The following story appeared in the March 6 and March 13, 1942 editions of the Advertiser-Democrat. In 1897, construction began for an electric railway from Norway to Stoneham, Waterford, Harrison and Bridgton. Italian laborers were brought in and began construction. The workers went on strike because they were not paid and all work ceased. The following article relates the intrigue behind a second attempt to build the railroad in 1904.
Walter Sanborn worked for the Norway Advertiser early in his career, and went on to become a prominent newspaperman. Don C. Seitz also began his career at the Advertiser. Seitz became an editor and manager of the New York World and was a noted author and lecturer. George Howe, a native of Norway, was a regarded naturalist and mineralogist.
He Saved Ordway's Grove Twice
George R Howe's Proposed Memorial To Don C. Seitz
Has Full Approval Of Man Who Figured In "Rescue" Nearly Forty Years Ago
By: Walter L. Sanborn
The second attempt to construct the Norway and Western Railroad made in 1904, and the manner in which Norway's dream of empire came to be dissipated constitutes one of the most thrilling chapters in the history of the town and the territory to the westward. The story should be incorporated somewhere in the printed records where it will be available to future students of Norway's history. I can think of no place better suited to the purpose than the pages of the Advertiser-Democrat The detailed story has never before been put on paper to my knowledge. Certainly my part in the exposure and the resulting collapse has never before been printed. W.L.S.
It seems to me that Uncle George Howe makes a timely proposal when he suggests a "beautiful Maine Mineral Memorial" at the entrance to Ordway's Grove as a tribute to the late Don C. Seitz, Norway's No. 1 offspring. Seitz earned, through his loyalty and devotion, more than Norway can ever give, but this idea, if ways and means for its execution can be devised, will go far toward public acknowledgement of an obligation we can never hope to liquidate in full.
The gift of the glorious grove, sufficient in itself to call for recognition on a generous scale, represents the smaller end of Mr. Seitz's efforts. He twice saved those beautiful trees from the axe, as the older Norway's residents will recall, and the present generation ought to know. Mr. Seitz bought the grove in order to keep it from being sawed into lumber and later, in the summer of 1904, he was instrumental in preventing the land from becoming part of the right of way of a railroad so badly financed as to prove the scheme's undoing.
The writer was in on the second deal and knows what he records here. Don's rescue was genuine.
W. G. Rand Comes To Town
The villain of the near tragedy was William G. Rand, a Boston-born promoter, whose resurrection of the Norway & Western Railroad project had Norway on the way to becoming a railroad center of imagination-stimulating proportions in the spring of 1904. No one objected to the railroad. Seitz did object to the sacrifice of the grove, even for the laudable purpose envisioned by practically all of Norway's citizenry.
Mr. Rand had appeared from nowhere in particular and announced his plan to build the railroad Mr. Wilson had abandoned five or six years earlier. Mr. Seitz moved to save Ordway's Grove, which he had previously preserved from the axe by purchase.
I was then employed in the exchange department of the Boston Globe and was a close reader of Maine newspapers, especially the Lewiston Journal.
I Turn Detective
Knowing something of the Norway & Western set-up, I was amazed to read in Mr. Dingley's newspaper one day, an interview with Mr. Rand in which he asserted, without qualification, that Mr. Seitz had withdrawn his objection and the road would be built at once. My curiosity was so far aroused that I sat down that evening and wrote a letter to Mr. Seitz, whom I had not previously met, asking why he had given up the fight to save his grove, enclosing the clipping.
Seitz replied by wire. The Globe was hitched up with the World office by leased lines and that was the easiest and quickest means of communication. He had not withdrawn his opposition, did not intend to and if I could find out who this man Rand was, I would be doing better than Charles H Taylor, Jr. has been able to do, as he reports him dead, which patently is untrue.
Then began the sleuthing job of my life. My time could be made pretty much my own, and, boy like, I lived on excitement in that happy era, crammed with new and strange developments. I had been in Boston only about six or seven months at that time.
To make a long story short, I looked everywhere and got nowhere at all. One evening, waiting for proof of the editorial paragraphs, which it was my business to scan around midnight, I found myself studying the problem of Wm G Rand. Had I gone about the solution with judgment? If so, why had I failed? To date nothing I had tackled had panned out. Not a clue had been produced; I was up against a blank wall.
A bright idea suddenly flashed through my troubled mind. Perhaps I had begun my sleuthing from the wrong end. I took my problem to the late W. F. Jones, asking whether he had heard Mr. Rand mention any Boston friend during his stay in Norway.
