All the President’s Men — Backroom Dealings in Carleton Place?

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Before you read this:

I googled their signatures before I wrote this. The Claus one is down pat so is Gould and Vanderbilt. Although Roosevelt’s does not match exactly—after going through about 50 of them I found some characteristics LOL… But this is one for the books. All four were thick as thieves in those days.

In 1870, the Brockville and Ottawa railway had reached Carleton Place. After both railways were bought out by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, Carleton Place became a hub. Because of its huge lumber business, it became an important mark on the map. Our local hotels were full in those days of travelers from in and out of town. In looking through the Chatteron House Hotel (Queen’s Hotel) guest registrar I spotted the name Vanderbilt. Wondering if  that individual was related to the US Vanderbilts I began to research the other names also from New York.

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All of the four names signed on that registrar were four men who built America.Was this a hoax? Or did some back room deal happen in Carleton Place? Did they figure they would not be noticed in a small rural town? You tell me.

Here are the cast of characters whose names all appear on the Chatterton House Hotel registrar above.

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William Vanderbilt: (1849-1920)

William Vanderbilt was for a time active in the management of the family railroads, though not much after 1903. What was most important about the Vanderbilts was they owned the only rail bridge into New York City, and it was both the gateway to country’s largest and busiest port. In their hands. They used it as a weapon in all matters trying to accumulate power in the transportation business. The Canada Southern always contained much Vanderbilt and Gould money.

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Theodore Roosevelt-(1858-1919)

Theodore Roosevelt, former US president was born into a wealthy and influential family in New York City and knew all these gentleman very well. You see the Roosevelts, Goulds and Vanderbilts and a host of other’s influential families homes were just three miles apart in New York state. Rich people lived by each other in those days in their opulent mansions. All the families entertained here, at picnics by the pool and simple dinners at which the cocktail “hour” was limited to a mere five minutes at the Vanderbilts. But, when it all came down to the wash, what they all had in common was money and power.

Teddy was an avid traveler and had come to Canada before as he was friends with Cecil Spring Rice (1859-1918) a British Diplomat living in Canada.  Spring Rice was posted to Washington, D.C. in 1887 as the British Ambassador and returned to Canada as second secretary in 1889.  His friendship with Roosevelt, who was now working at the United States Civil Service Commission, continued to grow.  Their close relationship undoubtedly added to the Ambassador’s diplomatic clout in the USA. Roosevelt was soon put forth as the Republican party’s candidate for the District’s House seat in Albany. He was a member of the New York State Assembly (New York Co., 21st D.) in 1882, 1883 and 1884. He immediately began making his mark, specifically in corporate corruption issues and became the 26th President of the Unites States in 1901 after the assassination of President McKinley. One of his earliest campaigns was blocking a corrupt effort by financier Jay Gould to lower his taxes. Was Roosevelt’s endeavours all a smoke screen?

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Jason “Jay” Gould (May 27, 1836 – December 2, 1892) was a leading American railroad developer and speculator. He was publicly known as what was called a robber baron whose success at business made him the ninth richest U.S. citizen in history. Gould, owner of the Union Pacific railroad company was the Wolf of Wall Street long before anyone else. In an effort to take full control of the Erie, Gould was trying to gather up investors and money.  One such investor was a man going by the name Lord Gordon-Gordon. This “lord” was able to swindle Gould out of $1 million in stock and then flee on a night train to Montreal, Canada in 1872, and then on to Manitoba.

When Gordon was found to be a fraud, the stock dropped and Gould, who had been swindled out of quite a bit of money, was in very dire straits. In an effort to get Gordon back to the United States, Gould and several associates: who included two future Governors of Minnesota and three future members of Congress (Loren Fletcher, John Gilfillan, and Eugene McLanahan Wilson), attempted to kidnap him. The group was successful, but were stopped and arrested by the North-West Mounted Police before they could return to the United States. The kidnappers were put in prison and refused bail.

This led to an international incident between the United States and Canada. Upon learning that the kidnappers were not given bail, Governor Horace Austin of Minnesota demanded their return and put the local militia on a state of full readiness. Thousands of Minnesotans volunteered for a full military invasion of Canada. However, after negotiations, the Canadian authorities released the kidnappers on bail

In the end, Gould was forced out of the Erie Railroad altogether in 1879.Gould also owned the New York World newspaper from 1879 to 1883, and by 1886 he had acquired the Manhattan Elevated Railroad, which held a monopoly over New York City’s elevated railways.  Gould also gained control of several railroads, including Union Pacific. That is where he met Claus Spreckels.

