17 August 2012

A. A. Johnson and the Prize Fighter

This letter of commendation was found among the records of Marie Johnson Evans. It pertains to Alfred Armfield (A.A) Johnson's employment on the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad.

THE QUESTION:  Which "Champion Prize Fighter of the World" was at the train depot at Wall Lake "the other morning" before April 3, 1915?

(Emboss Stamp) Church of Christ
W. Dow Crewdson

Missouri Valley Iowa
Apr. 3rd, 1915

My Dear Sir: -
          I am coming to you with this message in reference to an employee on the C.N.W.R.R.
          No doubt you receive many complaints about the men on the road being neglected: people are apt to look at the mistakes of employees, but so oft fail to notice the faithfulness of those men. I do not believe that a word of praise is out of order when it is deserving.
          I was at the depot the other morning when the Wall Lake branch was getting ready to leave, the brakeman on that train is the man of whom I speak. I do not even know his name. There was something that he wanted to do very badly. And would not have discouraged any one or any thing if he had done what he so earnestly desired to do. But instead of going to do so he stood at his post of duty and when he was through helping people on the train it was to [sic] late to do what he wanted to do. Of course he was paid to do his work,
but it was only to walk across the platform and see the champion prize fighter of the world. And many a man would have let people help themselves and would have gone. A little thing I know, but he who is faithful in the little things is sure to be in the large things. And I feel that just a little praise is due this man even tho I do not know who he is, only by sight. 
           I am,
           Yours Fraternally,
           W. Dow Crewdson


Chicago & North Western Railway Co.
Superintendent's Office
Bone, Ia. May 5th, 1915  (Boone?)

Rev. W. Dow Crewdson,
Missouri Valley, Iowa.

Dear Sir:-
           We are in receipt of your favor of April 3rd commending the faithfulness of one of our passenger brakemen on the Wall Lake run.
            It is indeed gratifying to receive a letter of this kind and we wish to thank you heartily for the words of praise which you have written. This man we take it is an employe on the Sioux City Division and we take pleasure in referring the letter to Superintendent E. B. McClure of Sioux City under whose jurisdiction he is working.
             Yours truly,
             Cy- EBMcClure

In checking with Wikipedia, the "Champion Prize Fighter of the World" was Jack Johnson during the period, until he lost a fight to Jess Willard on April 5 in Havana.  Thinking of travel times and methods, is it plausible that he would have been in Wall Lake just a few days before his fight. 

On April 5, 1915, Johnson lost his title to Jess Willard, a working cowboy from Kansas who started boxing when he was twenty-seven years old. With a crowd of 25,000 at Oriental Park Racetrack in Havana, Cuba, Johnson was knocked out in the 26th round of the scheduled 45 round fight. Johnson, although having won almost every round, began to tire after the 20th round, and was visibly hurt by heavy body punches from Willard in rounds preceding the 26th round knockout.

Was he speaking of a different Champion Prize Fighter of the World?