Patrick Higgins, On Guard At Harpers Ferry Bridge, Was Shot By John Brown When The Abolitionists’ Raid Occurred.
JUST as the roll of a drum quickens the step of the old soldiers and rekindles within them the patriotism responsible for deeds which have been written into the history of nations, so the shrill blast of the whistle fires the hearts of the pioneers when there were only a few locomotives snorting around in the world.
A few days ago, a call was sounded to the veteran employees of the Baltimore and Ohio inviting them in the name of the management to take part in a reunion at Berkeley Springs, W. Va., where, in the cool shade of the mountains through which they ran in bygone days, they could live again through the times which meant so much to America’s first big railroad.
The reunion was unique. Those who attended form an intimate association between the past and the present, for their recollections go back beyond the days of the Civil War and their reminiscences comprise much of the unwritten narrative of those exciting times. They were in the thick of it, for both Federals and Confederates fought for possession of the railroads and many a battle was fought in and along the cuts and embankments in Northern Virginia and Maryland.
THREE GENERATIONS THERE. Many of the veterans were accompanied by grandchildren who, having laid aside their railroad work for the day, were interested listeners to the reminiscenees of the elder members of the family, for in some cases three generations have furnished men to the road. The invitation to the old guard was unconfined and they were there in the faded uniforms of trainmen who ran the diminutive equipment of the past and they came from every section of the Baltimore and Ohio lines.
Some of those who attended the reunion had not met since the Civil War, so they lived again the days when trains were operating by military orders and their schedules called for their “proceeding unless molested.”
In the days preceding the war railroad extension was at a standstill for a time on account of financial conditions in the country. The Baltimore and Ohio had been built from Baltimore to Cumberland and work was suspended. Development in the territory served by the railroad continued by leaps and bounds and it was decided to push the paths of steel on westward.
When this was undertaken the Golloways, Higginses, Engles, Smiths, McGowens and others at the reunion were young men just entering railroad service, many of them following the footsteps of their parents. Their fathers had built the railroad and run the little engines and cars that are hauled on wagons in these times as objects of curiosity; and evidence of the development of the railroad is offered by the fact that the engines run today by the grandsons of those now on the Baltimore and Ohio’s roll of honor weigh as much as the entire train which their ancestors operated.
ONCE HAULED BY HORSES. It was fitting that the first annual reunion of the old guard of the Baltimore and Ohio was attended by Charles W. Galloway, general manager, the third generation of the family which has worked for the company and the grandson of the road’s first horse-driver before the locomotive was used, and its first engineer as well. Do you know that for years the Baltimore and Ohio cars were hauled by horses? William Galloway drove the horse in the famous race between the horse and locomotive and John R. Smith, grandfather of the general manager on his mother’s side, was in charge of the engine.
The old railroad men from Baltimore were taken to Berkeley Springs on a special train, accompanied by their general manager and members of their families. Mr. Galloway told the nestors in his address that he would tell them about the Baltimore and Ohio as it has been developed since they discounted active service and then he wanted to learn how they had handled its traffic during times gone by.
THOSE IN THE GROUP. The photograph made at the reunion shows a group of the veterans of 40 years and more service, with General Manager Galloway (32 years) in the centre. The front row, reading from left to right, follows: George H. Keedy, 47 years; W. G. Edwards, 44 years; George T. Colenburg, 45 years; W. H. Plush, 48 years; G. R. Kendall, 50 years an engineer; John Ed. Spurrier, 51 years, assistant to general manager; W. H. C. House, 44 years; L. C. McCahn, 46 years; William McDade, 41 years an engineer; Z. T. Brantner, 52 years, superintendent of shops and president of the veterans’ association; R. M. McGowan, 45 years; J. H. Peer, 47 years; William J. Everheart, 42 years; William T. Holmes, Sr., 45 years; J. R. Shipley, 45 years; M. L. Sharon, 44 years; J. W. Meyers, 42 years; W. J. Lavelle, 42 years. Others in the picture are W. A. Burkhart, 41 years; Daniel McGinnis, 45 years; J. W. Barker, 47 years; Lindsay Van Horn, 42 years; C. A. Thompson, 40 years; Abner T. Engles, 52 years; J. W. Solbach, 44 years; A. McKeever, 42 years; and H. C. Elder, 42 years.
