Now the grammar is bad but, I deiced not to change anything, oh I could fix the grammar, but I felt it would be taking something from the story. I know she put in a lot of hard work on his story, and I just feel that by changing the errors the story would not be or read the same, for this reason his story stands on it’s own.
By and about.
Luther Rudolph Tillotson.
In 1905, I was a instrument man in Nevada on a railroad maintenance survey party. The railroad was named the Tonopah, extending from Hazen via a switchback at Tonopah and terminating at Goldfield through the heart of the gold boom region. Twenty-eight miles south of Hazen was Churchill Junction where the Tonopah met the Virginia and Truckee Railroad of Comstock Lode fame. Beside the tracks at this junction there stood the adobe ruins of Fort Churchill where the first trans-continental telegraph crews held their historic East-West meeting under soldier guard.
The road was standard gauge from Hazen To Tonopah, with the added attraction oh three rails for nine miles from Mina to Mina Junction to accommodate the narrow gauge with terminals at Mina, a freight division point, and Keeler, California. At the junction the standard gage turned eastward. The one hundred and six miles of narrow gauge had a telegraph station and an agent approximately every forty miles. Meeting and passing points were determined by smoke.
The narrow gauge train usually consisted of combination baggage and local freight car, and a long day coach with smoking compartment also serving as the caboose. Lighting was by coal-oil lamp, with sperm-oil candles for emergency. The engine was an old wood burner, modernized. The freight service was three times a week, as food for the gold region depended on the irrigated Owens River valley, through which the narrow gauge meandered.
I had heard the Mormon bullwhackers tell of the Mormon patch of burlap bagging with which they repaired their tools and harness, and also of the Montana patch of baling wire. I encountered the latter when the engine broke down on splitting the switch at Mina Junction. The hoghead called back to the conductor for a piece of baling wire. The conductor yelled that his kit held some barbed wire, which answered the purpose, and we were soon on our way.
In order to secure right-of-way through the Piute Indian reservation south of Hazen, the railroad agreed that the ordinary Indian could ride on the open coaches free. The chief was permitted to ride free on the cushions of the day coach. When we traveled the narrow gauge on our work, the chief was invariably riding from one squaw to another. Always he wanted me to write a letter for him.
Once when he was less drunk than usual, I agreed. We seated ourselves in the smoking compartment. He proceeded to cross his arms over a very considerable paunch, closed his eyes, and between snores, began to dictate to me a very crude love letter to a squaw, but in good English. He never vouched the reason for the advanced missive, and mailed it at the next station. Just as the chief closed with “Please excuse the bad writing,” I looked up to see two of the menbers of the party grinning in the doorway. They had beenn there through the dictation and it was weeks before their ribbing died out about my writing abilities.
L. R. Tillotson.
July 1, 1902, he went to work for the AT & SF. railroad, in the blueprint room under John Dailey. He took the position with the understanding he would eventually go out on surveys.
Just before April 1, 1903, dad was notified to report to F. Meredith Jones at Llano, New Mex. A pass was issued for him on the Rock Island rail road to Santa Rosa; he had to pay his way from there to Llano ( now Espris ). The position was rear chainman of a survey party at $30, a month and found; in others words, all expenses plus a $30, monthly allowance. They were put up in tents but had to furnish their own bedding.
When he was put off the Rock Island train it was blowing sand and dust. He was put off at telegrapher’s place. The telegrapher was a man named Crew. All he had was a cot and a board with the telegrapher’s key. His clothes just hung around the wall. Crew told dad to go along track and he would find a section house. When he found it the place seemed deserted, but a man was batching there while his wife and boys had gone back home to Leavenworth. Dad and his companion lighted an oil lamp and crawled into bed. The companion was Ed Frank. Early in the morning they heard a knock at the door. Dad opened it and there stood a cowpuncher. He proved to be F. Meredith Jones. The party was still three days out but they would meet at the section house. The county was hilly desert. Ed Frank was a rod-man in the same party dad was to join.
They got up on the morning of the day third, ate breakfast and started walking to the top of Llano summit, a big hill. Dad saw his first mountains from there, the Pedernales. They were beautiful and golden with the sun on them. They reached the top of the peak where the survey would start, sat down and watched the dust of the party coming while F. M. Jones went to meet them. The party got in, hobbled the horses and mules and it was time to eat. They set up a windbreak of tent and heated up some stuff, stew and ancient bread. The instrument man of the party was a man named Williams, later retired as chief engineer of the Western Pacific, _____transit man. They set up camp while Williams and Jones hunted for section corners to start survey.
