Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 8, Number 2, May, 1998 Page: 113
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Documents, Letters, Reminiscences, Etc.
Columbus In The Days of 1874
by James Maret
(Originally published in the Colorado Citizen
of unknown date. Republished in the Weimar
Mercury of March 9, 1917.)
In 1874 the G. H. & S. A. road was crawl-
ing slowly westward from Columbus, where
the terminus had been for some years. At
Borden, nine miles west, was located the
packery of the Borden Meat Preserving Co.
Their output consisted principally of beef ex-
tract. An eight hundred pound steer could be
placed into a fifty pound can in extract form.
Small rails and small cars were used in those
days. Capacity of cars were limited to 16,000
and any weight beyond that limit was charged
up to the shipper at double first-class rates. The
railroad company charged the extract people
such high rates that they were compelled to close
down and leave the country. It was claimed the
railroad could make more by shipping the live
stock on foot instead of in extract form.
H. Lee Borden, a son of Gail Borden, the
originator of Borden's Eagle Brand of con-
densed milk, was in charge of the works, and
the undertaking would have proved a success
had it not been choked to death by high freight
rates. John J. Borden, a brother of Gail, was
postmaster. He was one of the heroes of San
Jacinto. The writer spent a good part of 1875
at Borden, learning telegraphy and running a
small amateur paper, named the "Young
Ranger." The publisher's sister, now Mrs.
W. J. Harrison, was the principal typo in the
office, which was in a residence on the Perry
place, on the river, three miles northeast of
During the wet winter of 1874, freight
trains leaving Harrisburg, sometimes reached
Columbus the next day, and at times they
didn't. It was often the case they got off the
track from three to a half dozen times during a
single trip. Hardy Eddins was superintendent,
T. W. Pierce of Boston, president and owner.
We only remember the names of a few agents.
John Ficklin, a good man, was agent at Eagle
Lake and handled telegraph messages via a reg-
ister, a machine that made the dots and dashes
on a paper tape unwound from a spool. The
operator had only to answer his call and start
the machine and then stop it when the ticks of
the telegraph ceased. The operator didn't know
what the message was until he ran the tape thru
his fingers and read it therefrom.
In 1875, a few miles west of Columbus, a
train was derailed the engine turned up on its
side, pinioning the engineer against a stump by
the roadside, slowly roasting him to death. No
help could be rendered.
Ben Baker was in charge of the Colorado
Citizen, with headquarters in what is now
"lawyer's row", and he was a man whom the
writer greatly admired for his many excellent
qualities of mind and heart. One of his distin-
guishing traits was his devotion to his mother.
The cemetery here today contains a tomb show-
ing our friend Baker's filial love and affection
for his mother. When a boy or man keeps his
mother in remembrance he will never go far
George Witting, with L. Weete as chief
clerk, did about the largest general mercantile
business here during the 70's. Robert Foard
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 8, Number 2, May, 1998, periodical, May 1998; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151403/m1/65/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed July 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.