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Claus Spreckels- (1828-1908)

Spreckels used money from his sugar company Western Sugar Refinery in 1874 to purchase a large tract of ranch and timber land in Aptos, California. He built a large resort hotel and, not far away, an extensive ranch complex. Spreckels was one of the original investors in the Santa Cruz Railroad, which began operation in 1875 and passed through his land on its run between Santa Cruz and Watsonville. The narrow-gauge line was later acquired and standard-gauged by the Southern Pacific Railroad, now part of the Union Pacific Railroad was the President of the San Francisco and San Joaquin Valley Railway from 1895 until it was sold to the Santa Fe Railway in 1901. The railroad built a line that competed with the Southern Pacific through the San Joaquin Valley between Richmond and Bakersfield. The railroad was welcome competition for shippers who were strangled by Southern Pacific’s monopoly on shipping rates in the valley. On July 9, 1893 Spreckels found a death threat graffitied on his house. He went into self-exile from Hawaii July 19

Epilogue

There were many sides to Theodore Roosevelt-and let’s face it money and power were important to all these men. So the fact remains- what on earth were all these Republican men doing at The Chatterton House Hotel in Carleton Place? If you think about it– they were doing what politicians do best. In a small local hotel rural they were not going to be bothered by anyone. If  Roosevelt showed such public detest to Gould in later years, why did he have lunch with his son years later as a President of the United States? George Jay Gould was a financier and a railroad executive like his father, leading both the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad and the Western Pacific Railroad.

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Was this a hoax? Were names written down for the fun of it? I can see Roosevelt and Vanderbilt, but the names of Gould and Sprekels would not be on the tips of everyone’s list. So what was really going on? Well after hours of looking I found an article about the Gould family visiting the Ottawa area the year before. Seems that Gould had his own train car much like celebrities have private jets today.

The Daily Local News, Ottawa, Canada, October 15, 1886, page 2
Jay Gould, Railroad Tycoon, Visits the City of Ottawa. A Millionaires Appearance. “The Boy” George and His Bonny Bride *Edith Kingdon.

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At twenty minutes past one in the afternoon, a special train consisting of the locomotive, a baggage car, a sleeper, a dining car and a regally decorated boudoir car arrived at the First street depot. The boudoir coach was the “Convoy,” Jay Gould’s personal car, and it brought to the city the railroad magnate, his son, George J. Gould, the latter’s wife, pretty Edith Kingdon that was; H.S. Hopkins, second vice president of the Gould system; Capt. Shackford, commander of Gould’s steam yatch the Atalanta, and officials of the M.P. system.

This story is going to keep me researching for a very long time– I keep saying –there is way more history to Carleton Place than Roy Brown.

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*Edith Kingdon

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She was born in 1864 and educated in England. She was the daughter of Charles Dennis Kingdon and Mary Carter of Toronto, Ontario. She worked as a stage actress until her marriage—George Jay Gould son of Jay Gould

More stories from the Desk Books of The Chatterton House Hotel (Queen’s Hotel) Carleton Place from the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum

Part 1- Tales of the Chatteron House Corset — Queen’s Hotel in Carleton Place- can be found here.

Part 2- Hell on Wheels at Lady Chatterton’s Hotel in Carleton Place– can be found here.

Part 3- I Will Take Some Opium to Go Please —The “Drug Dispensary” at the Chatterton House Hotel

Part 4- Chatterton House Hotel Registrar- George Hurdis -1884

Part 5-What the Heck was Electric Soap? Chatterton House Hotel Registrar

Part 6-The First Mosh Pits in Carleton Place — The Opera House of the Chatterton House Hotel

Buy Linda Secaspina’s Books— Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac– Tillting the Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place and 4 others on Amazon or Amazon Canada or Wisteria at 62 Bridge Street in Carleton Place

About lindaseccaspina

Linda Knight Seccaspina was born in Cowansville, Quebec about the same time as the wheel was invented and the first time she realized she could tell a tale was when she got caught passing her smutty stories around in Grade 7 at CHS by Mrs. Blinn. When Derek "Wheels" Wheeler from Degrassi Jr. High died in 2010, Linda wrote her own obituary. Some people said she should think about a career in writing obituaries. Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa from 1976-1996. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off she finally found her calling. Is it sex drugs and rock n' roll you might ask? No, it is history. Seeing that her very first boyfriend in Grade 5 (who she won a Twist contest with in the 60s) is the head of the Brome Misissiquoi Historical Society and also specializes in local history back in Quebec, she finds that quite funny. She writes every single day and is also a columnist for Hometown News and Screamin's Mamas. She is a volunteer for the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum, an admin for the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page, and a local guest speaker. She has been now labelled an historian by the locals which in her mind is wrong. You see she will never be like the iconic local Lanark County historian Howard Morton Brown, nor like famed local writer Mary Cook. She proudly calls herself The National Enquirer Historical writer of Lanark County, and that she can live with. Linda has been called the most stubborn woman in Lanark County, and has requested her ashes to be distributed in any Casino parking lot as close to any Wheel of Fortune machine as you can get. But since she wrote her obituary, most people assume she's already dead. Linda has published six books, "Menopausal Woman From the Corn," "Cowansville High Misremembered," "Naked Yoga, Twinkies and Celebrities," "Cancer Calls Collect," "The Tilted Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place," and "Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac." All are available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Linda's books are for sale on Amazon or at Wisteria · 62 Bridge Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada, and at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum · 267 Edmund Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada--Appleton Museum-Mississippi Textile Mill and Mill Street Books and Heritage House Museum and The Artists Loft in Smith Falls.

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