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THE ADAMS EXPRESS CO. IN MARYLAND AND VIRGINIA. THE
BALTIMORE DIVISION, AND ITS SUPERINTENDENT.
Samuel M. Shoemaker is, as of old, the managing director in Baltimore, and the same genial gentleman as of old. The Baltimore division of the Adams includes all of the service over the following-named railroads: "Western Maryland," "Emmetsburg," "Baltimore and Potomac," "Pope's Creek Line, B. & P.," "Alexandria and Fredericksburg," "Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac," "Washington and Ohio," "Annapolis and Elk Ridge," also on the "Bay Line" steamers. Geo. C. Hildt and D. Herring are the very efficient route agents.
The principal points, besides those indicated by the above summary of routes, are Washington, Georgetown, Leesburg, Norfolk, Hagerstown, Westminster and Williamsport, Md.
A. D. Keener is cashier, and John H. Ehlen auditor, in the Baltimore office.
The merchants and bankers of Baltimore are the fast friends of the Adams Express Company, and its business at this important entrepôt and distributing point has been large and lucrative for thirty years or more; and now, in spite of the competition of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, is still ahead (1880).
J. Q. A. Herring, now superintendent, has officiated as assistant superintendent of the Baltimore division ever since 1869. Like that other Herring in Chicago, whom we know as "Ab," J. Q. is a finished workman. He can now look back, and down, on the inclined plane (up which his persevering and intelligent application to every duty entrusted to him during the last thirty years has so creditably brought him) with conscientious satisfaction. It is cloudless.
He began with the Adams, in 1852, as a messenger on the Baltimore and Richmond, Va., route; carrying his freight in a small four-wheeled car, holding little more than one of our
double wagons, in these days. The transfer at Washington was in wagons, to wharf, whence it was taken in steamboats to Acquia Creek, in "crates," which could be easily run on to a platform car, in the train, on the Richmond and Fredericksburg Railroad. The crates (or crate cars as they might well be called) are of a capacity to hold about a single wagon-load, and are easily transferred from boat to train. They were used by the Harnden and Adams as long ago as 1845, on Long Island Sound, and are still regarded as a great convenience.
A Herring ought to have been "at home" in the water; but after running a year as messenger he could say that he had lost but one week, and that was from illness caused by bathing in the James river, at Richmond, with our old friend, Geo. Curtis, then of the New York office. Whether or not his becoming thoroughly red conduced to render him more appreciated is not stated, but certain it is, that soon after his first year he was honored with some important trusts out of the ordinary routine. He was dispatched by Shoemaker several times to the far South in charge of heavy amounts of coin; from which it is evident that he was highly esteemed for fidelity and intelligence, combined with prudence and dispatch.
This was followed, from time to time, through a series of years, by promotions, until he was made by his appreciative employers assistant superintendent of the Baltimore division of their Harnden Express, under the management of L. W. Winchester, with whom also he became a favorite. In 1869 he attained to his present very responsible and laborious position as superintendent of the Adams, and right-hand man of S. M. Shoemaker, who had placed a high value upon Herring's services during the war. Immediately at the heels of the Gettysburg battle, the Adams created a hospital corps, of which Herring took charge, and both Union soldiers and Confederates thanked God, and with good reason, for what Shoemaker's Express hospital corps did for their wounded.
The memorable battle was fought on the 3d and 4th of July, and the Express messengers of mercy and assistance were on the field on the morning of the 5th, with Herring at their head.
During the hottest of the fight, the Adams Express was the bearer of dispatches from Washington to the Union army; riding on horseback many a mile at breakneck speed, at a cost of cuticle not minded at the moment, but felt very sorely in the seat of honor for a week afterward. One such ride was usually enough for the average messenger, and none desired an encore in so stern a service.
That would have been a grand time for Asa Blake, or Caleb Hoogs, to have shown his equestrianship, but the former (if memory serves me), was making himself useful in New Orleans about that time, and the rotund Boston messenger, since deceased, was on his old beat on Long Island Sound.
The national capital, usually a quiet place when Congress was not in session, was a continuous scene of excitement during "the war-term," and busiest of the busy were the Adams expressmen.
How different from the placid days when the staid Eben Smith and rosy George H. Burns were the functionaries, and Washington was still the "city of magnificent distances."
