Wednesday, April 28, 2010

History Repeats Itself

I spend most of my time looking at events that occurred before 1920 and the history of those times. Yet, every once and a while I have deja vu of some event in my own life. At times we do not recognize that this "new" idea is the same idea that we saw in the past. Cloud computing for me is such an example.

When I became a software programmer PCs did not exist. Data and information was stored on storage devices connected to mainframe computers. To access that data, one had to connect to the computer via a "dumb" terminal. The sole purpose of the terminal was to allow a user to type a command that was sent to the computer and display the results on the terminal screen.

In the 1980s PCs were being introduced. I remember using a PC that could pretend that it was a dumb terminal and connect to the mainframe. The difference between the dumb terminal and the PC was that I could now capture the data and use PC applications to manipulate it, create reports, run analysis application with it.

The concept of distributed processing emerged as a result of the introduction of the PC. However, the IT (Information Technology) people were justifiably concerned about how to support this type of environment. Can you expect that a PC user will know when and how to apply software upgrades? Can you expect a PC user to backup his/her data that is stored on a PC hard drive? And many more questions were raised.

There were definite advantages to having a centralized system. System upgrades were handled at single point within an organization and by the IT professionals. Data files were routinely backed up in the event of a failure in the system. At that time, this was a problem about which businesses had to be concerned.

As time marched on, more and more people were buying PCs and buying high speed access to the Internet. The interest in genealogy was growing rapidly during this same time. By the 21st century, we could access the Internet at high speeds, take digital photos, download digital images related to our family history.

Where did we store these images and information but on our PC. Did most of us have a backup procedure to make sure that we did not lose those images or that data we spent years gathering? Probably not, based on the number of posts that I see about recovering files from a hard disk that crashed or from a computer that died.

So it seems that we are in a revival of a sort of the mainframe-dumb terminal era. Cloud computing is the name of the game. The cloud computing businesses are telling you that you can store your photos, document images, and family tree outside of your computer. All of your data will be backed up and recoverable.

The difference today from back in the days of the mainframe and dumb terminals is you can access your stuff from any PC. Just provide your login ID and password.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Canadian Districts, Jurisdictions, Counties, et al - Are You Confused?

On February 13, 2010, I posted a blog entry entitled, "What is Canada West?." When I first saw the term "Canada West," I assumed that Canada West referred to the Northwest Territories and the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and even Manitoba. As I pointed out in the February 13th blog entry, I was quite wrong. I am repeating below a bit of what I said in that blog entry.

The variations between French law and British law became an issue in Canada when the Loyalists from the American War of Independence, were settling into the parts of French Canada that are currently in the Province of Ontario. French Canada was split into Lower Canada and Upper Canada. Lower Canada retained the French rules of law. Upper Canada comprised the southern part of today's Ontario. This split occurred December 26, 1791.

The Rebellion of Upper Canada in 1837 over the allocation of land resulted in changing the names of Upper and Lower Canada. On February 10, 1841, Lower Canada became known as Canada East and Upper Canada called Canada West. These names lasted about 27 years when the Dominion of Canada was established in 1867. At this time Canada West was called the Province of Ontario. You can guess what Canada East was called.

Just when I got the dates of the various names for Ontario and Quebec memorized, I find myself being confused about which county a town resides. I have relatives who were Loyalists and settled around Niagara Falls, Ontario. The early records indicate that they settled in what was called the Home District. However, in 1798, a new district was formed from the Home District and was called the Niagara District.

As I was locating records of these relatives and their descendants throughout the 19th century, I found records that had Niagara Falls in Lincoln County and then later in Welland County. The Niagara District existed between 1798 and 1849. Between 1849 and 1851, the southern portion of Lincoln County was split off and called Welland County.

