About ninety years ago it was first discovered, but the information brought back to civilization by the explorers was apparently so exaggerated that it excited general ridicule. No one believed that the wonders described really existed. Even later, when corroborative evidence was forthcoming, skepticism continued. It was almost as difficult then to make people believe the truth about the hot springs and geysers, as it is now to make people believe that it is possible for a man to stand on the edge of a hot spring, catch the choicest kind of fish in the cool waters of the lake surrounding him, and then cook his fish in the boiling water of the spring without taking it off the hook, or walking a single step.
This latter fish story has the peculiar feature of being true. Several reliable men, including some who have not allowed the ardent pursuit of Isaac Walton's pet pastime to blunt their susceptibility of veracity, have performed this apparently impossible feat, or have seen it done right before their very eyes. A year or so ago, when an appropriation was asked for in Congress for the further preservation of Yellowstone Park, a member made this extraordinary possibility an argument in support of his plea. A roar of laughter succeeded his recital, and when the orator stopped to explain that he was merely recording an actual fact and not telling a fish story, there seemed to be danger of wholesale convulsion within the legislative walls. Several of the amused Congressmen subsequently made inquiries and ascertained to their astonishment that, instead of exaggeration, the half had not been told, and that if a full summary of the attractions of Yellowstone Park were to be written, the immense shelves of the Congressional Library itself would scarcely hold the books that would have to be written to contain it.
This little divergence is to afford an excuse for the incredulity of our forefathers, who made sarcastic remarks as to the powers of wild Western whisky, when pioneers returned from the Rocky Mountains and told them that there existed away up in the clouds an immense natural park, where beauty and weirdness could be found side by side.
John Colter, or Coulter, is said to have been the first white man who ever entered the natural portals of this glorious park. It was in the early days of the century that this remarkable man had his adventure. He was a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition, which was sent out to explore the sources of the Missouri and Columbia Rivers. He was naturally an adventurer, and a man who had no idea of the meaning of the word "danger." The party had a glimpse of Yellowstone Park, and Coulter was so enamored with the hunting prospects that he either deserted from the expedition party or obtained permission to remain behind.
However this may have been, it is certain that Coulter remained, with but one companion, in the vicinity of the Jefferson Fork of the Missouri River. According to fairly authentic records, he and his companion were captured by hostile Blackfeet, who showed their resentment at the intrusion upon the privacy of their domains by depriving Coulter of his clothing, and Coulter's companion of his life. The chronic adventurer, however, spent four years among the more friendly Bannock Indians, who probably for centuries had lived in or near the park. He had a very enjoyable time in the newly discovered region, and his adventures crowded upon each other, one after the other, with great rapidity. When at last he decided to return to the abode of the white man, he took with him a fund of recollection and incident of the most sensational character, and before he had been at home with his own kindred a week, he had earned the reputation of being a modern Ananias, ten times more mendacious than the original article.
Twenty or thirty years elapsed before any reliable information was obtained about the park. James Bridger, the daring scout and mountaineer, went through the park more than once, and in his most exaggerated rhapsodies told of its beauties and of its marvels. But Bridger's stories had been tried in the balances and found wanting before this, and nobody worried very much over them. In 1870, Dr. F. V. Hayden and Mr. M. P. Langford explored the park on a more rational basis, and gave to the world, in reliable shape, a resume of their discoveries. Mr. Langford was himself an experienced Western explorer. For many years he had desired to either verify or disprove the so-called fairy tales which were going the rounds concerning Yellowstone Park. He found a number of equally adventurous gentlemen, including the Surveyor-General of Montana, Mr. Washburn, after whom the expedition was generally known. In 1871, Dr. Hayden, who was then connected with the United States Geological Survey Department, undertook a scientific exploration of the park. He was accompanied by Mr. Langford, and the two men together tore away the veil of mystery which had overhung the wonderful resort among the hills, and gave to the country, for the first time, a reliable description of one of the most magnificent of its possessions.
The report was not confined to eulogy. It included drawings, photographs and geological summaries, and wound up with an earnest appeal to the National Government to reserve the beauty spot as a National Park forever. Several men arose to endorse the request, and in March, 1872, Congress passed an act dedicating Yellowstone Park to the public for all time, declaring it to be a grand national playground and a museum of unparalleled and incomparable marvels.
Since that time the park has gradually become better known and more highly appreciated. The Northern Pacific Railroad runs a branch line to which the name of the park has been given, and which connects Livingston, Montana, with Cinnabar, at the northern edge of the park. The road is about fifty miles long, and the scenery through which it passes is astounding in its nature.
From Cinnabar the tourist is driven in large stages throughout the park. If at all reminiscent by nature, he thinks about the experiences of Coulter, to whom we have already referred as the pioneer white man of Yellowstone. Early in the century the park was occupied by Indians, who had scarcely come in contact with white men, and who had not learned that in the unavoidable conflict between races, the weaker must inevitably succumb to the stronger. Around the limpid streams and at the borders of the virgin forests, containing untold wealth, tents made of skin drawn over boughs cut roughly from trees, could be seen in every direction. All around there were rough-looking, utterly uncivilized Indians, who were carrying out their usual occupation of doing nothing, and doing it with exceptional ability.
The women or squaws were more active, but frequently paused in their work to look at the unfortunate Coulter, who, deprived of his clothing and absolutely naked, was waiting, bound hand and foot, for the fate that he had every reason to believe awaited him. His only companion had been killed the day before, and he expected every minute to meet the same fate. According to his own description of what followed, strategy saved his life. An Indian, sent for the purpose, asked him if he could run fast. Knowing himself to be an athlete of no mean ability, but guessing the object of the question, he assured the Indian that he was not a speedy runner. The answer had the effect he anticipated.
His thongs were almost immediately cut, and he was taken out on the open prairie, given a trifling start, and then told that he might save himself if he could. Coulter had run many a fast mile before, but he never ran as on this occasion. He knew that behind him there were, among the indolent young Indians, many who could run with great speed, and his only hope lay in getting to cover ahead of these. Every long stride meant that much space between him and death, and every stride he took was the longest in his power. Again and again he looked around, only to discover to his astonishment that he had but just held his own. At last, however, all his pursuers except one were tired of the pursuit, and when he found this to be the case, he turned like a stag at bay and overpowered him.
Then seeing that others of the Indians were taking up the chase, after a brief rest, Coulter made another great run, plunged into the river in front of him, and finally entered the labyrinth of forests and craters now known to the world as Yellowstone Park. Here, if his story is to be believed, he succeeded in making for himself clothing of some character out of the skins of beasts that he shot, and finally he fell into the hands of less hostile red men.
