people


When we last heard from Mr. Johnson, he’d reached Blue Creek station and had (finally!) been able to give his thirsty horse and cow some much-needed water.

Later that day …

“I kept on the old trail, following it for some four miles. I found that this trail went to Corinne, but it was going to make twenty-five miles more of travel, so I at once left this trail and struck across to the railroad trail coming to Quarry station. From this place to Corinne was a good road all the way, and we reached Corinne about dark. A little distance off I saw a man with a lantern go into a barn, and I went for him as he was coming out and said, ‘Good evening. Friend, I have just arrived in town, I have a horse and cow and wish to stop for the night; I would like some hay for my cattle, can you accommodate me, sir?’ ‘I have hay. Stranger, which way are you traveling, sir?’ ‘I am traveling east.’ ‘Traveling east, sir,’ he repeated and then stepped out to where my cattle was. ‘You say you have come from the west, sir. What part of the west?’ ‘From California.’ ‘What, with that horse, carriage, and cow? You must be the man I read about in a western paper, who is going east?’ ‘Yes, sir; I think I am. The papers are ahead of me.’ ‘Lead your horse up to the barn, take her from the carriage, remove the harness and put her in that stall. The cow, what shall we do with her?’ ‘She will stand beside the horse; she knows her very well.’ ‘Well, put the cow beside the horse and give them all the hay they will eat. Grain, do they know what it it?’ ‘Yes, sir. They have had grain every day since I left home.’ ‘Home! Where is your home?’ ‘My home is in Massachusetts. When I said home, I meant where I started from.’ ‘What part of California did you start from, sir?’ ‘From the northern part, Eureka city, Humboldt Bay.’ ‘That is a long distance; more than a thousand miles.’ ‘Yes, sir. More than three hundred north of San Francisco.’ ‘Well, sir; you have done well, but you have not gone half the way yet.’ ‘No, sir; not more than a quarter.’ ‘Come into the house and get something to eat, your cattle are doing well.’

“We went into the house, my host saying, ‘Wife, here is a man that has traveled more than thirteen hundred miles, with a horse and carriage, and leading a cow all that distance. This is the man we read of in the papers coming from California to Massachusetts. I have just put his cattle in the barn and they are feeding on hay, and I asked him in to get something to eat. What have you got that is good for him? I think he is worthy of something good.’

… “After supper I went back to the barn and gave the cattle more hay and some grain. Then I did not recollect having loosened my dog, so I went and got him and returned back to the house. The wife then asked, ‘Has that dog too, come all that way?’ ‘He has,’ I answered. ‘Oh, you little beauty, you shall have some supper.'”

In my near-constant search for interesting old news, tidbits, and photos to share here on the blog, I hit the jackpot today. In just one of its many, many photo collections, the Library of Congress has more than 10,000 (yes, there are four zeros there) digitized news-agency photos covering the years 1910 to 1915.

Here, then, is our first look at an image from the LOC’s Bain Collection …

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The whip in this c. 1910 photo is Lord Leconfield, who is also mentioned in this brief article from the April 16, 1911, issue of The New York Times.

“Alfred G. Vanderbilt, who will open his English coaching season next month, is this year to have a rival on the London-to-Brighton road in the person of Lord Leconfield, who will run the original Old Times coach. Except that Mr. Vanderbilt will leave London via Kingston and Lord Leconfield via Wimbledon, both the Venture and the Old Times will follow the same road through Surrey and Sussex.”

Just about a year after his hair-raising drive in London, Albert Johnson passed away. Here, with the fascinating tale of his early life, is an excerpt from an obituary of Mr. Johnson, from the July 7, 1901, issue of the Cincinnati Enquirer

“For a man who had been a controlling spirit in huge enterprises from the Mississippi to the Atlantic, and who for years had been prominent in that most public of industries, street railway operation, Albert L. Johnson was not widely known. That is, as a man. His name, his power as an organizer and his daring as a promoter were familiar to all who follow the course of events in the financial world and the ever-present problem of local transportation. But the man himself was not really a public character.

“Yet his personality was at least as interesting as that of many men who are pictured and described from day to day. He accomplished many things in his thirty-nine years of life, things worth while, whether from his own standpoint or that of the public. His original capital, too, was no greater than that of others whose rapid rise to wealth has furnished texts. It consisted of poverty, determination and daring.

