Text: Edgar Allan Poe, “The Railroad War,” Alexander’s Weekly Messenger, vol. 4, no. 12, March 18, 1840, p. 2, col. 3


[page 2, column 3:]


During the last ten days, or thereabouts, the sober inhabitants of the District of Kensington have been all alive with a delightful little war of their own — a nice rough-and-tumble affair — none of your bloodhound business, or Bugaboo and Kickapoo campaigns. The Philadelphia and Trenton Rail-road Company had received permission, it seems, from one of our judicial tribunals, to lay their rails in Front street, but could not obtain the consent of the property holders of the region. For some time past the work has been going on, however, with much grumbling and many threats on the part of the Front-streeters, but with no overt act of resistance. On Monday morning, about ten o’clock, matters took the first serious turn. Quite a mob — men, women, and children — surrounded the laborers at the rails; replacing the paving-stones which had been displaced, and otherwise interrupting the work. The sheriff was sent for, arrived about 12, with his possee, and arrested Henry Rowan, John Craydon, and Francis Farley. These were taken before Mayor Conrad, and held to bail, the former in $500, the two latter in $300 each, to answer the charges alleged against them before the Court of General Sessions. The arrest of these persons intimidated the crowd for a time, but in the afternoon the riot again commenced. About 4 o’clock Hugh Lemon was arrested, taken before the Mayor, and bound over in the sum of $300. Lemon is a property-holder to some extent upon Front street.

On Tuesday and Wednesday the excitement still continued, and a great number of the gentle engaged in the melee. On Thursday the disorders increased. Mr. Naglee was violently assaulted with paving stones discharged from the fair hands of the damsels of Kensington, who also led away in triumph a wagon containing iron rails for the road, the laborers being fairly driven off the ground. Many arrests were made, but with no good effect. In the afternoon the Sheriff and his whole posse were routed, and the rioters, having beaten them off, proceeded to tear up that portion of the road which was the nearest to completion; disengaging not only the rails but the wooden frames, and filling up the excavations with dirt and stones. In the meantime placards were posted up calling upon the people to “put down the rail-road nuisance,” and addressed especially to the firemen, draymen and carters — who were invited to attend a meeting on Thursday evening, in the Commissioners Hall, Kensington. The meeting was accordingly held, and served, as a matter of course, to inflame the wrath of the mob, who adjourned to the scene of action, and set fire to the timber intended for the road. The Judges of the Court of Quarter Sessions now issued a general warrant, authorizing the Sheriff to command the service of every able-bodied citizen to aid in quelling the disturbances. This officer issued notices accordingly, and gave directions to the whole police force, as well as to all the watchmen, to meet at his office on Friday. But before the time appointed, the Rail-road Company had agreed to discontinue the laying of the rails until the decision of the Supreme Court could be obtained. The property-holders had denied the company’s right to construct the road in Front street, and had also avowed their intention of referring the question to the Supreme Court. An announcement of the Company’s submission was duly made by the Sheriff to the mob, who first raised an uproarious shout of triumph, and then dispersed in high glee. Thus ended the great rail-road war.




This item was first attributed to Poe by Clarence S. Brigham in Edgar Allan Poe’s Contributions to Alexander’s Weekly Messenger, 1943, pp. 56-58.



[S:1 - AWM, 1840] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Misc. - The Railroad War