The old Boston and Maine Railroad Company

My grandmother died at the ripe old age of 87 and a fairly long time ago.  During her last years she would sit in a small rocker that she had from forever and a day and stare out the window and say "well, for pity's sake" and go back to her thoughts. At the time, I was certainly old enough to have conversed with her at length about family and her history and didn't and the entire family timeline was in my dad's head and he wasn't telling.  He was born in Indiana, and lived in Vermont and his dad, grandma's husband was a railroad man. No one is quite sure as this type of thing wasn't discussed in polite society by my grandfather died in an asylum before my dad was 10.  Things went far off track.

I got curious about all this as there was scant to go on, so I went to one of those genealogy sites and found my grandmother, born in Vermont in 1875, and there she was, plain as day. That turned out to be a dead end so I looked for my dad's birth and found him; his records in Southern Indiana just across the line from Cincinnati and not where he was born according to family lore but records nevertheless.  Dead end again but not really as the Internet worked its magic and up popped the photo in the upper left. 

The post card is from 1907 - about the right time and it is of the old B&M Railroad station in Lyndonville, Vt., grandma's home town and my dad's boyhood memories that he would talk about at all.  Seems the B&M (Boston and Maine RR) ran down to Boston from Lyndonville several times a day and then, it had passenger service to Chicago and St. Louis. Bingo.  One of the stops on the St. Louis run was outside Cincinnati, just over into Dearborn County, Indiana and another "hub" was in Hammond, Indiana, near Chicago and home to great steel mills and where supposedly my father was born. Much of the B&M merged into the routes of the Chesapeake and Ohio lines and that was the one that deposited my dad outside of Detroit when he was 8 and grandpa went to the institution.

On sun soaked Wednesday afternoons with half the week's work (or as much of it as is going to get done) over with, I've been gazing out the window and doing some constructive daydreaming.  I've come to the conclusion, trite as it may be, that the Internet is our train system of our times; a path of connected points of information much like train stations next to iron rails.  You can track it out (pun intended) because the historical record just sits there ready to be explored. 

The danger is, of course, that we won't rely on memories and tales of turn of the century Maine, a chance birth in some Ohio River town in some bum shackle town and off to a terminus in northern Indiana where to spend a few years then transit back a Beetlejuice town in Vermont. Later, out of options, the route led to Michigan, probably a lot of hardscrabble and hanging on in the midst of a family tragedy that never was made clear and of which there is no record extant.

I think I'd prefer the telling of the tale again in the fall, late in the day, cold rain outside and perhaps a fireplace embering up, dinner on the stove and someone saying "Well for pity's sake...I'd forgotten all about that".


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