Transcriptions are beneath the gallery of actual images (misspellings of the name Hochertz are corrected, but variants of Wachdorf were left alone). Click on image to enlarge. Once enlarged, activate the zoom tool by moving the cursor to the right of the image, then back onto it, and click again.
In Charge of One Bridge for Forty Years (Daily News Friday, March 14, 1924)
Forty years a bridgetender in the same location is the record held by Anton Watchdorf*, 316 West 58th street. Mr. Watchdorf, who is 63 years of age, has tended the Pennsylvania south branch bridge since Sept. 15, 1884. In those days the structure was of wood and iron construction and was operated by steam, according to Watchdorf. Today the 600 tons of steel are lifted by electric motors which respond to Watchdorf's experience hand on the lever. Caption: Anton Watchdorf photographed in his quarters at the railroad bridge over south branch of river. He has been stationed there for four decades (By a staff photographer of The Daily News)
Aged Watchman Who Saw Chicago Grow Is Retired (1931)
After forty-six years on duty at the Pennsylvania railroad's bridge over the south branch of the Chicago river, Anton Wachdorf, 70 year old bridge tender, will retire next Monday. Under the railroad's pension regulations, retirement is compulsory at the age of 70.
Mr. Wachdorf was born in Germany, May 14, 1861, and was brought to Chicago by his parents while a small boy. In 1876 he entered the employ of the railroad, and in 1885 he became a bridge engineer, operating the steam draw bridge. later he became operator of the large lift bridge which now spans the river.
1931 article on retirement with beginning cut off, no doubt from a Chicago paper
...ice. During 46 years of this time Mr. Wachdorf has tended the river bridge and looked down on all kinds of passing craft. He was born in Germany on May 14, 1861, and came to the United States as a small boy, the family settling in the vicinity of 14th and Jefferson streets, only a few blocks west of the river, in a territory which then was on the edge of the city.
Fishing in the river for bullheads and perch as a boy and frequently seeing Pennsylvania Railroad locomotives and trains, he naturally entered the P.R.R. service when he was ready to make his own way. He took a job as call boy at 14th street enginehouse on Aug. 15, 1876, later becoming a fireman on a suburban passenger train.
Becomes Bridge Engineer:
Mr. Wachdorf was promoted to extra engineman, but later became an engineer at the south branch bridge, which was then operated by steam. He has remained there ever since. In 37 years of night work at the bridge, Mr. Wachdorf looked down on the lights of the passing boats and waved to the men on the decks, but never had an opportunity to get acquainted with any except the tug men who had a telephone at the bridge house, where the tugs received orders to meet boats passing up and down the river.
The first bridge he operated was an old-fashioned draw, but during later years when the huge lift bridge has been in use, his view of the boats has been from a point approximately 135 feet above the river.
In 1892 and 1893, bridge moves averaged about 40 turns daily and there were several days during those two years when more than 100 ships of various types passed the draw.
Times Have Changed:
Strings of sailboats, one behind the other, towed by tugs, were common, and ore boats sailed to Joliet to discharge cargoes for the steel mills. This business has disappeared from the river, and the stone boats which for years came up from points along the Drainage canal also have ceased to pass.
Many trim craft, interesting big freighters, and tugs of all descriptions came under Mr. Wachdorf's watchful eye, but the most exciting time in his long experience was when the Tug J.W. Crowell got orders over the telephone to go to the rescue of the Steamer Chicora when she was wrecked in Lake Michigan about 30 years ago.
Mr. Wachdorf is a robust man despite his unusually long service and should have many years to enjoy his retirement. Mr. and Mrs. Wachdorf live at 316 West 58th street.
(Note on the Steamer Chicora: She was built to withstand Lake Michigan in winter, only three years old, and had been shut down for the season in her home port of St. Joseph, Michigan when she was called to pick up a shipment of flour from Milwaukee. Because part of the crew had already headed out of town when the ship winter-docked, the Captain ended up using his own (and only) son as 2nd mate. On 1-21-1895 she sailed from St. Joe to Milwaukee without mishap, and on 1-22 left Milwaukee at 5 a.m. to make the return trip, sailing out into an apparently pleasant morning. Ten minutes after she left, a telegraph came in from the head of the shipping line in Benton Harbor, telling them to stay in port, because the barometer was dropping fast. One of the worst blizzards in years struck, with 65 mph winds driving the ice toward the eastern shores of the lake. When she failed to reach harbor, the report made the papers around the country, and so did the reports the next day when men venturing out after the storm found debris embedded in the ice from Saugatuck to South Haven. The Tug story Anton Wachdorf refers to may have been when someone reported seeing the hulk with living crew still aboard, still afloat, so a tug was sent out to search. Small genealogical note--the second engineer aboard the Chicora was Alfred Wirtz of Detroit, though if he was related to our Wirtzes, it is not known.)
