The story of Nathaniel McHorney's 1901 trip to Ecuador.

Archive for August, 2011

March 4th, 1901

The page for Monday, March 4th says:

Arrived at office 5:50 A.M.
Beautiful day. Make up time sheets
and pay rolls about 10 sheets of 15 to
30 names each. Hot enough in office
80 to 92° between 12 and 4 p.m.
Boy does not eat supper. Agonizing
are my thoughts. Fever scare on my
brain. He is very feverish too; from
5 p.m. until 10 p.m.
A rare night. Moon beautiful, stars
shining. Prayed to the Blessed Virgin
for succor - received it. Boy asleep
but so hot. Both of us cried.
Mr. Stapleton off for Mountains in
the morning.
Awake and restless all night.
Saw much of last night's moon.
Boy very cheerful though feverish.
Cheered me much by joking me.
A rare moon light and starry night for
this section. A cheerful surprise.
Thought if I only were where a woman
could raise my boy.
Anna constantly before me too.

(as always, you can click on the image to get a larger view) 

Questions and comments:

  • A few days before, Nathaniel wrote about the smallpox outbreak down-river. Smallpox vaccine was widely available in the late 1800s, and I would expect that both Nathaniel and his son had been vaccinated.

March 3rd, 1901

The page for Sunday, March 3rd says:

At office 5:50 A.M. Leva 5 p.m. take
45 minutes for devotions to God.
Begin praying again. 130 men since 1st.
Many sharp practices tried. Indians hard
to understand. Speak little Spanish. Men told
me family troubles when their a/cs are not good.
Mr. Stapleton thoroughly business. A good man
for a company.
Think much of missing Mass.
Boy dresses in his Sunday clothes - high
collar. Great surprise manifested.
The 1st white boy in this country to do it
Will have to take a balance each Sunday.
This is my First Sunday that I ever
remember having worked.
Well it was work too, though Mr. D.C.S.
says in earlier times he did not eat
though the other men did.
My first eating was at 11:30 A.M.,
So for a greenhorn, did fairly well.
Handled near $500 - in 2 days.
Boy made 2 Altars for our home.
We said prayers at night before
each altar. Mementos all arranged.
2 inches of rain past 24 hours.

(as always, you can click on the image to get a larger view) 

Questions and comments:

  • I’m guessing that Playa de Oro pays their men monthly.

March 2nd, 1901

The page for Saturday, March 2nd says:

At office 5:40 A.M. 1st pay day.
Company a monarchy - issues features
only good in store. Mr. Stapleton very
thorough tactician. Characters insulting
when not allowed to overdraw. Left at
7:30 p.m. Tired out. Dance up the line.
Shrieks of ingratitude of N.Y. Office.
Sun hot to-day. Temperature from 1 to
4 p.m. 84° to 92°. Want to help Mr. D.C.S.
Really nervvy from over anxiety
Indians speak a Chichira patois.
The rest Spanish.
Names become more easy
after a while.
Surely much great adaptability
required here for an office man.

Glad to go to bed.
(as always, you can click on the image to get a larger view) 


Questions and comments:

  • I couldn’t find a reference to “Chichira” referring to Ecuador or South American Indians. It is possible that I have transcribed it incorrectly, but I don’t see a better way to spell it.
  • In December of 1901, D.C Stapleton will be arrested and charged with counterfeiting, because the Playa de Oro company refused to pay their employees in anything but aluminum checks.

March 1st, 1901

The page for Friday, March 1st says:

At office 5:50 A.M. Quit 5:20 p.m.
Post up 2 ledgers - laborers.
Store keeper trying tricks on me.
Shortages etc, soap and cangled.
Men calling for their time for
Manage fairly well.
Headace (sic) better to-day.
I guess too much salt beef, pork and
canned goods too much for me.
Boy with me at office.
It will take many trips to keep
up with this crowd down here.
They quiz me about receipts for everything
and say I will bring it to law.
Some ask for a return receipt for me.
Storekeeper deliberately changed my figures
Many enquiries about pay roll.

