The R. W. & O. R. R. (Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg Rail Road) 1890 Christmas Surprise For Superintendent W. S. Jones
The 1890 Christmas Surprise for Superintendent W. S. Jones was published in the Watertown Daily Times on December 26, 1890. It details the gratitude expressed by employees of R. W. & O. R. R., who collaborated not only with the planning of a surprise gift for their beloved assistant superintendent but also expressed their gratitude in such a way that, unfortunately, seems uncommon today, which makes this worth sharing.
A little background with the history: in 1886, the R. W. & O. R. R. split into three regions, including the Eastern, Western and Middle Divisions, with the Middle Division comprising Rome, Watertown, Sackets Harbor, and Cape Vincent. The R. W. & O. R. R. became a New York Central Rail Road subsidiary by 1891 and later the St. Lawrence Division of the said railroad in 1913. W. S. Jones, whose full name could not be located, went on to become Superintendent at numerous other locations around the country.
Below is the full article:
The most surprised man in Watertown Christmas Eve was W. S. Jones, superintendent of the middle division of the R. W. & O. railroad, who, upon returning from a trip over a part of the division, found his office filled with railroad men, and so transformed by new articles of furniture that he almost failed to recognize it.
For several days, the employees of the middle division have been holding secret conferences, signing their names to a formidable-looking document, and paying money into a common treasury. Frank P. Brown has been the chief custodian of the secret and money, and his movements, as well as those of all others connected with the scheme, have been open to suspicion as being different from the open and above-board manners common among railroad men.
They stole into Mr. Jones’ office while he was at dinner one day and took measurements, and then they all united in wishing he would leave town—for a little while on Wednesday so that they could be in his office this week. Nothing occurred to call him away. But on Wednesday, the luck of the plotters changed. In the middle of the forenoon, Mr. Jones boarded a train and was whizzed away south, and it is said the engineer went out of the depot at a livelier gait than usual for fear the superintendent would change his mind and jump off.
Within half an hour big bundles of packages began to arrive at the office, and soon the floor outside of the railing was covered with handsome linoleum, while the more private part of the office was favored with Brussels carpet. A handsome revolving chair was placed in front of the desk and two other comfortable and rich-looking oak chairs, a nickel cuspidor and waste paper basket were added to the furnishings. Potted plants were introduced for decorations.
Frank Brown wore two watches all day Wednesday, and every railroad man who came into his office had to have a look at a beautiful new time-piece in a heavy gold case on the inner surface of which is engraved:
“W. S. Jones,
Presented by Employees
R. W. & O. R. R.,
Dec. 25, 1890.”
The watch is modern and first-class in every detail, combining all the latest improvements and all the best features of a perfectly reliable and durable time-piece. Attached to the watch is a heavy chain of solid gold and attached to that is a royal arch Mason’s charm. The whole was purchased at S. L. George’s Jewelry store, Mr. George having secured the best goods in the market for the purpose.
At 4:50 Mr. Jones stepped off the train from the south and climbed the stairs to his office. He saw a sight which dazed him. He knew nothing was wrong, for the crowd of men smiled at him and nudged each other with every expression of delight as they pushed him along to the edge of the throng, where he was confronted by Mr. R. E. Smiley, assistant secretary of the company and the oldest man in the service.
Mr. Smiley said:
“Mr. Jones, I trust you will not think that all these gentlemen desire passes. They have asked me as their representative, to beg your acceptance of these beautiful chairs and carpet with which they furnished your office, as a slight token of their esteem for you; and last but not least, I present you this splendid gold watch and chain which they ask you to wear as a constant reminder of the regard in which you are held by all the employees of your division as their superior officer and associate. With sincere wishes for the future happiness of you and yours, I now, in behalf of the gentlemen whose names are hereto subscribed, wish you a Merry Christmas.”
It was all so sudden and so entirely undreamed of that the usually cool-headed superintendent was utterly helpless for a moment. He looked about him with eyes that could not see every well just then because some snowdrops had melted in them. There was a world of eloquence in his silence. The railroad men rejoiced at his confusion and smiled at each other with happy hearts. In a short time the recipient of their gifts recovered sufficiently to express in a few appropriate words his appreciation, and then he collapsed in one of the chairs which had been placed near him.
With a hearty laugh and informal congratulations expressed in railroad vernacular, the happy donors returned to their work, leaving Mr. Jones to adjust his new watch and chain and giving him time to look around and fully comprehend the change that had been wrought.
Accompanying the gifts was a list of the names of the donors, representing men in all branches of the service, which was headed by the following:
To Mr. W. S. Jones, Assistant Superintendent, Middle Division, R. W. & O. R. R.
We, the undersigned of employees of the R. W. & O. R. R. company on the middle division, desiring to express to you in some substantial manner the high esteem in which we hold you because of your many kindnesses and courtesies to us as fellow employees in the railroad service, and the cordial affection we feel for you because of your acts toward us as a man and a brother…
…and your uniform fairness as an official, hereby present to you as our united gift this gold watch, chain and charm, and these articles of furniture for your office, with our most earnest wish that you may enjoy a Merry Christmas, and that they day may have more of pleasure, now and in the future, because by these tokens you will know that you are ever remembered with warmest affection and respect by those with whom you labor.
May your path in life be ever smoothed and softened as this floor is by the carpet with which we have covered it; may you always find an easy chair in which to rest from your work; may the charm of your kindly presence continue with us many years; may the chain of friendship which binds us together grow stronger still during all the future; and may the movement of your watch be always as true as the beating of your heart and never lose a minute’s time.
These are the wishes which we call down upon you today and which we sincerely hope will be realized throughout your life.