Nicholson Viaduct has crossed the valley and Tunkhannock Creek for nearly a century. Its massive structure has caused some to compare it as a modern day wonder of the world. Rail photographers have visited this valley for years but trains are dwarfed and serve only as a prop in photographs.
Saturday, October 23, 2004 would find perhaps the most gorgeous day of the fall breaking over the village of Nicholson. Thick fog would slowly lift from the valley bringing a beautiful blue sky day. At exactly 2pm, a special publicity train would slowly pull out onto the bridge and pose for the railroad's photographer. The event? A new agreement partnering the Canadian Pacific Railway, owner of the bridge, with the Norfolk Southern Railway and Canadian National Railway. The new partnership would solidify increased business and bring more trains to the railroad and the future of trains over Nicholson Viaduct is bright.
A moment of silence. Across from that bridge is place of quiet and solitude, a place of memories, and a place of honor. Nicholson Cemetery sits high on the west hill facing Nicholson. It is a beautiful place, peaceful, and well-cared for. Scattered throughout are small American flags, so placed to honor those that served and those that gave what they could for this country. I trust that the flags are placed there by a local veteran's organization. Traditionally, they place the flags, new flags, flags of honor, in time for Memorial Day. As the year passes and the flags become worn, torn and tattered, those same veterans come back again and remove them, honoring those souls again, and again. As long as there are veterans, as long as they walk this earth, they will remember those comrades and honor them by placing those small American flags. Forever.
I have been here many times over the years. Not to visit anyone but to view the trains as they pass over that historic bridge from such a majestic perch. Each time I linger, reading the stones and wondering. Wondering who they were, and where they lived, and if they still had family. I wonder how they died, and for some, why they died so young?
As the train passed over the Viaduct, I noticed a small flag to the left of my view. A small American flag with a different holder, a star, I had not seen before. It's words were simple. Veteran 1861- 1865. The Civil War, a war in which Americans fought Americans, states against states, and brothers against brothers.
I wondered. Mr. Cyrus Millard, born 1843 and died 1919. My mind wondered more, He would have been 18 in 1861, just a teen. And yet, he went to serve his nation. He served with pride, Company G, 187th Pennsylvania Volunteers. I could only wonder at where he might have fought in that war? What places he had seen? What history he might have been able to pass on to us? Here I was, standing before his grave, more than 80 years after his death, and his grave is still honored by that flag. Someone still remembers this veteran and cares.
Cyrus D. Millard, age 76 at death, an honorable age. His wife, Louesa, born 1852, died in 1933. She lived 14 years beyond him. I wondered more. Two more names were on the stone, children named Isabel and Gussie. Both died in 1886. Isabel was only 13 years old and Gussie only 2. What tragedy struck this family to take both of their children at such a young age. And, as I think of my own children, now grown, I can only imagine losing both so young. Mr. Millard, veteran, husband and father, I can only imagine your pain.Mr. Millard lived for another 30 years beyond their deaths, into the new century, to see another war, a great war, one that consumed our country's young men again. I can only wonder what he must have thought. He would have lived to see the building of Nicholson Viaduct, that great bridge that I marvel at. He would have seen it completed and now, from his final resting pace, he has seen nearly a century of progress in that valley, ever changing with the exception of Nicholson Viaduct and the peace and solitude of Nicholson Cemetery.
I had to go but before doing so, said a quiet prayer for him and his family. My mind once again wondered. Did he still have family? Were there ever any visitors? I wondered when was the last time that a prayer was whispered over their place of rest?
November 11th is Veteran's Day. In a time where many companies lose tradition, the Canadian Pacific Railway, owner and operator of Nicholson Viaduct still remembers and honors veterans. Each Veteran's Day, on the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, at the eleventh hour, all trains on the system roll to a stop. Each remains quiet for two minutes of silence in honor of all veterans. At the conclusion of those two minutes, the engineer sounds one long blast on the locomotive's horn to say, "we remember".
Far from that cemetery today, I wonder if Mr. Millard heard the salute from his neighbor across the valley and if he knows the significance of that train's long, lonely whistle as it echoes over Nicholson.
Veteran's Day, 2004 in memory of Mr. Millard and his family, and families of all veterans.
New York Railroads © Updated 11/11/11tt