Next morning the stock had gone for home, with nobody having heard them. Am Indian pony a stub, had been trained to trot after wagon eating instead of being hitched. He had nipped at the other horses to start them off with him, back to Belen’s, a hot rotten place in the river bottom below Albuquerque. Everyone hunted for them but it was too dusty to see them. Granddad had told dad the first thing was to look at the shoeing of the horses. Dad found shoe marks; too dusty to see animals. One of the teamsters got a mount, found the horses by following the trail and drove them back.
Final location on which AT. & SF., built. The survey paralleled the Rock Island about three miles following Llano ridge and went about four miles east then. A new foreman named Martin Tobin showed up. Arthur Lagron, the first boss, had been born and educated in France. He had been sent over by a France stockholders syndicate to locate a couple of roads that ran out of Peoria, one branch having been taken on by the AT. & SF. He had made preliminary location and construction work but, a man of considerable means, had been retired in Peoria and came out on request of the At & SF. He was not happy and told F. M. Jones he would have to have relief. He paid his way back and Martin Tobin came out in answer to a wire.
Tobin went back to Llano summit and went east plotted a big fill. A man named Cunningham was topographer, did the drafting and was in charge of purchasing. They went east and dad drove the stake for the center of the depot at the present town of Vaughn. That was the end of that survey.
Chief Locating Engineer, F. Meredith Jones.
Chief of party, Martin Tobin ( First was, Arthur Lagron ).
Topographer and draftsman, Cunningham.
Teamsters, Carson, Zeno, Tilden Gilman ( A barfly picked up in Belen by Williams).
The teamsters reported to Cunningham.
Instrumentman, Williams, Transitman.
Head chainman, Shipman Lane.
Rear chainman, Tillotson.
Man to drive and carry stakes and axe-man, John Hand.
Level-man, George Wilhelm
Rod-man, Ed Frank.
Teamster Zeno, while Lagron is chief, Jones went to telegrapher’s office and there was a telegram from Zeno’s father telling him to send Zeno home because his mother was worried. Zeno had a pretty sister and a swell home with brass beds. He had come out to see the west and was a teamster, something he know about because he had learned from Becker at Belen. Zeno’s father was the biggest manufacturer of householed electrical equipment. He had been backed originally by Standard Oil to make gas fixtures. At the time ( 1903 ), he was making combination gas and electric lighting fixtures. Jones issued pass.
Water commenced to get scarce. The head teamster had to act as guide. He didn’t find any water. Dad took off. They stopped at Llano ranch, the headquarters for a Mexican ranch outfit, called it El Rancho Leon. A man came out and said he had 60,000, head coming and would hardly have water for them so couldn’t do anything for the party and didn’t know if anyone else could help either for drinking or stock water. He left and out came his wife. She said to follow the trail and wind along until they saw a little mesa ( Mesas were lava with a little earth and a few pines on top.)
They would find a house which would be abandoned and they could see from there a well. They went on. She said she would have drinking water when they came back. The well had a windlass with a barrel sawed in two and attached to a rope. They got up a barrel and a half of stock water. They still had an empty barrel. The woman had left at the gate one-half barrel of rain water. They helped themselves liberally and backtracked. These people had know the author of ( Black Beauty ). One of their horses was ( Black Beauty ), and the author had got his notes at their ranch. The big ranchers then were Portuguee or Spanish. This woman’s sons were then in Lisbon to be educated. The place where they got water was El Rancho Leoncito.
They went back to join party but had moved to a canyon where a windmill was located. Dad followed trail. Made an awful long drive. Jones was there when they got there, he said if they couldn’t do better for water they would have to make a 250-mile trek and teamster Carson would guide them. Carson was half Mexican.
Worked south of line again next morning. When they got in the darky cook from Albuquerque was gone. He was old, a strapping fellow, and had the job because they didn’t retire in those days. At noon a couple of cowhands had showed up. They all carried guns then. The cook was outside peeling potatoes. They had come to get something to eat and the code in that time was to give it to them. The cook said they would have to see the boss. They pulled their guns and said they were boss and they got fed. Jones came in and took cook to station at Leon and put him on a freight.
