By on 05/15/2019


No This Is Not An Actual Photo !



By ChuckWagon Charlie

A Missouri Pacific railroad detective known only as “Old Bill” ‘ cause ‘a his need ta’ maintain his anonymity while workin’ the tracks in searchin’ out those who sought ta’ rob an’/’er sabotage the railroads daily business had spent over a year in an’ out ‘a Elgin on railroad security business back in 1886 an’ ‘87’. But not a soul knew ‘a his intentions, as he was in the guise ‘a a mangy old wolfer who’d come ta’ town ta’ sell his furs. (It is suspect that “Old Bill” was in reality W.D. “Bill” Fossett who from 1897 – 1902 became the area’s Chief Deputy
U.S. Marshal, a man ta’ be reckoned with both in wit an’ raw nerve.)

Ya’ see back in 1885 the Santa Fe an’ Missouri Pacific railroads started racin’ across southern Kansas, an’ the first railroad ta’ reach west inta’ Cowley County would be rewarded by havin’ the destinction ‘a bein’ Southeast Kansas’ mainline railroad an’ all the business accolades that went with that title.

The fact was, winnin’ this title would mean bringin’ in a King’s Ransom ‘a wealth ta’ the already rich Railroad Barons. An’ neither the Santa Fe ‘er the Missouri Pacific trusted the other not ta’ sabotage their efforts ‘a winnin’ the race.

So, when JasonJayGould (Missouri Pacific’s leadin’ developer an’ financial speculator) an’ Cyrus K. Holliday (first AT&SF President an’ a major influential member ‘a the AT&SF’s board ‘a directors) called for help with security. Well, “Old Bill” who they knew ta’ be honest (an’ familiar with the area like the back ‘a his hand) was their first an’ only choice.

Old Bill” havin’ no authority unless a crime was committed – well, he took on his inconspicuous role an’ spied on both companies.

The Missouri Pacific had an easy time ‘a layin’ track, their route an’ terrain allowed ‘em ta’ lay what the track crew referred ta’ as “light steel on a chicken scratch roadbed”. An’ as far as he was able ta’ observe, no sabotage plans were rumored – nor carried out. After a full day’s work (maybe 11 ta’ 13 hours) an’ a couple ‘a more hours ‘a hoistin’ drinks at the local drinkin’ establishments – most ‘a the men were je’st too dang tired ta’ go carryin’ on at the Santa Fe’s rail sites. In fact, “Bill” often commented that his back ached je’st a watchin’ them boys sling them hammers.

Now as fur’ the Santa Fe – well they had enough difficulty ‘a their own, without havin’ ta’ cause any fur’ anyone else. They had rivers an’ ravines ta’ cross, an’ their construction engineers’ plans were ta’ lay what they called “high steel” – tracks laid on raised, compacted roadbeds. Their route had ta’ be more precise – they couldn’t go south inta’ Indian Territory, nor north due ta’ the rocky an’ hilly terrain. Their path would cut right through a small break in the Osage Hills, which took them directly through the small town ‘a Elgin.

Now, there was a small portion ‘a Elgin’s population intent on causin’ trouble with the railroad. Fur’ it was customary that communities pay a bonus ta’ the railroads fur’ comin’ through their town. However, knownin’ full well the railroad had no choice than ta’ go through their town, Elgin’s citizens banded ta’gether an’ refused ta’ pay that fee.

Faced with a financial dilemma the AT&SF chose ta’ go ahead an’ construct on their designated site. However, they had devised a retaliatory plan that they thought would place a financial burden on the people ‘a Elgin. With the aid ‘a a local rancher, the railroad constructed their own town ‘a Hudson ‘bout two miles ta’ the east ‘a Elgin – an’ ta’ the west three miles they constructed the community ‘a New Elgin. An’ with all the pressure they could muster – the U.S. Post Office was moved from Elgin ta’ New Elgin. Then in January ‘a 1887 with the completion

a the half mile long wooden trestle spannin’ the ravine on the west edge ‘a Elgin, the railroad


ordered their trains ta’ highball through Elgin without stoppin’.

