Thursday, February 18, 2016

"Doubling Up" In Maxwell Nebraska

Early on the afternoon of Monday, June 8, 1903, Wyman departed the Paxton, Nebraska, Union Pacific RR Depot, after seeking refuge from a thunderstorm that morning.  Wyman struggled over the wagon trails that served as the roads of the day.  Along sandy stretches he would often "walk" his motorcycle or switch to riding along the railroad tracks.

Wyman traveled the 31 miles from Paxton to North Platte, where he stopped for gasoline and to repair the damage to his motorcycle.  He had lost another "cyclometer", an instrument used to measure mileage. Since leaving San Francisco on May 16, Wyman had broken four cyclometers in previous falls. Wyman rode another 16 miles to Maxwell where he stopped for the night.

Arriving in town around sunset, Wyman would have spent time getting his motorcycle ready for the next day's travel.  This would often require him to seek out services and materials from local merchants and shop owners.  Pictured is the H.W. Merrick & Company dry goods, groceries and hardware store in 1906.  Repairs complete, Wyman would get a hot meal before seeking lodging at the hotel in Maxwell.  He had to share a room with three others that night.  "Doubling up" was common in those days as accommodations were scarce in the small towns along the transcontinental railroad.  On this day, Wyman traveled 70 miles Ogallala to Maxwell.  Below is his account of his journey from Paxton to Maxwell.

"After going six miles over the ties it began to rain so hard that I had to get off and walk three miles to the station at Paxton. There I waited for three hours until it stopped raining, and set out again at 12:30 o'clock. From there it is just 31 miles to North Platte, and as the sun had come out, I returned to the road. I found it good in places and sandy in spots. There was one stretch, two miles long, so sandy that I had to walk it. It was like being back again in the deserts. I got gasoline at North Platte and pushed on 16 miles to Maxwell, which made 70 miles for the day's travel.

Maxwell is a little bit of a place, and I had to take accommodation in a room that had three beds in it. A couple of surveyors were in one of the other beds, and at midnight, a commercial traveler was ushered in and given the third bed. I was fortunate in having a bed to myself at all the small places, for "doubling up" is quite the common thing where accommodations are limited. One more cyclometer was sacrificed on the ride from Ogallala to Maxwell, snapped off when I had a fall on the road. I do not mention falls, as a rule, as it would make the story one long monotony of falling off and getting on again. Ruts, sand, sticks, stones and mud, all threw me dozens of times...

I left Maxwell at 7:15 a.m. on June 9, and followed the wagon road for the first eight miles. Then it got so sandy that I took to the railroad. I remained on the tracks for 12 miles, and then tried the road again. After an hour on it, the mud began to be so thick that riding was impossible, and I then returned to the railroad and stuck to it until I reached Lexington, where I had dinner."
George A. Wyman , Over the Rockies and Great Divide to the Prairies, "The Motorcycle Magazine", August 1903

The Village of Maxwell, Nebraska, has joined the George A. Wyman Memorial Project as a Hosting Community.  We are very pleased to enhance the rich history of Maxwell with the story of Wyman's visit there on Monday, June 8, 1903.  Look for the Wyman Waypoint sign posted near City Hall on South Pine Street.  It is at or near the location of the Maxwell hotel in 1903.

"Linking the Past to the Present to Enrich the Future"