They went about a week without a cook and dad helped out with the meals. Jones finally brought one from Santa Rosa. He said he was much of a cook but thought he would do. He had some food and baked a canned apple pie. There was always plenty of tomato juice. They brought #10, cans of tomatoes, drank the juice and cook the tomatoes. Dad learned to make Mulligan stew when he helped cook ( learned out of his inner conscious ).
Shipman Lane was head chainman. He was tall, rawboned. He had been to high school, never out of San Francisco. He had complained about food of the new cook. There was one gong ( pound on skillet ) to get up. Same when breakfast ready. One gong but Shipman didn’t get up, even with Ed Frank’s prodding.
( 4 )
Equipment-three wagons and a buckboard, an Indian pony and bronco for the buckboard, one team mules, two teams horses, one extra team.
Eating-big pans and skillets, #10 cans tomatoes, canned cherries and peaches, cabbage ( fresh big hard heads ), corned beef, fat bacon, ham, eggs bought by the case, Mexican beans, flour, sugar, coffee, condensed milk, fresh beef tougher then a boot. Usually put cabbage with beef. Coffee three times a day. Can of coffee, bread and meat ( Usually bacon) sent out on line. Cook beef around the clock. Fresh ( Tough ) rabbit sometimes to cook with beef. Rarely got wood; occasional busted railroad ties.
Near Logan ( first started in sinkhole country)-dug up yucca cut off top, cut with axe as low as could in the ground, pounded out on stone early Sunday before breakfast. Let dry all morning. After dinner get water hot in powder cans and wash hair and rest of self in washtub.
Not many antelope seen. Trading post man at Nara Visa said quite a heard north. Dad borrowed single shot shotgun. About a mile to rim of large bowl open on east end. Dad dropped down flat but antelope gone. Too sudden to have gun loaded. Trading post man estimated over 1,000, antelope in heard. Quite a sight running in dust.
Tobin was a Catholic. He and Williams always fussing. Tobin ( he had come back off ridge ) said to Williams to have men follow him to top of ridge and Tobin would wave arms when okay. The did. The thought Tobin waved but it was an antelope. Tobin said he was through. He was furious. Jones back in camp about this cook business, seeing how new cook getting along. Tobin said he quit. Jones wrote him a pass on Rock Island and Williams took over as chief.
Getting out of water and had to make 250-mile trek. In this camp dad told Carson they would want to get coyote pelts to get out on the ground with. Tents got so cold. Next morning Carson called dad and dad called shipman Lane and Ed Frank. Dad had borrowed gun, a single shot shot-gun and got it out from under bunk, flipped it to see if it was loaded. Lane ( Looked ) down his and pulled both barrels ( still so sleepy ). Ed Frank quite precise and had slicker folded over bed, shoes in certain spot ( big high top shoes ). Jones had made him send back fancy stuff at Llano. Lane ruined Frank’s slicker and one slug went through both sides of shoes. Frank just had to get along with his stuff until they got to a trading post.
Wound up at Santa Rosa, a division point of the AT. & SF. Dad head of party scouting trail. Dad saw Mexican come out of house and dip in spring on the edge of the mesa ( ____down into Pecos river valley ). Dad drank out of it. Smelled to high heaven, sulfur and alkali. Dad went down to ____along trail that crossed over Rock Island bridge. Everyone had hoped they would get ice at Santa Rosa but they didn’t have any. Along track dad found work train ( W. R. Stubbs construction train ). They had been putting in extra yard facilities at Santa Rosa. Dad got there before they put their cold beer away in car. They sold dad a bottle of beer for 20 cents ( cheap in those days ). Dad went back and made reports of stream. The train pulled out before the men got there.
In Duran they had got copy of Santa Rosa paper. On the front page it said “Seven young ladies pertaining to Scarlet Brigade are camped across the tracks.” Carson slept with “his cousin” that night. Drunk. Carson quit. Last of Carson. They followed trail out of Santa Rosa. They had tried to hire a Mexican guide but Carson had knocked him off wagon. He had to go back. Carson went back to his cousin.
