Knights of the Rails

Knights of the Rails (HM25WO)

Location: Barstow, CA 92311 San Bernardino County
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Country: United States of America
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N 34° 54.282', W 117° 1.444'

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The American Hobo

Around the time of the Civil War, railroads were being built at a frantic pace. By the early 1870s there were 60,000 miles of track in the U.S., increasing to 250,000 by the 1930s. The war had produced a generation of young men used to living under adverse conditions. With the return of peace many no longer had jobs or family ties and became itinerant workmen, crossing the country by hopping trains. Economic depression beginning in 1873 accelerated this trend.

The origin of the word Hobo is unknown. But two possibilities are from homeward bound, or from "Hoe Boy," a farmhand traveling in search or work. Largely forgotten today, there was once a clear distinction between hoboes, tramps, and bums. Hoboes were mostly respectable men (and a few women) searching for work. Tramps traveled, but were averse to work in any form, one place, such as on inner city skid rows. Although found together, hoboes considered themselves distinct from and superior to tramps and bums.

Hoboes had their own lingo with terms like mulligan stew, riding the rods, and flophouse, as well as a system of marks indicating where work or handouts could be found. The presence of vicious dogs or where a man could flop for the night they gathered in hobo jungles found near every rail yard, including Barstow. Considered romantic by some, the life of a hobo was

often short and difficult. Besides the dangers of hopping trains, they waged a continual struggle with bulls (RR Cops) and shacks (brakemen), whose duty it was to keep them off the trains. Railroad men often extorted money for rides and ditched those who couldn't pay, sometimes in dangerous, remote areas.

The demise of the hobo came in the years before WW II. The Great Depression resulted in more people on the move in search of work, but they now tended to travel by automobile. Faster trains were harder to hop, and defense jobs greatly diminished the number of itinerant workers.

During their heyday hoboes built the railroads as well as rode on them, harvested grain, fruit, and vegetables, and constructed roads, bridges, and dams. Even as they labored, they were reviled and persecuted as tramps and vagrants. Nonetheless, their contribution to the building of America cannot be denied, and their history and heritage lives on.
HM NumberHM25WO
Series This marker is part of the E Clampus Vitus series
Year Placed2017
Placed ByBilly Holcomb Chapter #1069 of the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus and Harvey House, and City of Barstow
Marker Condition
10 out of 10 (1 reports)
Date Added Saturday, March 10th, 2018 at 4:03pm PST -08:00
Sorry, but we don't have a picture of this historical marker yet. The member who adopted this marker listing is responsible for adding pictures.
Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)11S E 497801 N 3862475
Decimal Degrees34.90470000, -117.02406667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 34° 54.282', W 117° 1.444'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds34° 54' 16.92" N, 117° 1' 26.64" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)760
Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling East
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 685 N 1st Ave, Barstow CA 92311, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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I Saw The Marker

My visit was fairly early in the day, while passing through Barstow, but the Harvey House and surroundings looked well cared for, though the museum wasn’t open, yet.

May 7, 2022 at 10:11pm PDT by historylover

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