I tread lightly upon the surface of history. From time to time someone notices my prints and brings attention to what I've stepped upon. I then repeat all that they tell me by posting that knowledge within an explanation of my often pointless ramblings. After that, I take credit for it all. Lately, I've learned to refine this game. I've met some people that know stuff. I've met other people that know stuff but want to learn more. I put them together using myself as a conduit. As a conduit, I am privy to all questions and answers that pass by. Most of the time, just the questions are more than I know. When one of my experts answers the question, it is a real bonus. So, now you know, but you don't really know how much I really know or knew prior to knowing. Does it matter? I think not. Knowledge should be free. Knowledge makes you smarter. Knowledge will set you free. I know it's helped and freed me up a bit. Thank you questioners and answerers.
As acting conduit, here are some questions coming out of Kaplan and the answers headed back that way. If Kaplan had an acting historian, Donella would hold the title. She is driven. To find the name of the Southern Pacific station agent there, she just reviewed 6000 draft cards of the World War One era. Absorb that number. I know it sounds "wierd" (an inside joke) What it amounts to is something called "commitment", an historical word.
This page is just a look inside a few of her request and the answers she's gotten plus a little lagniappe at the bottom . I'm including this page in History Hunts because it applies to several rides I've taken following these southwest Louisiana Railroads. Actually, it is a lot easier doing it this way than trying to pry those old writes apart to insert this stuff which could seem a little out of place since none of the rest of the writes go into such detail. The guy that answers her first question does a dissertation, which is fine. The more the merrier. He also spouts credentials which I will leave out due to his desire to remain anonymous. I call him Double-O-L and he likes it.
OK, let me set the plot. Donella was wanting to know Kaplan's railroad history. She had found an ancient article in an old Abbeville newspaper, I think it was. It mentioned several railroads by their initials. RRI's [rail road initials] are maddening to me and the rest of the lay rail world community. It is all alphabet soup. The names are confusing enough.
The date is April, 1902.
Her question was this:
Back in 1901 and 1902....I find a KCS RR and a I&GN RR that were interested in running lines through Vermilion Parish. KCS was interested in connecting Leesville with Abbeville and I&GN wanted to establish a line from Houston to New Orleans that would parallel the existing one (at that time.) and they were interested in passing through Gueydan. The line would be called Houston Beaumont & New Orleans. My question is: Were these companies part of Southern Pacific in 1902?
No, neither the KCS nor the I&GN were part of SP, then or later.
The Kansas City Southern Railway Company was incorporated on March 19, 1900, and on April 1st it assumed control of the properties of the Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railroad after purchasing them in foreclosure. The KCP&G had been completed in 1897 between Kansas City and Port Arthur (through Leesville), and it included a branch from De Quincy to Lake Charles. [he adds his credentials which would reveal his true identity].... I've never heard of any KCS ambitions to build through Vermilion Parish. I'm not doubting the report, however. The KCS is one of the handful of major railways today.
The I&GN was the International and Great Northern Railroad Company, which had been formed in 1873 as a consolidation of the International Railroad Company and the Houston and Great Northern Railroad. From 1880 forward, the I&GN was controlled by the Jay Gould interests, which also controlled Missouri Pacific, Texas & Pacific, etc. Although it was a separate company there was great cooperation due to the same control. By 1901-1902, I&GN's main line ran from the Border at Laredo through San Antonio and Austin to Longview, where it connected with T&P, and through it to various other Gould lines into the Midwest. They made up a through route between Saint Louis and Mexico. There were also I&GN branches to Fort Worth, and to Houston and Galveston. After the Goulds were out of the picture, and through a complex set of 1924 and 1925 deals, Missouri Pacific acquired the I&GN. It was assimilated by Union Pacific with the rest of MP in 1982.
As of 1902, there were two existing rail routes between Houston and New Orleans. One was part of the Southern Pacific family. It ran from Houston, Liberty, Beaumont, Orange, Lake Charles, Jennings, Crowley, Lafayette, and Morgan City, to Algiers opposite New Orleans. This route west of Iowa Junction belongs to UP today, and east of Iowa Junction to BNSF. The other Houston-New Orleans route as of 1902 was the New Orleans, Texas & Mexico Railway, part of the Gulf Coast Lines (GCL). The route eastward from Houston was to Hardin and Beaumont, then via trackage rights over KCS to De Quincy, then east via Kinder, Eunice, Opelousas, Livonia, Port Allen, and a ferry to Baton Rouge, then via trackage rights over Yazoo & Mississippi Valley to New Orleans. This route belongs to UP today between Houston and Port Allen, having come into Missouri Pacific in the same 1924-1925 deal that acquired I&GN.
Any 1902 I&GM interest in building to New Orleans through Vermilion Parish would have been an effort by Gould to rival the existing SP and GCL routes.
ME: the fact that he knows all this is mind boggling. I'm not sure he ever answered her question, but it was impressive.