Just when I thought that I had all this straight, I have come to learn that in the latter part of the 20th Century, this area became part of the Regional Municipality of Niagara. So it seems that we and our ancestors researching us will always be faced with the changes of time.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Moving to California in the 1950s and 1960s

As we grow older, we don't realize that so much time has passed. Things that were commonplace to us are unknown to the later generation(s). I know why my parents moved our family to California from Minnesota but my children do not. Why? Because the subject did not come up in conversation.

As I spend time trying to piece together my family tree, I often wondered why did my ancestor move from one place to another. Then I realized that my descendants may not know why my parents moved unless I document it.

When we moved to California, hardly any of my classmates were born in California. We all had moved from some other place. I had never seen so many different license plates until we lived in Orange County, California. At that time, an automobile owner did not have to re-register a car until the registration from the state in which the owner left expired. Everywhere I looked, I saw a license plate from another state. My classmates were mostly born in some other state, Canada or Mexico. I erroneously assumed that most people living in California in the 1960s were born elsewhere.

Thirteen years ago, my husband and I moved to the Bay Area from Los Angeles. I made many friends, most of whom were born in California. So much for my theory that most people in California in the 1960s were born somewhere other than California. Then the question for me was why are there more native born Californians of my generation in Northern California and so few in Southern California?

I don't have all the answers but I know what was happening in Southern California when my family moved there. The aerospace industry was very strong in Southern California at that time. My father was a machinist and found work at Hughes Aircraft Company in Culver City, CA within a few weeks of our moving from Minnesota to California. My father had lived briefly in California around the World War II years as did other men who served in the Pacific in that war. He saw much opportunity for himself and his family by moving to California.

I am the eldest in a large family. My father had hoped that he could provide the opportunity of a college education for each of his children. When I entered the University of California at Berkeley my annual tuition was $240. The tuition at the University of Minnesota at that same time was $900 a year. My dad told me that the cost of higher education in Minnesota versus the cost in California was a primary reason that he moved us to California.

My father's parents and two sisters were already living in California when we moved. It was a very hard move for my mother as she left so many of her close relatives behind. Most of the family events centered around my mother's family and not so much around my father's family. My father had wanted to move to the Bay Area but my mother's aunt and sister had moved to Southern California. So as a concession to my mother, my father moved the family to Orange County, California.

Even though my mother's aunt and sister were living in California, my mother complained about California. California was too dusty and dry. After I married, my mother and father took a trip back to my mother's beloved Minnesota. That was the end of her complaints about California. I guess the humidity and mosquitoes in Minnesota proved too much for my mother.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Cenotaph Gravemarkers

I regularly workout at a woman's gym. The employee in attendance this afternoon was one that I had not seen in a while. She had taken her mother to Kansas City for a visit to the area in which her mother was raised. They visited a cemetery that contained the remains of her mother's relatives that included an infant sister. The family moved west during the Great Depression leaving this infant behind in her grave.

Nancy felt badly about this infant who was left behind. Other members of that family were buried in the same cemetery. I told her about Martin Ringo who died in Wyoming en route to California from Missouri. He accidentally shot himself and was buried along the trail that today is called the Oregon Trail. At some time a person or persons erected a marker at the site of Martin Ringo's burial. Martin was one of the lucky ones who died along the Oregon Trail whose grave-site was identified and marked. Many others died and were buried but nothing remains of their burial location.

Nancy  felt badly that this infant in her grave was left behind while the family moved to the west. Looking back at my family and my husband's family, I realize that many of our ancestors left their dead buried in cemeteries that they would never visit again. I am entirely confident that everyone has a family member or ancestor buried somewhere that they are not likely to visit.

My father wished to be cremated. He did not care what we did with his cremains. He suggested that we might have his ashes spread at sea as he was a lifelong Navy person, interred with those of our mother at the National Cemetery, or interred at his parents' grave site.

We got together and all agreed as to have his cremains divided into three portions. That would allow us to have one portion of his ashes spread at sea, another portion interred with our mother at the National Cemetery and the third portion interred at his parents' burial site. But the one sister to whom the cremains were released changed her mind and had different ideas. We argued but she would not release to us his cremains. Eventually as part of a litigation, we had to buy his cremains from her.