“In many phases he was personally a type of the modern American, keen, aggressive and self-confident in business, tireless as a worker, and delighting in recreation where muscle ruled. Sometimes, when his superabundant energy demanded an outlet, he would choose an unusual form of exercise. Several times, when he was general manager of street railways in Cleveland, he spent the night clearing the tracks of snow. After a heavy fall, this was not a task for a weak man. The snow plows were huge machines, drawn by teams of eighteen horses. In the midst of a whirling blizzard, Johnson would take charge of one of the big plows and, holding the reins himself, would drive the team at furious pace through the silent streets, finding the keenest joy in battling with the cold and the driving snow and guiding the plunging animals.

“His liking for this strange amusement was doubtless due in part to his love of horses. He was never so satisfied as when driving a spirited team, and in this he followed the bend of his Kentucky forebears. His skill was extraordinary, too, for there was not a man in the country, perhaps, who could handle a four-in-hand with such deftness and skirt danger so closely without mishap.

“From his boyhood, Al Johnson was associated with his brother, Tom L., now mayor of Cleveland, who was ten years his senior. They were Kentucky-bred boys, sons of a Confederate officer who lost all his property in the Civil War. Their first venture in street railways was in running a line in Covington. They had three or four battered cars, a few mules and infinite patience. Al Johnson was driver and conductor combined of one of the cars, but assisted also in the management of the company.

“When Tom Johnson took hold of the street railway business of Indianapolis his brother, Al, joined him. He started in as a conductor, though a stockholder in the road. This double position made him one of the most faithful employees of the company. He rose from the ranks, however, and at twenty-two was general manager.

“It was in 1883 that the Johnsons entered Cleveland and began the long fight against entrenched rivals, which ended in victory. They bought the Brooklyn road, a one-horse line of bobtail cars, which started out in the suburbs and ended nowhere in particular. All the other lines on the west side of the city were controlled by Mark Hanna; those on the east by Dr. Everett. These magnates laughed at the puny beginnings of the Johnsons. They continued to charge fifteen cents for a ride from one side of the city to the other.

“But gradually the Johnsons began to reach out. They offered to pave Scovill avenue if the city would allow them to lay tracks on it. The city consented, and three and a half miles were added to the line. Then they began a fight to cross the viaduct, where Hanna had sole rights. Al Johnson was the leader in this assault and, after patient work, he succeeded in having an ordinance passed making the viaduct free.

“But there was still a strip of a mile separating the Scovill avenue line from the Brooklyn line, and Al Johnson set about getting it. It took him four years, but he never ceased work until he succeeded. He had been elected an alderman in the meantime, and had great influence with young men in politics. Having maneuvered so that the mayor and his rivals were out of town, he laid the tracks at night, and his rivals failed to dislodge him.

“Once it was completed, the Johnson line began to do business with the people. One fare was made the rate for any distance over the line, and it was not long before the Hanna-Everett companies had to meet the rate. Now one many ride fifteen miles in Cleveland for five cents.”

On Wednesday, I flew to western Michigan to photograph the carriages in this lovely carriage house (on the left); two sweet Morgan mares and a cute pony live in the barn on the right …
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As soon as I’ve downloaded and edited them all, some of the photos I took will appear in an upcoming issue of The Carriage Journal. Others will probably appear here on the blog, so stay tuned.

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To see a few off-topic-for-this-blog photos from my quick trip, head on over to my other blog: Sunlight on Stuff.

The morning after we last checked in with him, Mr. Johnson was on his way again.

