Benton County Pioneer Life

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Pioneer life in the Benton Co. WA area

Chicks Hatched in Depot/ Incubator Beats Job Problem

Tri-City Pioneer
Sunday, 23 July 1961, page 22

Mose Longabaugh was Kennewick’s Northern Pacific Railway Agent and Telegraph Operator in the early 1890’s. The Kennewick Ditch was practically completed. Settlers were arriving on every train.

Mose Longabaugh had more than he could do. He sent for his younger brother, Sam, who lived in the midwest. Sam was a few years younger than Mose. He was sandy complexioned and very jovial. Mose taught him the Morse Code and the rudiments of telegraphy. Same cooked the meals and helped his brother with his growing duties.

The Northern Pacific Railroad was in very poor financial condition at this time. They would not hire an assistant for Mose. Sam was frugal and ambitious, he had no desire to return to the midwest. He was in love with this wild and woolly frontier. An opportunity was here for him if he could only find it.

He found it. One day in the mail addressed to “Agent and Telegrapher,” came a catalog describing how science had whipped mama hen. No more would papa rooster’s wife rob him of his offspring by quitting her setting nest or trailing to death his newly hatched sons and daughters. Science had relegated mama hen to just egg producing.

Sam sent to Petaluma, CA for a chicken incubator and a brooder. Upon their arrival, he assiduously studied the enclosed directions. He placed the chicken incubator in the waiting room of the station depot at a corner farthest from the big bellied heating stove. He filled it with fresh, fertile brown Leghorn eggs and did all other things that the directions demanded.

There were no chairs in the waiting room, only three or four long oak settees which were divided by arms to keep people from lying down. The agent and telegrapher sat in a bay window adjoining the waiting room, where they could see the trains approaching from either direction. A drop window was between the waiting room and the agent and telegrapher quarters. Through this window the public was contacted. Back of the bay window was a door to a small baggage room where the baggage was checked and stored. The agent fired the big bellied stove when it was necessary. He also kept a bucket of drinking water in which sloshed a tin dipper which everyone used and dropped back into the bucket. There were no ladies’ or mens’ rooms off the waiting room, they were located about fifty yards leeward to the rear and twenty yards apart. Identical in design, each being a three seater and differing only by the sign above the door. Inside in the corner of each was a basket filled with the waste paper from the agents waste basket.

Scientific Sam, we will now call him, had burned the midnight oil and followed all instructions in regard to the care and functioning of the incubator for a period of about four weeks from the date he had placed the eggs therein. One morning, to his joyous surprise, he heard a peep peep from the bowels of the contraption. Like a medic before childbirth he prepared himself to perform the delivery of these motherless chicks into this cold world. Following specifically his book of instructions, he was rewarded with an exceptionally high percentage of hatchings, or should we say that his percentage of still births was very low.

At the proper time Sam brought out and installed the brooder. He placed a chicken wire fence across the corner of the waiting room to fence in this brown, fluffy chicks and to fence out the admiring children of the waiting travelers. No modern aquarium gives more entertainment to present day youngsters than those chicks gave to the youngsters of 65 to 70 years ago.

Sam Longabaugh became a very successful and wealthy chicken rancher. This was over 65 years ago and Petaluma, CA today continues to lead the world in the manufacture of chicken incubators.

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