So much of the early days of Yellowstone, and of the reminiscences which a first visit naturally conjure up. The park as it exists to-day is overcrowded with modern interests, and one only refers to these reminiscences by way of contrast. There are in the park at least 100 geysers, nearly 4,000 springs, and an immense number of miniature parks, large and small rivers, and other marvels.
The park is about equi-distant from the cities of Portland and St. Paul, and so many people have been attracted to it in recent years that a large number of very fine hotels have been built at a great expense. The hotels are open about four months a year, and the help to run them is brought from different States. The expenses are naturally heavy, and hence the hotel charges are not nominal, although the tourist can generally limit the expenses incurred to the bulk of his pocket-book, should he so desire. If he includes in his calculations the absolutely free sights that he witnesses, the expense of a trip is certainly moderate, and ought not to be taken into much consideration.
The Mammoth Hot Springs is one of the leading sources of attraction of the park, a tour of which is something no American of means can afford to miss. The springs are very hard to describe. They consist of a number of irregular terraces, some as large as five acres in extent, and others very small. Some are a few feet high, and others stand forty or sixty feet above the one next below. Few people really understand what these springs are, or how the terraces are formed. One authority of eminence says that the rocks underlying the particular point are calcareous in character, consisting mainly of carbonated lime, which is somewhat soluble in percolating earth water. The hot subterranean water dissolves a large amount of mineral matter in passing through the earth, which it deposits on the surface in passing through the air. By this process walls, embankments and terraces are built up, and as the minerals through which the water passes are varying greatly in color, so the deposits left on the surface are some of them red, other pink and others black, with yellows, greens, blues, chocolates and mixed colors abounding in immense numbers, sometimes harmonizing beautifully and sometimes presenting the most astounding contrasts.
The water in the springs is not warm, but hot, and hence the name. Frequently the temperature exceeds 160 degrees, in which case the coloring matter seems to be washed out, and the terraces present a white appearance. On other occasions, where the temperature is less severe, the varying hues already referred to abound on every side. Sometimes this whiteness, or bleached-out appearance, is astounding in its effects. The true artist will stand for hours gazing upon it, and wishing that he could reproduce, ever so inaccurately, the intense beauties which surround him.
Behind the springs, and blocking up the view on the south, is the mountain known as Bunsen Peak, the highest within the range of the eye. Just across the open space, in front of the hotel at the springs, are the quarters of the National soldiers who patrol the park, and, to a certain extent at any rate, protect it from the vandal and the purloiner.
In an admirable description of this scene contained in "Indian Land and Wonderland," a very delightful story is told of the long, low, flat and lava-capped mountain known as Mount Everts, in honor of Mr. T. C. Everts of Helena. Few know the story upon which the mountain owes its name, which is given as follows:
Among the members of the first party that ever explored Yellowstone Park were Messrs. M. P. Langford, S. T. Hauser and T. C. Everts. There was also a military escort under Lieutenant Doane. The party proceeded up the Yellowstone River to the Grand Canon, thence across to Yellowstone Lake, around its eastern edge to the southern end, whence turning west they followed down the Firehole River through the Upper Geyser Basin to the Madison River. Following this river out from the park, they returned to Western civilization—all but one of them.
On the nineteenth day out, September 9th, when moving across the country bordering the southern shore of the lake, Mr. Everts became lost. The traveling here was difficult, owing to fallen timber, rugged heights and no trails, and he was not missed until camp was made at night. Mr. Everts was not seen again for thirty-seven days, when he was found by two mountaineers on the verge of what is now known as Mount Everts, perfectly exhausted, and partly deranged through exposure and suffering. On the very first day of his absence his horse, left standing and unfastened, with all the man's arms and camp equipments attached, became frightened and ran away. Everts was near-sighted, had not even a knife for use or defense, and only a field glass to assist him in escaping. He first managed to reach Heart Lake, the source of Snake River. Here he remained for twelve days, sleeping close by the Hot Springs to keep from freezing. His food was thistle roots, boiled in the springs. One night he was forced into a tree by a mountain lion, and kept there all night.
Finally, he bethought himself of the lenses of his field glasses, and thus was enabled to kindle fires. He wandered all along the western side of the lake and down the Yellowstone to where he was providentially found. He gave the story of his terrible experience in the old "Scribner's Magazine," since become "The Century," and a thrilling tale it makes. In a country filled with a network of streams, abundantly supplied with animal life for food, gorged with timber for fuel, the man nearly froze and starved and perished from thirst. Twice he was five days without food; once three days without water. It was late in the season, and the storms swept down on him and chilled him to the bone; the snows kept him prisoner in camp, or, when on his painful marches, blocked his progress.
Naturally, he lost strength, and became hourly in danger of succumbing to the vast difficulties which confronted him. His sufferings were increased by the fear which was created by a large mountain lion, which got on his trail and followed him, evidently with a view to making him a feature of the menu of his next meal. It seems incredible that Mr. Everts should ever have escaped with his life. Fortune, however, came to his rescue at last. He was rescued and nursed back to life by good friends. To the plateau on which he was found, his name was given, although there are few who will remember the significance of the name.
Norris Geyser is another of the almost miraculous features of the park. The basin of the geyser has been described as a weird, uncanny place, and the words seem well chosen. Of vegetation there is practically none, because the underground heat keeps the ground always warm, and steam breaks out into the atmosphere at several points. The general aspect is drear and desolate, gray and dull, and yet there is something about it beautiful as well as uncanny.
A geyser is always a source of wonder. The word is of Icelandic derivation, and signifies gushing. As applied to phenomena such as we are now describing, its applicability is good, for, from the mouth of the geysers, there rushes from time to time an immense mass of boiling water and steam, creating a disturbance of no ordinary character. It is assumed that the water hurled into the air to a great height while at boiling point, has risen to the surface through masses of lava, which are reminiscent of volcanic ages far beyond the memory of mankind. The mystery of geological formation is too great to be gone into in a work of this character, but the bare contemplation of geysers, such as are seen at Yellowstone Park, reminds one of the wonders deeply hidden in the bowels of the earth, unappreciated and unknown by and to 99 per cent. of the human race.
At the Norris Geyser basin the noise is extraordinary, and people who are superstitiously inclined are awed at the rumblings and grumblings which seem to issue from the bowels of the earth. Eruptions of hot water and steam at irregular intervals burst forth, and the very road which crosses the adjoining plain has been bleached to almost perfect whiteness by the vapors. The crust of ground is very thin all around here, and indiscriminate exploring is dangerous. To slip through the crust into the boiling water beneath would inevitably involve being scalded to death, and the man who allows the guide to show him where to tread exhibits the greater wisdom.
