#61 A Late Halloween Trick in Belpre

In researching for last week’s Halloween article, a ran across the following Kinsley Graphic article of a prank that took place in Belpre in 1905.  Halloween had been on Tuesday night that year, and this apparently took place on the following Monday night, November 6.  Because J. M. Lewis, the editor of the Graphic, was such a good storyteller, I am simply reprinting his article as it appeared in the Nov. 9, 1905 issue in its entirety.

“The boys at Belpre were a little slow in celebrating Halloween this year, but when they got started they did a pretty good job.  A young man from Tennessee lately arrived and took position of night operator for the Santa Fe at that station.  It was his first trip in the west and his evident curiosity about the bad men he had heard of suggested to the town boys that they could have a little fun at his expense, so Monday night they gathered at the station and began telling tales of trouble.  The talk ran on ghosts, cowboys, train-robbers and other kindred topics until the tenderfoot had been worked up to the proper pitch of nervousness. When suddenly, as he sat at his desk, a masked face appeared at the window.  This disturbed him a little but not enough to suit the boys.  In a few moments the mask was passed to another and again a masked face appeared, and then a revolver shot was heard.  The crowd inside immediately stampeded and that finished the operator.  He gathered his belonging and was for leaving on the instant.  It was then up to the boys to keep him at his, so they assured him that the trouble was over, and he went back to work. 

This photo taken by Belpre photographer W. O. Durstine, c. 1915, may have been what the tenderfoot depot operator imagined Kansas cowboys or train robbers to look like.  If you know who these hombres are, please inform the library.

Two torpedoes (firecrackers) were placed on the track in front of the station, and when late in the night, a local freight exploded them, the operator thought sure his time had come and reported to the dispatcher that shooting was going on around the depot and asked what he should do; and then the boys up and down the (railroad) line ‘tumbled’ and proceeded to make it pleasant.  The young man gathered up his shattered nerves and stuck to his post till morning, although feeling sure that No. 9 was to be held up.  In the morning he announced his intention of throwing up his job, which put the joke on the jokers, and they were compelled to tell him the whole story.

“We want to say right here that had we been in the place of the young stranger we don’t believe that daylight would have found us in that town.  Any man would have been frightened and most men would have run.  The young man showed courage and a strong sense of duty in sticking to his post under trying circumstances and should be commended for it and congratulated on his nerve.”

The Belpre depot where the trick was played.  Picture taken c. 1915 by W.O. Durstine.
If you recognize any of the men in this Santa Fe Railroad crew, please inform the library.

            I chose two photographs taken by W.O. Durstine of Belpre to accompany this article.  They were probably taken about 10 years after the incident and are part of a collection of images digitalized from glass plates by the Kansas State Historical Society. Unfortunately, we are unable to identify most of the people in the slides. If your ancestors were in Belpre from 1907 through the 1920, come in the library and see if you can find them in the photos.