Friday, October 14, 2011

The Coming of the Telegraph to Arkansas, by Edward C. Newton, 1919

[Edward C. Newton was born May 4, 1844, probably at New Madrid, Missouri. He died at Little Rock, Arkansas January 11, 1923. His brothers were also telegraphers, Jeremiah L. Newton (1846 - 1917) pounding the brass at Houston and San Antonio, Texas, and Charles Newton (1853 - 1901) at Frankfort, Kentucky. GMN]

The Coming of the Telegraph to Arkansas

by Edward C. Newton (from The Arkansas Gazette, Little Rock, November 20, 1919)

The most rapid means of communication, previous to the year 1860, between Little Rock and the outside world was by stage coaches and stern wheel steamboats plying between Little Rock and Memphis, the
former having the advantage in making a little faster time between these points. This stage line was operated by the firm of Hanger, Rapley & Gaines, and was equipped with large six-horse coaches which arrived and departed daily on a 24-hour schedule, which schedule, however, depended on the condition of the roads, rivers, and bayous. The stage coaches carried the United States mail and also as many passengers as could be accommodated, that is, nine on the three seats inside and two with the driver outside.

But in 1859 H. A. Montgomery of Memphis came to Little Rock and proceeded to organize the Arkansas Telegraph Company for the purpose of building a telegraph line between Little Rock and Memphis, with
Chas. P. Bertrand president, and James A. Henry secretary, both of Little Rock, and H. A. Montgomery superintendent. Some stock in this company was placed locally, but Mr. Montgomery retained a majority.
The railroad between Little Rock and Memphis was projected, but not constructed, and the Arkansas Telegraph Company had to find a way for its lines through the primeval forests and swamps, which, in many
instances, offered many obstacles not easily overcome. But the promoter was a forceful man of indefatigable energy, and as soon as it was possible to get the wire and material distributed by wagons along the route through the wilderness he proceeded with the work in the then primitive way of building telegraph lines. Brackets, designed to carry square glass insulators, were nailed to trees, and where there were no trees available, post-oak and cypress poles were used. The wire was of plain iron (not galvanized as now) of No. 9 gauge, and was placed in an open slot on receptacles in the top of the square glass insulator, which arrangement allowed it to slide back and forth through the insulator to prevent breakage of the wire by the swaying of the trees in high winds and storms.

The most difficult part of the route was through the forty miles of low country between the St. Francis river and Memphis. In some places the region was at that time almost impenetrable, and it was, besides, the habitat of every wild animal and reptile indigenous to Arkansas. I have heard Mr. Montgomery tell of his adventures in building the telegraph line in this region, which were both thrilling and laughable.

The wire, however, was finally erected and completed in the year 1860 with offices at Little Rock, Brownsville, Des Arc, Clarendon, Madison and Memphis. The office at Little Rock was located on the second floor of an old brick building on the northeast corner of East Markham and Scott streets, which had formerly been the residence of W. E. Woodruff, founder of the Gazette.

It was now demonstrated that a steamboat could announce its departure on the very day of its leaving Memphis, and orders for merchandise could be placed by telegraph for shipment by that boat and also a
telegram might be sent to New York and an answer received the same day. Furthermore, a telegraph news report, of perhaps 200 words, was appearing in the Gazette, which was considered both remarkable and
very enterprising on the part of the paper.

The building of this telegraph line was not only and event in the history of Arkansas, but greatly appreciated by the people, especially just at the inception of the Civil War.

The second telegraph line was built between Little Rock and Pine Bluff in1861 by the Pine Bluff Telegraph Co., which was organized at Pine Bluff by Snow & Ketchum, and which also had its office at Little Rock
in the old Woodruff Building. David O. Dodd, the young Confederate martyr, who had learned the rudiments of telegraphy, was the operator on that line in 1862 for a brief period. His knowledge of the telegraph alphabet proved his undoing, for he used it as a code in an attempt to conceal the information about the Federal forces he had obtained on a later visit to Little Rock, resulting in his capture and execution as a spy in 1864. This unfortunate boy, modest and unassuming in his manner and appearance, showed the qualities of a hero at his trial when, on an offer of clemency, he refused, even to the last minute on the scaffold, to disclose the name of the person who furnished the important military information found in his possession.