In direct contrast to this basin is the Elk Park. Yellowstone is celebrated among other things for being the home of an immense number of the most remarkable specimens of North American animals. The Government herd of buffalo in the park is of countless value, because it is really the only complete representation at the present time of the practically extinct species of flesh and hide producing animals which used to graze by the million on the prairie. The buffalo are comparatively tame. Most of them were born within the confines of the park, and seem to have realized that the existence of their kind in perpetuity is one of the greatest desires of the Government. There are a number of bears around as well, but they have lost their viciousness, and enjoy life very hugely under somewhat changed conditions. They seldom hurt any one, but prowl around the hotels at night, and by eating up the scraps and leavings solve the garbage problem in a satisfactory manner.
Deer, elk, antelope and mountain sheep climb the mountains, and very frequently find their way into Elk Park or Gibbon Meadow. This is an exceptionally desirable wintering ground, because it is surrounded by hills and mountains which keep off the worst of the winds, and there is, moreover, a perpetual spring of pure water. The meadow is probably the prettiest spot in the entire park. There is less of the awful and more of the picturesque than can be found elsewhere, and it is, in many respects, an oasis in a vast and somewhat dreary expanse of land.
Golden Gate is another of the exquisite spots every visitor to Yellowstone Park seeks and finds. To reach the Golden Gate one must be a great climber, for it is high up, and the road to it is built along the edge of a cliff, which, in places, seems to be absolutely perpendicular. The gate is, however, worth reaching, and one is not surprised to hear that as much as $14,000 were spent in cutting out a single mile of the road to it through the rock.
Leaving the Golden Gate, and continuing the tour of inspection, a valley of large dimensions is seen. The contrast between the rich green of almost faultless verdure, and the dreariness of the rocks left behind, is striking. It would seem as though nature had built up an immense barrier between the weird and the natural, so that the one could not affect the other. The Bible speaks of the intense comfort of the shade of a great rock in a dry and thirsty land. A sensation of equal, if not greater, relief is experienced in Yellowstone Park when one leaves the grand, death-like desolation around the Hot Springs, and encounters the exquisite beauty of shrub land and timber but a few paces away. The groves of trees are in themselves sources of great delight, and also of immense wealth. Fortunately, they will be preserved in perpetuity for the American people. The lumber king cannot get here. His ravages must be confined to other regions.
The valley into which the tourist has entered takes its name from the Swan Lake, a very delightful inland mountain scene. The lake is about two miles from Golden Gate. It is not a very large body of water, but its rippling surface extracts expressions of admiration from all who behold it. It has been described as a demure looking sheet of water, and there is something about the appearance of the lake which seems to justify the peculiar definition. The canon forming the valley is like everything else in Yellowstone Park—a little out of the ordinary. On the one side there are lofty mountains, with eminences and peaks of various formation and height, while in the distance the great Electric Peak can be easily seen. We have already spoken of Yellowstone Park as being about 10,000 feet above the sea level. Electric Peak, well described as the sentinel of the park, is more than 11,000 feet high. Viewed from a distance, or along the line of the valley, it is calculated to excite both admiration and awe.
Willow Creek Park, or Willow Park, as it is sometimes called, lies due south. It takes its name from the immense growth of willow bushes which hide the ground from view, and monopolize the scenery and groundwork entirely. None of these bushes can claim the right to be called trees, as the average height is inconsiderable. But they make up in density what they lack in altitude. The peculiar green of the willow is the predominating color, without any variation of any kind. The idea conveyed to the mind is of a huge green carpet or rug, and when the wind blows freely across the valley, it divides up the bushes into little ridges or furrows, which add to the uniqueness of the scene. Springs of remarkably pure water, many of them possessed of medicinal power, abound in this neighborhood, and tourists slake an imaginary thirst with much interest at different ones of these.
The Obsidian Creek runs slowly through this valley. Obsidian Cliff is the next object of special interest which is witnessed. It is half a mile long and from 150 to 200 feet high. The southern end is formed of volcanic glass, or obsidian, as true a glass as any artificially produced. The roadway at its base is constructed across the talus, and is emphatically a glass road. Huge fragments of obsidian, black and shining, some of it streaked with white seams, line the road. Small pieces are also plentiful. This flow of glass came from a high plateau to the east-northeast. Numerous vent pits, or apparent craters, have been discovered on this plateau. Mr. J. P. Iddings, of the Unites States Geological Survey, who has made a special study of Obsidian Cliff, contributes to the survey report for 1885-86 a paper that has in it much that is of interest to the unscientific mind.
The Lower Geyser Basin is in some respects more pleasing than the Norris, although the desolation is perhaps even more apparent. People who have seen districts in which salt is made out of brine extracted from wells, state that the appearance in the Lower Geyser Basin is very similar to what is seen around manufacturing districts of that character. This basin is in the valley of the Firehole River, a strangely named stream, of a very beautiful character. In the basin itself the branches of the Firehole unite, and with the Gibbon River form one of the three sources of the Missouri, called the Madison, after the President of that name. The Fountain Geyser is the largest in the neighborhood, and is one of the best in the park. It is very regular in its eruptions, and seldom fails to perform on time for the benefit of the onlooker. It sends an immense volume of water into the air, and resembles a fountain very closely. Its basin is very interesting, and gives a good example of the singular deposits left by a geyser.
When the fountain is busy throwing out its volumes of water, the appearance is very peculiar. Little notice is given of an eruption, which takes place suddenly, although at stated intervals. All at once the watcher is rewarded for his patience by having the stillness changed into activity of the most boisterous character. The water is hurled upwards in a mass of frothing, boiling and foaming crystals. The actual height varies, but frequently goes as far as thirty feet. In a moment the wall of water becomes compact, oblong and irregular. Crystal effects are produced, varying according to the time of day and the amount of light, but always delightful and peculiar.
Close at hand are the Mammoth Paint Pots, in the center of the Firehole Geyser. We can explain the appearance of the Paint Pot or Mud Bath much more easily than we can account for the phenomenon. It is well named, because it resembles a succession of paint pots of enormous size more than anything else that the imagination can liken it to. The basin measures forty by sixty feet, with a mud boundary three or four feet high on three sides of it. The contents of the basin have kept scientists wondering for years. The substance is white, looking very much like ordinary paint, but, unlike paint, it is constantly in motion, and the agitation is so persistent that an idea is given that the Paint Pot's basin is the bed of a crater. The continual bubbling and vibration is very interesting in its effects, and the noise it makes is quite peculiar, not unlike a subdued hiss or a badly executed stage-whisper. Mixed among the white substance is a quantity of silicious clay of all sorts and conditions of color. This produces a variation in the appearance, but is merely in addition to what is otherwise marvelous in the extreme. Pearl gray, with terra cotta, red and green tints is the basic color of this boiling, seething mass, which seems to be continually at unrest and in a course of worry.
