Posts Tagged ‘Foreign Workers’

White Slavery: A Rush for Liberty

January 14, 2009
Norfolk Railway Workers 1896

Norfolk Railway Workers 1896

WHITE SLAVERY.
Horrible Treatment of Foreign Laborers in West Virginia.

WATCHED LIKE BRUTES
To Prevent Escape From Their Prison in the Mountains.

A RUSH FOR LIBERTY
Made by a Few of the Men Results in Frightful Punishment.

POCAHONTAS, W. Va., March 17. — Seventy-five friendless foreigners, bound in virtual slavery in the wild and desolate mountains of West Virginia, are suffering the most shocking privations and hardships. They are sixty miles from the nearest town. The streams are swollen, the mountains are covered with snow and escape seems almost impossible to them. These men were brought here by a New York employment agent. They were engaged in December last to work on the Ohio extension of the Norfolk & Western railroad. They signed contracts which virtually made them prisoners in the hands of the contractors and to-day they are watched by men to see that they do not escape. The man who brought these creatures into this wild region is a Russian named Rosenthal.

Norfolk Railway

Norfolk Railway

Despite the vigilance of the bosses and the guards several made their escape during January and February. No one knows whether they ever got out of the country alive or whether they perished in the mountain gorges and unbroken forests. Two of the men, a Russian and a Bohemian, seized a flat boat one day and made off across the river. They were soon recaptured. Their captors compelled them to wade back across the river, drawing the boat after them. Upon returning to camp their coats were stripped off and they were whipped. The contractors’ bosses remarked that this was the rule when working on railroad construction. Whipping must be the punishment for making off with the boat. This example had a wholesome effect for a time upon those contemplating an attempt to escape.

Norfolk and Western Railway Map

Norfolk and Western Railway Map

A little band of twelve Hungarians, Polanders and Swedes marched into Pocahontas Sunday. They had walked seventy miles through the wild country from camp. These twelve managed to satisfy their taskmasters and were allowed to depart. As they marched out of camp several of their less fortunate comrades who were detained made a desperate break for liberty and dashed off into the mountains. They were immediately pursued by armed men, mounted on mules and accompanied by dogs. What the fate of these poor fellows was can not yet be ascertained.

New Castle News (New Castle, Pennsylvania) Mar 25, 1891