MONEY AND MEN OF THE OLD RAILWAY (October 30/07)

I have before me (to use an old fashioned phrase once favoured by long ago writers) some interesting and useful facts about operation of the railway in the Valley during the 19th century. What I have is a copy of a column written for The Advertiser and published circa 1930, giving the railway’s seniority list and pay scale for the late 1800s.

Now what could be interesting and useful about this column? Well, for interesting, how about the payroll in the early days of the railway. According to that long ago columnist who used a pen name, the entire payroll for the Windsor and Annapolis Railway for 1869 totaled the grand sum of $17,500.17.

Even more interesting is how those funds were dispersed to the almost 100 men who worked on the railway at the time. In those days, the salary of station agents was $200 to $400 per year, and that was reasonably good money for the times. Agents in the larger stations, Kentville, Wolfville and Berwick, for example, received the larger sum of $400; agents in stations that apparently were considered to be smaller or perhaps less busy as far as traffic went – Grand Pre and Aylesford, for example, received the lesser sum of $200.

The pay rate for men out on the road was considerably higher. Engine drivers and conductors received at least a third more salary than station agents in Kentville and similar stations. Even the seemingly less important jobs – watchmen, brakemen, etc., – were on a pay scale that was much more than men could make working as farm laborers.

The columnist also named the station agents for the period and this is where the “useful” comes in, especially if you are looking for railroad ancestors. Kentville’s station agent (surname only given) was a Metzler; the Port Williams (Greenwich) agent was E. A. Forsythe, Wolfville was manned by J. M Dennison, Grand Pre by A. Borden and Berwick by G. E. Lydiard.

Also useful if you’re into genealogy and looking for an ancestor is the railway’s seniority list The Advertiser’s columnist included in his article. Some of the railway employees listed will be familiar to long time residents of Kentville and the immediate area since many of their descendants still live here. Among them are Raymond Crosby, Harry Williams, Avard Morse, Wilfred Longley, A. E. Hartlen, Walter Taylor, C. Corey, C. Clamp, William Lightle, Addison G. Nichols, Ralph Cleveland. Joseph Dickie, Stanley Burrell.

Readers wishing to do further research on their railway ancestors should consult Clarke’s History of the Earliest Railway. This is the book the columnist used to compile his payroll figures and employee list. I believe a copy of the book is available for perusal at the Kings County Museum. If it isn’t, readers can contact me and check my copy.

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