When the Confederate troops evacuated Little Rock in September, 1863, the Arkansas Telegraph Company, with which I was then associated, retreated also, saving as much wire and material as possible for the purpose of extending its line from Arkdelphia via Camden to Shreveport. The United States Military Telegraph controlled the wires running out of Little Rock during the occupation of the city by the Federal forces, which wires were returned to the companies six months after the close of the Civil War.

H. A. Montgomery, the pioneer of the telegraph in Arkansas, disposed of his telegraph interests to a larger company soon after the war. He became a prominent and wealthy citizen of Memphis. The celebrated
Montgomery Park was named for him. He died in that city and a life-like marble statue of heroic size was erected to his memory at his tomb, in Elmwood cemetery.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Christmas, Nineteen Fifteen, by Grace Cornell Newton. 1978

The first of which I have a fairly good memory was Christmas, 1915. All our Christmases were beautiful. The tree in all its majesty dominated the small apartment. The mingled smell of pine and wax, the glittering tinsel, the glass ornaments and balls, cornucopias filled with a kind of candy that seemed to belong to Christmas, the little candles in their spring holders with their tiny flickering lights -- all the greens and reds and golds almost hiding the branches right on down to the floor. The tree itself was Christmas. It appeared miraculously, not the day after Thanksgiving, but on Christmas morning. It never failed to overwhelm me when I awakened to see all the little candles lighted in the dark of early morning.

Even though I somehow realized that Mamma and Daddy were the ones who arose early and lit the candles with a big "kitchen match," Christmas was a miracle no matter that its trappings were wrought by human hands. It was not just THINGS, but a FEELING.

This was the Christmas that we kids all received play costumes, exactly the ones we each had "ordered." Sister [Elizabeth] wanted an Indian squaw dress, so that's what was in the box under the tree for her. The big brother [Willie] wanted to be a cowboy, so a cowboy suit was there for him. The little brother [Jerry] was more inclined to follow his sister's ideas, so he asked for and got a little Indian suit. All my hopes rested on being a policeman, and a very convincing one I became that Christmas morning. My outfit consisted of a navyblue suit with bras buttons on the coat and white piping on the mandarin-type collar and the cuffs, plus white stripes down the pant legs. Finally I wore a navy cap with a hard shiny black visor, and I carried a "billy club." Beaumont's finest would have envied me. I was even "mounted," on a tricycle. But, alas, my mount was soon stolen by that little Indian and I was forced to patrol my beat on foot.

I remember that the two big kids had skates, and many a crisp winter's evening just before dark I would stand by the side of the house beneath the kitchen window and dejectedly watch the skaters zoom down Calder Avenue with the little Indian in hot pursuit on my tricycle.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Fishing Trip and Nineteen Fifteen Hurricane, by Grace Cornell Newton

That September Saturday dawned clear and sunny. We had been invited to visit friends on their house-boat moored on the Beaumont side of the Neches River. Mrs. Borgerson, who had been Mamma's nurse when I was born, lived there with her husband and grown son and daughter.

In our go-to-town clothes, we walked straight down Calder to where it met Broadway, and then past Main to the Neches River. There was no free-way then, and the pine tree forest was still primitive and regal.

After arriving, we kids quickly took off our shoes and gathered on the wide porch or deck, from which we cast our string lines baited with pieces of bacon. I caught a crab and threw it back in. That was my first and only venture as an angler.

Then we got into the rowboat, with the picnic basket, and went to the opposite bank to have lunch under the trees. It took two trips to get us all across the river, and while the rest of the party was still in the boat, the sky grew leaden with "threatening" clouds and a wind was rising. The adults cast analytical glances at the sky and decided bad weather was brewing. So we rowed back to the house-boat and hurriedly ate our lunch in the big breezy kitchen. And soon took our departure.

