Millionaires’ Row

 

             Inspired by the history of Williamsport, Pennsylvania


MILLIONAIRES’ ROW


Rossburg, Pennsylvania 1877


          In 1868, Rossburg was a frontier town in the midst of a lumber boom. Overnight, millionaires’ were made and the boundaries of the inner circle were drawn. Scottish immigrant and mill hand Ian Douglas dared to defy those boundaries when he falls in love with the beautiful Eleanor Morgan, a powerful lumber baron’s daughter.

          When he is spurned and humiliated, Ian lays plans to gain wealth, power, and position. Childhood friend Maven McInnis, a striking Irish immigrant, loves Ian and warns him against trying to cross lines in a closed society. But he refuses to listen. And in his determination to win, he risks everything in a dangerous game with the power elite that proves to have far reaching consequences.

North Central Pennsylvania, 1868


PROLOGUE


Thirty of the town's most prominent businessmen met in secrecy in the back room of the Union Hotel.  They included the owner and president of the local bank, the owner of the locally operated railroad, the owners of the larger sawmills, and several lumber-related manufacturers.

Cyrus Morgan, owner of the largest sawmill and recognized leader of the group, sat at the head of the table.

"We are all agreed then," he said.  "We must protect our interests against outsiders.  It was our vision that brought Rossburg from the backwater transport depot it was to the thriving town that it is today.  It is only right that we be the ones to steer its course.  What is good for us is good for Rossburg."

"Gentry built the Susquehanna boom.  Shouldn't he be a part of this?" asked one of the mill owners.  "If it weren't for the boom, we would know only a small portion of the wealth we have."

As a chorus of agreement went around the room, Cyrus Morgan brought the gavel down sharply on the table. 

"Gentry isn't one of us," he said curtly.  "He lacks our vision.  Any other comments?"  Morgan looked around the room, his narrowed gaze discouraging any further debate.  "Then, I hereby declare the creation of the Board of Trade, formed on this day, the twenty-first of February in the year eighteen hundred and sixty-eight.  New members may be nominated to the Board only in the event of vacancies and must be admitted by unanimous consent.  All in agreement...all opposed..." 

There was no opposition.  One by one the declared members of Rossburg's newly formed inner circle came forward to sign the charter.

As the last person placed his signature upon the document, Morgan again struck the table with the gavel.  "Gentlemen, the iron gate is closed."

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     Millionaires’ Row is a fiction inspired by the history of Williamsport, Pa. in the second half of the 1880’s when that city was the lumber capital of the nation. The term Millionaires’ Row refers to the many mansions that lined West Fourth Street in the city, owned by the lumber barons.

     Lumbermen cut their lumber in the mountains up river, dragged the logs down to the river bank and stamped each log with a unique brand, embossed into the log’s cut end. The logs were then pushed into the river and they floated freely down stream.

     As the logs arrived in Williamsport they were “caught” by a “boom” which channeled them toward the river bank where they were identified by their brand and dragged into the sawmill

owned by the log’s owner.  The owner of the boom charged a fee per log for the service. When a flood destroyed the boom, it affected the fortunes of not just the boom owner but the lumber barons as well.

     Millionaires’ Row is inspired by the events that built an empire.

Photos:  Top left: Lumber of the river caught by the boom. Top right: Lumbermen in the woods upstream from the city.  Bottom: One of the remaining historic houses on Millionaires’ Row.