They could see Rock Island track plainly. They followed trail beside it. They took turns driving wile rest sat back on bedding and played pitch. Dad driving by Montoya. They had seen it for miles upside down in the mirage. A little store at Montoya. What had looked like buildings were bid blocks of rock Island Ties. Store had once been home of Montoya family big folks in Spain. Regular mansion now crumbling. Montoya’s had put in good irrigation but ditches now full of sand. They kidded dad about his driving. He asked them in if they wanted anything in store. They said “Oh, if there was something.” So dad slapped the reins on the back end of the mules and turned them at right angles. They went at gallop right across ditch. Instruments in this, bedding and tenting. The ____in there because awful place to ride on wagon where no front springs and back about shot. Instruments and bedding tumbling around. They never said anything else for a long time about dad’s driving.
They went on from Montoya with a little water from section foreman. They got to Mount Tucumcari, a double mesa, a division point of Rock Island. A Rock Island branch called Roy branch to Roy mines ( Coal ). Good water up at Roy mines, 100 miles north (?). Brand new. At. & SF., maps didn’t show it. Neither did Rock Island. Following trail from Mt. Tucumcari to Roy, guiding by Mt. Tucumcari. Ran into brush and sand. Had to cut branches and lay on ground to help wagon. Here was gully; just stopped them. They could still see Tucumcari mountain. Had to camp there. Then turned around and went to Tucumcari. Got there at noon. Town marshal asked if they had any guns. Williams said yes. A week before there had been a shooting scrape by strangers. Williams said they would pull on out and he give his word they would put up guns in town.
Jones showed up and said they were to go on about 20, miles next day and tie onto Texas State line. Went to Nara Visa near state line. Trading post there run for benefit of Wolf ranch. Fellow showed up there named Scotty. Jones hired him as head teamster. Started backwards on little parallel on Rock Island under general supervision of Jones. Jones said to sleep at depot at Logan. Ate at Rankin place. Slept out in open to begin with. Got away from wind by sleeping on south end of depot platform. Twelve-inch planks ( 2x12 ) had been cupped by weather. During night rain came down went over roof and came back under them in cupped planks. They went inside about midnight, just bedded down when train whistled. Two fellows there with bicycles. One bought ticket and got out door. Other ran around on top of them, then ran out and agent had to go out and get his money from him. Held up train. Then they managed to get sleep.
Got up next morning and went back to Nara Visa. Cunningham a southerner used to hiring darkies in construction work on Mississippi River levees. Trading post at Nara Visa let them have a case of force and broken cases of vegetables and two cases of carnation cream, something yet fairly new on the market. ( Nara Visa a crossing point of Denver and Ft. Worth now called Colorado and Central and owned by Burlington ). They were expecting in cattle and he didn’t have things to spare. They went back to windmill with good water and had big old tin bowls and filled them. Filled bowls with force, put in milk and alkaline water. Each used a whole carton of force, bigger than big corn flakes cartons. Got it all down but dad couldn’t eat cereal for a long time.
Jones making preliminary stuff to parallel Rock Island from fence where they tied in and went clear across Texas to see if they would go. The party went back to tie in to Texas State line. Three-fourths mile west from Texas never had been surveyed. Trying to find section corners and had dickens of a time. Government had required Bell Ranch to replace corners but on stones had placed bell instead of government inscription. Jones brought letter to Lane from his brother who was an office engineer, some people were to go to California and dad sick because he was not on list.
Necessary to go load car half of it was stock, half the bedding. Three teamsters to go. When they got letter Scotty said to Jones he had to get money and buy partner some groceries. Scotty didn’t turn up till third morning. Jones lit into him. Scotty said they were out of groceries. Partner said they were short of meat so they just as well get a deer. They slept, heard rustling, he shot, deer took fence, stobs and wire and everything with them.
Dad took midnight train east. An old-fashioned train. In smoker turn two seats around face to face and sleep in them. Dad only had about fifty cents. Party had sent along big breakfast of sandwiches and stuff. Dad got letter about 1903, flood. D. C. had stood at foot of Western avenue and helped boats get in with people. Dad thought about all of Topeka covered. Boys exercised dad going back to flood district, but it was down when dad got back home. He wander around North Topeka. Party was to meet at Albuquerque to head west. They were making up two parties. Dad at Topeka in July 1903, D. C. wanted him to stay and go to school. No money. Dad returned to Albuquerque after about a week in Topeka. Dad stayed at cheapest place called Sturgis House. Dad had got paid in Topeka by AT&SF., Everybody happy since all got paid.