NERVY ABNER ENGLES. It took one back to the early days of F. Hopkinson Smith and his “Adventures of Oliver Horn” to hear the experiences of Abner Engles, one of the nerviest men who ever cracked a throt earned the sobriquet “The man who earned the sobriquet”, “The man who saved Annapolis.” “Uncle Ab” was bedecked with the jewel presented him by the company in recognition of his 50 years in the cab. Just as the special left Baltimore the locomotive whistle sounded and the old engineer leaned out to watch the signals. That set him in the midst of the early days when no such safeguards as automatic signals were provided for the traveling public. The engineer’s rules were for him to run by schedule and pass trains at meeting points, allowing five minutes for a variation in the watches.
John Ed. Spurrier enjoys the distinction of being the oldest railroad official in point of service in the country. Mr. Spurrier began his work on the Baltimore and Ohio in 1864, when the road was torn up by the contending armies and when it was worth a man’s life to stick his head out the engine cab to see that the tracks were clear. The old “camelback” engines were in use when Mr. Spurrier became a fireman and during the time that he dispatched trains and filled other official positions in his earlier career trainmen in freight service had no shelter from the weather, while passengers kept themselves warm by means of wood and coal stoves and read the weekly newspapers by tallow dips.
Identified with the stirring times which preceded the Civil War, Patrick Higgins, of Harpers Ferry, is one of the most interesting railroad men in America and he has to his credit in the Veterans’ Association of the Baltimore and Ohio 58 years of service.
Patrick Higgins was an intimate friend of John Brown. They boarded in the same house previous to the attack upon the arsenal and the insurrection at Harpers Ferry. Mr. Higgins was the watchman over which John Brown and his followers crossed from the Maryland side on the night of the famous riot. In the clash that ensued when the insurrectionists attempted to take possession of the bridge, Mr. Higgins was shot by John Brown and therefore shed the first blood in the struggle which led directly to the Civil War. These warm summer days find Patrick Higgins sitting in the shade of the mountain bluffs at Harpers Ferry, where he entertains tourists with his experience in the days when all was not quiet along the Potomac and when John Brown, prospector, miner and abolitionist, was inciting rebellion among the slaves.
CAPTURED BY CONFEDERATES. Other reminiscences recited at the Berkeley Springs reunion were of absorbing interest, particularly the experience of the old fireman who was on one of the engines captured by the Confederates and taken South to be used to move troops and supplies over other lines. The fireman of the old engine, which the Confederates named the “Lady Davis,” was relieved of his timepiece and currency before being ordered to surrender his charge.
The Veterans’ Association of the Baltimore and Ohio was organized about a year ago and in its membership are 4,000 employees who have been in the service of the company for 20 years or more.
B. AND O. WAS FIRST “HAY-BURNER” ROAD. THE history of railway construction and operation in the country offers many curious and interesting details, says the Washington Star. Among these none is more curious than that pertaining to a line which was operated between Marshall, Texas, and Shreveport, La., during the Civil War. The owner of this road made money, and he eventually sold it to the Texas and Pacific Company.
This owner’s name was John Higginson. He had many titles— chairman of the board, president, vice-president, superintendent, trainmaster, roadmaster, freight and passenger agent, fireman, conductor and master mechanic. His road was known as the Memphis, El Paso and Pacific and was 40 miles in length. On leaving Marshall there was a long grade, to say nothing of the grades elsewhere on the line. During the war the soldiers “took” the greater part of the rolling stock, leaving but three box cars. These box cars represented the rolling stock of the system until it passed into other hands. The motive power was of the best in those days and consisted of several yokes of oxen, commonly known as “hay-burners.” The oxen were, it is said, generally on time.
Mr. Higginson’s train was operated on the tri-weekly plan. When a “cargo” was gathered up and everything ready for the trip, the oxen were loaded into the first box car in the train. The next car was loaded with freight and passengers and the third was occupied by the “management”. The cars were started down the steep grade out of Marshall and, after rolling as far as they would, the brakes were set, the oxen unloaded, and hitched to the coupling of the car. The brakes were released and the train started up the grade until the top was reached, when the oxen were again loaded into their car and another start was made down hill. This operation was repeated until Shreveport was reached. On a level the oxen pulled the train, but on down grades the sole power was the natural momentum of the rolling stock.
This, however, was not the first “hay-burning” railway in the United States. That honor belongs to the Baltimore and Ohio, which at one time employed horses to haul freight and passenger trains over the first 15 miles of track constructed.
On the Marshall and Shreveport line the passenger rate was 25 cents a person. Freight charges were anything the owner could get. Since there was no competition, Mr. Higginson made considerable money. All freight was marked “red ball” and handled as soon as received and the train made up.
No evidence analysis information has been cataloged for this piece of evidence yet.