Our father did not care where his cremains were interred or scattered. I did not care either but wanted a place that marked his existence. Another sister, trustee of our father's trust, agreed so we placed a cenotaph marker at our father's parents' grave site.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Part 3: Why Did James and Susan Stoutenburg Move Back to New York?

I cannot definitively say why James and Susan moved back to New York with their infant son, Frank, sometime between the time the family was enumerated in July 1860 and when their next child was born in January 1861.

Iowa is a plains state. It is very flat and has very few trees. The farther west one moves from the Mississippi River, the fewer the trees. The lack of trees and the flatness of the prairie drove some Scandinavian immigrants to return to Europe. But the prairie fires more likely drove those Scandinavian immigrants as well as settlers from the eastern part of the United States to go back home.

New Yorkers pushed westward settling in western New York and then Ohio. Many of those who successfully settled in Iowa had lived in other places. Thus, as these people pushed westward the plains of Iowa was not a great surprise or disappointment.

James and Susan Stoutenburg seem to have come directly from New York to Iowa. I can only speculate on how they felt upon arriving in this part of Iowa. I was back in Minnesota last weekend with my sister from Nevada. As I was driving from Minneapolis to St. Cloud, I told my sister what this state needs is some mountains. I wonder if Susan told her husband that Iowa needs some trees? Was the flatness of the terrain and lack of trees the factor that drove James and Susan back to New York?

Or could their decision to go back to New York, have anything to do with the talk of succession and the probable impending war?

I probably will never know why Susan and James went back to New York.

Part 2: 1855/56 Why Moved to Durant or Wilton, Iowa?

In my last blog entry, I ended with two questions. Why did James and Susan (Stoutenburg) move to Muscatine County, Iowa? and Why did they return to New York sometime between July 10, 1860 (when the family was enumerated in Iowa) and January 21, 1861 (when their second son was born)? Although I cannot give a definitive answer to either question, I can provide some insight to the conditions of that time period.

In the late 1840s railroads were being built throughout the eastern states. In the early 1850s many of these railroads were being consolidated thus offering service over longer continuous routes. By 1853 the Hudson River and Lake Erie were connected by railway. In that same year a Pennsylvanian railway was connected to the New York line near Lake Erie. By 1856, travelers from Pennsylvania and from the Hudson River could travel to Iowa. The line followed the southern shore of Lake Erie across Ohio, Indiana and Illinois touching on the southern tip of Lake Michigan and then on to the Mississippi River near the mouth of the Rock River. This terminated at the Illinois/Iowa state line near Rock Island, Illinois and across the Mississippi River from Davenport, Iowa. On April 22, 1856, the first passenger train crossed the Mississippi from Rock Island, Illinois to Davenport, Iowa. The trip between New York City and Davenport, Iowa now took only 60 hours.

Work was being begun on railroads west of the Mississippi River in the early 1850s. Thomas C. Durant was interested in building a rail route between Davenport and Council Bluffs, Iowa to connect the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.  In September, 1853, ground was broken for the Mississippi & Missouri Railroad (M & M RR).

During this same period, Wilton and Durant were being surveyed and laid out. Durant, a town about 20 miles west of Davenport in Farmington Township, Cedar County, was laid out in 1854 by Benjamin Brayton of the Rock Island Railway. Wilton Township and the town of Wilton in Muscatine County were laid out in 1853 and platted in September 1954 by Franklin Butterfield, Joseph A. Greene and George C. Stone.

Durant and Wilton were located on the M&M RR route that was completed in August 1854 with the first passenger train leaving Davenport on August 22, 1854.

