The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers was organized on May 8, 1863 in Detroit, MI. The organization was fraternal in nature and only open to locomotive engineers; locomotive firemen and other railroad employees formed their own organizations.
In 1870, the first train arrived in North Springfield. The extension of the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad (later called the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad or Frisco Line) from Rolla, Missouri, had been delayed by financial difficulties and the Civil War. The train depot was built 1.5 miles north of the Springfield town line, Division Street. A new town, North Springfield, was quickly constructed around the railroad industry. Frisco R.R. erected a large engine maintenance and repair facility and by 1877 Frisco employed almost 170 people in its North Springfield shops. In 1887, North Springfield was consolidated into the city of Springfield.
On January 1, 1871, eight months after the railroad opened, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, Pacific City Lodge, Division No. 83, was awarded a charter, making it the first union in Springfield, MO. Frank Caton, J.L. Parish, Benjamin Smith, Albert Start, William Willis, and A. Casbourn served as the first officers. Division No. 83 officially changed its name to Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, Ozark Division No. 83 in 1884.
The B.L.E. agitated for an eight hour workday, improved wages, and better working conditions. In addition to its bargaining activities, the B.L.E. provided insurance to its members. Insurance companies considered railroad work “extra hazardous” and often refused to issue policies to locomotive engineers. The Locomotive Engineer’s Life Insurance Association provided life insurance while another benefit association provided $10 a week to members who were unable to work due to sickness or injury.
This collection contains the records of the early years of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, Division 83, the first union organized in Springfield, MO. The records consist primarily of membership dues payment records (1871-1900, 1904-1905) and minutes (1871-1892, 1904-1907, 1916-1934, and 1944-1954).
See the collection's finding aid for more information.
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