(as always, you can click on the image to get a larger view) 

Questions and comments:

  • I think the Nathan’s musings about “many trips” are in reference to his plan to run the New York office of the Playa de Oro after his year in Ecuador is completed.

February 28th, 1901

The page for Thursday, February 28th says:

In office 5:50 A.M. Leave at 8 p.m.
Make an inventory of store.
Feel very bad since 5 p.m. Sun was
hot to-day and cargo arriving.
Up and down, then at books again.
All out of sorts. Trunk gets here at 
last. McKenzie leaves for P. de. O. on
My boy very good company for me.
Place very dull.
In fact, I am tired.

To-day a hot one. Sun very strong.
Checking returned tools a matter
of concern to me.

Cannot trust a person.
They all try to buncombe a 
new man.
(as always, you can click on the image to get a larger view) 


Questions and comments:

  • Buncombe” is an work which has become “bunkum”. In this context, I suspect that the workers are trying to take advantage of Nathaniel, because he is new at the job of checking in and out tools.
  • The trunk was misplaced when Nathaniel and son got on the boat in Colon, after taking the railroad across the isthmus of Panama (future site of the canal), and contains (among other things) their clothes. They have been without it since mid-January.

February 27th, 1901

The page for Wednesday, February 27th says:

At office 6:10 A.M.
Work at books - Probably balance Aug a/cs
tomorrow. Distance Esmeraldas to La Tola
50 miles. La Tola to Playa Rica 50 miles.
David Robinson on our property eats ashes.
Indians of Venezuela eat a blue clay on a/c
of its siXXtness - so says Mr. McKenzie, on
the Orinoco river. Clay only to be had there
McKenzie in house for 1/2 hour. Says
Quasamambi will last 18 months night &
day washing. Sajado mine for 3 years.
Mr. D.C.S. will only wash clear water when
he attempts it at Quasamambi. No rocks will
roll - that takes experience to do that part.
Started another Novena.
Kept this. Ember Day.
Boy happy and much comfort to me.

(as always, you can click on the image to get a larger view) 

Questions and comments:

  • I don’t know what the word describing the mud is.
  • I finally understand – I have been reading “La Jola”, when Nathaniel was writing “La Tola”.  La Tola is a town on the Pacific coast of Ecuador. It is at the mouth of the river that Playa de Oro is on. [ Corrected posts for Feb 16/18/19th ]
  • Heading upstream from La Toya you pass through Borbon, Concepcion, Playa de Oro and then Playa Rica.
  • In the liturgical calendar of the Western Christian churches, Ember days are four separate sets of three days within the same week—specifically, the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday—roughly equidistant in the circuit of the year, that were formerly set aside for fasting and prayer.

February 26th, 1901

The page for Tuesday, February 26th says:

Arrived at office 5:40 A.M.
Busy on a/cs. Will try to bring out
a trial balance for August last.
Learning the ropes - men try all tricks
to save being charged with tools, etc.
Mr. Stapleton arranged Mr. McKenzie's
draft - my figures show him to be
underpaid $2.50. But he is the Manager.
We we all 3 are satisfied. Trivial too.
McKenzie goes in morning - paddles
himself down in Mr. Stapleton's canoe.
Invited me to his house. Thinks Franklyn
river water for North size workings too
costly - especially planks. Only been up
to the Sapago Canal though - $200,000 or more.
Boy and I play pinochle - 1 game.
Lamp makes house cheerful. Thinking
of Anna much today.
No canoes up. Carpenters off to Sajado.
Say prayers and to bed.
Rain again today. Office tedious.
11 hours of it daily.
Company has a hard name up and
down the coast.
Told Mr. Stapleton about bullets to-day.

(as always, you can click on the image to get a larger view) 

Questions and comments:

  • “Company has a hard name” – I don’t know how to interpret that.

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