Ebenezer Cook and George Sargent, bankers in Davenport, held a large interest in the Mississippi & Missouri Railroad and in the town of Durant. To support a train stop, the town built a comfortable train depot. In 1855, an offshoot of the railroad was built between the town of Muscatine, on the Mississippi River, and Wilton. Wilton did not have a depot, simply a shed roof building. The brakeman was not permitted to announce the town of Wilton at the junction. Instead the junction was called the Muscatine or Wilton Junction. Misters Greene and Stone, bankers in Muscatine, had an interest in Wilton and held considerable stock in M&M RR. In the end, the town of Wilton, prevailed.

Durant is said to be situate in one of the richest farming areas of Iowa. The first settlers came from New Haven, Connecticut, but settlers from New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Maine and Connecticut soon followed. Originally called Brayton it was renamed Durant after Thomas C. Durant.

Many of the railroad stakeholders were land agents. The stakeholders and the railroads actively advertised in Europe, Canada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and New England. The winter of 1858 was mild and 1859 yielded good crops in Iowa. The first shipment of pork from Iowa made it to the Atlantic seaboard. Business activity in Davenport was growing at a good rate by 1859.

James and Susan Stoutenburg were married in New York State in 1853 and were living in Iowa by 1859 when their son, Frank, was born. They did not appear in the 1856 Iowa State Census. With travel to Iowa by train from New York established in 1856 and the advertisements placed in New York towns and cities, it would seem that James and Susan Stoutenburg were attracted to Iowa.

The question then becomes "Why did they go back to New York?"


The Annals of the State Historical Society of Iowa. Iowa City, IA: Jerome & Duncan, Printers, 1863.

The History of Cedar County, Iowa. Chicago: Western Historical Company, 1878.

Clarence Ray Aurner. "A Topical History of Cedar County, Iowa. Vol. I. Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1910.

David A. Pfeiffer. "Bridging the Mississippi: The Railroads and Steamboats Clash at the Rock Island Bridge. "
Prologue Magazine 36.2 (2004): Web. 21 Apr. 2010.

Henry V. Poor. History of the Railroads and Canals of the United States of America. Vol. 1. New York: John H. Schultz & Co., 1860.

Irving Berdine Richman. History of Muscatine County Iowa from the Earliest Settlements to the Present Time. Vol. I. Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1911.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Part 1: Where was Frank Stoutenberg born? Iowa or New York

Some time ago I was contacted by a distant cousin to see if I knew something about Frank Stoutenburg, son of James and Susan Stoutenburg. She had conflicting information concerning his place of birth. She knew that his parents were born in New York as were all of his siblings, all of whom were younger than he. She had been told that Frank was born in Durant, Iowa. Frank's brother John was born 2 years after Frank in Sullivan County, NY. She was wondering if someone had made a mistake.

As it happened, I had Frank Stoutenberg's death certificate. The informant is a B. Murphy of Ancker Hospital who appears to be an employee of the hospital. Therefore, the information is sketchy. The death certificate says that he lived in St. Paul for 40 years and was born in 1860 in New York. Frank seems to believe that he was born in New York because in the 1870 and 1900-1920 US censuses and in the 1905 Minnesota census his birthplace is listed as New York.

I decided to see if I could find a Frank Stoutenburg and/or his parents in the 1860 census. Given the clue that he may have been born in Durant, Iowa, I found Frank Stoutenberg and his parents living in Wilton Township, Muscatine County, Iowa. According to Wikipedia, Durant spans three counties, Muscatine, Cedar and Scott. However, Plat Maps of Iowa as late as 1930 show Durant in Cedar County.

Wilton Township was organized in 1853 and the town of Wilton was platted in September 1854. A competing town was established in neighboring Cedar County in Farmington Township. This was the town of Durant. Based on the 1860 Census, Frank and his parents were living in Wilton Township and the nearest post office was Durant in Cedar County. This suggests that the farm on which the family resided was nearer to Durant than to Wilton. Frank was most likely born on the farm in Wilton Township in Muscatine County. Mail sent to James and Susan Stoutenberg would have been addressed to the Durant Post Office in Cedar County.

