George Vroman
Union Pacific Railroad employee, Union Leader


George W. Vroman was born September 27, 1841 at Fitchburg, Dane County, Wisconsin. His parents were some the the early pioneers in Wisconsin, having settled in Milwaukee 1836. They came from near Syracuse, N. Y., and were of German descent.

George Vroman came to Nebraska in 1869, the year the Union Pacific Railway was completed. The last rail being laid on May 10th of 1869 at Promontory, Utah. He had begun his time with railroads with the Wabash Railroad in La Fayette, Indiana in 1862, working as a fireman for 2 years, then ran an engine for 5 years.

George Vroman had first come to North Platte in January 1869. He worked as a passenger engineer for the Union Pacific railway, on the Chicago & Denver special. He ran an engine on that train between North Platte and Sidney until May, 1881. He then became then was general foreman in the locomotive department up to 1884, having charge of the machine shops. After that time he resumed his place on the road as engineer.

In April, 1877, he organized the first general committee of the engineers on the Union Pacific and was elected as chairman continuously until 1905, with the exception of one term of two years. At first the jurisdiction of this committee extended from Omaha to Ogden on the main line, and over all the branches; i.e., the Oregon Navigation Company and the Colorado Central, but after 1891 those branches were put under another jurisdiction of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers.

At the beginning of this organization there were 8 on the committee, but by 1909, there were over 500 engineers in this territory. Mr. Vroman attended as delegate, thirteen national conventions of the brotherhood. He was salaried chairman from 1891 to 1894, with twenty-four lodges of engineers under him. When the Union Pacific was in the hands of a receiver in 1894, they issued an order reducing the wages of the scheduled men on the road, our subject representing the engineers of this 8,000 miles of road, and really, as well representing the case of the firemen, conductors, shopmen, brakemen and other employees. He took the matter before Judge Caldwell, at Omaha, in the U. S. Circuit Court, and the evidence introduced by him covered forty-one pages of the record. The decision was that the old schedule was fair and proper, and the receivers' lower schedule should not take effect. That was the highest court that any labor question had so far reached, and was one of labor's greatest victories.

The case was entered in February and decided in April, 1894. The first case in America in which questions between railway employees and the company was arbitrated, was on the Union Pacific railway in 1879, at North Platte, with Mr. Vroman as chairman of the committee of the Brotherhood, he taking the case before the arbitrator, Captain Rustin, on one day, and the next day the decision was given, favorable to the employees. From this time the employees never make a demand, but put their grievances or wishes in the form of statements and requests. These are fairly considered by the officials and the matters agreeably adjusted. On the day the first award was given, a daughter was born to Mr. and Mrs. Vroman, and she was named "Arba T."

The most thrilling experience Mr. Vroman ever had in his railway work was when his train was held up at Big Springs, Nebraska, one night in September, 1877, at 10:30 P. M. The train stopped at this way station, but the robbers had compelled the agent to put out a red light to make sure. There were eight of them in the gang, two appearing at the side of our subject's engine and one at the fireman's side. One was on the coal tender. As Mr. Vroman saw the gun from above pointed at him he ducked and the bullet struck the boiler head, put out the lights and filled his cab with smoke. In the confusion he went by the window over the boiler to the other side, when the bandits called for a surrender and he would not be injured. They secured $63,000 and got away, but five of them were mortally wounded in resisting arrest, and the other three never were apprehended.

Mr. Vroman was married at Indianapolis, Indiana, to Miss Mary Jordan of Brownstown, Indiana. The marriage taking place November 1, 1874. Six children were born of this union, who are named as follows: Blanche E., Clarence, employed in the Union Pacific shops at Omaha; Walter J., Clay W., in the U. S. mail service on the same railway; Arba T., and Ralph W. In 1882 Mr. Vroman served one term in the town council. He was an independent voter. The family were members of the Unitarian church at North Platte. He and his brother, W. A. Vroman, were proprietors of a sheep ranch thirty miles east of North Platte, where, in the early 1880's, they had 1,000 head of sheep.

Sources:
Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska, 1882, published by The Western Historical Company, A. T. Andreas, Proprietor, Chicago, Illinois.
Compendium of History, Reminiscence and Biography of Western Nebraska, 1909, Alden Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois.

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