Here are two articles [I showed you the first, the second, though it is not complete, I'll show below] I came across regarding the rails. I originally wanted [to find]the article on the death of IH Lichenstien, father-in ]law to Abrom Kaplan founder of Kaplan..... I love to read all the other articles to find out what life was like back then. [Donella uses genealogy as a major tool in her research]
About the info your friend sent, it was perfect. I wanted to ask ... what lines did these companies have. With what he told me it makes more since. The article was from the Abbeville Meridional, dated April 19, 1902. Abrom Kaplan approached Southern Pacific the year before and must have sparked some interest with the other companies as the SP began their extension between Gueydan and Abbeville. I do know that as of March 1902, the location of Kaplan was not yet determined. Speculation from KCS and I&GN and from SF, must have put pressure on the SP and they in turn pressured Abrom Kaplan to get a location laid out for the town. In Kaplan's diary he mentioned that the railroad people gave him plenty of trouble.
Me: See what I mean? She asked a question, he responded, and she wrote back with what his answer meant to her. I would have never recognized anything OO-L said as making sense. She, obviously did and explained it as a real life situation, the founding of Kaplan. She further adds: You may have already seen this. It indicates the Iberia and Vermillion RR was completed to Abbeville in 1892.[yes I had and it is on Abbeville's wonderful Railroad Page]
The Southern Pacific's Louisiana and Western Midland Branch was completed to Gueydan in 1896. This is who the "Section Foreman", mentioned below, worked for.
ME: You have to know the pieces to put the puzzle together.
Now that your wires are all singed with railroad overload, we'll move on to her latest question. Please be seated.
I have just searched through 6,000 WWI draft registration cards, looking for the manager of the railroad depot in Kaplan. I found a young man who served as the porter. I found the card I am attaching. Can you explain what this occupation was? or is this the same as depot manager. I found another individual with that same occupation of "section manager" in Erath.
Is there any where that Mike may know of to find out who the depot managers were? Does the railroad keep old logs from all the depots?
[My Mom met] a Mr. Melancon, he told her he was born in Kaplan and that his father worked for [the railroad]. His mother operated a restaurant. His father died from dysentery after the 1927 flood. In time, his mother remarried another RR man. The first husband was a pumper and the 2nd was a machinist. I contacted him and he sent me this awesome photo. Maybe, Mike can explain exactly what this is. I am not sure if it is in Kaplan. Maybe, it was closer to Abbeville. He did say his stepfather worked around the area keeping the pumps operating properly. The other photo is of Mr. Melancon, (born 1927) with his guns, on a car between Abbeville and Kaplan. So I guess these photos are from the 30's.
PS: Did a "pumper" also put water into the train or just water into the tower/tank. Mr. Melancon told me he pumped the water into tank/tower. I assume the water was also used to keep the livestock in the stock pens from dehydrating! [There was a large corral next to the station in Kaplan. A gentleman told me that cattle were driven through town to the corral for shipping]
More: There are other men who are just listed as RR laborers, with no other title/description.
Me: Now the 2 neat photos. The amazing little car and the cowboy on the boxcar.
A railed Bat Car?
C. Alphonso de LaSalle asked whether Mr.Melancon was fighting of Indians or holding the train up.
Mike responded, adding even more lagniappe:
A section foreman was the supervisor of a track gang, and had responsibility for a defined 'section' of track, and all maintenance thereon. This was in the days before $5 million dollar track maintenance machines. All work was done by hand, from pulling spikes and ties, to laying new rail and ties. They did not do any work on bridges however. The section foreman was a fairly good job, and came with a nice house, and free coal oil for lanterns and coal for heat and cooking. Mr. Les Golmon was the section foreman for the stretch of T & P track from the south Alex yard limits to the LaMourie briidge. Mr Hanley Gremillion had the section from Lamourie to the east end of the Meeker siding, just past the Meeker mill. Both were super men, and treated their hands well.
ME: Since she had mentioned "laborers", Mike clarified that and then added another story:
Usually the station porter did the odd jobs around the depot/station. He swept up, kept wood/coal for the stoves supplied, helped with Railway Express or baggage as needed. Usually they were older men who could no longer work on the track gangs. Some even had a place to sleep at the depot, as they had no family. Palmetto had Smokey Joe, a gray headed old black man, who was a favorite of the railroaders because he always waved to them as they passed by. His funeral in the late '50's was attended by many who had had contact with him over the years. He lived in a room off the freight shed, and folks helped him fix it up nice.
Do you see how it all snowballs into a conglomerate of stories, recollections, the products of endless research and that old word "commitment". These people, all the above, are committed to keeping history alive. I stand in awe to their knowledge and their unending energy to continue its pursuit.
I almost forgot the train schedule that is in the Kaplan town museum on Cushing Ave.
"This is the schedule from Kaplan's newspaper, 1905, original under glass and my camera was having issues".
This is the second article she spoke of concerning the various railroads jockeying to connect with Kaplan.
Now, though not a question, it was one of those observed foot prints I was talking about earlier. I had been down to Burns Point and had mentioned that I'd had to wait for the train to pass. My old buddy Steve sent this reflecting on his relative who lives near the crossing. Yes, indeed. BTW, Mike and Steve are cousins. Is it a coincidence that they end up on the same page?
The article is by Jim Bradshaw of the Lafayette Advertiser. Mr.Bradshaw was a driving force in the creation of the wonderful Carencro High School Website that I have used to plan many a History Hunt.
There you go, even more questions.
You can find all the railroad articles on the front page of History Hunts.