Arizona Rangers of Globe: Pollard Pearson, part 4

Courtesy photo/Arizona Rangers Archives Pollard Pearson’s gravesite in the Globe Cemetery

In mid-September 1907 ex-Arizona Ranger Pollard Pearson reportedly had plans to enter the cattle business in Mexico, along with a second former Ranger, Oscar Felton. What became of those plans is another question, because this is the last known mention of them. By the next February Pearson was farther south, in a completely different business.

Just when Pearson left Globe to cross the border is unclear, but Felton stayed in the city until early February 1908; time enough to be in a deadly shootout.

A Ranger from 1902 to 1905, Felton became a special officer with the Gila Valley, Globe & Northern Railway. Then, in October 1907, he joined the Globe Police Department. On his beat in the early hours of Nov. 1, 1907, in a darkened section of Broad Street, Felton was shot by a man named John W. Nelson. They had met a few minutes earlier in a saloon, where an irate Nelson complained about a prior stay in jail. By Felton’s account, he left the saloon to avoid trouble. Farther down the street, Nelson started shooting at him, hitting him in the leg. Returning fire, the wounded officer put four bullets into Nelson. A coroner’s jury exonerated Felton with a finding of self-defense. Some three months later he was gone, off to join Pearson in a place called Cerro de Pasco, Peru.

That may be where Pearson picked up the train engineer’s trade. According to a letter to friends in Globe, he was driving an engine for the Cerro de Pasco Mining Company. Felton, the letter said, was employed on the feed floor of the smelter. They were working in one of the world’s highest cities, Cerro de Pasco, at over 14,000 feet in the Andes Mountains. Originally home to a silver mining operation, Cerro de Pasco had turned to producing copper. The Cerro de Pasco Mining Company, an American firm, entered the picture in 1901, building two railroads and adding large smelters. According to a 1913 book by Dora Mayer, of the Asociación Pro-Indígena, the mine was producing 15,000 tons of copper a year by 1906; after smelter improvements in 1908, output was calculated to rise to 50,000.

Though the company raised daily wages to $1.25 (when it arrived, miners were earning 30 to 70 cents a day), according to Mayer’s book, “The Conduct of the Cerro de Pasco Company,” working conditions were less than ideal. Mining went on around the clock, with 36-hour shifts not unknown. Mayer reported that winch conductors, responsible for raising miners to the surface, often worked 16 to 32 hours straight because they were not relieved on time. On Nov. 16, 1908 five miners died when a conductor who was handling two cages at the same time released a brake handle, causing a cage to strike their car. Two months earlier a “terrible” mine explosion led workers in one district to walk off the job.

“The principal galleries of the mines of Cerro de Pasco, which attain to the length of 1,300 metres [4,265 feet], are well worked, illumined by electric light and protected by wooden supports of 12 by 12 inches wide, imported from the States,” wrote Mayer. “These works are shown to the tourists, who spread abroad the fame of the colossal North-American undertaking, but not so the branch-works, in which the gangs of miners penetrate at the risk of being buried alive.”

Whatever Pearson experienced at Cerro de Pasco, he had moved on to a new enterprise by late January 1909; the Panama Canal. Oscar Felton seems to have remained in Peru, where he may have lived out his life. “Oscar stayed there forever, and I think he died there,” Pearson’s great-niece, Barbara Ver Woert, told the Silver Belt.

Her research uncovered a Panama Canal service record card listing Pearson as a worker from Jan. 27, 1909 to March 24, 1909. According to this card he began as a hostler (train engineer), then switched over to work as a machinist. According to the Canal Record, a weekly local newspaper, it was in March 1909 that canal excavation reached its highest point.

Toward the end of May, Pearson returned to Globe for a short while – only to leave again around August 11 for a second stint on the canal.

According to the service record card, Pearson resumed work on Sept. 1, 1909. The canal’s Gatun Locks, near the Atlantic, had been under construction for about a week; that day, the first concrete was laid at the Pedro Miguel Locks farther inland. The Canal Record described the former: “There will be six locks in three pairs at Gatun, making the lift from sea level to 85 feet above sea level. Each lock will be 100 feet wide . . .”

Most canal workers  came from the West Indies. For instance, on Sept. 2, 1909, the day after Pearson started, 1,500 men picked up on Barbados arrived in the Canal Zone.

Building the canal was a highly dangerous job; between accidents and disease, at least 5,000 men died in its construction. On Sept. 1, 1909 a Jamaican worker named Percy O’Neil was struck by a train cab. “He had climbed out on the frame of a cement mixer to oil the cups, and although previously warned to be careful, failed to notice the approach of a cement train,” the Canal Record reported. Three days later James Small, from Barbados, fell off a train and landed on an electrified rail.

Nor was death the only risk. Starting in January 1908, the Canal Zone administration engaged A.A. Marks, a New York company, to provide artificial limbs for workers. According to “History of the Panama Canal,” published in 1915, “Over 200 requisitions were issued up to 1912.”

There were some diversions, including baseball (with at least one indoor game), bowling, social clubs and libraries. The Canal Record reported that photography was a popular activity. On Sept. 9, 1909 a musical act named The Hearons Sisters arrived for a series of shows, and in the first half of October moving pictures came to the region.

Pollard Pearson’s second stint on the canal was shorter than the first; he left again on Oct. 10, 1909. His final week was marked by heavy rains that flooded railroad tracks and mired steam shovels in mud. At Pedro Miguel, the Canal Record reported, 10.55 inches of rain fell from September 30 to October 9; work on the locks was delayed for two days. Nevertheless, the Record added, excavation work on the canal was halfway done by the 9th.

On his way back to Globe the ex-lawman found himself on the other side of the bars in connection with his past mining activity, as the Silver Belt reported on Oct. 17, 1909:

“According to a telegram received by Mayor Kinney [Globe Mayor Alfred Kinney] yesterday, Pollard Pearson is in jail in Panama, charged with fraud in connection with a sale of stock. Pearson, according to the dispatch, disposed of 200 shares of stock of the Miami Copper company, of which S.L. Gibson is president and R.H. Daniel is secretary, the investors later having him arrested. Mayor Kinney made an investigation, returning a report to the effect that while the copper company in question is not connected with the Miami Copper company of New York, it is considered to be a fairly good unlisted security.”

What Pearson did in the next few months is one more question. On May 10, 1910 he embarked on a ship from Buenos Aires to New York. When boarding, he listed yet another occupation - farmer.

Some of his later activities – train engineer, mine seeker, prison guard – have been mentioned previously. In 1921 he was back at ranching, with cattle in the Mescal Mountains south of Globe, and made the papers again. An article described him as “one of the old time cattlemen who would not accept a Cadillac as a gift, unless a saddle and a pair of spurs were thrown in . . . he makes his trips to Globe with saddle horse and pack animals.

“He reports the range dry and cattle suffering from lack of feed,” the article continued. “He is feeding one hundred and fifty head of the poorest animals with cactus, after the thorns have been entirely burned off. He says, while they are not getting fat on these native herbs, that it fills them up and gives them strength to withstand the drought while praying for rain.”

Around 1929 Pearson made his final move, from Globe to Florence, where he owned farm property north of town. It was there that the end came, on Aug 7, 1939; he then returned here, to rest in the old Globe Cemetery.