He went to California on coach. Met a Mrs. Capwell whose husband was resident engineer at Belen. Mrs. E. W. Grant and Mrs. Capwell were sisters. They later wrote his mother about their visit. Mary Grant ( Daughter of Mrs. Grant ) taught Latin at K. U., forever. Williams at Albuquerque wired J. J. Keyes who was chief engineer in charge of construction ( out there because of T. B. ) Eight days before Keyes answered.
They get away at midnight. Dad had $6, of his pay left. Keyes had four big residencies under him and he had been traveling, two east and two west. They were getting ready for track. They had been working days so hot. Dad gave Williams $5, and he kept $1. Cook had wanted 10-cent package of sweet caporal cigarettes. He said just before dad left on midnight train to come to back door of Alvarado kitchen. Dad had slipped and torn leg of new trousers. Dad went to cook who could sew it up and he did. He handed dad a great big sandwich. Dad went right to smoker where rest of boys were. A man asked him what that cost him-a fancy chicken and egg sandwich. Dad said it was in repayment for a favor. Man said he paid $2.50, for one. Cut a loaf lengthwise. Boy dumbfounded and dad didn’t offer to divide. Last he saw of cook. Cook with them ( Bar fly ) used to bum sandwiches for them. Not the cook of ( the ) sandwich.
Transfer at Daggett. Over to Hatch by ( Tehachapi? ) slow four per cent grades and tunnels. Landed at Bakersfield. See folks along way waiting for train to pass. No money to even gamble in pitch game. At Stockton a telegram from W. B. Storey who was supposed to meet Williams at AT&S F, offices in San Francisco. They were to go to San Francisco and pay way from there to get paid at Willits. They got to San Francisco but they didn’t have any money to go on to Willits. Williams went to hotel in San Francisco. They were floored they would be let in such a plush place. They said they had no money but it was only ____they had baggage. Boys out early looking for free lunches. Would meet at entrance to Monadnock building where AT&SF, officers were, a new building in those days. Boys all had checks there but dad. Got way paid up to Willits. Storey met them at train and unbent more then usual. Take bus up to Willits hotel but dad didn’t such a short distance.
New Mexico-Accuracy required of railroad surveys. They would try to find two section corners this crossed the railroad line. They would have to run a line from one section corner to other and chain line ( measure a line ) from the corner so they would be in an exact location of the line ( an exact tie ) so would hitch with government surveys. Distances between stakes depended on just how many takes you had with you, usually. Save stakes by pulling them up if line not acceptable. In New Mexico, owing to rarity of section corners, about every week they would determine true north from Polaris. You didn’t have a way of getting Direction from sunlight. Chained surveys with real chain, quite a knack to learn to throw the chain. Learned to throw the steel tape in a lop for transportation purposes.
A Sunday chore was to undo tape and string it out and see how accurate it was with government steel tape. Learned to use a railroad chain that was 100 links to 100 feet. The old chain was a land measure chain and it was 66 feet long because it would fit with measurements of side of an acre. The prototype of present transit and level and steel tape and rod and poles for survey party was brought from England by Dixon for line.
Tents and cots for sleeping. Railroad furnished tents and cots and each furnished own bedding. Cook had tent to himself. Office tent used by chief of party, transit man and instrument man. It would have drafting board and what ever office equipment they had brought. Tent for teamster, and the feed they stocked was kept there if it rained. Usually a surplus they would have to store in there. One tent for everyone else. All big Tents.
Cooking arrangements-A stove. Carried some wood with them all the time plus coal ( the main heat ) they got from section houses. Tents had no warmth in them as a rule. Get warm in morning by getting a big old 5-gallon lard can, stuff paper in it at night. The fellow next tent flap would get up in shirt tail and bare feet, throw one tent flap back ( flaps tied shut during night ) and fasten it back. Usually let head teamster do that. Can just in the opening. Drop match in can and everyone would jump and dress fast as he could, teeth chattering. Coal oil stove not in fashion. Cook just used coal oil to get fire started in morning so his tent always had some burnt holes. He would holler “Fire.” but no one would pay any attention to him. He would scramble around to put out fire.