“Bovine station I left early on the morning of the 17th, for Terrace. It was a dark, cloudy morning, looking as though it would rain at any moment, and should it rain there was no place for shelter. I said to myself, the next station in eleven miles; I must make it, rain or no rain. At half-past five I moved on, and at half-past six I heard thunder; it was dark, too dark for that time in the morning, so I crowded along as fast as possible; remember, it is all walk. Again I heard thunder and kept talking to my horse, saying, ‘Go on, Fanny.’ I was sure we were going to have something terrible; it was something new to have rain, I had seen nothing like it. To my right I could see a long distance, many miles; so flat was the surface. After having made about five miles, I saw to my right a very dark cloud, a black cloud. Thunder and lightning were more frequent and such streaks of lightning and thunder I never before witnessed. I stopped and made things on my wagon as fast as I could, put on my rubber coat, and went as fast as I could. Every streak of lightning went to the ground, the thunder was terrible. It seemed to me as if it had got out of patience with the lightning and was bound to smash things generally. The rain came but it was of short duration; then followed hail, as large as hen’s eggs and it fell with great force, striking on the head of the horse. I stepped back to the wagon, pulled out a sack and threw it over the horse’s head. Here I stopped for the storm to pass over. The cloud passed on and left behind it hailstones to the depth of four or six inches. This made it fine traveling on alkalic soil. I had about six miles to go, so we went on. It took me three hours to travel that distance, less than two miles to the hour. On my arrival in Terrace, I was informed that it was the severest storm ever known there.”

Continued from yesterday …

“‘Stranger, I hope you will. If you do succeed, just make a book of your journey.’ ‘I will, and you may get hold of one of them.’ ‘I should like to meet you somewhere down East; I would give more to see you in that Barnum’s big show.’ ‘Well, friend, I must be going on, I have got to tramp every day, and make big days at that before I reach the eastern states.’ ‘Well, stranger, I hope you will get safely through; goodbye.’

“It was about seven o’clock when I left him; I kept the railroad on my left. At eleven o’clock, I came to another station, called Brown’s Station. I made but a short stop at this place, just long enough to water and feed. This is a telegraph station; only two buildings, the depot, and a house. At half-past twelve I left and journeyed with the railroad on my left, and as I travel the desert is left behind me, my course now lying through Humboldt valley, the river of that name being on my right. I intended to reach Lovelock’s, but my trail led me so far to the right that I was obliged to return to the railroad, so made Granite Point instead. This station is nothing but a house for the boss of repairs and a shanty for his Chinamen.

“I took the horse from the carriage and fastened her as usual, with the cow opposite. After feeding, I made my bed and laid down, being only disturbed that night by a passing train.”

Continued from yesterday …

Mr. Johnson “left Mirage very early on the 27th [of August 1882] and made Granite Point that day, a distance of twenty-eight miles. It was one of the finest mornings I ever saw, and my road was a good one and I journeyed with good cheer. About half-past six o’clock I saw smoke in our front, and spoke to my horse, saying ‘Fannie, go on, we will soon have breakfast.’

“We shortly came to a station called White Plains. Here was a good house not painted brown like others, but white; there were several men around and as I came up bade them good morning. One of the men answered, ‘Where in hell are you from, and where are you going; you must have come from the East some time?’ ‘Yes, I came from the East.’ ‘But where are you now from?’ ‘I am from California and going East.’ ‘Yes, I know you are traveling East, but where do you intend to haul up?’ ‘In Massachusetts.’ ‘The devil you are, with that outfit; that cow will never see Massachusetts.’

“[I replied,] ‘But where are you from, and what are you doing with that derrick?’ I asked. ‘I am from New York and came here to make an artesian well,’ was answered. ‘I want a pail so that I can milk my cow; you can have the milk. By the way, I don’t suppose that you have any hay that I can get for my cattle?’ ‘Yes, I have some hay, you can have some of it for your cattle. Perhaps they would not eat it, but we will try them.’

“The hay was placed before them and they seemed to relish it very much from the greediness with which they ate it. I got a pail and milked the cow and giving it to the stranger, said ‘Will this pay for the hay?’ He answered, ‘Yes, and more; go into the house and get some breakfast.’ So I partook of breakfast with him. ‘How far have you come this morning?’ he asked. ‘From Mirage,’ I answered. ‘How far did you travel yesterday?’ ‘From Wadsworth, about twenty-five miles.’ ‘Now, stranger, you say you belong in Massachusetts and going home. Do you honestly think you can made that distance with that cow?’ ‘I do. Why not? You see, she has iron shoes* on her feet, and I think she will stand the journey as well as the horse. She has nothing to do but walk; I think she will make the journey.”

To be continued …

* To see a photos of iron shoes for, and the shoeing of, cattle, click here.

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