By Don Schmidt
The following incident took place on a train east of Wyoming. The story is reported here as it appeared in the Jan. 1, 1919, issue of the Wyoming Post-Herald.
“It was Christmas eve.
“The train, loaded with passengers on their way home or to the homes of relatives and friends to spend Christmas, was stalled in a snow bank with little hope of escape for many hours.
“Some of the men were cross at the thought of probably missing out on the Christmas dinner they had been planning for and muttered indistinguishable things. The faces of the women bore an anxious, frightened look, and the children who were old enough to comprehend their predicament were broken-hearted at the thought of not being able to hang their stocking for old Santa Claus to fill.
“In vain the dinky little engine butted against the wet, sodden mass that had filled the cut, and gradually the passengers gave up all hope of reaching their destination on time, and settled down as best they could to await the arrival of another engine from the end of the line to pull out the stalled train.
“Suddenly there was a slight commotion, and the weary passengers looked up and beheld four men, carrying in their hands big cans of steaming hot coffee with cups and cream and sugar, and huge baskets of sandwiches, and in their hearts the true spirit of Christmas.
“What a different atmosphere there was, as these men passed down the aisle, passing out refreshments and spreading good cheer amongst the jaded passengers.
“Women thanked them and men insisted on paying for the food, but it was Christmas Eve and one cent taken in payment would have spoiled it all, so the passengers had to be content with showering the men with their thanks.
“Presently one of the men slipped away for a moment, and in a remarkably short space of time who should appear but Santa Claus himself, and instantly the scene was one of merriment rather that dejection. Folks forgot their predicament for the moment and just remembered that it was Christmas Eve. The kiddie’s joy was unbounded, as old Santa palled along and had something to say to each one, telling them that he would go to their homes before morning and leave them just what they wanted – and we’ll wager he made good his promise. At any rate he and his companions proved to the people on that train that the true Christmas spirit still lives – the spirit that make people give for the sake of giving, without hope of reward.
“The above is a true story, and the scene was laid in the cut on the Rock Island tracks a short distance east of town, where the 5:33 passenger train was stalled in snow drift until nearly four o’clock in the morning, when a relief train from Peoria finally pulled the coaches back one by one and the track was cleaned so that the train could proceed.
“The men who hit upon the plan of boosting the spirits of the passengers and carried that plan into effect were Fred Stagg and Everett Stagg, Thomas A. Timmons and William H. Carter, of this city. That their efforts were appreciated and that they will long be remembered by the stranded travelers is attested by the words of one of the women on the train, who expressed the feelings of all when she said, ‘If I’m ever snowbound again I hope it will be somewhere near Wyoming.’”
Timmons and the Stagg brothers ran a general store in Wyoming. Carter was the proprietor of a bakery.
By Don Schmidt