Granite-Were pans, common steel forks and knives since before days of aluminum ware. Cook had two big tubs for washing purposes so he could wash out clothes after a fashion.
Harness-If it was patch with burlap, was a Mormon patch. If patched with wire it was the Montana patch.
When he made some money he decided he would go back to Texas, see his folks and marry his childhood sweetheart. No railroads then. He went overland on foot and horse. Stayed just a spell in Texas, married girl and got hold of ancestors of these longhorns and razorbacks. He started to herd them back from Texas. That was in “84.” He missed Indian difficulties. He managed to herd to California. He kept them in remembrance of home.
Hardin had a son on the ranch who was always wandering around very well dressed. Sundays dad talked to him and learned lots about identification of trees, location of springs, etc. He had been born on the ranch. He wanted to go to ocean and learn ways of seamen. He did and finally bought boat for $90,000 and had captain’s license. He was doing alright in tramp steamer business. Tried to make a fortune running guns and ammunition to Russians at Vladivostok. He got caught at dock when the Japanese besieged. They took him to Japan for trail before a Japanese court, sentenced him to death by hanging but American ambassador interfered. He was finally got off by agreeing to go back and stay on old home place for ten years. That’s why he was running around through forests. He had read every book he could get his hands on. The U. S. marshal came by every two months to check to see if he was there. Left tanbark oak branches just there, dead.
In California surveying various preliminary and locations from Willits to ______There was another party north of them. The end of the line had recently been finished to Willits. A ruckus on between AT&SF, and Southern Pacific. Running a bunch of surveys from Tiburon clear up to _____bluffing each other.
First they run a preliminary line. They put a few stacks on---news to the level party to keep in line. The rodman’s duty is to step off distance in between. Then topographers take off on either side of the line to determine slope of the ground. Then they plat ( or plan? ) another preliminary line, or two or three, depending on how rough the ground is. The topographers put in contours. If they decide that one of the preliminaries is good enough, they retrace the line more accurately--like determining haw accurate the north is, resetting angles, etc. Mountain country around there terrible. Ran out innumerable surveys and make modification (?) so they would be different.
Jones daughter lives in Topeka--a Mrs. Chrysler. He had several boys. Jones maintained home with wife back in Santa Fe. She was Mexican and morose, didn’t go any place with him. Only child that favored him was one son who got really good education at K. U., a graduate, but was morose. This son committed suicide by jumping off bridge. Jones has specialized in math at Northwestern. First time dad knew he was friendly, Jones said to dad “If I had authority I would take you with me on my trip around the world.” He was accurate on estimates of lumber from a stand of timber. Jones was gone for a year on tour around the world. AT&SF sent him.
Last time dad saw him was in the summer of 1905, in Newton office working in the right-of-way sketches. Dad had back room, dirty walls that had been originally painted ____, window dirty in a kind of well. One little old carbon light with no shade hung from the ceiling. He came behind him just enough to shade his drawing. Dad thought it one of the boys but it was F. Meredith just grinning.
Jones had beautiful spencerian shaded handwriting. Jones said president had told him he would have to have a stenographer with typewritten work. Very few stenographers in those days. Dad said he knew of a girl who was doing that work for the office engineer but that Jones would want a man really with an engineering education.
Jones said he was in room No. 1, of the Harvey House. Had a private bath, walls decorated, beautiful drapes at the windows. There was a fellow, though, who had taken a business course in addition to graduating from K. S. A. C., so dad introduced him to Jones. Jones sitting there with maps and things spread out. Jones never a man to say a great deal. Not long till man was back from Jones’s office. Jones was then chief locating engineer for the system. Jones looked like a cowpuncher except he always wore real shoes except for hobnail boots in woods of California. Jones middle height, ______bowlegged, always had a squint _______eyes but never did wear glasses that dad knew of, always traveled light, had just one outfit at a time.
Luther Rudolph Tillotson would die of a heart attack on August 26, 1955.
Update January 3, 2011.
I received A nice letter from the Grandson of Mr. Tillotson, and he give some interesting insight into his Grand-fathers life.
My name is Charles R. Ragsdale. I am the grandson of L. R. Tillotson (as he was generally known, or just Luther).
