The Telegraph Office

by Neal McEwen, K5RW

Telegraphic Poetry

Two Beautiful Poems by Telegrapher Jerry Newton (1846-1917)

Copyright Greg Newton

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These two poems were written by telegrapher Jerry Newton just after the turn of the century. Thanks to Greg Newton, a relative, for allowing me to put these on the web.

Jerry Newton was employed with Western Union in San Antonio, Texas. He published these two twp poems, along with dozens of others, in a book in 1902. Though the family was living in Arkansas, he joined the Union service in Indiana, working as a telegrapher with Co. H, 1st Regiment, Indiana Cavalry, mostly in the Arkansas region..

His older brother Edward (1845-1923) joined the Confederate Army as a telegrapher, Co. H, 8 Arkansas Cavalry. After the war he ran the Little Rock WU office. Charles Newton (1855-1901), a second brother, worked as telegrapher at the Frankfort, KY office.

Jerry worked for WU from after the war to around 1910. He pounded brass in Arkansas, Houston, TX and San Antonio, with perhaps some other stops in between.

If anyone should happen across any information dealing with the Newton family telegraphers, please contact Greg Newton at


(Scene, Little Rock Office, 1868.)

When left in charge one day at noon
Alone, to hold the fort,
I felt a yearning, uncontrolled
To tackle noon report.
Some occult power kept pricking me,
Which I could not subdue,
With alternating joy and fear
My courage came and flew.
Sun-clad fancies gleamed so bright
Of honors and of fame,
But my verdancy was tristful
`Fore welcome 30 came.

`Twas up to me; L. R. was called,
This gave my nerves a "jar,"
A chilly rigor seized me, when
I answer'd, I. I. L. R.
I started up my register,
The paper went askew,
I broke - with waning confidence
But started up anew.
The sender was an artist rare,
And forty words at least
Per minute, he was sending, and
It seemed his speed increas'd.
The moments kept on lengthening out,
Each filled with fears galore,
By desperation goaded on,
I tore my hair and swore.
I mopped the cold beads from my brow,
As dots and dashes flew,
And like a piece of marble stood
With face of livid hue.
Six hundred yards of paper soon
was reeled off on the floor,
Oh! phantoms of that fateful day
Will haunt me evermore.
Though five and thirty years have gone,
My locks with gray are strewn,
I see myself in Little Rock
Taking press report at noon.


Yes! comrades, John, for thirty years,
Not in the usual way,
Comrades, though we have never met,
This may seem strange to say.
You've worked one end - I the other,
Of a circuit all these years,
We've shared our joys - the fates bestowed
Our sympathies and tears.
We both are growing shaky, John,
Our MORSE is not so clear,
And not so musical as when
Our cups were full of cheer.
Our dashes are of weary length,
Our spaces uncontrolled,
Our punctuation incomplete,
Our touch is not so bold.
You always make six dots for H,
Eight for the letter S,
But the alphabet is growing old,
We too are, John - I guess.
I will not chide you further,
John, Alas! `tis too my fix,
When H and P I try to make,
I always make a six.

Neal McEwen, K5RW

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