Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Lost Workers


While doing some research into Pale Forest, I stumbled upon something quite interesting.  The library here in town, which I frequent, has a large, leatherbound book that chronicles the city's history, and though I had previously thought it too archaic to read, my recent quest has changed my mind on the merit of deciphering the behemoth.  To that end, I have spent many hours recently, staring at the browned pages.  My fear is I will eventually be restricted from the library (if, say, Mayor Huntley were to intervene), so I've read rather feverishly of late.

During my session with the tome yesterday, I came upon the record of a plan to open Pale Forest to an influx of immigrants in an attempt to expand the mill's facilities and business.  While the story is of course a familiar one (my family moved here when my father obtained a job at the mill under similar circumstances), it caught my eye because it isn't referring to the events that led me to Pale Forest.  This occurred in the 1840s.

Apparently, back then, Pale Forest was even more closed-off from the world than it is now.  In fact, a single road ran into and out of the town, and it was dangerously unkept-- it was actually part of Skeleton's Walk, which, at the time, came down out of the mountains.  Despite this, however, the town council voted to go ahead with their plans to increase the papermill's production.  They did not, however, vote to improve the road itself.

I suppose most of you have figured out where the story goes from there.  The night before the new workers (mostly immigrants and escaped slaves from the South) were supposed to arrive en masse, there was a terrible storm that, as luck would have it, centered over the mountains and the already precarious roadway.  Unable-- or perhaps unwilling-- to help, the people of Pale Forest waited to see if the mill's new workers would be able to brave the conditions.  The next morning, the awful answer was all too apparent.

Not one of them ever stepped foot into Pale Forest.

The book goes on to explain their guide, a man by the name of Marcus Pettigrew, was also lost in the maelstrom.  This was of some importance, as he was the mayor's brother and one of the more prominent men of Pale Forest.  His loss devastated the mayor, William Pettigrew, who never fully recovered from his grief or the outrage the incident sparked within the town's population.  William, it seems, had pushed for the very expansion that had become his greatest personal and professional failure.  Disgraced, he stepped down and was replaced by Ichabod Manley who, other than having a truly outstanding name, was a strict isolationist.  Pale Forest was thus closed off once more.

After reading this, my curiosity was piqued.  How many times has the city been opened to outsiders only to close again?  And, if this is a reoccuring theme in Pale Forest's history, is it possible there's some sort of pattern?  I intend to dig into the book even more over the next week, and I'll keep your posted on what I find.

Until next time...