So the mystery of where Frank Stoutenberg was born is solved, but another remains. Why did James and Susan move to Muscatine County, Iowa? Then, why did they return to New York sometime between July 10, 1860 (when the family was enumerated in Iowa) and January 21, 1861 (when their second son was born)?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Why Does One Change His or Her Name?

There is a belief that officials at Ellis Island changed people's names. That is simply not true because the officials at Ellis Island were given passenger lists prepared at the point of departure. It was the immigrant himself or herself who made the name change. It was often an attempt to make the name more pronounceable or more English sounding.

Changing one's name is not only a phenomenon of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but it also occurs in the periods preceding and succeeding that time. I found many instances from the 17th century forward of names having been changed. In the 17th and 18th centuries, names were often spelled phonetically. So it was not unusual to find a person's name recorded differently from document to document. The phonetical spelling varied with the nationality of the person recording the event. So for example, I might find a resident of New Amsterdam recorded with a Dutch spelling of the name and that same individual as a resident of British New York with a different but similar spelling of the name.

As my family moved from New York City to other parts of the colony and to other colonies, the surnames was spelled in six if not more different ways. As people were themselves recording their name, they took on the various spellings of the name. In some cases, the individual simply gave into how others were writing his or her name. I have an Indian friend who changed his name because he got tired of people not being able to pronounce it or because when he was asked to spell it, the person just could not get it.

I have other friends who made a name change because they did not like the name that was given to them. You can find many instances in which a person chooses to use a middle name or just the initials because to that person it sounds better, more professional, or for whatever reason.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Peter J. Pefley, Mayor of Boise, Idaho

Most family histories follow the male lines. Daughters are generally followed only to their children but not beyond. I decided that I wanted to know about the families of the daughters of the progenitor of my mother's surname. This man was my grandfather 10 generations back and his daughters having been born in the years following his marriage in 1649 in New Amsterdam were my aunts.

I found some very interesting people as I researched these women and their descendants. I was most fascinated with the men that they married and accomplishments of their children. One such female relative was Sarah Smith. She is the 4th great granddaughter of my direct ancestor's sister. Her family along with other families including the Pefley family moved to Oregon in 1851.

Peter Pefley was a harness maker. Sarah's father was a farmer. So who would have guessed that Peter Pefley would be an influential person in the state of Idaho?

Although he was mayor of Boise for 2 years (1887-1889) and a member of the constitutional committee to bring about statehood for Idaho, he was a harness maker and saddler throughout this period and beyond. As I studied this man further, found more intriguing facts.

In 1884, he filed a patent for a Saddle-girth. Then in May of 1887, he filed a patent for Girth-buckles for Saddles. A few months later he filed a patent for a Riding-saddle. Now it seemed to me that he was not just a harness maker but an inventor.

In the 1891 Boise City Directory, he is listed the proprietor of the Idaho Saddlery Company at 833 Main Street. You can see a picture of the building in 1895 at the Washington State University Library Digital Collections.

Sarah and Peter were married in 1855. She was at his side throughout his career. There is a saying, "Behind every great man there is a great woman." They were married 41 years when he died. She was his wife throughout his career.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Widow in Distress

Today, I was reading court documents that were filed in 1893 in Virginia by a widow. She was the sole support of her 10 minor children. Annie was asking the court for permission to sell property left to her children in order to provide for their support. The property was not generating enough income to pay the mortgage and provide support for the children. I was struck by the complexity this poor woman had to deal with in order to provide adequate support for her children.

The court documents that I read reveal that she was before the court from 1893 to 1896. Having recently been involved with the judicial system as a guardian of my brother and trustee of his trust, I was shocked that to learn that this poor woman at the end of the 19th century was dealing with similar issues that I faced.

We like to think that we have progressed and are an enlightened people, but one only need to look back in history to see that we do not learn from history.

Based on the number of depositions and petitions submitted to the court between 1893 and 1896, I am sure that the income that she had hoped to gain for her children by selling unprofitable property and reinvesting it elsewhere was substantially reduced by court and lawyers' fees.

