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THE CALLAGHAN-KAYS TRAGEDY.

The bridge for the railroad over the Lackawaxen River at Lackawaxen, a structure 400 feet in length, was being built in December, 1848. Henry Dutcher was foreman of one side of the bridge, and Jacob Dunkle of the other. On the east side of the river was a heavy embankment for nearly a quarter of a mile, under contract by Clark & Carman, who had about two hundred Irishmen at work on it. When the bridge was ready to be raised, the chords had been stretched, and the runways laid for running in the timber. The Irish railroad laborers gave a great deal of trouble by insisting in going across the bridge to the hotel at the mouth of the river for whiskey, frequently a dozen or more at a time. They were afraid to walk the single plank used for a runway, but would get down on their hands and knees and creep across. This was done sometimes twenty times a day, much to the annoyance and loss of time of the bridge men. To do away with it a substantial foot bridge was constructed a few rods above the railroad bridge, but the Irishmen would not use it. They persisted in crossing on the runways. One day, when about a dozen of them went on the bridge, Dunkle, who was an impulsive, quick-tempered fellow, took up an iron bolt three feet long, and swore that if they did not get off he would break their heads. They got off, but as they did so they, swore vengeance on Dunkle, calling him "a damned black Dutchman," and declaring that they would get even with him. Henry Dutcher, who had the good will of the laborers, advised them to use the foot bridge, and they took his advice, but that night, out of revenge toward Dunkle, they invaded his side of the bridge and carried off one of the main braces, twenty-five feet long, and two oak keys, three feet long. The next morning Dunkle missed his timber, and at once mistrusted where it had gone. He took a good man with him and went over among the Irish shanties. There, he found a man cutting up the brace for firewood. Procuring a warrant from justice Thomas J. Ridgway, who lived close by, Dunkle had the fellow arrested and taken before the justice. The Irishmen supposed they had taken him to Dutcher's tavern, where most of the bridge men boarded. Bent on revenge, a dozen or more of them went over the river to the tavern. It was then about half-past eleven in the forenoon. They were there when the bridge men went to dinner, had been drinking freely, and were ready for a fight. The men had to pass through the bar-room to get to the dining-room. One of them began to talk to the Irishmen, calling them names. Henry Dutcher collared him and shoved him into the dining-room. Dutcher was the first to finish dinner. "I went down in the room where the Irish were," says he in relating this, "talked with them a few minutes, passed out, and went to Joel Shannon's store, about two hundred yards above the tavern. I had just got into the store when I heard some one crying:

"'Catch him! He has stabbed a man!'

"I rushed to the door in time to see a man running by, with James Salmon close at his heels. Salmon got near enough to strike the man in the back of the neck, knocking him several feet' clear off the ground. As he struck the ground his head went under a bunch of shingles. We secured him and took him back to the tavern, where he was held until a warrant could be procured. The rest of the Irishmen had fled in all directions.

"I found the man who had been stabbed lying dead upon one of the benches. His name was George Kays. He was one of the quietest and most peaceable men on the bridge job. The name of the man that stabbed him was Patrick Callaghan. It was a deliberate and unprovoked assault. Kays had not spoken a word to Callaghan or to any one else, but was in the act of pulling off his pea-jacket preparatory to going to work, when Callaghan plunged a knife into his left breast, just below the nipple. The knife must have struck the heart, for Kays was dead in less than five minutes. The stabbing had been preceded, by an altercation and loud words between some of our men and the Irishmen.

"We took the body of Kays into an upper room and notified, the justice of the Peace, who acted as Coroner. He summoned a jury and held an inquest. The jury returned a verdict that George Kays had come to his death at the hands of Patrick Callaghan.

"The funeral of the murdered man had to be arranged for. There was no coffin to be had except at Port Jervis, N. Y., or Honesdale, Pa., either place twenty-five miles distant. I told the men that I would make the coffin if they would find the lumber. There was no lumber nearer than Holbert's mill, three miles up the valley. By this time it was dark, and the men were afraid to go after the lumber, so I started up the track alone, went to the mill, selected the lumber, and sent a team after it. Returning, I went over the river to our tool-house, near where the Irish shanties were, got my tools, and worked until 2 o'clock in the morning, in an open shed near the tavern, and could not get a man to hold a light for me, they were all so afraid of the Irish. The next day I finished the coffin, and in the afternoon we had the funeral, I reading the burial service over the grave.

"The next thing to do was to take the prisoner to Milford jail. To do this we selected eight men, arming them with muskets and revolvers, to accompany the Sheriff, for they had to go right past where the Irishmen were at work, and they expected that the latter would try, to rescue the prisoner. This was not an ungrounded fear, for as soon as the posse had driven past where the Irishmen were at work, the laborers started with picks and shovels to make a raid on the wagon the prisoner was in. But our men sprang out, made a mark across the road, and covering the advancing body of men with their guns, retreated about fifty feet, and told them that the first man who put his foot over that mark would be a dead one. The Irishmen wavered, halted, held a short consultation, and turned back. It was well for them that they did. Our men had a hundred pounds of ammunition, and were in dead earnest."

The prisoner was safely lodged in Milford jail, was indicted, tried, found guilty, and sentenced to be hanged, but Governor Johnson, of Pennsylvania, refused to sign his death warrant, and the next Governor, William Bigler, held that it was the duty of his predecessor to sign all death warrants of those convicted of murder during his term of office, and he refused to sign it; so Callaghan was never hanged, but lay in Milford jail five years, and was then pardoned and discharged. Callaghan afterward went to Port Jervis, and worked as brakeman on the Delaware Division of the Erie for twenty years. He was killed by being run over by the cars not many miles from the spot where he had murdered poor George Kays twenty-five years before.

At the time of the construction of the Erie, the building of railroad bridges was in its infancy, or experimental stage. The bridges were all of wood. The design first in use was the Bunn, the bridges being covered. Later the Company adopted the Fowler and the McCallum. In constructing a bridge of either of the two latter designs, a level platform as long as the bridge, and at least twenty-five feet wide, was erected, on which the whole broadside of the bridge was drafted. Then the outside posts of the bridge, after having been framed for the chords and arches, were put in place and firmly fastened; the braces were framed and fitted in position; the chords and arches (there was an arch to each span of the bridge), were placed in position, and the top posts and braces were framed and similarly placed. Thus a whole broadside of the bridge was completed. This had to be all taken apart and piled by itself, and the other broadside constructed in the same way. The building of a large bridge of this kind made a long, heavy job, requiring the handling of several thousand tons of timber at least seven times over, besides the work of framing.


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