The Excelsior Geyser is the most conspicuous feature of the Midway Basin, a collection of hot springs and pools. They are situated in the Midway Basin, and were originally called Cliff Caldron. Excelsior Geyser is in a continual state of anarchy, without law, government or regulation. It does just as it likes and when it likes. It seldom performs when wanted to, but when it does break out into a condition of fermentation, the effect is very magnificent. As one writer puts it, the beauties and exhibitions of this geyser are as far superior to those of all the others as the light of the sun seems to that of the moon.
The geyser was for years regarded as the grandest spring in the park, before its exceptionally great features prevailed or became apparent. In the years 1881-82, the eruptions from this geyser became so terrific that it spouted water as high as 250 feet, and converted the generally inoffensive Firehole River into a torrent of storming water. Rocks of large size and heavy enough to be very dangerous were hurled headlong from within the mysterious confines of the earth, and were dashed around in all directions. For miles the terrific noise could be heard, and people who had been waiting for a phenomenon of this character, hurried across country to witness it. It is only now and again that a phenomenon of this kind is repeated, and the most skillful geologists are unable to give us any adequate forecasts as to when the next performance will take place.
Rehearsals seem always in progress. Vast masses of steam rise from the crater or hole. Many people crowd to the edge of the basin and strive to penetrate into the mysteries of subterranean happenings. The day may come when some scientific method of seeing through smoke and steam and enduring scalding heat without difficulty may be devised. Until then the mystery must remain unsolved.
In exact contrast with the irregular and spasmodic action of the Excelsior, is the methodical, persevering action of Old Faithful. This is another of the great and popular geysers of Yellowstone Park. It is so uniform in its appearance that a man can keep his watch regulated by it. Every sixty-five minutes the well-named geyser gives forth a peculiar noise to warn the world that it is about to perform. Then for about five minutes a vast stream of water and steam is hurled into the air to the height of about 150 feet. The mass of boiling water measures six feet in diameter, and the volume discharged exceeds a hundred thousand gallons each hour. Day by day and hour, for nearly twenty years, this industrious geyser has regularly done its duty, and afforded entertainment for visitors. No one knows how long prior to that time it commenced operations, or for how long it will continue.
Leaving for the moment the consideration of geysers and hot springs and other wonders of this character, the sightseer gets a view of a very different nature. At Keppler's Cascades the stage coach generally stops to enable passengers to walk to the edge of the cliff and watch the cascades and foaming river in the black canon below. Then the journey proceeds through the Firehole Valley, and through leafy forests and open glades, until the narrow and tortuous canon of Spring Creek is reached. The scenery here is decidedly unconventional and wild.
We soon reach the summit of the Continental Divide. Now the outlook is much expanded, and it becomes more majestic and dignified. The mountains overhang the roadway on one side and drop far below on the other. Heavy, shaggy forests cover the slopes and peaks, while tiny island parks, as it were, and cheerful openings are occasionally seen. The road winds about the mountain-flanks, now climbing up, now descending; the whole aspect of nature grows more grand, more austere; the air grows more rarified, and one becomes more and more exalted in spirit. Occasionally the mountains break away and you obtain a view far out beyond the narrow limits round about. Distant mountains are seen, and the feeling that there are nothing but mountain-walls about you impresses itself strongly upon one, and it is just about true. After several miles of such riding, and when you have begun to imagine that nothing finer can come, the road leads up to a point that, almost before you know it, simply drives from your thoughts all else seen on this ride.
It is a wonderful picture, and produces a state of exultation that to some must seem almost too strong to endure. The mountains, which rise high above, stretch also far below, and in every direction are at their very best. Proud and regal in their strength and bearing, they are still, from summit to the depths, heavily covered with the primeval forest. It would seem as if they really knew what a view was here unfolded, and to rejoice in the grandeur of the scene. Like a thread, you can trace the turns and lines of the road along which the stage has come. But that which adds the softer, more beautiful element to a picture otherwise almost overpowering in its grandeur, and withal stern and unyielding, is seen through a break or portal off to the south.
Far away, far below, lies a portion of Shoshone Lake. Like a sleeping babe in its mother's lap, nestles this tiny lakelet babe in the mountains. It shines like a plate of silver or beautiful mirror. It is a gem worth crossing a continent to see, especially as there runs between the lake and the point of view a little valley dressed in bright, grassy green as a kind of foreground in the rear. There is thus a silvered lake, a lovely valley, with bright and warm green shades, and rich, dark-black forests in the rear. No one can gaze upon such a combination and contrast without being impressed, and without recognizing the sublime beauty and grandeur of the park and its surroundings.
Yellowstone Lake is another of the extraordinary attractions of our great National Park. It is described as the highest inland sea in the world, and more than 7,000 feet above the sea level. It is, really, nearly 8,000 feet above the sea, and its icy cold water covers an area some thirty miles in length and about half as wide or about 300 square miles. This glorious inland ocean is perched up at the summit of the Rocky Mountains, just where no one would expect to find it. Several islands of varying sizes are dotted over the surface of the water, which at times is as smooth as a little mill pond, and at others almost as turbulent as the sea. The shores are entirely irregular in their formation, and Promontory Point extends out into the water a great distance, forming one of the most peculiar inland peninsulas in the entire world. Along the southern shore, inlets and bays are very numerous, some of them natural in character, and others full of evidence of brisk, and even terrific, volcanic action.
From the peculiar rocks and eminences along the shore, reflections are cast into the water of an almost indescribable character. They are varied in nature and color, and, like the lake itself, differ from anything to be seen elsewhere. Another unique feature of this lake, and one that has to be seen to be understood, is the presence on the banks, and even out in the lake itself, of hot springs and geysers full of boiling water and steam. Some of these springs have wide and secure edges, or banks, on which a man can stand and fish. Then, on his right hand, he has the icy-cold water of the lake, from which he can obtain trout and other fish, until he begins to dream of a fisherman's paradise. Dr. Hayden, the explorer, already referred to, was the first man to take advantage of the opportunity and to cook his fish unhooked in the boiling water to his left, merely making a half turn in order to do so. When the Professor first mentioned this fact, he was good humoredly laughed at, but, as stated in an earlier part of this chapter, the possibility has been so clearly demonstrated, that people have long since admitted as a possibility what they had first denounced as an utter absurdity.
THE HEROES OF THE IRON HORSE.
