the driving of The Golden Spike in 1869, signaling the coming of The Railroad
Age, accommodations along the various trails, stage routes, freight routes and
river routes were a tragedy to most travelers. Not only did you have to be tough,
you had to be in good health to stand the stress and hardship. Most of those traveling
west did not have the experience to travel by horse and camp out, so they were
left at the mercy of the available transportation sources. |
arrival times of these sources were hit or miss, seats were hard and uncomfortable,
extreme weather was often encountered protected only by canvas curtains, the food
was bad, the cooking the worst and the whiskey was pure rotgut. There was always
the danger of outlaws or Indians along the way.
Remote “road ranches”
and settlers along the way would not see a stranger in months and they always
welcomed the news and stories to help break the monotony of everyday frontier
life. They freely provided food, shelter and hospitality in exchange for news
of the outside world. A few comments excerpted from historical interviews about
travel read as follows:
along the trail to the Colorado goldfields were cozened (deceived) by as scurvy
a set of bipeds as ever demoralized any community.”
Another remark states, “The rotgut whiskey was so strong it would make a humming
bird spit in a rattlesnake’s eye.”A
remote cow ranch stated, “Our outfit would have entertained an outlaw or an angel
if only the visitor didn’t talk about cows.”
early accommodations featured facilities that were terrible and if you complained,
you could go elsewhere. The problem was there was nowhere else to go. Travelers
found themselves sleeping with total strangers, maybe three to a bed, on a hard
floor with your sleeping space outlined with chalk or on straw pads crawling with
lice and bedbugs.
Many sleeping quarters were located in the attic above
with the loud sounds of the saloon located immediately below. Some clapboard hotels
used cheese cloth to divide the tiny sleeping spaces into cubicles. You could
not see through the flimsy partitions, but could hear every sound or snore, leaving
little privacy. If you were lucky you might find a warm place by a fireplace or
lie on an empty pool or billiard table.
these hardships changed quickly when Frederick Henry Harvey came to America from
England in 1851. In 1875 he presented a proposal to Santa Fe Railroad to build
good clean restaurants and hotels at train depots to house travelers.
ideas were so well received all railroads and travel accommodations had to follow
suit in order to stay in business.
His demand for cleanliness, attention
to detail, respect for patrons, methods of operation and the hiring of efficient
personnel were the exact opposite of the early day hotels and restaurants. His
determination for good food and hospitality changed “places to stop into places
Trew - February
28, 2012 column
"It's All Trew"
Trew is a freelance writer and retired rancher. He can be reached at 806-779-3164,
by mail at Box A, Alanreed, TX 79002, or by email at trewblue @centramedia.net.
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