I was born in Topeka, Kansas at Stormont-Vail Hospital. It sounds like my Aunt Mary Belle transcribed my grandfather's story, then typed it up. How this record came to escape the Tillotson Family I do not know. It may have come about after the death of my Aunt Mary Belle from cancer of the liver in 1966 in the same hospital I was born in. I am glad you got to read this memoir and that you appreciate it.
There are many other things of great interest that happened to my Grandfather. He was in the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906, was evacuated to the Presidio with the other civilians, and wrote home to his mother about it, describing the events of the earthquake and fire in considerable detail. I believe this record remains in the family. He also was Captain of A Company from Kansas (I believe) during World War I and nearly died on a wire-cutting expedition in the Battle of Belleau Wood. (He was spared by a heavy ground fog that morning.)
He later went on to become the Chief Engineer for the Kansas Highway Department (I believe) and later, when he had formed his own construction company, erected, among other things the huge (approximately) 400 ft. high smokestack near the Capitol Building that was torn down several years ago, but which had been a Topeka landmark for many years, visible from almost anywhere in Topeka.
He was educated at the University of Kansas and also Washburn University, in Civil Engineering and specialized in the design of bridges.
Despite the fact that I was only 5 years old when he died in 1955, I have very vivid memories of my Grandfather. He was a real sweet-heart of a person, although he could be "tough as nails" on the outside due to all of his travels in the West and his experiences in WWI. He was very "plain spoken", but also very gentlemanly and kind-hearted. I have many memories of riding on his shoulders, receiving pieces of cut agate polished by some friend of his from him. I own his gold pocket watch and a Navaho Indian blanket he purchased in 1905 out west, as well as other memorabilia. The blanket is actually believed to date back to about 1885, as it was about 20 years old, and used by the Navaho, at the time he bought it.
Charles R. Ragsdale.
Update March 13, 2011.
I received a letter to day from John Richmond, who is a other grand son of Mr. Tillotson. I found the letter and his comment very interesting, I believe others will too.
I have just posted to your blog re: my grandfather's tales of working as a surveyor, apprentice (if you will) engineer, et al. I spoke with my cousin, Charles Ragsdale, last night; it was the first time I had heard about these recorded comments. I *think*. We lived with my grandmother after Grandpa died in 1955. I heard many stories about my grandfather and his adventures, and knew that he had surveyed in the west and southwest, and that he had been in SF in 1906, for the great earthquake. I am astonished that the typed book appeared for sale. The only thing I can think of to explain it is that somehow, after my grandmother died, the book perhaps was thrown away. My mother, who died in 1967--two years after Grandmother T. died--was not a terribly sentimental woman. And yet, whether she or my aunt quickly took notes in shorthand and typed them up later, I think it would have been odd for my unsentimental mother to discard this bit of family history. VERY mysterious. And, alas, my mother has been dead for forty-four years, so I cannot ask her anything. My father--himself a historian, retired as State Archivist of KS, and later Assoc. Director of the KS. State Historical Society--is alive and well and living in Topeka, but I doubt that he would know about the document printed on your blog. Though I may have to call him to find out *what*, if anything, he knows.
This is truly remarkable. As they say in the language of cliches: I am blown away.
Kansan and proud of it! but now living in Illinois (and, in 58+ years, have lived in IL more than I have in KS, even though I was in Topeka from infancy to age 18, and off-and-on throughout college and grad
school after that) Son of Mary Belle Tillotson Richmond, 1921-1967.
I, too, am the grandson of Luther Tillotson, and the cousin of Charles Ragsdale, who has posted a response to Grandpa Tillotson's stories. It may be that my mother, Mary Belle (Tillotson) Richmond, 1921-1967, took notes in shorthand, then transcribed. As my mother was a stickler about grammar and spelling, I would guess that the stories were, indeed, scribbled in shorthand and later typed as written. I am amazed--just talked with my cousin last night--to learn of the notebook, written comments, et al. My father, mother, brother, and I lived with my Grandmother T. after Grandpa died in 1955; had we not moved in with Grandmother *and* paid rent, Grandmother would not have been able to keep the house that her husband designed and built for her/them in the 1920s. I heard many stories about my grandfather and his western adventures when I was living with my grandmother (1955 until her death in 1965).