I am faced with a similar problem. I had hoped that I could make the money in my brother's trust last for at least 20 years while providing him with the things that Social Security disability benefits and Medi-Cal did not cover. Unfortunately that does not seem possible when I have to pay an attorney at least $2000 a year to file accounting report to the court. At this rate, between paying certain expenses related to my brother and the attorney's fees for filing the accounting reports to the court, the money will not last for my brother's benefit to 20 years.

So I ask, "What has changed?"

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Death of my Nephew

My 35 year-old nephew passed away yesterday. It was completely by surprise and has devastated my sister. She sent me an email message the subject "Really sad news." Before I opened the message, thought that she was going to tell me that her nephew's wedding was cancelled.

Her nephew was going to be married in Las Vegas. My sister planned to attend and following the wedding come up to Reno to visit another sister. I was looking forward to joining my sisters in Reno and planned to take the train from the Bay Area to Reno. There would be lots of snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains and the scenery should be really spectacular in May.

As our mother would say, "Oh Poo!" But when I opened the message and read it, the air went out of my chest. I could not believe the words that she sent. 

Hi Lanaii,  your phone number is in my office and we tried to get your number from directory assistance.  I will try to call you later this evening.  I don't have the words but Collin died suddenly at 2:30 AM this morning from a heart attack.  It's not real yet for me, it's a very bad dream.  No prior indication or as the coroner said, he probably passed it off as muscle strain, flu whatever because his heart did show a previous heart attack.  He also said Collin's sibling should have their cardio systems checked out.  This is so hard.  I have never hurt so bad.  Love Shari
I was in shock! I called my sister in Nevada but got her voicemail. I left a message. I called cousins but got voicemail or an answering machine. I did not leave messages because I did not want to talk to a machine.

I watched my mother go through a similar event. I never thought that I'd be seeing it happen again. Shari is the only one of my sisters that looks exactly like my mother. Her son Collin resembled my brother Craig. Both died as a result of heart attack at a young age. Collin was talking about marriage. Craig was to be married a week later.

 I am in tears as I write this. Mothers don't expect to outlive their adult children. This is not the case for my mother and my sister.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

2010 US Census

The US Census of 1850 marked a real change for people researching family trees. This was the first US census that enumerated every member of the household and included the age, place of birth and occupation. By the 1880 US census, information about the birthplace of the parents was included.

Each census, thereafter, included some relevant additional information. I won't see the images of the 1940's census for another two years. I wonder if that census will give more information.

I filled out the 2010 Census form for my family. As a person who frequently looks at the US census images from 1790 to 1930 as well as those from other countries, I was really disappointed with the questions asked in the 2010 US Census.

Nothing was asked about the birthplace of my parents or whether I was a citizen or not. Nothing was asked about when I came to the US if I was not born here. Nothing was asked about my occupation or whether I was employed or not.

I suppose that the Census Administration wasn't thinking about how the information collected might help people in the future researching ancestors and relatives who lived in 2010.

Political Parties in the 1930s

I was looking at the California Voter Registrations from 1900 to 1968 for a particular couple. I knew from the 1930 US Census they were living in Los Angeles County. I found the couple as registered voters in Los Angeles County in 1928. The couple was registered in Los Angeles County through at least 1956.

At the top of the page of the index was a description of the abbreviations of the political parties. By 1944, the description of abbreviations of the political parties had been eliminated.

In the 1928 voter registration index, only four abbreviations appeared at the top of the page. These were R for Republican, D for Democrat, S for Socialist and P for Prohibition. In 1934, something had changed as the 1934 voter registration index included several more parties. In addition to the Democrat, Prohibition, Republican and Socialist parties, the list included the following parties: Progressive, Commonwealth, Communist, Liberty and Constitutional parties.

By 1933, the economy following the collapse of October 1929 was beginning to improve, but probably not fast enough to be apparent to most US residents. The emergence of all these parties reminds me of that which is happening today with the emergence of several "tea party" parties. Some of the new parties were short-lived and most of them disappeared by the end of World War II.

