Friday, September 02, 2005

Women on the railroad

From: "Larry Mullaly"

I have tracked US Census Data across Nevada in 1870 but found no sign of women agents on the CP at that time. But Central Pacific Officers, Agencies and Stations lists for the years 1879, 1881, and 1885 show a surprising number of women employed by the railroad as station agents. More remarkable is the fact that many of these women are identified as “miss.” A more complete study might examine the intervening and subsequent years up to the point were agents names were no longer given.


Western Division:
Oakland, Broadway Depot
       Miss Susie H. Wainwright 1879
       Miss Susie H. Wainwright 1881
       Miss NJ Striker 1885

East Oakland
       Miss M. Butler 1885

       Miss MS Jefferson 1879
       Miss MS Jefferson 1881
       Miss M. McCormack 1885

Seminary Park
       Mrs. CT Mills 1885

       Miss O. Ayers 1885

       Mrs. LF Eaton 1885

Sacramento Division:
       Mrs GW Hill 1885

       Mrs DA Rice

       Mrs. George Willment 1878
       Mrs. George Willment 1881
       Mrs. George Willment 1885

Truckee Division:
       Mrs. ME Burkhalter 1885

Hot Springs
       Mrs BD Cassidy

Tulare Division:
       Annie Feary 1879

Visalia Division:
       Mrs. Belle Collins (1885)

LA Division:
       Mrs. HS Austin (1885)

Yuma Division:
       Mrs DB Tinker 1881
       Mrs DB Tinker 1885

Los Angeles and Independence:
Santa Monica
       Miss Lizzie Austin 1885

Northern Division:
       Miss Grace T. Foster

San Pablo & Tulare:
Bay Point
       Miss DL Jacobs

California Pacific:
Napa Junction
       Mrs. CE Bengsen 1879


Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

[Earlier comment]

From: "Larry Mullaly"

I think you have a point. It is interesting to see how early (1879) women telegrapher/station agents appear on the SP officers lists. Widows, perhaps? Thank you for adding the anecdotal information.


9/02/2005 1:36 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

[Earlier comment]

The only female station agent I am familiar with was at Brighton Jct (just east of Sacramento where the old WP line turned south off the SVRR). She was murdered one winter night and her corpse was found the following morning in the smouldering wreckage of the burned depot. This was back in 1892 or 93. I do not recall her exact age – if they ever gave it – but she couldn't have been too old. She was the wife of George Jeffris, a locomotive engineer on the Oakland-Sacramento run – who soon developed as the chief suspect. It was discovered in the investigation leading up to the trial that he also had a wife and family in Oakland, and soon bigamy was added to the murder charge. ...

In the end he was acquitted – on what sounded to me like a technicality. (The bigamy charge was dropped when it was decided that because the two wives had resided in different counties, Sacramento county didn't have any jurisdiction in that matter. I don't recall why the murder charge was dropped.) And it apparently didn't spoil his relationship with the railroad company, since he rose through the ranks to retire as senior engineer. Other than apparently getting away with bigamy and murder, he also ran the first passenger train onto the Oakland mole, ran President Taft's special, and ran the first train across the Martinez bridge. He eventually had yet another wife – and as a consequence of posting a query on a genelogical web site – I had the touchy experience of telling his great grandson a bit about his illustrous ancestor that the family hadn't known!


9/02/2005 1:37 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Don Snoddy"

I suspect that in the 19th Century it was frowned upon for married women to work and take jobs away from men.

9/02/2005 7:08 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Thomas Jepsen"

I read your post about women station agents on the CPRR Discussion Group for September 2, 2005, with great interest. As you point out, a large number of women worked as station agents and telegraph operators for the railroads in the late 19th century, and this has been largely forgotten. One of the names in your list of station agents is quite familiar to me – Mrs. G.W. Hill, shown as agent for the Junction in the Sacramento Division in 1885. She was also a Wells Fargo agent, and here is what I was able to learn about her from the records I obtained from the Wells Fargo corporate historian, Bill Strobridge:

Cassie Tomer Hill was Wells Fargo agent at Roseville, CA from 1884 to 1908. She arrived in California as a child by covered wagon, and later married G.W. Hill in 1876. Hill was Roseville's telegraph operator. He became ill and died, leaving Cassie with five children. Cassie became Wells Fargo agent, Southern Pacific Railroad ticket agent and telegraph operator. Widowed at age 31, she moved her family into Roseville's railroad depot, successfully raised her children and lived to the age of 100. Source: WF 7.2, Wells Fargo and Co. Agency Appointment, Mrs. C. Hill, May 14, 1884. Clipping, Roseville Press Tribune, May 16, 1955.

I discuss Cassie Tomer Hill and many other women operators in my book, My Sisters Telegraphic: Women in the Telegraph Office, 1846 - 1950, published by Ohio University Press in 2000. You can also find quite a bit of information on women operators on my telegraphy website.

Again, I appreciate your publishing the list of women station agents on the CPRR discussion list. With a bit of digging in the archives, it may be possible to find out more about the life stories of these interesting women.

—Thomas C. Jepsen, National Coalition of Independent Scholars

3/11/2006 8:18 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Larry Mullaly"

... I was particularly intrigued that Thomas Jepsen researched Cassie Tomer Hill from Wells Fargo rather than railroad records.


3/11/2006 8:20 PM  
Blogger Dick Morris said...

It was interesting to see Mrs. ME Burkhalter on your list. She was the widow of Frederick Burckhalter (they were flexible with the spelling) who died in 1880. Her maiden name was Mary Ellen Hasty. She apparently took over her husband's business interests when he died and I've found mention of her as owner of a general store, timber interests and mill, insurance business, and a bank. She seems to have used "M.E. Burckhalter" instead of her full name and I've seen a couple of references to her as a man. She must have been quite an independent lady. She came to California in about 1860, possibly with her father, Walter Hasty, and a sister, Eliza Jane Hasty. (E.J. Hasty later married Henry K. Brown and they lived in Sonoma County.) They all appear in the early Truckee censuses. In the early 1850s, when she still lived in Limington, Maine, she corresponded frequently with my gg grandfather, Nelson W. Chishom, who had arrived in Sacramento in 1850.

Her neice, Ida Hasty, was in her household for the 1880 Truckee census. Ida later married Dennis Burkhalter, who was Superintendent of the Sacramento Division of the SP when he died in 1908.

10/08/2006 1:58 AM  
Blogger Terry Tex Toler said...

Does anyone have any information, and especially photographs, of Hanna Maria Strobridge? Wife of James Harvey Strobridge, chief construction engineer of the Southern Pacific Route through Texas and others. Mrs. Strobridge is said to have been the last person to drive the golden spike, the last strike of the spike as it were. I live in Sanderson, formerly Strobridge, Texas--all the town/place names here in Far West Texas attributed to Mrs. Strobridge upon direction or permission from her husband. She was an avid reader, and many places here named after famous writers of the era--Longfellow, Emerson, etc. She named this town--an important halfway point between between San Antonio and El Paso for her husband. It was later renamed Sanderson after another local engineer, but the fact that Mrs. Strobridge varied from the writer names in naming this town after her husband meant she considered it important. Our original 1882 depot still stands, but is on the UP demolition short list. A group of local volunteer citizens are working to save the structure, move it across the street, and restore it as a RR museum and visitor center. Any help or resources from your good readers is certainly welcomed! Sincerely, 512-658-8839

9/27/2009 8:00 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

See related discussion.

3/15/2010 6:27 PM  

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