I am thunderstruck--to use an old expression--that the notes would have been found in public, for sale. It is true that my mother was not a sentimental woman, and when my grandmother died, it's possible that Mother would have discarded various items that my aunt, my cousin Charles's mother, would have been horrified to see tossed. On the other hand, I have a series of letters that Mother wrote home to Topeka during the summer of 1944, when she was working for the Union Pacific RR, in Yermo, CA; she was a teacher, wanted to go to grad school (which she did--U. of WI-Madison, M.A. 1946), and was working that summer in order to a) make ends meet, and b) save for graduate school. So not all family documents were lost to memory.
This revelation of the recording of Grandpa Tillotson's adventures is astounding to me. I was only three years old when my grandfather died; we lived in Topeka, but I have no memories of him. My cousin, Charles, does. Anyway, this has made my day, as the tired cliche goes.
John Richmond, now living in Bartonville, IL, near Peoria
Son of Mary Belle (Tillotson) Richmond and R. W. Richmond.
March 13, 2011, I received other letter from John Richmond, which he give more insight into his grandfather life.
One of the stories connected with the S.F. earthquake is somewhat amusing, even under the circumstances. Grandpa was rooming with a woman and perhaps other boarders in a house. The woman became hysterical when the quake hit, gathering belongings together, wanting to escape the house, etc. She had filled up a bed sheet with something heavy, gathered it up like a very large bag, and asked Grandpa to carry it downstairs and out into the street. Which he did. When he got outside, he found in the sheet--flour! The woman, being frightened and having lost the kind of sense that can get lost (I went through a house fire once, and know how bizarre it can be, to lose one's head, so to speak), had taken all the flour she had and dumped it in a sheet. My grandfather was street commissioner in Topeka in the 1920s, as I recall. He was an active Democrat, even though my grandmother was a devout Republican.
He formed his own company, sometime after his term as street commissioner, and set himself up in business as a civil engineer. Unfortunately, an unscrupulous business partner--as my grandmother used to tell it, my grandfather was a bit too trusting, and could be naive, despite his many experiences in all sorts of places, from the still somewhat wild west to the trenches of World War One--and a flood on the Kansas River took what he had, both money and equipment. He had to take a relatively low-paying job with the State of KS--Highway Dept., as I believe--and never recovered money or confidence in himself. My grandparents were able to keep the house referenced in the document that you have, the house on MacVicar Avenue, only because of legislation that passed under FDR. (The only time Grandmother had anything good to say about a Democrat, I'm told. Though she mostly didn't speak of politics. When I was growing up in the 1950s, it literally was true that my brother and I were taught that one did not discuss publicly three things: religion, politics, and a woman's age. My own mother probably would be horrified by today's laxity in such matters and manners.)
Update May 29, 2013.
I received a nice letter from Laura Chappell.
Dear Mr. Segelquist,
I stumbled upon your entry about Luther Tillotson and his experiences on the railroad. Did you buy it at a garage sale in Topeka? I was just wondering because my grandmother, Margaret Tillotson, had done extensive research on the railroad and compiled a box full of Luther's journals and information and had planned on writing a book on his experiences. She was a noted Kansas needlework artist and wrote a two volume novel of the Tillotson family geneology. Before her death, she asked my aunt to use the research that she had gathered to write the book. (By the way, the notes that you mentioned were written by Margaret, not Mary Belle). She died in 2005 and my grandfather Herbert Ragsdale died in 2008, so my mom and aunt were stuck with the monstrous task for emptying their house in Topeka. I now believe my aunt unknowingly sold the contents of the box in her garage sale. I'm so glad that you are interested in the journal. Thank you so much for sharing it. I'm an aspiring writer and english major who is interested in writing the book that my grandmother had planned to write. Was there anything else along with the journal that you saw at the garage sale? I'd love to buy the journal (or any other information about Luther you got from her sale) from you, if you're willing to sell it. Your entry got me really interested in my great grandfather's life on the railroad and when I read your entry to my mom, she was surprised and mentioned the research her mother had done and that Margaret had asked my aunt to write the book for her. This led me to believe that you bought the book on Birchwood Ave in Topeka, KS in 2009, when they had finished clearing out my grandparent's house. I'm so glad that I found your blog and that you're interested in the life of a railroad worker too!