|- The First Seventy-five Years in the Sanborn Community (1878-1953) -|
By H.D. Brown, Author of the “Old Elkader Line” and “Beulah Land.”
(We are indebted to Miss Leah Smock for the following story in rhyme of the old days of railroading on the division through here. It was among keepsakes of her father, John Smock, who was a conductor on the I & D division. - Ed.)
Away back in eighteen seventy-nine, I was a boy not yet twenty-one,
I dropped into Sanborn, Iowa, before the big snow storms begun.
It was sometime along in November, I don’t remember the date,
I went to work in the depot, helping to check up the freight.
The storms of the winter that year are remembered by some to this day,
It began snowing along in October and scarcely let up until May.
Fred Harmon was running the depot and Andy Devine worked the key,
Ole Olson, I think, was yard-master then at Sanborn on the old I & D.
‘Twas and awful winter to railroad, the snow lay thick on the ground,
The yards were filled full of snow banks, ‘twas a hard job getting around.
Out on the main line the cuts were all full, the men threw the snow way up high,
When you stood on the track and gazed at the top it seemed to reach up to the sky.
All kinds of snow plows were brought into use but they failed to keep the snow back,
A sixty-mile gale would come out of the north and soon have it back on the track.
John Hughes, John Burns and John Clancy were handling the engines, you see,
They plowed up the snow east of Sanborn, you know, from the track of the old I & D.
I’ll never forget Frosty Olson, as he and I used to watch coal,
Some of the boys will remember him yet, he was a jolly good soul.
We used to hang out in the old caboose while the wind just hammered the door
As it shrieked and rattled the windows and drifted the snow more and more.
“No coal for sale,” the company said, “for no matter how hard we strive
We can’t get enough for the stoves hereabout but must keep the engines alive.”
The people just begged us for fuel and some got mad as could be,
‘Twas no easy task to keep them away from the old I & D.
A third of a century has passed and gone, how I love to think of those days,
Tommy Comfort was firing out on the west end and so was my old friend Bill Hayes.
Geo. Bryant was breaking, Mike Burns had a train, and so did Scott Derrick, too,
Tom Maxwell, Chas. Matthews and Ben Olson, these boys were handling a crew,
Ed Morand, Dell Chase and Lew Farnum, Clancy Coleman and I think Tommy Lane,
Tom Joyce, Gene Brainard and Frank Langhan were also handling a train.
That same year, I believe, the life was snuffed out of my good friend, Jim Fee,
It happened out there in Sheldon yard on the track of the old I & D.
Frosty Olson was then sent out with a train, he worked with all of his might,
He looked o’er the way bills and checked up the freight to see that all was done right.
His train was made up and ready to go, I remember him humming a tune,
How little we thought, as his train pulled out, that he’d be back in so soon.
They pulled out of Sanborn about ten p.m., now it may have been just a bit past,
The boys on behind heard the whistle for brakes and noticed they were running quite fast,
Frosty climbed out on top and started ahead to see what the trouble could be.
His body was picked up all mangled and bruised on the track of the old I & D.
Kid Mowder, Jack Durgin and Dave Blackwood are a few of the boys I recall,
Yes, I almost forgot old Tom Frazier, he was the grandpa of all.
Bill Woodman was handling the throttle, Hank George had the best job by far,
Mr. Sanborn was Superintendent and rode in his own private car.
Ed Pennington was the Road Master. I remember him very well, too.
I sang for him “Down Among the Daisies” before he was head fo the Soo.
Now boys please don’t feel offended if I’ve failed to make mention of thee,
But remember that thirty-one years have gone since I left the old I & D.
- From The Register and Argus, Elkader, Iowa March 13, 1914.