JUNE 29, 1875 – It has been nearly five months since I left my father's farm near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to make my own way and I must say that I do not regret my choice. The hours I spent in the past few years learning telegraphy from the operator at the railway station in Elm Grove have stood me in good stead. My skill was sufficient to get me a job as a telegraph operator with the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway in St. Paul.
I have had an opportunity to meet many young people of about my own age. Only yesterday several of us enjoyed an outing at Red Wing where we saw a very unusual boat race that proved expensive for all those in our party.
Oarsmen from Stillwater, Red Wing and St. Paul vied for honors. For many weeks conversation in the three towns had centered on the event and there has been much bragging about the abilities of the contestants. Wagering was quite substantial and I chose to risk $5.00 on the St. Paul team, captained by Norman Wright, the recognized champion single oarsman in all Minnesota.
In the first race, Mr. Wright was pitted against a John D. Fox, reputedly a Red Wing grocery clerk. It was apparent from the outset that the famed Mr. Wright was no match for the Red Wing oarsman. At one point, Mr. Fox actually stopped his shell and rested until Mr. Wright came into sight. Red Wing, led by Mr. Fox, also easily won the four-oared race.
The citizens of Red Wing collected a reported $50,000 from disgruntled residents of the other towns before it was revealed that Mr. Fox was not a grocery clerk. A minstrel show performer from Tennessee recognized him as Ellis Ward, most famous oarsman in all the world.
JUNE 28, 1876 – Word has reached here of the terrible tragedy which befell General George A. Custer and his cavalry regiment in an encounter with Sioux Indians, led by Chief Sitting Bull, at Little Big Horn, Montana.
Three days ago, General Custer, with 600 men, was sent in advance of the main body of troops pursuing Sitting Bull. Apparently believing he was attacking only a part of the Indian forces, General Custer divided his regiment and with 260 men attacked the Indian center. Instead of encountering 1,000 Indians as he had anticipated, he found himself surrounded by 5,000. The general and everyone of his 260 men were slain! This is indeed another dark blot on the record of the misguided redskins who insist upon combating civilization.
DECEMBER 15, 1876 – A custom instituted by our Railway many years ago and which I found delightful in the days of my boyhood, has been discontinued. The company has decided it no longer will name locomotives. Henceforth, each engine will bear only a number.
The Stephen Clement, our first six-wheeled locomotive, now becomes plain 199. And the Minnehaha, the D. A. Olin, the Nebraska, the Minneapolis and the L. B. Rock and all the others also lose their personal identity.
But I assume this move is but an indication of progress – that the Railway has outgrown an era of personalization to become a great industry. Recent newspaper reports from Milwaukee substantiate the above statement. The company now owns five elevators in the Wisconsin city, which are said to be capable of storing 3,000,000 bushels of wheat. I understand that our wharfs and grounds in Milwaukee, exclusive of buildings, are valued at $2,000,000.
But it is difficult for me to concentrate tonight on affairs of the Railway when there are personal feelings which seem to crowd other thoughts from my mind. They concern a most attractive young lady who waits upon the trade at "Mother's" restaurant. She is fair skinned, brown haired, and of excellent proportions. Twice now I have accompanied her to her rooming house when she was through working. And she has given me reason to believe that she found our walks together as pleasant as I did.
APRIL 28, 1877 – A strange scourge which caused wide-spread loss of crops has been eliminated from Minnesota by an Act of Providence. Several days ago, billions of grasshoppers, making a sound like a roaring wind, swept into every section of the State. They were so dense that some trains were delayed until the 'hoppers could be shoveled from the tracks. After their descent on a field it would seem to have been cut by a reaper of mammoth proportions.
As a result of this destruction, Governor John Pillsbury designated April 26th a statewide day of prayer for Divine aid in ridding the state of the scourge. My betrothed and I attended services in St. Paul. The governor himself closed his flour mills so that his workers would not be interrupted in their prayers.
In the wake of our prayers, the temperature last night fell to an unseasonably low degree. The grasshoppers all were frozen.
JUNE 19, 1877 – Father and I have had our first serious disagreement. If it was not for the fact that the issue involved means so much to me, I would give ground for the sake of harmony in the family.
In all of his letters of late, father has written strongly against my intended marriage. He argues that the life of a telegraph operator is hardly a stable one, inasmuch as I may be transferred to new frontiers at any moment. I have pointed out, of course, that he himself took a bride when Wisconsin was but a fledgling State. And that even though I should be moved on west after my marriage, my wife, who has successfully made her own way in St. Paul, would be quite capable of coping with any hardships we might encounter.
So for the first time in my life, I am going to act in opposition to my father's wishes. I am to be married tomorrow.
DECEMBER 23, 1877 – The Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul has fared well during the past year, even as have my wife and I since taking up residence in our newly built cottage.
President Mitchell recently made a public statement which sums up the position of the Railroad. He said: "It gives us pleasure to state that during the serious labor disturbances of last summer, the employees of this company, without exception, stood faithfully at their posts and discharged their duties without faltering."
There has been an unusually good wheat crop, reflected in our freight revenues, and the company also is attracting much new business from the lumber camps.
As for our personal life, all has been serene since my father and mother visited us a month ago. Both were quite enchanted with my wife, especially when they learned they will become grandparents sometime early next spring.