I do not plan to spend more time researching these parties, but it was interesting to see how things don't change much throughout history.

The Socialist party was established in 1910. In one hundred years, this party has not effected any major change in the US government nor in the US economy. It surprises me that the Socialist party is seen by a vocal minority today as a real threat to the fiber of our government and the viability of our economy.

I ask myself, "Why do they have no confidence in the wisdom of the men who framed the Constitution of the United States?" This is a document that has withstood the test of time for over 200 years.

If I could return to a place and time in history, it would be from 1776 to 1787 as a fly on the wall of the various conventions that occurred to create the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. I would love to see how men of power and influence could come together to agree on these documents but in particular on the US Constitution.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Politics Do Not Change

In the process of attempting to determine what may have motivated my great uncle on my father’s side and my great-great grandfather on my mother’s side to move to Alberta, Canada, I came across a couple of books written about western Canada and the Canadian Pacific Railway.

A book that in particular attracted my interest was the History of the North-West, Volume III by Alexander Begg (Toronto: Hunter, Rose & Company, 1895). Chapter I “The Canadian Pacific Railway” was fascinating. Just having watched Republican’s in the United States House of Representatives employing delay tactics concerning the health care reform, I was struck with the similarity with regards to the establishment of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

The establishment of a transcontinental railroad in Canada was being discussed. The Toronto Globe printed an article on February 3, 1871 extolling the importance of an ocean to ocean rail routed through Canada. Apparently, Canadians travelling to Fort Garry (near Winnipeg) had to go to the United States in order to more easily reach this outpost in Manitoba.

William H. Seward of the United States saw the plan to build a transcontinental Railway through Canada as providing vast opportunities for Canada. It would open access to the Canadian timberlands near the Rocky Mountains but more importantly make Canada a major world trading company. The distance between Vancouver in British Columbia and Asia was much shorter than the distance between San Francisco and Asia. Seward (of Seward’s Folly) believed that a Canadian transcontinental railway would draw commerce to and from Canada to Europe, Asia and the United States.

Something changed between 1871 when the Toronto Globe supported the concept and 1880 when the same newspaper attacked the plan to construct a line north of Lake Superior as useless.

A contract was presented to Parliament on December 10, 1880 by a group of men who were connected with the success of the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba Railway. The House of Commons had to approve the contract. Mr. Mackenzie and Sir John A. Macdonald of the Opposition party could not secure capitalists to bid. But miraculously George Stephens and colleagues presented to the House of Commons an offer to build the railroad for less money and provide more favorable terms to the government. These offers were deemed not legitimate.

The Opposition seemed more interested in bringing down the majority party than approving the building of a transcontinental railway. They waged a campaign throughout Canada to encourage citizens to send petitions to the House of Commons. A few citizens sent petitions; some were in favor but most of those who sent petitions were against the contract. During the Christmas recess, the Opposition tried to rally the people to rise up against the Syndicate offer. The populace did not respond.

So the Opposition turned to another tactic. Edward Blake on January 18, 1881, moved to amend the contract to make the contract between the Government and Sir W. P. Howland, et. al. vs. the Government and George Stephens, et. al. The Howland offer was not consider as genuine and voted down.

At this point the Opposition proceeded to introduce one by one twenty-three additional amendments to the contract. Each was defeated. Had any one carried then the contract would have been defeated. Sir John A. Macdonald, of the Opposition, ultimately on January 28, 1881, introduced the bill for the incorporation of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company.

It was still a hotly contested debate but the House of Commons passed the bill on February 1, 1881 and sent the bill to the Senate. The Senate accepted the bill without amendment and the Canadian Pacific Railway Company officially was incorporated on February 17, 1881.

Can you imagine the impact on the economic growth of Canada had the Opposition party been successful at delaying the building of the transcontinental railway simply because the Opposition wanted to take down the majority party?

It looks like politics do not change.