Honor to Whom Honor is Due—A Class of Men Not Always Thoroughly Appreciated at their Worth—An Amateur's Ride on a Flying Locomotive—From Twelve Miles an Hour to Six Times that Speed—The Signal Tower and the Men who Work in it—Stealing a Train—A Race with Steam—Stones about Bewitched Locomotives and Providential Escapes.
No one who has not given the matter special consideration has the remotest idea of the magnitude and importance of the railroad system of the United States. Nor has any one who has not studied the statistics bearing on the question the faintest conception of the cost of the roads built and in operation. The cost in dollars and cents for a mile of track has been ascertained to a fractional point. Expert accountants have figured out to a hundredth part of a cent the cost of hauling a passenger or a ton of merchandise any given distance. There are even tables in existence showing the actual expense incurred in stopping a train, while such details as the necessary outlay in wages, fuel, repairs, etc., have received the attention which the magnitude of the interests involved deserves.
But the cost in human life and suffering of the great railroad system of the United States is quite another matter, and one that does not come within the scope of the calculations of accountants, expert or otherwise. It has been said repeatedly that a man is safer in a railroad train than on the streets. In other words, the percentage of death and serious injury is said by statisticians to be lower among men habitually traveling than among people who are classed as stay-at-homes, and who seldom take a railroad journey. But while this is doubtless correct, so far as passengers are concerned, the rule does not apply to railroad employes, and those who by their never-wavering care and energy protect the life and limbs of passengers, and make railroad traveling safe as well as comfortable.
A celebrated divine, when preaching on the subject of faith, once took a railroad journey for an illustration. As he pointed out, with much eloquence and force, there could be no more realistic personification of faith than the man who peacefully lay down to sleep at night in his berth of a Pullman car, relying implicitly upon the railroad men to avert the thousands of dangers which had to be encountered during the still hours of the night.
Whenever there is a strike, a great deal is written about the men employed in various capacities by railroads, and every misdeed is exaggerated, and every indiscretion magnified into a crime. But very little is said on the other side of the question. The men to whom railroad travelers, and especially those who ride at night, commend their safety, are worked to the full extent of their powers, and are paid very small wages, when the nature of their duties and the hours they have to make are taken into consideration.
The commendation of these men takes the form of deeds, rather than words, and while so few have ever stopped to consider the loyalty and devotion of the poorly paid and hard-worked railroad man, every traveler who enters a railroad car pays silent tribute to their reliability. The passenger, as he lounges comfortably in a luxurious seat, or sleeps peacefully in his state-room, thinks nothing of the anxiety and annoyances of the men in charge of the train, or of those who are responsible for the track being kept clear, and proper orders being given to the engineer.
This official is a man of many hardships and dangers. To him is entrusted daily the lives of hundreds of human beings. He knows not how many, but he knows that the slightest error on his part will hurl perhaps ten, perhaps twenty, and perhaps fifty human beings into eternity, besides maiming for life two or three times as many more. He knows, too, that not only is he responsible for the safety of the men, women and children who are riding behind him, but also for the occupants of other trains on the same track. He knows exactly where he must run on to a side track to allow the express in the other direction to pass, and he knows just where he must slacken speed in order to get safely around a dangerous curve, or cross a bridge which is undergoing repairs, or which is not quite as substantial as it would be if he, instead of millionaire railroad directors, had the control of the bridge construction and repair fund.
To catch an idea of the responsibility of a locomotive engineer, it is necessary to ride a hundred miles or so in an engine. The author was given this privilege on a bleak, frosty day, early last winter. He was told by the officials that he took the ride at his own risk, and as a matter of personal favor, and that he must not interfere with the engineer or fireman in the execution of their duties. The guest was received kindly by both engineer and fireman, and was given a seat whence he could see along expanse of track over which the locomotive had to draw the train of cars. To a novice the sensation of a first ride on a locomotive is a very singular one, and to say that there is no tinge of fear intermingled with the excitement and pleasure, would be to make a statement not borne out by fact. On the occasion referred to, the train was a special one, carrying a delegation half way across the continent. It was about fifteen minutes late, and in order to make the run to the next division point it was necessary to maintain an average speed of more than forty-five miles an hour. As is almost always the case, when there is need for exceptional hurry, all sorts of trifling delays occurred, and several precious minutes were wasted before a start could be made.
Finally, the conductor gives the necessary word, the engineer pulls the lever, and the irregular passenger finds for the first time in his life how much more difficult it is to start a locomotive than he ever imagined.
First, there is a distinct tremble on the huge locomotive. Then there comes a loud hiss, with a heavy escape of steam, as the huge pistons tug and pull at the heavy wheels, which slip round and round and fail to grip the rail. Then, as gradually scientific power overcomes brute force, there is a forward motion of a scarcely perceptible character. Then, as the sand-box is brought into requisition, the wheels distinctly bite the rail, and, in the words of the race-track, "They're off." For a few seconds progress is very slow, indeed. Then the good work of the trusted locomotive becomes apparent, and before we are well out of the yards quite a good speed is being obtained. The fireman is busy ringing the bell, and the engineer, from time to time, adds to the warning noise by one of those indescribable toots made only by a steam engine.
Now we are outside the city limits, and the train is making excellent time. We take out our watch and carefully time the speed between two mile-posts, to ascertain that about seventy seconds were occupied in covering the distance. Regardless of our instructions we mention this fact to the fireman, who has just commenced to throw a fresh supply of coal on to the roaring fire, adding a word of congratulation.
"Why, that's nothing," he replies, laughing, "we are going up grade now. Wait until we get along the level or go down grade, and we will show you a mile away inside of sixty."
We are not particularly glad to hear this. Already the locomotive is rocking a good deal more than is quite pleasant to the uninitiated, and the contrast between the hard seat and the pleasant one at our disposal in the Pullman car is becoming more and more obvious. Just as we are wondering how it will be possible to preserve one's equilibrium while going around a curve in the distance, a cow strays sheepishly on to the track, apparently some 200 yards ahead. The engineer plays a tune with his whistle, and the cow proceeds to trot down the track in front of us. That singularly misnamed appendage, the cow-catcher, strikes her amidships. She is thrown twenty feet in the air, and all that is left of her rolls into the ditch by the side of the track.
For the moment we had forgotten George Stephenson's reply to the member of the British Parliament, who asked him what would happen in the event of a cow getting in front of one of the trains George was proposing to run, if necessary powers could be obtained. His reply, which has long since become historical, was that it would be very bad for the cow. We remembered this, and agreed with the pioneer railroad man when we saw the unfortunate bovine turn a quadruple somersault and terminate her existence in less than a second. But a moment previously we had been wondering what would happen when the inevitable collision took place.
