Uncle Rufus came to Jamestown in August 1882.
His real name was Rufus Hatch and it was actually just a quick stop on a trip to Montana for some hunting and fishing for Hatch and his party.
Hatch was a financier, land speculator and business promotor back in 1882 and was at the height of his wealth and influence.
Born in 1832 in Maine, Hatch started working as a clerk in a local general store at the age of 12. He started buying and selling grain on a small scale in the 1850s and later went on to be one of the founders of the Chicago Board of Trade.
He also was the managing director of a steamship line and a major investor in the Northern Pacific Railroad.
That is why his trip across what is now North Dakota was made in a special train of two Pullman passenger cars and two baggage cars.
Hatch didn’t travel alone but had his wife and “30 other gentlemen and ladies of distinction.”
Guiding the expedition was General Hermon Trott who was the land commissioner of the Northern Pacific. The title general came from his Civil War service and the town of Hermon, Minn., is named in his honor.
Along with his post with the Northern Pacific, Trott was the treasurer of the board of directors for the St. Paul and Pacific railroad. Despite its name, the St. Paul and Pacific never managed to construct any track outside of Minnesota.
The Hatch party spent about an hour in Jamestown. Local officials took them on buggy rides through the area. The Jamestown Alert said the “party returned, expressing themselves as being highly pleased with the appearance of our town, and as for the country, they could not praise it enough.”
From Jamestown, the group proceeded west. The Northern Pacific was constructing track through Montana but would not connect to tracks from the west until 1883. The Hatch party went to the end of the line and then took some time for hunting and fishing.
I suppose traveling by train could be a little bit boring in that era. It wasn’t like they could play an in-train movie and spending hours gazing at a smartphone and browsing social media is at least 130 years in the future.
Instead, the Hatch party was entertained with music although they didn’t utilize Thomas Edison’s newly invented phonograph. The device was invented just five years earlier and was just starting to catch on in the 1880s with some improvements by Alexander Graham Bell.
No, the Hatch party preferred live music. According to the Alert, the train carried two quartets, one male and one female, “who enliven the proceedings, and now and then wake the prairie wit some ringing glees and choruses.”
Now that is traveling in style.