An’ so the AT&SF saw sabotage, but not from the Missouri Pacific. Instead it came from the angry citizens ‘a Elgin. Seein’ their dreams sail by them on those thin ribbons ‘a steel, a band ‘a irate citizens took the situation inta’ their own hands.

From what was heard on the streets, ‘Old Bill” knew somethin’ big was about ta’ take place – but when an’ by who was a well kept secret.

He kept guard throughout the nights waitin’ fur’ a bunch ‘a night riders ta’ strike havoc on the railroad work camp, but it never happened. Then one night around 10 o’clock the fire alarms sounded – the trestle was on fire. However no one from Elgin attempted ta’ put out the fire, instead a vast majority ‘a Elgin’s leadin’ citizens je’st watched as the trestle burned ta’ the ground.

Furious railroad officials came an’ demanded an explanation an’ restitution – but none took place. An’ so the railroad rebuilt the trestle – except this time they placed guards on both sides an’ at both ends ‘a the trestle, an’ continued ta’ spurn the city ‘a Elgin by not stoppin’ even when attempts ta’ flag it down were made.

Citizens were now outraged an’ guns were brandished as threats ‘a violence were made ta’ the on duty guards. “Bill’s” report ta’ Cryus Holliday stated that “All hell is about ta’ break loose!” An’ sure enough, it did!

It was a hot July night an’ a group ‘a armed men (20 ta’ 25) had gathered at Leahy’s store. One man who “Old Bill” had never seen befur’ seemed ta’ stir up the already angry crowd. His dress an’ speech suggested he was an easterner – but his message about the salvation ‘a Elgin an’ it bein’ a gateway ta’ western trade made sense ta’ many ‘a the Elginites..

As the crowd moved ta’ward the trestle, “Old Bill” silently took ta’ the shadows, yet kept close. As the crowd got within 100 yards ‘a the trestle, they lit torches. The leader ‘a the group then motioned ta’ four men with rifles, an’ they split off from the main group.

Bill” followed ‘em, an’ as they settled in behind trees – they took aim at the railroad guards. “Bill” silently crept up behind one, an’ with one swift blow, laid his pistol barrel across his skull. Less than ten feet away one ‘a the men saw his partner go down, an’ like a scared rabbit scurried inta’ the underbrush. “Bill” then threw a big rock inta’ the brush behind a third sniper, who also vanished inta’ the darkness. Then quickly makin’ his way ta’ the fourth man, he thrust the barrel ‘a his pistol inta’ the man’s ribs, an’ with a slight tap on the back ‘a his head rendered the ole’ boy unconscious.

By now the guards had seen the approachin’ crowd an’ made a hasty retreat ta’ safety. With no one ta’ hold them off, the crowd put a torch ta’ the trestle – an’ fur’ a second time it burned ta’ the ground.

Bill” unknowingly if his next report ta’ Holliday had anythin’ ta’ do with it ‘er not observed – this time the railroad seein’ the error ‘a their actions an’ the probable financial disaster layin’ ahead, rebuilt the trestle, disbanded New Elgin an’ returned the Post Office ta’ its rightful place in Elgin.

Hudson was abandoned as a stop (later its hotel was moved inta’ Elgin). An’ Elgin became the western terminal fur’ the AT&SF, prosperin’ as a cattle shippin’ railhead fur’ many years.

However, due ta’ the 7- month delay in twice rebuildin’ the Elgin trestle – the Missouri Pacific won the rail race ta’ Cowley County. An’ as its prize, the Missouri Pacific had major rail hubs in Coffeyville ta’ the east and Arkansas City ta’ the west.

But, the AT&SF an’ Elgin both prospered by makin’ Elgin a major cattle shippin’ railhead. In fact, in 1902, Elgin was recognized as “The Cattle Shipping Capitol Of The World”.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login