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The Master Builder.
Everywhere one goes on the Isthmus he will hear: “The Colonel said," and “The Colonel did," and many other references to “The Colonel." “The Colonel" is Geo. W. Goethals, Chairman of the Isthmian Canal Commission, Chief Engineer of the Canal, President of the Panama Railroad, Governor of the Canal Zone, resident member of the Panama Canal Fortification Board in charge of construction, and, combining all these officials in one, he is the autocrat of the Canal Zone.
No one is more careful than Colonel Goethals to give due credit to his predecessors and coworkers for their share in the success of the Panama Canal. It is not an invidious comparison, therefore, to say that no one 80 much as he personifies that success.
A virtual despot over a little kingdom of 50,000 workers, he shows every day the decision, resourcefulness, and tact that mark a great executive. Some of his coworkers disagree with him in questions of policy, but they all pay tribute to his ability. With the mass of the workers he commands the respect that only able and honest men can win, and such sympathy as is accorded only to very human men.
He is six feet tall, every inch bone and muscle. No one on the force works harder than he. His day begins ordinarily at 7 o'clock in the morning when he takes one of the early trains from Culebra for his tour of inspection. The afternoon is spent in his office at Culebra, and often he works there until his bedtime, 10 o'clock.
On Sunday mornings he holds court at Culebra to hear the complaints or petitions of the workers under him. There is no laborer that cannot get an audience with the despot, no tale so, petty that it cannot find in him a patient listener. The knowledge that this is true has a restraining influence on men who might take advantage of petty authority, inspires every worker with confidence, and promotes general satisfaction.
Colonel Goethals' administration began in April, 1907, and since then there have been disbursed under his direction about two hundred and twenty million dollars, without one suspicion of favoritism or of the aggrandizement of himself or any of his subordinates. His record of wise, honest service is quite unique.
Now that his fame is secure, many men are flattering him, great universities have conferred degrees upon him, and many who have watched his work in Panama hope that his country may one day have his services as its President. But no tribute that may fall to him will be counted so great as this
The men who have worked with and under
him believe him Able, Wise, and Just. Geo. W. Goethals (Colonel, Corps of Engineers, U. S. A.). Born Brooklyn, June 28, 1858. College of the City of New York. Cadet Military Academy, June 14, 1876, second lieutenant Corps of Engineers, June 12, 1880; first lieutenant, June 15, 1882; captain, December 14, 1891; major, February 7, 1900; lieutenant-colonel, March 2, 1907; colonel, December 3, 1909; lieutenant-colonel volunteer service and a chief of engineers, May 26, 1898, to December 31, 1898; General Staff, August 15, 1903, to March 4, 1907; graduate Army War College, 1905. For several years instructor in Civil and Military Engineering at West Point; in charge of construction Mussel Shoals (Tennessee River) canal; member of Board of Coast and Harbor Defense. Chairman of the Isthmian Canal Commission, and Chief Engineer of Panama Canal since April 1, 1907. Governor of Cana Zone; President of Panama Railroad; Member of Panama Canal Fortification Board in charge of construction.
I GEO. W. GOETHALS
2 H. F. HODGES
3 D. D. GAILLARD
4 W. L. SIBERT
5 H. H. ROUSSEAU
6 W. C. GORGAS
7 M. H. THATCHER
8 J. B. BISHOP
From Colon to Panama.
Along the route the tourist travels in crossing the Isthmus today, white men have been traveling for nearly four hundred years. Long before Jamestown was settled the Chagres River was a highway whose name was known to all the adventurers of Europe, and now when Jamestown is untenanted it is again to become a great highway, for the Panama Canal follows its valley half across the Isthmus. From the car window the tourist may see the valley up which men of our race have toiled for four centuries, and within two miles of the place where the railroad crosses the river (at Gamboa) is the village at which the river journey ended and the portage began on the old route to Panama. There was another way, all overland, from Porto Bello and Nombre de Dios to Panama, and the map of the Republic of Panama in this book shows the general route of the old trails. Elsewhere you will find further reference to the river, the trails, and the old cities, as the fortified places were called. In this place it is proposed only to follow the line of the railroad from Colon to Panama, telling briefly the story of each village along the route.
This city or overgrown village bears the Spanish name of Christopher Columbus, although for many years it was known as Aspinwall, the Panama Railroad officials having chosen to all it by that name. But the Colombian Government insisted on Colon, and in 1882 when the French began to fill in the portion of the town near the canal entrance, they called their settlement Cristobal, so the joint town, American and Panaman, is called Cristobal Colon. The site was nothing buta coral reef backed by mangroveswamp when Columbus sailed past here on his fourth voyage, in November, 1502, and it remained little more until the railroad builders began their work in May, 1850. That was only twenty years after the first railroad was built in the United States.
It would be wrong to conceive of Colon as having had an uneventful history merely because it is a city young in
years, and even today bears the marks of a construction camp. As the Atlantic terminus of the Panama Railroad it has been a place of international importance ever since the first train crossed the Isthmus. A less prepossessing site for a city could scarcely be imagined, and yet its growth was natural, since it was necessary to locate the docks at this point. It is situated on the Island of Manzanillo, which was formerly cut off from the mainland by a narrow strait known as Folks River. The island itself was a coral reef upon which mangrove trees had taken root and grown up into a tangled mass, catching silt and gradually transforming the reef into a swampy island. Upon this the first shanties and stores were built by the railroad pioneers in June, 1850. In November, 1851, tw steamers, unable land their passengers for California at the mouth of the Chagres River, disembarked them at Colon, whence they were hauled to Gatun on the railroad, there to take canoes for the river journey. From that time Colon became the center of the California transit trade on the Atlantic side, and the village grew rapidly and was very prosperous until the completion of the transcontinental railroad in the United States in 1869, when it declined and once more became only the railroad terminus.
In Otis' handbook of the Panama Railroad, published in 1862, there is a picturesque description of the city of Colon (Aspinwall), which was then at the height of its prosperity as a stopping place for people making the journey to and from California. There were hotels and shops, and warehouses, half a dozen steam and sailing-vessel lines made it a port of call, and the railroad colony was already firmly established in not unattractive surroundings, of which the writer says:
Upon the sea beach at the north end of the island you will first observe the hospital of the Railroad Company, a couple of large airy buildings surrounded by generous tiers of piazzas, about which a general air of tidiness and comfort prevails. Although built for the exclusive use of the company, strangers requiring medical aid are permitted to avail themselves of its advantages. A little to the left is a long wooden building, which contains the lecture-room, library, and clubroom of the employes of the company. A well-selected library of several hundred volumes, and the standard periodicals and journals, may be seen here; there are also materials for a snug game of billiards, backgammon, or chess. Three or four neat little cottages come next along the line of the beach, the residences of the principal officers of the company, with little garden plats in the rear and an occasional coco tree throwing pleasant shadows over them. A little farther on is a fine corrugated iron dwelling, the residence of the