The fireman observes that the occurrence has somewhat unnerved us, and in a good-natured way assures us that a little thing of that kind doesn't amount to anything. It is pretty bad, he says, when a bunch of cows get on a track, and he remembers once, several years ago, having a train stopped out in the Far West by a bunch of fat steers, which blocked up the track. "But," he adds, by way of parenthesis, "that was on a very poor road with a broken-down freight locomotive. If we had had "87," with a full head of steam on, we could have got through all right, even if we had to overload the market with beef."
Now the train rushes around a curve in one direction and now in another. The engineer never relaxes his vigilance, and, although he affects to make light of the responsibility, and assures his somewhat nervous passenger that there is no danger of any kind, his actions do not bear out his words. We are running special, a little ahead of the mid-day express schedule, and at every station there are waiting passengers who herald our approach with delight, and, gathering together their packages, advance to the edge of the platform evidently supposing we are going to stop for them. That we are to dash through the station at a speed of fifty or sixty miles an hour, does not occur to them as a remote possibility, and the looks of astonishment which greet us as we rush past the platform are amusing. Finally, we reach a long stretch of level track, where the rails are laid as straight as an arrow for apparently several miles ahead.
"Now's your time, if you want to take a good mile," says the friendly fireman.
We take his advice, and by aid of a stop watch, especially borrowed for the occasion, we ascertain the fact that a mile is covered in fifty-two seconds. The next mile is two seconds slower, but the speed is more than maintained on the third mile. Reduced to ordinary speed figures, this means that we are making something like seventy miles an hour, and doing vastly better than was even anticipated. Our good work is, however, interfered with by the sudden application of the air brakes and the shutting off of steam as we approach a little station, where the signal is against us. A change in train orders proves to be the cause of the hindrance to our progress, and the engineer grumbles somewhat as he finds he will have to wait at a station some twenty miles further on, provided a train coming in the opposite direction is not on the side track before he gets there. The execution of this order involves a delay of five or ten minutes, but when we have the line clear again such good time is made that we accomplish our task and pull into the depot, where locomotives are to be changed, on time to the second.
Such is a ride on a locomotive in broad daylight. At night of course the dangers and risks are increased ten-fold. The head-light pierces into the inky darkness, and frequently exaggerates the size of objects on and near the track. The slightest misunderstanding, the most trivial misinterpretation of an order, the least negligence on the part of any one connected with or employed by the road, may involve a wreck, to the total destruction of the train and its passengers, and the engineer feels every moment the full extent of his responsibilities and the nature of the risks he runs.
These responsibilities are increased ten-fold by the great speed necessary in these days of haste and hurry. Few of our great-grandfathers lived to see steam applied as a motive power for locomotion. Most of our grandparents remember the first train being run in this country. Many of those who read these lines can recollect when a philosopher placed himself on record that a speed of twenty miles was impossible, because, even if machinery could be constructed to stand the wear and tear, the motion would be so rapid that the train men and passengers would succumb to apoplexy or some other terrible and fatal malady.
It is less than seventy years ago since the time that the so-called crank, George Stephenson, ventured modestly to assert that his little four-and-a-half-ton locomotive, "The Rocket," was actually capable of whirling along one to two light carriages at the astounding velocity of twelve miles an hour. He was laughed to scorn by the highly intelligent British Parliamentary Committee engaged in the investigation of his new method of land traveling. At the present day, with regularly scheduled trains on many lines thundering across wide continents tirelessly hour after hour, at the rate of a mile a minute, it is the deliberate judgment of the most conservative students of railway science that the ultimate limit of speed is still in the far distance, and that 100 miles per hour will not be deemed an extraordinary rate of travel by the time the first decade of the Twentieth Century shall have closed.
It is true that railroad schedules seldom call for mile-a-minute traveling, but the engineer is called upon very frequently to go even faster. The majority of people, even the most intelligent among those who habitually travel, obtain their conceptions of speed from the figures of the time-table, forgetting that in nearly every instance considerable portions of the route must be traversed at much more than the average speed required to cover the total distance in the schedule time. There are very few, if any, of the fast express trains which do not, on some part of each "run," reach or exceed a speed of a mile a minute. Yet, by reason of superior roadway and well constructed cars, the accelerated velocity is unnoticed; while running at from sixty to seventy miles an hour the passenger calmly peruses his paper or book, children play in the aisle, and a glass brim full of water may be carried from one end to the other of the smoothly rolling coach without the spilling of a drop. All the while the nerves of those in charge of the train are kept at high tension, and, oblivious as the passengers may be as to the danger, actual and imaginary, the risks incurred are never for a moment lost sight of by the two men on the locomotive.
The man in the signal tower has an equal responsibility. In some respects the burden upon his shoulders is even greater, because he has the fate of perhaps a score of trains in his hands, with the lives of hundreds of passengers. Now and then, when the wrong lever has been pulled and a train is wrecked, we hear of a signal man sleeping at his post, but few of us stop to think how many thousand times a day the right lever is pulled, and how exceptional is the lapse from duty. There are heroes of the sea, and there are heroes of the battle-field, but there are ten times as many heroes who perform their deeds of heroism on locomotives, in switch and signal towers, and in railroad yards. It may not be fashionable to compare these savers of human life with those who destroy life on the battle-field, but the valor and endurance of the former is at least as conspicuous and meritorious as the daring and suffering of the latter.
In "Scribner's Magazine" there recently appeared a most graphic description of a two-storied, square signal tower at "Sumach Junction."
"This tower," says the contributor to the magazine named, "had two rows of windows on all sides and stood at the intersection of branches. At this point the trunk line resolved itself from four tracks into two, and here the gravel track, which looked as if it had been laid by a palsied contractor, left the main line and respectability behind, and hobbled out of sight behind the signal station with an intoxicated air. Beneath the tower, to the right hand, a double-tracked branch tapped a fertile country beyond the sand hills. And beneath the signal tower, to the left, a single-tracked branch, only a mile long, brought South Sumach, one of those tiresome towns that manufacture on water-power, in touch with the middle man. This petty branch (as if the case had been with petty people), made more trouble than all the rest of the lines put together. The signal man found this out.
"So Sumach Junction had its place in the world, and, perhaps, it was a more important one than that of many a complacent and opulent suburb. The heart of this little community did not center, as a thoughtless person might suppose, in the church, or the commandery, or the grocery store, or the school, but in the signal tower. It was the pulse of the section. It was the life-blood of thousands of unconcerned travelers, whose lives and happiness depended on the intelligent vigilance of three men. These three took turns up there in the tower, locking and unlocking switches and signals until one might expect them to faint for dizziness and confusion. It was no uncommon thing in the signal tower, when one of the three wanted a day off, for the other two to double up on twelve-hour shifts. As long as the service was well performed, the Superintendent asked no questions."