We made it back to the apartment just ahead of the storm, about 1:30 P.M. Daddy called frantically to tell Mamma not to come to town to the movie as a severe storm warning was out. Of course, he wa unaware that we had been to the far reaches of Jefferson County only a short time earlier.

We stood at the "long" (floor-length) window excitedly watching the progress of the storm. Mr. and Mrs. Johnston, laughing like two kids and enjoying the strong breeze, stayed out on the porch until gusts of wind sent the wicker furniture skipping down the steps and blowing about the front yard.

Jerry [who would have been four years-old] says he remembers standing at the back door and watching the big rain drops plopping into the already flooded yard.

[Somewhere along the way, Grace's memories of this storm became mixed-up. As she was only six-years old at the time, she may have, over time, merged one memory into another. The only hurricane in September of 1915 made landfall on Wednesday the 29th, near New Orleans, Louisiana as a strong Category 3 hurricane. This storm would have been too far away to affect Beaumont very much, I think.

I suspect she was actually remembering the Galveston Hurricane of 1915, which made landfall just to the southwest of Galveston early in the day on Tuesday, August 17. Similar in strength to the 1900 Hurricane, the 1915 Galveston Hurricane was a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 135 mph. While property damage was substantial, there were only eleven deaths in Galveston, due to the recently completed seawall.]

Sunday, August 28, 2011

1914 - Grandma Gruetzmacher's Funeral by Wilben Long Newton

This is not so much a story, but rather unedited notes for a story. It is unknown to me if Uncle Willie ever transformed these disjointed notes into a 'story'. Comments by me (GMN) are in brackets.

1914 - Grandma Gruetzmacher's Funeral
by Wilben Long Newton

I remember a lot of aunts dresses in black with ditto veils when we went to Grandma's funeral, 1914 certain in my memory. I yield to 1907 for Grandpa, though I was always under the impression Mama said 1910. [Augusta Gruetzmacher died July 14, 1914. Her husband Paul Louis Gruetzmacher died December 2, 1905. Their son Paul died in 1909, which was probably the cause of the date confusion.]

Memories of Galveston 1914:

Aunt in black veil thrusting her face into mine. I asking, "Who're you?" Aunt: "I'm your Aunt Gussie." [Aunt Gussie would be Augusta Gruetzmacher (1880-1926?) who supposedly married a Bob Marquette and had two children. I haven't found anything about these folks.]

Someone taking me into the parlor on the night of our arrival and lifting me up to see the dead face of my grandmother. How shivery I felt! Afterward I kept being drawn toward the dimly lit parlor, but I never ventured over the threshold.

Morning after: Aunt Edith waiting with my pants and shirt for me to wake up and start having fun at Grandma's funeral. [Aunt Edith would be Mary Edith Gruetzmacher (1899-1974).]

Big barefoot kid of 14, Aunt Octavia, playing with us. She and Elizabeth had some kind of game wherein I was to be the captive, but I started crying and wouldn't play. [Aunt Octavia would be Octavia Elizabeth Gruetzmacher (1902-1958).]

To the beach late in the afternoon, Mama in a borrowed suit of Aunt Clara's, complete with tie-on head scarf. [Aunt Clara Gruetzmacher was the oldest child, (1878-1937), while "Mama" Matilda Elizabeth Gruetzmacher Newton (1879-1963) was the next oldest.]

Starting over, to the beach late of an afternoon, Mama in borrowed suit of Aunt Clara's, complete with tie-on head scarf and stockings (slippers yet!) Jerry bawling, afraid of the waves, Mama holding him and siting in one spot till the tide washed a hollow spot out. The rest of us paddling around. Elizabeth reported to Mama: Gracie's drowning. Mama yanked you up, saving your life.

Playing in the yard while the funeral was going on in the parlor. Seeing Grandma's casket borne down the front steps to the waiting hearse. Shivery feeling up backbone.

