Ask Rufus: An 1858 lawsuit and the building of the railroad

January 12, 2013 6:13:00 PM

Rufus Ward - [email protected]


Reading the Dispatch last week one could not help but notice the problems that a potential new industry seemed to have in living up to its commitments. Such problems are not something new. When the Mobile and Ohio Railroad was constructed through this area in the late 1850s, all was not smooth sailing. 


On March 20, 1856, Bartlett H. Bailey, a mechanic by trade, entered into a contract with the Mobile and Ohio Railroad to build three "freight or station houses." They were to be located at "Lowndes Station, Columbus Junction and Okahatta." Within a year, the station names had been changed to Crawford Station, Artesia Station and West Point Station. 


Work commenced on the Crawford Station in September 1857, and it was completed in October. The work was done by Bailey and three carpenters. A scale drawing of the framing of the station house provided that it was to be wood framed and 30x60 feet. There was to be a wooden 48x50-foot platform between the structure and the railroad tracks. The actual platform ended up being 48x100 feet. The station consisted of a large open room and a small office. There was also a turntable constructed at the station. Included in the charges were six dollars to build a coffin for a Chamberlain & Co. slave who had died during the construction. The work was approved by the railroad's District Engineer L. C. Avery around Nov. 16, 1857. The final cost of the station was $458.18. 


The Artesia Station House was designed to be 30x90 feet with a 48x100-foot platform. It was also to have a 16x53-foot tank house. 


Not long after the completion of the Crawford Station work commenced on the West Point station house. The work in West Point was completed by the end of January 1858. The West Point Station was wood framed and was 30x100 feet with a 48x100-foot wooden platform between it and the railroad tracks. The structure contained six large doors apparently to the large store room and three small doors and two windows in an office and sitting room. There was also a turntable constructed at West Point. 


The construction contract, in addition to the station, called for the building of a "Negro Palace" which was probably a barracks for slaves working on the railroad prior to the Civil War. The final itemized statement on the construction provided for a total cost of $832.06 which was due and payable on Feb. 1, 1858. 


One reason that we have such good information on the construction of these two stations is that the Mobile and Ohio Railroad did not pay Bailey for his work on the West Point station house. Bailey did not take kindly to not getting paid and on July 12, 1858, filed suit against the railroad in the Circuit Court of Lowndes County. The original itemized statements for the construction of the Crawford and West Point stations and the original drawing of the framing of the Crawford station were included as evidence in the court file.  


On May 9, 1859, Circuit Judge James S. Hamm ruled in Bailey's favor against the railroad and awarded him a judgment, with interest and court cost amounting to $1,010.39. The Mobile and Ohio Railroad did not immediately pay and Bailey asked the court to have the West Point station and yard (including tracks) sold to satisfy his judgment. The railroad then paid in full on Jan. 17, 1860. Even a 154 years ago it sometimes took some serious prodding to get people to do right.

Rufus Ward is a Columbus native a local historian. E-mail your questions about local history to Rufus at [email protected]