The story came to be written on account of the prolonged sickness of one of the three, which compelled the remaining two to remain on duty until their eyes were often dim, and their brain power exhausted. One of these finally worked until nature overcame force of habit and reliability, and a collision would have resulted but for the returning consciousness of the overworked and thoroughly exhausted man.
While this hero of everyday life slept, or rather lost the power of thought from extreme exhaustion, the heavy snow storm which was making the night doubly dark had so blocked the machinery of the semaphore that it refused to respond to the desperate efforts of the weary signal man, who heard a freight train approaching, and knew that unless it was flagged at once it would dash into the rear end of a passenger train, which was standing in sight of the signal box, with its locomotive disabled. Finally, abandoning the attempt to move the lever, he rushed out into the night and forced his way through the snow in the direction of the approaching train. He was in time to avert the collision that appeared inevitable, but in his excitement overlooked his own danger, and was knocked down and terribly injured by the train he flagged.
Within the last year the largest railroad station in the world, in the yards of which there is an immense amount of traffic, and from whose signal towers are worked switches and signals innumerable, has been opened. This immense station is situated at St. Louis. It covers an area of about twelve acres, and is larger than the two magnificent depots of Philadelphia combined. The second largest railroad station in the world is at Frankfort, Germany. The third in order of size is the Reading Station at Philadelphia. The four next largest being the Pennsylvania Depot at Philadelphia, St. Pancras Station in London, England, the Pennsylvania Depot in Jersey City, and the Grand Central Depot in New York City.
We have all heard of peculiar thefts from time to time, and the records of stolen stoves and other heavy articles seem to show that few things are sufficiently bulky to be absolutely secure from the peculator or kleptomaniac. But to steal a train seems to the average mind an impossibility, though under some conditions it is even easy. During the crusade of the Commonwealers in 1894, more than one train was stolen. All that was required was a sufficient force to overcome the train crew at some small station or water tank, and one or two men who knew how to turn on steam and keep up a fire.
History tells of a much more remarkable case of train stealing, with events of startling bravery and hair-breadth escapes connected with it. We refer to the great railroad raid in Georgia during the year 1862, when a handful of intrepid heroes invaded a hostile country, deliberately stole a locomotive, and came within an ace of getting it safely delivered into the hands of their friends.
A monument, surmounted by the model of a locomotive, was erected four or five years ago to commemorate an event without precedent and without imitation. The story of the raid reads like fiction, but every incident we record is one of fact. Every danger narrated was run. Every difficulty was actually encountered, and the ultimate failure came about exactly as stated.
Generals Grant and Buell were at the time marching towards Corinth, Mississippi, where a junction was to be made. The Confederate troops were concentrating at the same point, and there was immediate trouble brewing. General Mitchell, who was in command of one of Buell's divisions, had advanced as far as Huntsville, Alabama, and another detachment had got within thirty miles of Chattanooga. It was deemed advisable, and even necessary, to cut off the railway communication between Chattanooga and the East and South, and James J. Andrews was selected by General Buell for the task.
Andrews picked out twenty-four spirits like unto himself, who entered the enemy's territory in ordinary Southern dress, and without any other arms than revolvers.
Their purpose was to capture a train, burn the bridges on the northern part of the Georgia State Railroad, and also on the East Tennessee Railroad, where it approaches the Georgia State line, thus completely isolating Chattanooga, which was then virtually ungarrisoned. These men rendezvoused at Marietta, Georgia, more than 200 miles from the point of departure, having (with the exception of five, who were captured en route or belated) made their way thither in small detachments of three and four. The railroad at Marietta was found to be crowded with trains, and many soldiers were among the passengers.
After much reconnoitering, it was determined to capture a train at Big Shanty, a few miles north of Marietta, and, purchasing tickets for different stations along the line in the direction of Chattanooga, the party, which included two engineers, reached Big Shanty.
While the conductor, the engineer, and most of the passengers were at breakfast, the train was seized, and being properly manned, after the uncoupling of the passenger cars, was started on its fierce race northward. Think of the exploit—twenty men, with a hostile army about them, setting out thus bravely on a long and difficult road crowded with enemies.
Of course the theft of the train 'produced great consternation, but the captors got away in safety, stopping frequently for the purpose of tearing up the track, cutting telegraph wires, etc. Andrews informed the people at the stations that he was an agent of General Beauregard, running an impressed powder train through to Corinth, and generally this silenced their doubts, though some acted suspiciously.
The first serious obstacle was met at Kingston, thirty miles on the journey. Here the captors and their train were obliged to wait until three trains south-bound passed by. For an hour and five minutes they remained in this most critical position, sixteen men being shut up in the box-car, personating Beauregard's ammunition. Just as the train got away from Kingston two pursuers appeared, being Captain W. A. Fuller, the conductor of the stolen train, and an officer who happened to be aboard of it at the time it was run out from Big Shanty. Finding a hand-car, they had manned it and pushed forward until they had found an old locomotive standing with steam up on a side track, which they immediately loaded with soldiers and hurried forward with flying wheels in pursuit, until Kingston was reached, where they took the engine and a car of one of the waiting trains, and with forty armed Confederates continued the journey.
It was now nip and tuck, with one engine rushing wildly after another. To wreck the pursuing train was the only tangible hope of the fugitives, who stopped again and again in order to loosen a rail. Had they been equipped with proper tools they could have done this easily, but as it was, they simply lost precious time. Once they were almost overtaken by the pursuing engine, and compelled to set out again at a terrible speed. At one point at Adairsville, they narrowly escaped running into an express train. Fuller, the conductor of the stolen train, and his companions, being arrested by the obstructions of the track, left their engine behind and started on foot, finally taking possession of the express passed at Adairsville, and turning it back in pursuit.
When Calhoun was passed, the trains were within sight of each other. The track was believed to be clear to Chattanooga, and if only the pursuing train could be wrecked, the end would be gained. Again the lack of tools hampered the daring little band. They made desperate effort to break a rail, but the pursuers were upon them before they had accomplished it, and Andrews hurried on his engine, dropping one car and then another, which were picked up and pushed ahead, by the pursuers, to Resaca Station.
Both engines were, at the time, at the highest rate of speed. Andrews at last broke off the end of his last box car and dropped crossties on the track as he ran. Several times he almost lifted a rail, but each time the coming of the Confederates within rifle range compelled him to desist.