Memory of 1914: That cotton thing Ed had under glass. I remember it in the parlor at 1910 Ave. N in 1914. [Edward Gruetzmacher (1893-1900) had died soon after the Great Galveston Storm, of diptheria or scarlet fever, according to Grace. I wonder what that 'cotton thing' was? Perhaps a memento?]

Jerry drowned three chickens in a tub of water warming in the sun for wash day. He wanted them to swim. Also nipping a fig off a low branch with his teeth. This was considered by all the aunts as a great thing.

One lunch we had scrambled eggs and pork-beans, which I considerd singular, in that at home at 1009 Calder we always had meat for Daddy to cut up in little squares for us. Later we fell on evil days and sometimes had nothing, but then we always had meat, and it seemed strange that in Galveston there was none for anyone to cut up into small squares for me.

Big cat under table, Meetza. We had one named that in 1920 or thereabout, I recall.

Otto coming home for lunch, afterward lying on wicker couch with straw hat on waiting for time to go back to Pete Gengler's. [Peter Gengler's was a large wholesale grocer whose warehouse was located on The Strand.]

Otto waiting for time to hitch up and drive back to Gengler's, straw hat on, practicing sheet music, voice, "Get out and get under, get out and get under, get under the automobile." We kids scrambling and screeching around under foot until finally he said "You kids shut up!" Eventually he must have gone back to Gengler's.

The whole visit couldn't have been over four days, like leave Thu., return Sun. afternoon. But it seemed forever and a day. Ah, what fun! Grandma would've been happy that we had such fun at her obsequi[ti]es. Started in afternoon from S. P. [Southern Pacific rail] station (conductor calling "Nome" gave us name for our dolls town forever after.). Houston in early evening, but night before we could get on interurban and rackety-racket over causeway. Remember gawking up at Rice Hotel [downtown Houston], looking at moving sign in lights of newspaper boy running. Ice cream sodas at drugstore that wasn't Thames - Dunlops in 1914, I suppose. [Thames Drugs was a longtime Beaumont drugstore. Dunlops must have been the Houston equivalent.] Galveston, jitney to 1910 [Avenue N] on moonlit Broadway, cost 25 cents for the lot of us. Sad let-down coming home on gray Sun. afternoon. Daddy came before lunch and took us home afterward. It seemed forever crossing on the ferry, all those choo-choo cars weighting it all down. [For years, there was a railroad that went from Beaumont to Winnie and then down the Boliver Peninsula and over to Galveston via a ferry or railroad barge. The barge could hold the train engine and several freight and passenger rail cars.] The barge stopped for an hour, it seemed, out in the bay while they fixed something. Mama always said a fortune teller had told her she would be in a train accident that next summer, but that was the year of the 1915 storm. I remember Mama had a bag packed getting ready to go, but of course we couldn't. She gave me back a soldier and a rowboat I was going to take, and I saw no more of Galveston till I was a big kid of 18 and went over in the summer on a weekend excursion to visit Clara and Octavia.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Haggardy Bull-Dog By Grace C. Newton

The Haggardy Bull-Dog

By Grace C. Newton

I have few early recollections. 1914 is the first I can remember anything. That summer Grandma G. died. But it must have been in the Spring of that year that I had the experience of being frightened out of my wits by a friendly bull-dog from next door. We were living in the downstairs apartment at 1009 Calder. The big two-story house was on the corner at Magnolia. I was playing happily by myself in a sandpile near our back porch when I sensed something breathing close to me. Looking around, I was horrified to find a bull-dog, one of those ferocious-looking by lovable English bulls, close to my elbow. I sat petrified but screaming for all I was worth! Soon I became aware that the owner of the dog was rushing frantically to my rescue, while at the same time I was also aware that Mama and the other kids had come out onto the porch in answer to my screams. The neighbor was trying to console me and to determine whether I was hurt. The dog was sitting quietly, I suppose puzzled by my strange reaction; but the family were still standing on the porch, laughing hilariously and making no attempt to come to my rescue. Suddenly I felt more drawn to the kind neighbor than to them. Well, I decided, I was not going to be a free show for them. So I turned off the screams.