In the early days of the Express there, it was not an uncommon thing to see the majestic form of Daniel Webster, with his hands crossed under the skirts of his blue broadcloth dress-coat, walk slowly in and ask for a parcel; or for the taller figure of the kingly Kentuckian, Henry Clay; or the more corpulent and no less dignified Thomas H. Benton; or the sturdy but quick-moving John Quincy Adams; to accost kindly the man at the counter, and accord pleasantly a portion of patronage. All respected the expressman, and as long as they had a voice in Congress his vocation was safe from the infringements of postmasters-general.
Throughout that period of great statesmen-years after John C. Calhoun had passed away, and up to the last moments of the grandest of his contemporaries in Congress—the preeminent utility of the Express companies was acknowledged, and honored, in no city of the Union more than in Washington, in the circles of which those illustrious orators were the centres.
It was not until after the grand events embraced within the period from 1860 to 1865, that the appreciation of the
Express service began to diminish in Congress, and in a new crop of legislators (the natural product of the general disgruntlement of affairs succeeding the war), a few enemies of our business, combining with persons who aimed to wheedle Uncle Sam into carrying their parcels, by mail, at a lower price than the Express companies could afford to, found ready means to graft a package-carrying business into the postal service.
Mr. Lincoln never favored any proposal for so unwise and unjust an extension of the post-office business.
[Allow me to make just here a brief mention of my first and only sight of that awkward, but sagacious and nobleminded President. I think it was in 1863, on Pennsylvania Avenue, in Washington. I saw several members of the cabi net emerge from a car, and hurry unceremoniously toward the capitol, followed by a tall, thin, sallow-visaged man, whose long legs soon overtook them. Then, as he craned his head over, and between, the faces of Blair and Cameron, and smiled, I recognized Abraham Lincoln-the smile was so wholesale, and the resemblance to his portraits so palpable. The gentlemen whom he had overtaken (Blair, Cameron and Wells), were probably hurrying to a meeting of his cabinet; and so unceremoniously that they neglected even their chief, and treated the President of the United States as if he were only another tardy boy hastening, like themselves too late, to school.
All were dressed in the conventional court dress of black broadcloth; but their appearance was most radically republican in its simplicity, and I could not but "smile audibly" as I compared these heads of the national government with the bedizened and pompous sovereigns and courtiers of Europe.
Like poor Yorick, Abraham Lincoln was a man " of infinite jest." It was prejudicial to dignity; but it was well that he was naturally so cheerful, else the soul-saddening solicitudes and discouragements which fell to his lot during the war must have broken him down long before Booth's bullet pierced his brain.]
We are now in view of the routes of the Adams in Virginia; and suffer me to describe them as we go. The Virginia
Midland Railroad commences at Alexandria, Va., and terminates at Danville, Va., 236 miles; passes through a section of country made famous by the late war, as the scene of many of the conflicts between the contending armies. Alexandria is an old city; contains the Virginia Midland Railroad Co.'s shops, also a national cemetery, and it was at this place that Colonel Elsworth was killed at the breaking out of the war. The city was once a large grain market, and had a very heavy fish trade, but now does a small business, and shows signs of decay. Population about 1,400; no manufactory.
Manasses, 27 miles south of Alexandria, is the junction of the Strasburg branch of the Midland Railroad, and has become celebrated as the battle-field of the first conflict of the war, and which resulted so disastrously to the Union forces, known as the Bull Run defeat. Culpeper Court-house is a thriving town, has a national cemetery, and ships very heavy in the way of produce. Gordonsville, Va., is junction of V. M. and C. & O. R. R., and is transfer point to and from these roads, north, south, east and west. One of the institutions of the place is the number of women met with at the depot, with waiters on their heads, dispensing snacks to the hungry traveler-and is often called "Chickentown." The headquar
ters of the route agent, David Herring, is here. He has the management of the Express on the C. & O. R. R., and V. M. R. R. He is an old employee, having entered the service of the Adams Express Company previous to the war, as messenger between Baltimore and Knoxville, Tenn., and, with the exception of the duration of the war, has been in the service of the company in different capacities. (Appointed route agent in 1872.) Charlottesville, Va., 22 miles south of Gordensville, Va., is also a junction of V. M. R. R., and C. & O. R. R., and transfer point south and west. It is quite a handsome place; contains the University of Virginia, founded by Jefferson, and in full view of Monticello, his old home and burial-place. A fine fruit country surrounds the locality, and there are especially some very large vineyards, from which enormous amounts of grapes are shipped by Express to the northern markets. There is also a wine company, manufacturing different kinds of wine, which has such a reputation that it gained the prize