A participant in the feat, in his narrative of the affair, published in "Battles and Leaders of the Civil War," by the Century Company, says:
"Thus we sped on, mile after mile, in this fearful chase, around curves and past stations in seemingly endless perspective. Whenever we lost sight of the enemy beyond a curve, we hoped that some of our obstructions had been effective in throwing him from the track, and that we would see him no more; but at each long reach backward the smoke was again seen, and the shrill whistle was like the scream of a bird of prey. The time could not have been so very long, for the terrible speed was rapidly devouring the distance, but with our nerves strained to the highest tension, each minute seemed an hour. On several occasions the escape of the enemy from wreck seemed little less than miraculous. At one point a rail was placed across the track so skillfully on the curve, that it was not seen till the train ran upon it at full speed. Fuller says that they were terribly jolted, and seemed to bounce altogether from the track, but lighted on the rail in safety. Some of the Confederates wished to leave a train which was driven at such a reckless rate, but their wishes were not gratified."
At last, when hope was well nigh exhausted, a final attempt was made. Additional obstructions were thrown on the track, the side and end boards of the last car were torn into shreds, all available fuel was piled upon it, and blazing brands were brought back from the engine. Reaching a long, covered bridge, the car, which was now fairly ablaze, was uncoupled; but before the bridge was fully on fire the pursuers came upon it, pushed right into the smoke, and ran the burning car before them to the next side track. So this expedient also failed. With no car left, no fuel—every scrap of it having been thrown into the engine or upon the burning car—and with no means of further obstructing the track, the pursued party were reduced to desperation, and as a last resource, when within eighteen miles of Chattanooga, abandoned the train and dispersed to the woods, each to save himself.
The good old locomotive, now feeble and useless, was left. According to some accounts it was reversed, in order to cause a collision with the on-coming train, but according to others, the steam was exhausted, and the engine just stopped for want of power. However this may have been, the hunters of the train become at once hunters of the train stealers, several of whom were captured the same day, and all but two within a week. Two of those who had failed to connect with the party were also captured. Being in citizen's dress within the enemy's lines, the whole party were held as spies. A court-martial was formed and the leader and seven out of the remaining twenty-two were condemned and executed. The others were never brought to trial. Of the remaining fourteen, eight succeeded by a bold effort in making an escape from Atlanta, and ultimately reaching the North. The other six failed in this effort, and remained prisoners until March, 1863, when they were exchanged.
All sorts of stories have been heard from time to time concerning the supernatural side of railroading, and the peculiar and apparently hidden antics which locomotives occasionally are guilty of. The following story is well worth reproducing, and may serve as an illustration of hundreds of others. It was told by an engineer, who worked on the Utah & Northern Railroad years ago, before that road became part of the Union Pacific system. The road was very rough, and save for a long stretch of sage brush along the Snake River north of Pocatello, it ran in canons, over mountains, and through heavy cuts of clay, which was often washed down on to the tracks by the spring rains. It was, as it is now, a railroad rushed with business.
It was the only line into Butte City, which had been struck a short time before, and was then giving promise of its future distinction as the greatest mining camp in the world. The shipments of gold and bullion were very heavy, and all the money for the banks in Butte and Helena was sent over this road. There were no towns along the line. The only stops were made at water-tanks, and such eating-houses as the railroad company had built at long intervals. It was a rough, hard run, and was made especially lonely by the uninhabited stretches of sand and sage brush, and the echoes from the high granite walls of the narrow canon. It was a dangerous run besides. The James gang of train robbers and the Younger brothers had been operating so successfully in Missouri, Kansas and Minnesota that other bandits had moved West to attempt similar operations.
Finally, word came from the general offices of Wells, Fargo & Co. that several train robbers had been seen in Denver, and might work their way north in the hope of either securing gold bullion from one of the down trains from Butte, or money in exchange on an up train. After detailing these conditions, the engineer went on.
"We got a new manager for the road, an Eastern man, who had some high notions about conducting railroad travel on what he called a modern basis. One of the first results of his management was a train, which he called the 'Mormon Flyer,' running from Butte to Salt Lake, and scheduled on the time card to run forty miles an hour. We told him he never could make that time on a rough mountain road, where a train had to twist around canon walls like a cow in the woods, but he wouldn't believe it. He said that if a train could run forty-five miles an hour in the East it could run forty on that road. The train was made up with a heavy 'hog' engine, a baggage car, express car and two sleepers. The first train down jumped the track twice, and the up train from Salt Lake was wrecked and nearly thrown into the Snake River. Then the trains ran from four to six hours behind time, and the people and the papers began to jest about the 'Mormon Flyer,' and ask for a return of the old Salisbury coach line. The manager complained from time to time, and said it was all the fault of the engineers; said that we did not know our business, and that he would get some men from the East who would make the 'Mormon Flyer' fly on time.
"Well, one evening in Butte I had made up my train and was waiting for orders, when the station-master handed two telegrams to me. One was from the manager at Salt Lake, and read: 'You bring the 'Flyer' in on time to-morrow, or take two weeks' notice.' The other was from the Wells, Fargo & Co. agent, at Salt Lake, and read: 'No. 3 (the north-bound 'Flyer') held up this afternoon near Beaver Canon. Treasure box taken and passengers robbed.' The best description of the robbers that could be had, was given. I showed both telegrams to the conductor, who held the train until he could get a dozen Winchesters from the town. In the meantime I had put the fireman on, and we put the finishing touches on the engine, No. 38—a big, new machine, with eight drivers, and in the pink of condition. I told my fireman that if we couldn't pull her through on time we would leave the train on the side of the road, and thus teach a trick or two to the man who wanted to run a mountain road on Eastern methods. I pulled that train out of Butte as though it had been shot out of a gun, and when we reached the flat below Silver Bar Canon I had her well set and flying like a scared wolf. The train was shaking from side to side like a ship at sea, and we were skipping past the foothills so fast that they looked like fence posts. The cab shook so that my fireman couldn't stand to fill the fire-box, so he dumped the coal on the floor and got down on all fours and shoveled it in. No. 38 seemed to know that she was wanted to hold down my job, and quivered like a race horse at the finish. We made up the lost time in the first 100 miles, and got to Beaver Canon with a few minutes to spare.
"It was when I slowed her up a bit in the canon that I noticed something the matter with her. She dropped her steady gait and began to jerk and halt. The fire-box clogged and the steam began to drop, and when I reached a fairly long piece of road in the dark and silent canon, she refused to recover. She spit out the steam and gurgled and coughed, and nothing that I could do would coax her along. I told the fireman that the old girl was quitting us, and that we might as well steer for new jobs. He did his best to get her into action, but she was bound to have her own way. She kept losing speed every second, and wheezed and puffed like a freight engine on a mountain grade, and moved about as fast. Finally, we came to a corner of a sharp turn, almost at the mouth of the canon, and then No. 38 gave one loud, defiant snort and stopped. "'She's done for now,' I said to the fireman, and we got out of the cab with our lanterns.