[Grace Cornell Newton was born in 1909. "Grandma G." was Augusta (maiden name unknown) Gruetzmacher, who died in 1914.]
Cousin Stelle's Visit

Copied from a letter from Mildred (Aunt) Elizabeth Newton to Grace Newton

Estelle or Stelle Walker was Daddy's cousin. She and her husband came thru Beaumont when we were living upstairs at Mrs. Johnston's, in 1908 [sic] or 09, you [Grace, born July 1909] a baby, Daddy working at Roos Bros. He asked Mamma to have them over for the noon meal, and they came. (They were staying at the Fields Hotel.) Much of the visit didn't sink in, as I was rather young, but Mom told me the details several years later when we were living downstairs. The Walkers invited us for lunch in their room at the hotel. As we went upstairs, the light streaming through crisp, white curtains in the glass in the door was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. It made such an impression on me, I remembered it, and Mamma didn't know of it, as I never told her. Daddy came and we ate. Mamma told me when I was older that Stelle had sliced ham, bread, milk and coffee on a small table. addy said he had to leave early to meet a buyer at Roos Bros. But that night he told Mamma he could not go all the rest of the day on sandwiches, so he had a meal at a cafe before going back to work. When the Walkers left, Stelle gave Mamma a brown and dark green striped dress she had. Mamma took it, but never wore it.

When we moved downstairs ay Johnstones [sic] I was about 7 [circa 1912]. I decided I needed a husband, so put an old broom and a mop handle together with rope. I needed a suit for Mr. Brown so Mamma gave me the old taffeta dress, and I made coat and trousers of it, and that's what became of Cousin Stelle's finery. What became of Stelle, I never knew.

[Estella Newton was born around 1875 in New Madrid, Missouri. She was the only surviving child of John R. Newton and Nannie Massengill. Estella married Arthur Walker. I have been unable to track this couple. John R. Newton has also been a bit of a mystery. He was a merchant in New Madrid, but died sometime before 1909, which was when his wife remarried. GMN.]

Friday, August 12, 2011

Mamma's Big Surprise by Grace Newton

by Grace Cornell Newton, Aug. 23, 1978

For one Easter, I can't recall which year, mamma made a big white outing flannel rabbit for Daddy's Easter window at the store. Since it was meant to surprise him, she had to work on it when he wasn't at home. And he was certainly surprised; from start to finish he never suspected what she was doing.

Besides selling the fine grade of men's wear that Roos Brothers featured, Daddy had to "dress the windows," which was largely the mode of advertising then. He had a small workshop upstairs on the alley side where he made his cards, doing all his own printing and decorating. His talent for this art work was genuine and natural without benefit of formal training. His designs were mostly his own, his lettering was free-hand. Often he painted lilies or poinsettias or rabbits, in keeping with the season. He also had a unique method of stippling, using a cutout which, after being lifted off, left the design in white outlined by gold, or whatever color paint he might be using.

In great demand as a salesman, he often had to come downstairs to serve a customer who would not buy from anyone else. He worked hard at his job, the store hours were long; for selling and doing his windows he received the grand sum of forty dollars a week, there was no paid vacation, and of course no group employee health insurance. But in those days he was still young enough to be enthusiastic about his work, and Mamma was enthusiastic with him.

So while he ran up and down the stairs and in and out his windows at the store, Mamma was busy on her project at home. She was as talented with her needle as he was with his brushes. Finally the rabbit was finished, from pink nose and white embroidery thread whiskers to pink embroidered eyes and pink satin-lined ears. Having tied a pink satin bow about his neck, Mamma set him in the middle of the kitchen table, then went to bed. It was a late night and the apartment was dark when Daddy came home. Not to awaken Mamma, who was awake and snickering to herself, he tiptoed into the kitchen to undress.

When he turned on the light and saw that big rabbit, he let out such a war-whoop that if Mamma had really been asleep, she wouldn't have been for long.

Next day the rabbit was carried to the store and installed in a window where it attracted much deserved attention.