Judge Jones replied that Rand's references to Bostonians were few indeed, but someone heard him speak of a man by the name of Sanborn who was connected in some way with the Faneuil Hall National Bank.
Banker Turns Clam
Inquiry disclosed that he was assistant cashier and I lost no time in presenting myself to him. Banker Sanborn, presumably believing that I sought genealogical facts, was graciousness personified until I mentioned William G. Rand.
"I have nothing to say about him," he replied, as I thought mightily testily. "Why don't you go down to his father's market and inquire?"
I guessed this market was close by the bank and decided from a directory that my banker friend might refer to Bennett & Rand, who conducted a prosperous business in North Market Street. Here I met a fat man clad in the usual garb of the district, who quickly disabused my mind of the idea that he was the elder Rand. But he confessed readily enough that I had the right place. He knew "Billy" Rand well, but preferred not to talk.
Both Mr. Bennett and Mr. Rand were dead, he explained. Mr. Rand had been his friend. It was he who had made it possible for him to acquire the business. As for the son, he must ask to be excused.
My Curiosity Is Stirred
At that point another habitué of the district entered the stall. He was rotund and jolly, looking mighty trim in his suit of blue serge.
"Now here's a fellow who can tell you all about young Rand," he said, turning to the newcomer, whom he called over and omitting formal introduction, invited "to tell this gentleman about Bill Rand."
The visitor inquired why I was looking Rand up and I told him. Rand was undertaking the construction of a railroad up in Norway, Me., and some of us would like to ascertain his financial responsibility before he should go much farther with the project.
The stranger laughed heartily. Then he turned serious. "It would be too bad to let this thing go on," he said. "You don't know me and I don't know you, but if you have a dime you wish to keep, just hang onto it," he warned.
More he refused to say except that he had been an intimate of W. G. Rand's father, "as fine a man as the market district ever knew. The kind of friend who spends every other Sunday with you. The others found us over at the Rand home for dinner."
The Mystery Grows
Then he went on: "You see my position. But if you will go down to Morse & Co., at the end of the street, and find Mr. Morse, he will tell you all about William G. Rand."
Burning with curiosity at this unaccountable reticence, I hastened to Mr. Morse and presented my request. He proved to be another close friend of the elder Rand, who was given another whole souled endorsement. Mr. Morse
recommended a call on Mr. Littlefield, president of the Fruit & Produce Exchange
It was too late to find him up at the rooms of the exchange, but I had no trouble in ascertaining the full name of so prominent a market personage. Securing a hasty dinner I boarded a car for Roxbury and an address I found in the city directory.
(To be continued)
From: The Advertiser-Democrat March 13,1942
(Continued from last week)
Mr. Littlefield Gets A Surprise
Imagine my amazement when the man I had encountered in the stall of Bennett & Rand greeted me, Mr. Morse had sent me to Mr. Littlefield exactly as Littlefield had sent me to him. I apologized and Mr. Littlefield laughed uproariously.
He had told the family about Billy Rand's railroad venture at the dinner table and the family were unanimous in a decision that he ought to call me up in the morning, invite a call, and make a complete disclosure of the history of Rand. He then called his wife out to the piazza, it being a mild evening in June, as I now recall, and a long conference was quickly underway.
By 10 o'clock I felt that I was pretty well informed about Billy Rand's career, business and personal.
Ordered To Maine By The Boss
Returning to the Globe office, I incorporated what I had learned in an extended wire to Mr. Seitz.
On reporting for work around 10 a. m. on the day following, the expected happened. I should report to Charles H. Taylor, Jr., on arrival.
At that time I was not a familiar figure in the Globe's counting room and I sought out Mr. Taylor with an odd feeling of curiosity and solicitude. I didn't know just how he would react to what I had been doing on Globe time.
Mr. Taylor was quick in his ways. He moved swiftly, spoke with something of a bark, angered instantly when crossed and subsided just as rapidly into one of the finest and most just of men.
"Are you working for me or Don Seitz? he demanded as I entered his private office.
"A little of both," I replied confidently. Then he listened to my recital of what I had found out about Mr. Rand, and how I had done it. At the close he explained that he had made something of a chump of himself in his own effort to find out about Rand and suggested that I take the next train for Maine, where I should "Do what I could for Mr. Seitz."
My Lawyer Goes Fishing
I arrived in Norway that evening and found the town in the throes of a railroad boom. I repeated my story to the business men of the town a score of times. The reaction was interesting to watch. All were surprised and some were angry at both me and Seitz. They were living in a dream and resented the rude awakening I had brought.
