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CHAPTER VII—" THE FLOOD"; ELECTED CHIEF OF DIVISION 223, AND DELEGATE TO THE GRAND INTERNATIONAL DIVISION IN CHICAGO

IN 1882, our road changed hands, and became merged in the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia railroad. During the first two years with the new system my run was from Selma to Rome, a distance of one hundred and ninety-six miles. Then the run was lengthened to Cleveland, Tennessee, and we made the two hundred and sixty-four miles in eight hours and twenty minutes.

Soon after this change was made the New Orleans Exposition opened, and traffic greatly increased on our Southern lines. From all sections of the country, people made their way in throngs towards the Crescent City, for expositions had not then become such common events. I caught the prevailing fever, and decided to take my son and oldest daughter with me on the trip. Before reaching New Orleans, the engineers sent for me to come ahead and ride over Lake Pontchartrain in the engine. I did so and greatly enjoyed it. We arrived on Mardi Gras day, February 17, 1885, and I found myself in the largest crowd I had ever seen, Canal Street being a solid mass of surging humanity for a mile. At the night parade, the streets were even more densely thronged. We remained a week taking in the sights, and two of these are strongly impressed upon my memory. It was there I saw my first battleship, the United States man-of-war, Galena. We went aboard and were much impressed with the big cannon, one of which weighed seventeen thousand pounds, and a Gatling gun claiming to shoot two hundred times a minute. Then, at the exposition grounds we had a ride on the first electric railway ever exhibited. The track was only sixty feet in length, and instead of there being a trolley, the rails were charged. On the surface of a flat car, ten feet long, the passengers seated themselves, more or less comfortably, and had a ride both ways for five cents.

The next October our boy attained to man's estate, and married three days later. And after that the deluge! In point of fact, the following spring this whole country was inundated. Heavy rains had fallen for two or three weeks, and when I went out on my run, April 1st, all the rivers and creeks were greatly swollen, and by the time 1 reached Rome the whole country was flooded, so that it was impossible to go on to Cleveland. It was nearly a week before I could get out of Rome, when I commenced running towards Selma, as the road was repaired. My first trip was only as far as Cave Springs and back, the next to Piedmont, then to Anniston; and finally, after two round trips to Plantersville, I came on into Selma, after an absence of two weeks. Upon reaching home, the folks had much to tell about their experiences during the high water. Early in the morning on April 2d, the water had begun coming into our yard in a small stream on the eastern side. Twenty-four hours later, it was twenty-nine inches deep, and still rising. That evening, two families occupying a house much lower than ours, and into which the water had almost arisen, were brought across the street to our house in a boat. It thus happened that thirteen women and children spent the night here, with one young man as protector, while the water rose steadily, an inch an hour. The rise during the day, though, had been twice that. At eight-thirty the next morning, the water lacked only six inches of entering the house. So, as her guests had already sought higher ground, Frances decided to go up to my sister's beyond Red Hill rather than remain in an uncertainty, and, at best, isolation, for she said there were only the frogs for company. Rescue boats were out, and friends took them safely through the submerged portion of the town. That evening they came back in a furniture wagon to see if the piano could be moved, and found the water at a standstill, just under the door sill, while it stood two feet deep in the house across the street. It was two weeks before the water entirely disappeared, and when I first caught sight of Frances upon my return, she was scattering lime far and wide, "to prevent sickness," she said.

In 1887, I was elected Chief Engineer of Division No. 223, and also delegate to the Grand International Division of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers in Chicago. It had been the custom of the Division to meet on Sunday, and when "the boys" wanted to give me the office of Chief, I said, "If you elect me you will never hold another meeting on the Sabbath." I was Chief for twenty-three consecutive years, and kept my word! During that time, I represented Division No. 223 at thirteen conventions, served continually as chairman of the local committee, with exception of two years, and was also General Chairman of the Southern Railway from 1895 to 1901. I resigned the offices of Chief and Local Chairman with my retirement from railroad service last January.

But to return to the fall of '87, when we attended our first convention, for Frances went with me to every one. When I told her that I wanted her to go, adding that we would take a sleeper and have a nice, comfortable trip, she said, "Yes, I'll enjoy going, but don't think I will like to sleep in one of those sleeping cars." I told her that when I was at work I pulled them, and when I was off on a trip I was going to ride in one, and if she was going with me she would have to make up her mind to ride in them, and sleep there. She got along so well, and enjoyed it so much, that in all our trips after that she asked about a sleeper the first thing. On our way to Chicago, we concluded to stop over at Cincinnati, and take a look at that city. We arrived there early in the morning, took a cab for the Gibson House, had breakfast, then boarded a street car for the Zoological Gardens. We enjoyed the sights so much that we spent the greater part of our time there. After leaving the Zoo, we took in the principal points of interest in the city. Among the places we visited were the Art Gallery, the Museum, and the noted Beer Garden on Walnut Hill. We left there at night well pleased with our visit. My wife wanted to know when we started, if we would have a sleeper. We arrived in Chicago the following morning. A number of the delegates had written on ahead and secured places, but a good many like ourselves were on the hunt for boardinghouses. The Palmer House had been selected as headquarters, and we supposed that it was the place to stop. We put up there and were entertained in princely style. It was at that time the finest hotel in Chicago, the rooms being elegant and the dining-room magnificent. Frances enjoyed our three weeks' stay immensely and saw many sights in the big cities. In fact, she saw a good many things that I didn't, as I was in the Convention Hall the biggest part of the time. The ladies were given a trip to Waukesha, about ninety-eight miles from Chicago, and Frances went, and greatly enjoyed it. Also an excursion to Joliet, where the Illinois State prison was visited.

One thing of great interest to engineers was a display of the Westinghouse air-brake. The exhibit was twenty cars, running at forty miles an hour, and stopping inside of a train length. That was the first freight train I ever saw equipped with air, so when I returned home, I had a good deal to say about the freight train that I saw on the Chicago and Great Northern railroad that was stopped by air. The train reminded me of my younger days on the Selma, Rome, and Dalton road, when the conductor was responsible for stopping the train at all stations, and no freight or passenger train passed by any station, much less a water tank. Those were hand brakes too, which shows that where railroad men work in harmony they can accomplish a good deal. Railroading was as pleasant and agreeable as running a farm in a level country, where we got to sleep every night and had Sundays for church-going and rest. But since air has been introduced, the engine crew has been held responsible for everything pertaining to train service, except registering and seeing that the markers are displayed, the stove kept hot, and the boxes all cushioned in the cabooses. When the convention closed, I didn't know whether Frances and I would ever get another trip, so we decided while we were out to visit St. Louis. We enjoyed everything and stayed as long as our money lasted. Having heard of the bridge there across the Mississippi River, we went to see it. A fair and exposition were going on at the same time, and we attended both. The city was so crowded that we found it difficult to get lodgings, but finally secured accommodation at the St. Louis Hotel. We went up and up to the room assigned us-and such a room! Frances fussed and scolded for some time, and I think, took nearly everything out of her grips to spread on the bed before she would lie down. I guess she would have emptied her trunk if she had had it, but it had been sent on ahead. We hunted better quarters next day. When we turned our steps homeward, we were thankful for what we had enjoyed, but were glad to get home. It is needless to say that we had plenty to talk about for quite a while.

The Brotherhood also had something to interest it the next year, namely: the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy strike. We all know how that terminated. I don't remember now how much each brother on this road donated to the strikers, but I do know that the members of Division No. 223 were behind with their assessments about $800.00, when I was elected Chief Engineer. Inside of a few months, every member was square; from that time on, I could be elected to any office in the Division.


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