Pullmans, Boxcars and Section Houses: Mexican-American Railroad Workers in Franklin County
Mexican Railroad WorkersPhoto courtesy of Jesse Pacheco In Franklin County, Kansas
In 1905, Ottawa Kansas was the county seat of Franklin County anda railroad town intersected by the Santa Fe and Missouri Pacificlines. These young ladies are posed during the ChautauquaAssembly in Forest Park, one of Ottawa’s cultural amenities.
By 1907, the railroadshad begun to bringMexican men up intothe US to do the hardwork on the railroadsthat the Irish workershad done before them.The map shows thesites of Mexican campswhere Latino sectionworkers were housed.These were sometimesshacks built of cast-offwood belonging to therailroad companies,and sometimes theywere old box cars, orin the case of LeLoup,Pullman cars.Later on, the ATSFbuilt section houses(multifamily apartmenthouses) along theirright-of-way north ofOttawa.
Our Lady of “TheGuadelupeCatholic Church Triangle” Ottaw The ATSF The ATSF a Hospi tal Car Shop Latina s ATSF Passen ger “The Depot Bottom s” Missou ri Pacific Passen ger Depot Sacred Heart Catholic Church
Built in 1888, the passenger depot for the Santa Fe sat at the end ofthe large railroad property which included car shops, a roundhouse, ahospital, a freight depot and other structures.
Although almost every trace of this complex of railroad shops isgone now, the area west of Main Street north of the Marais desCygnes river was taken up by a large industrial area whererailroad cars were made and engines serviced in a 13-stallroundhouse.
Although originallybuilt to provide healthcare for all ATSFworkers, by 1907 mostof the patients wereMexicans.
Dr. Edward B. Gossett and hiswife Edna were among thestaff who served the Mexicanpopulation on the north sideduring the 1930s at the SantaFe Hospital.Edna Gossett, an R.N.supervised the care in thehospital and made house callsin the Mexican camp in theTriangle.
The Missouri Pacific railroad crossed Ottawa going east andwest, and a small number of Mexican workers also worked for it.
The local Catholic church, first known as Holy Guardian Angels and later asSacred Heart, was quite a distance from the Mexican workers’ homes. (Seeprevious map.) Sacred Heart Holy Guardian Angels
This is a photo of the Boys’ Club building in Forest Park, built for the ChautauquaAssemblies held annually. The man standing on the right is James Naismith, inventor ofbasketball. Naismith conducted the Boys Club and taught many of the boys the game.
1916-1936 “Nuestra Señora deAfter the Chautauquas Guadalupe” translateshad ceased to be held in to “Our Lady ofOttawa, the buildings Guadalupe,” thewere sold off. The Boys patron saint of Mexico.Club was acquired by theCatholic Church to beused as a mission churchfor the Mexicans on thesouthwest corner ofN. Locust andW. Wilson.
This was the processionwhich came from theTriangle neighborhood onthe north side of WilsonSt. to the site of the newchurch, Our Lady ofGuadalupe.
With banners and pennants flying, the church was dedicated in1916. Many local non-Mexicans came to observe the event.
The interior of Our Lady of Gaudalupe, decorated with Americanand Mexican flags. The altar was donated by another Catholicchurch.
Besides the Catholics, the Baptists sought to convert some ofthe Mexicans. They established a mission for them in 1918which survived until 1936. The Santa Fe superintendant’swife, Kate Williamson, (pictured at the right end of the thirdrow) was credited with the success of the mission.
Although we don’t have a good photo of it, the thirdBaptist mission, built of concrete blocks, was built onland donated by Manuel Pacheco, a lay preacher to thecongregation.
Photo courtesy of Bruce Fleming Santa Fe and other railroads start hiring Mexicans c. 1905. Ottawa Catholic Church, Holy Guardian Angels, discriminates against Mexicans This group of unidentified Mexican section hands was taken near the Richter depot.
An unidentified section gang of mixed ethnicity withtheir white foreman on the left. Photo courtesy of Sam Pacheco
Two Santa Fe railroad lines crossed justnorth of Ottawa, forming a triangle ofland where a Mexican camp was built.The Triangle consisted of small housesbuilt of railroad scrap lumber.
Soledad Morales Leocadio Rodriguez,Rodriguez with Eloise railroad worker
Sister Eloise’ final vows, May 2, 1958.Eloise Rodriguez after graduation from St. MaryCollege in Atchison, Kansas, age 21.
Because Juan Martinez could speak English well, he served as aspokesperson for the Mexican community.
Back row, left to right: Juanita Garcia Blanco, Esther Garcia Flores,Lupe Garcia Rios, Paula A. Garcia holding Encarnacion Garcia. Frontrow: Enriqueta Garcia Soriano and Natalia Garcia Martinez, standingin front of their house in LeLoup around 1930.
An unidentified LeLoup boy, Encarnacion (“Chon”) Garcia, AlbertHopkins and Carlos Garcia.
Paula and Juan Garcia with five of their eleven children next to a waterpump in the Triangle where they moved from LeLoup.
The Garciafamily around1951. LupeGarcia Rios,Aurora GarciaOttinger, NataliaGarcia Martinez,Amelia Garcia,Enriqueta GarciaSoriano, JuanitaGarcia Blanco,and EstherGarcia Flores.Seated areEncarnacion,Paula, Juan andCarlos. Frontrow, Alberto andFernando.
Unidentified Mexican railroad workers near Ottawa.
Mexicans weren’t allowed to swim in the public pool in Ottawa. Severalreminisce about watching the other kids swimming and envying them thecool water. Kate Williamson of the Baptist Mission arranged for her Mexicanwards to swim in the (Baptist) Ottawa University pool.
While Mexicanscould attendmovies, theywere requiredto sit indesignatedareas, usually inthe balcony.
Mexicans couldn’t eat atthe tables in Ottawarestaurants. JuanMartinez turned thebuilding that had beenOur Lady of Guadalupechurch into a restaurantcalled the Victory Café.
“Short History of Latinos in Franklin County, KS” by Deborah Barker. Produced for “Kansas Collects” grant-funded project of the Kansas Historical Society. 2009, FCHS archives. “History of Sacred Heart Catholic Church” 1917. “Register of Injuries” book of the Ottawa Santa Fe Hospital in the Franklin Co. Historical Society archives. Videotaped interviews with John and Jesse Pacheco conducted in 2009, FCHS archives. All photos are courtesy of the Franklin County Historical Society unless labeled otherwise.