I learned, too, that a hearing was to be held the following day by the Railroad Commission on the proposed location of the new railroad. This was an event which demanded attention, but I felt it also required an older head than mine. So I put a telephone call through to Mr. Seitz at his summer home in Cos-Cob, Conn.
He said for me to summon Harry R. Virgin, his Portland attorney, and work with him. This sounded encouraging. But I could not raise Mr. Virgin that night and the next morning his office informed me that he was fishing in the Moosehead region.
I Play A Lone Hand
There was nothing to do but to play the hand alone, and play it alone I did. On the day previous to the hearing I met Rand at the Beal’s House. He had introduced himself and angrily informed me that I had slandered him "from one end of this town to the other." He threatened to sue me, but calmed down when I mentioned Mr. Littlefield, Mr. Morse and a few others who would (I hoped so at any rate) testify for me.
Commissioners Peek and Spofford turned up for the hearing. It was at 10 a.m. I admit that I didn't show very well in my initial public appearance as a barrister. I did manage somehow to persuade the commissioners, at a heavy cost in words, to view the grove which I was seeking to save and to listen to my proposal as an alternative. I think now, looking back on that hearing, that it was as much in admiration of the nerve of the youthful protestant as anything else that they consented to visit Ordway's Grove.
The commission reconvened after lunch and handed down the verdict. It was adverse to the protesting Mr. Seitz and of course to me. I inquired whether it would be proper to bring up the ability of Mr. Rand to build the road and was emphatically ruled out of order. It would not.
I Need Some Help
There my case was high and dry. I had facts which I felt sure would shatter the whole railroad scheme but I had no way to get them before the commissioners. The only person in Norway who might pave the way was my father, D. S. Sanborn, who served Norway so many years as chairman of the board of selectmen. But it seemed that he and Mr. Peek were in the midst of some sort of coldness, relations so strained that father felt it would hurt my case if he should attempt to intervene.
Youth refused to be beaten. I boarded the train on which Messrs. Peek and Spofford went to Portland. I rode up town from the Grand Trunk station on the car that took them and with them I left it when they went to the Lafayette Hotel.
Judge Foster To The Rescue
With my quarry safely registered under that hostelry's roof, I sat down in the lobby to study my next move. It seemed hopeless until I remembered Hon. Enoch Foster. Judge Foster and I were close friends. Why had I not thought of him earlier?
I called him on the telephone and he hastened over to the hotel, coattails flying. I, as his friend, was in some sort of trouble, and he was fairly bursting with common ordinary curiosity, such as afflicts high and low alike, if the truth be known. The only difference is that some of us, especially lawyers and doctors, dissemble better.
The judge heard my story from beginning to end. He sat through the recital without uttering a word. When I finished, he said: "What do you propose to do?"
"I want you to take me to the commissioners and vouch for me. Nothing more"
"Sure enough," he replied in a tone that said, "The very thing".
A Hearing At Last
In less than ten minutes we were seated in Mr. Peek's room. He recognized me as "the young man we saw at Norway this afternoon," an allegation to which I readily pleaded guilty as charged. I then proceeded to unfold to two of Maine's three railroad commissioners the history of William G. Rand as I had heard it from those who had known him practically from the cradle.
I did not attempt to embroider the tale at all. I set the events before them in the order in which they had happened. I revealed frankly my interest in Norway, how I had come to write to Mr. Seitz, and what Mr. Seitz's sole purpose in the proceeding was, the preservation of Ordway's Grove.
I have never seen two better listeners than Mr. Peek and Mr. Spofford. They sat through the long recital in silence, just as Judge Foster had earlier in the evening. They seemed entranced, as by a well-told detective story, though looking back on the meeting, it seemed to me that it must have been enthusiasm for a "great cause," which kept me, a youngster yet to see twenty-five, chattering along in a role which would have appalled me if I had permitted myself to stop long enough to consider the nervy adventure on which I had deliberately embarked.
Victory And A "Thank You"
It was approaching midnight when I finished. For a full minute no one said a word. It was Mr. Peek who broke the silence and this is what he said, as nearly as I recall his words:
"Young man, you have done a remarkable thing. You have performed a service to this commission and to the State of Maine for which we cannot compensate you adequately. I feel in your debt permanently. I take it you are returning to Boston on the midnight train. I think that is what you said. You may do so in complete confidence that the Norway & Western Railroad never will be built. You may convey that fact to Mr. Seitz. We thank you both for what you have done."
A few days later my eye caught an item in the Lewiston Journal which stated to the world that "the location of the Norway & Western Railroad had been disapproved by the Railroad Commission, following a hearing on same."