“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Barstow in San Bernardino County, California — The American West (Pacific Coastal)

Knights of the Rails

The American Hobo

Knights of the Rails Marker image. Click for full size.
By Denise Boose, March 4, 2018
1. Knights of the Rails Marker
Inscription.  Around the time of the Civil War, railroads were being built at a frantic pace. By the early 1870s there were 60,000 miles of track in the U.S., increasing to 250,000 by the 1930s. The war had produced a generation of young men used to living under adverse conditions. With the return of peace many no longer had jobs or family ties and became itinerant workmen, crossing the country by hopping trains. Economic depression beginning in 1873 accelerated this trend.

The origin of the word Hobo is unknown. But two possibilities are from homeward bound, or from "Hoe Boy," a farmhand traveling in search or work. Largely forgotten today, there was once a clear distinction between hoboes, tramps, and bums. Hoboes were mostly respectable men (and a few women) searching for work. Tramps traveled, but were averse to work in any form, one place, such as on inner city skid rows. Although found together, hoboes considered themselves distinct from and superior to tramps and bums.

Hoboes had their own lingo with terms like mulligan stew, riding the rods, and flophouse, as well as a system of marks indicating where work or handouts could be found. The

Knights of the Rails Marker image. Click for full size.
By Denise Boose, March 4, 2018
2. Knights of the Rails Marker
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presence of vicious dogs or where a man could flop for the night they gathered in hobo jungles found near every rail yard, including Barstow. Considered romantic by some, the life of a hobo was often short and difficult. Besides the dangers of hopping trains, they waged a continual struggle with bulls (RR Cops) and shacks (brakemen), whose duty it was to keep them off the trains. Railroad men often extorted money for rides and ditched those who couldn't pay, sometimes in dangerous, remote areas.

The demise of the hobo came in the years before WW II. The Great Depression resulted in more people on the move in search of work, but they now tended to travel by automobile. Faster trains were harder to hop, and defense jobs greatly diminished the number of itinerant workers.

During their heyday hoboes built the railroads as well as rode on them, harvested grain, fruit, and vegetables, and constructed roads, bridges, and dams. Even as they labored, they were reviled and persecuted as tramps and vagrants. Nonetheless, their contribution to the building of America cannot be denied, and their history and heritage lives on.
Erected 2017 by Billy Holcomb Chapter #1069 of the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus and Harvey House, and City of Barstow.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Railroads & Streetcars

Knights of the Rails Marker image. Click for full size.
By Denise Boose, March 4, 2018
3. Knights of the Rails Marker
. In addition, it is included in the E Clampus Vitus series list. A significant historical date for this entry is May 7, 2017.
Location. 34° 54.282′ N, 117° 1.444′ W. Marker is in Barstow, California, in San Bernardino County. Marker is on North 1st Avenue, on the left when traveling west. Located in the parking lot by a historic green passenger railcar underneath a pine tree. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 685 North 1st Avenue, Barstow CA 92311, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Barstow Harvey House (within shouting distance of this marker); General Beale Uses Camels (approx. 0.4 miles away); Calico Mountain Mines (approx. 0.4 miles away); Christiansen Memorial Plaza (approx. 0.4 miles away); Waterman Junction Becomes Barstow 1886 (approx. 0.4 miles away); The Harvey House (approx. 0.4 miles away); Mojave Runners (approx. 0.4 miles away); The Mormon Trail (approx. 0.4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Barstow.
Harvey House image. Click for full size.
By Denise Boose, March 4, 2018
4. Harvey House
Marker to the far right from the front of Harvey House next to the green passenger car.
Credits. This page was last revised on March 10, 2018. It was originally submitted on March 10, 2018, by Denise Boose of Tehachapi, California. This page has been viewed 227 times since then and 43 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on March 10, 2018, by Denise Boose of Tehachapi, California. • Andrew Ruppenstein was the editor who published this page.

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Aug. 1, 2021