The Life & Legend of E.H. Harriman

By Maury Klein | Go to book overview
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Epilogue: The Good That Men Do

It is conceded that Harriman's desire was not wealth, but power; that he made far more money for others than for himself; that he never failed to increase the efficiency and earning power of the roads that he acquired; that whatever may be said of his methods of warfare, he was ever a railroad builder, never a railroad-wrecker. In fact, the post-obit portraits of Harriman lack the horns and tail that featured in sketches of the same model a few years ago.

—Literary Digest, September 18, 1909

The workmen who had been Harriman's most constant companions during his last days turned their efforts to a less cheerful task after his death: blasting and carving a place in the ledge of solid rock for his crypt. Years earlier, when the Harrimans had first come to Arden, they had chosen a family plot in the far corner of the churchyard at Arden parish. It was the only spot in the enclosure where a ridge of bluestone rose to the surface. Little Harry had been buried there, and now his father was to join him. It was only fitting that Harriman's grave had to be wrenched from solid rock; in death, as in life, he let no obstacle deter him. 1

A pouring rain drenched their efforts and those of the men toiling on the new road winding up to the house. Mary, struggling to maintain her composure with help from the children, planned a simple funeral limited to family and close friends. The latter included villagers as well as titans of business and finance. “At times he seemed a workmen like ourselves,” said one of the men. “Just an older workman whom we cared a good deal about.” 2

The skies had cleared by Sunday, September 12, when the funeral took place. At nine that morning Mary opened the house for employees of the estate. A procession of five hundred workmen trudged up the new road to pay their last respects to the squire of Arden. The family chaplain, J. H. McGuinness, held a private communion for the family at ten before the regular church service an hour later. There, in fervent tones, McGuinness delivered the only eulogy Harriman was to have on this bleak day. 3

At three o'clock a special Erie train arrived bearing dignitaries from New York

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