Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 6 (1889-1890)


Lt 67, 1889

White, Mary; McComber, Sister

Between Elmira, New York and Canton, Pennsylvania

June 1, 1889

Portions of this letter are published in 3MR 237.

En route to Williamsport, Pennsylvania 6LtMs, Lt 67, 1889, par. 1

Water Bound.

Dear Daughter Mary and Sister McOmber:

We have had powerful rains for three days without intermission. We have had, during the Kansas meeting, heavy rains, and quite frequent. 6LtMs, Lt 67, 1889, par. 2

We left Kansas Sunday afternoon at half past three o’clock. In consequence of previous rains, we moved slowly. We made a stay of three days at Battle Creek, and we hoped to stay over Sabbath. We sent a telegram to Williamsport inquiring if we could stay, but there came over the lines, “Important Ministerial Institute. Mother needed. Come by Grand Trunk and Erie Road.” 6LtMs, Lt 67, 1889, par. 3

We started the same night, but the train was one hour and a half behind before we started, three hours behind at Clinton, Niagara; we remained in Buffalo five hours; could not make connections. The train was held for us at Elmira. We were told that there was a washout and we could not get through to Williamsport, but we chose to stick to the cars and go on as near the hindrance as possible, so we stepped on the train, and the cars, after going about twenty-eight miles, stopped on the track over night. It was then twelve o’clock. 6LtMs, Lt 67, 1889, par. 4

This morning we are still here. A number walked one mile and a half to Canton and there learned that several lives have been lost, also carriages and horses. We hope none were our people on their way to camp meeting. Bridges are washed away just ahead of us. We must go back to Elmira, twenty-eight miles, and wait until the roads are repaired. We have but a few on the cars and we can be comfortable. We may be compelled to spend all day Sabbath, and perhaps two or three days. May the Lord open the way for us to get to the meeting, is my prayer. But we are bound here and are trying to be patient. We think of the poor people killed and are grateful to our heavenly Father that it is as well with us as it is. We have but little provision except three papers of granola. We can get along nicely if we get some milk. 6LtMs, Lt 67, 1889, par. 5

Word has just come to us by telephone from one station to another that Williamsport is under water up to Fourth Street. In one place, Ralston, not far from here, the second station which we must pass, ten houses and families have been washed away and the families drowned. This has been a very heavy rain and much damage must be the result. 6LtMs, Lt 67, 1889, par. 6

We are quiet. One family is on the train, besides us, who are keeping the Sabbath, and we are alone in the car except one man beside. We cannot get a dispatch through to Willie, and I know he must feel anxious about us. We expected a construction train to pass us this morning to go on and repair the road, but we do not hear or see it and we think the road may be washed out since we passed over it. Perhaps we cannot get back to Elmira. Well, we have enough to keep us warm, and I think we can manage to get food enough to eat until we shall be able to go either back or forward. 6LtMs, Lt 67, 1889, par. 7

“Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God.” Psalm 146:5. 6LtMs, Lt 67, 1889, par. 8

When we reached Elmira we were informed it was impossible to go on to Williamsport that night because of washouts and bridges gone, and we had better remain in Elmira where were better accommodations than we would find if we continued our journey. We stepped from the cars with our satchels. The cars were about to move on towards Williamsport. Sister Sara McEnterfer and I were alone. We had but a few moments to consider the matter, and we decided that we would step on board the train going in the direction of Williamsport and go as far toward the place of our destination as the cars would take us, thinking that possibly the reports were exaggerated. We were soon moving along in the cars. 6LtMs, Lt 67, 1889, par. 9

On the train we met Brother and Sister Taft and their two children, who were on their way to the camp meeting at Williamsport—which we had expected to reach about midnight. When within one mile and a half of Canton we learned we could go no farther because of a serious washout at that place. 6LtMs, Lt 67, 1889, par. 10

We made arrangements to take the sleeper, but it was so heated up and the air was so oppressive I could scarcely breathe. I was informed I could not have the window open because it was raining. I therefore dared not remain in the sleeper, for it would be at the risk of my life. We made up a bed as best we could on the seats in the passenger car, and I obtained some sleep. That night and all day Sabbath we were unable to advance. Had we made connection [at Buffalo] we should have reached Williamsport Friday at five o’clock p.m. We were very anxious, but we tried to keep our minds in peace and stayed upon the Lord. Providentially Brother Taft’s family and Sister McEnterfer and myself were the only ones left in the car, while the passengers in the sleeper were employed in cardplaying and smoking. 6LtMs, Lt 67, 1889, par. 11

As we were detained and could not safely occupy the sleeper, we thought the ladies, only three in number, could have the privilege of making our toilet in the sleeper, but we were told by the conductor of the sleeping car that it was against the rules. There seemed to be with this conductor not the slightest disposition to accommodate the passengers who had the misfortune to be detained on the road by casualties. This, we are glad to state, is the first instance of this character we have found in our extensive travels. We have always found men in office who knew how to accommodate themselves to the situation, and if there were casualties, and passengers were placed in disagreeable positions, they have had tact and manifested the gentlemen in seeking to make the inevitable as pleasant as possible. 6LtMs, Lt 67, 1889, par. 12

In traveling we meet all classes of character, but it does seem that surly, uncourteous men are out of their place in positions of trust where they can manifest their surly traits of character and make it so disagreeable for travelers. 6LtMs, Lt 67, 1889, par. 13

The construction train passed us with men to commence their work of repairing. We could get no information, from either end of the line, to our friends in Battle Creek or to Williamsport, for the telegraph wires were down. We imagined their anxiety. We sent a dispatch from Buffalo to Williamsport that we failed to connect at Buffalo and would be on the night train at Williamsport. We knew that they must be left in suspense concerning us. The conductor of the day coaches was very kind and accommodating, in marked contrast to the conductor of the sleeping coach. 6LtMs, Lt 67, 1889, par. 14

At five o’clock p.m. we were informed that the road was temporarily repaired so that we could move on to Canton. We passed very cautiously over the washout, but learned it was impossible to go farther. A few miles on at Roaring Branch and Ralston there had been a terrible washout. Sixteen railway bridges were gone, houses had been washed away, and ten lives lost. The terrible work of destruction was indescribable. Some said, who claimed to know, that it would be three weeks, others said six weeks, before the roads would be repaired and the trains safely pass over them. 6LtMs, Lt 67, 1889, par. 15

The passengers for Williamsport decided to go back to Elmira. We decided not to go back a step until we knew by trial [that] we could not go on. But we learned that between Canton and Elmira the road we had passed over was impassable, with bridges gone, and washouts. The passengers were obliged to remain in the cars until Monday. We secured rooms in the third story of a hotel, and we felt that we had much to be thankful for that thus far God had preserved our lives. We began to make some effort to communicate with my son W. C. White, at Williamsport. We sent telegrams to New York to be sent to Williamsport but this was a failure, for the storm had affected the Erie road and the telegraph wires were down. We could not get a message to Battle Creek, Michigan, or to Williamsport. We were obliged to patiently wait in uncertainty and leave our friends in uncertainty concerning our whereabouts. [Unfinished.] 6LtMs, Lt 67, 1889, par. 16