Article picked up by U.P., run in various publications nationwide, for example
In Portsmouth Herald 6-15-1931, Portsmouth NH under headline:
On Same Job Half Century
Chicago Man Has been Bridge Tender for Long Period
In the Piqua Daily Call, Piqua Ohio under headline:
Holds Same Job Half Century
In Hayward Daily Review, Hayward California 6-12 under headline:
Man 55 Years With Same Company
Chicago--June 12 (some say June 15) (U.P.)--Nearly 55 years of service with the same organization, 46 of which were devoted to the same job, was recalled by Anton Wachdorf,70-year-old bridge tender, when he retired June 1.
During his 46 years as a bridge tender for the Pennsylvania railroad at the south branch of the Chicago River, Wachdorf, in his tower 135 feet above the moving line of traffic, witnessed changes in machinery and in modes of transportation typifying the scientific development of the last half century.
He recalls that in 1892 and 1893, when the drawbridge was operated by steam, as many as 40 turns were required to allow the daily stream of a hundred or more boats to pass. Traffic has decreased much since then, Wachdorf said.
"The biggest thrill I ever had," he mused, "was then the tug J.W. Cromwell got orders through my office to go to the rescue of the steamer chicora, which was wrecked in Lake Michigan 30 years ago."
Wachdorfs Celebrate 50th Year (Southtown Economist, April 18, 1932)
Honoring Mr. and Mrs. Anton Wachdorf, 316 W. 58th st., who observed their golden wedding anniversary Monday, a party for 50 guests will be held tomorrow eveing at the home of their son0in-law and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Hochertz, 5924 Parnell ave.
Married at the St. Peter church in Chicago, the Wachdorfs came two years later to their 58th st. home and they have resided for 48 consecutive years at the same address. Their children all went to the St. Martin's school 59th st. and Princeton ave., and Mr. and Mrs. Wachdorf have been members of the St. Martin Church for 48 years. He is a member of the St. Justin society at the church and she is affiliated with the St. Martin branch of the Ladies Catholic Benevolent Association, which had a party for the aged couple Monday evening.
The sons and daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Wachdorf are Mrs. Clara Roster 1133 S. Taylor ave, Oak Park; Mrs. Hochertz; Harry Wachdorf 5800 Princeton; Edward Wachdorf 334 W. 58th st.; Mrs. Harvey Meyers 5800 Princeton ave.; Miss May Wachdorf 316 W.58th st.; Mrs. Frank Stevens 313 W. 58th st.; and Miss Madeline Wachdorf316 W. 58th st. There are 29 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Mr. Wachdorf was born in Rhein-preizen, Germany, and his wife was born in Chicago. Both are 71 years of age.
Aided Southtown's Growth: Anthony Wachdorf Dies as Community Builds
Anthony Wachdorf came to Southtown 53 years ago when it was a prairie. Anthony Wachdorf left Southtown as the most prospering community in the United States.
Mr. Wachdorf, 76 years old, 316 W. 58th st., died Thursday. And his death is being mourned by hundreds, for during those 53 years of watching and helping Southtown grow into a thriving community he had created many friends.
Funeral services for the pioneer Southtowner will be conducted at 10 o'clock tomorrow morning from the St. Martin church, 59th st. and Princeton ave. Burial will be in the St. Mary cemetery.
Pallbearers will be six of Mr. Wachdorf's grandsons, Edward and Anthony Hochertz, and Edward, Arthur, Jerry and Harry Wachdorf.
His more than half a century residence in Southtown was not spent only in watching. Mr. Wachdork* accomplished things. He pioneered the St. Martin church. When he came to Southtown he joined the then tiny parish and has been instrumental in its growth. And not only was he a pioneer of Southtown but he was also a pioneer of the railroad. He spent 50 years of his life in the employ of the Pennsylvania railroad.
Four of those years he was a fireman on a locomotive and the remaining 46 he was a bridge tender.
Survivors number nearly half a hundred. There are the widow, six daughters, Mrs. Henry Roster, 1133 Taylor ave., Oak Park; Mrs. Anthony Hochertz, 5924 Parnell st.; Mrs. Harvey Meyers, 6327 Throop st.; Mrs. Frank Stevens, 313 W. 58th st.; and May and Madeline Wachdorf, at home; two sons, Harry, 5800 Princeton ave., and Edward, 334 W. 58th pl.; 32 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
*Anton/Anthony Watchdorf and Wachdork is also listed on his voter registration as Anton Wachtorf.