[Transcriber's note: Obvious printer's errors have been corrected, all other inconsistencies are as in the original. Author's spelling has been maintained.]
The Story of the First Trans-continental Railroad
Its projectors, construction and history
"I Fed the Men who Built It"
Compiled and Published by W. F. BAILEY
Copies of this work may be procured at $2.00 each from either the Compiler, Fair Oaks, California, or from the Printers, the Pittsburgh Printing Co., 518-520 Seventh Avenue, Pittsburgh, Penna.
Copyright 1906 BY W. F. BAILEY
PRESS OF PITTSBURGH PRINTING CO.
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
I. The Project and its Projectors, 9
II. The Proposition in Congress, 21
III. Mostly Financial, 31
IV. Commencement of the Work, 42
V. Progress Made, 50
VI. Indian Troubles during Construction, 69
VII. The Builders, 79
VIII. Completion of the Line, 92
IX. The Kansas Division (Kansas Pacific Ry.) 103
X. The Denver-Cheyenne Line (Denver Pacific R. R.) 117
XI. History of the Line since its Completion, 123
XII. The Central Pacific Railroad, 133
(1) Roster of Officials, 141
(2) Statistics, 146
(3) Nomenclature, 148
(4) Paddy Miles' Ride, 153
(5) Copy Report Engineer in Charge of Survey, 157
For some reason the people of today are not nearly as familiar with the achievements of the last fifty years as they are with those of earlier days.
The school boy can glibly recount the story of Columbus, William Penn, or Washington, but asked about the events leading up to the settlement of the West will know nothing of them and will probably reply "they don't teach us that in our school"—and it is true. Outside of the names of our presidents, the Rebellion, and the Spanish-American War, there is practically nothing of the events of the last fifty years in our school histories, and this is certainly wrong. "Peace hath her victories as well as War," and it is to the end that one of the great achievements of the last century may become better known that this account of the first great Pacific Railroad was written.
It was just as great an event for Lewis and Clark to cross the Rockies as it was for Columbus to cross the Atlantic. The Mormons not only made friends with the Indians as did Penn, but they also "made the desert to blossom as the rose," and Washington's battles at Princeton, White Plains, and Yorktown were but little more momentus in their results than Sandy Forsythe's on the Republican, Custer's on the Washita, or Crook's in the Sierra Madre.
The construction of the Union Pacific Railroad was of greater importance to the people of the United States than the inauguration of steamship service across the Atlantic or the laying of the Atlantic Telegraph. Yet the one has been heralded from time to time and the other allowed to sink into temporary obscurity.
To make good Americans of the coming generation all that is necessary is to make them proud of American achievements and the West was and is a field full of such.
The building of the Pacific Railroad was one of the great works of man. Its promoters were men of small means and little or no financial backing outside of the aid granted them by the Government. It took nerve and good Yankee grit to undertake and carry out the project. How it was done it is hoped the succeeding pages may show.
Fair Oaks, California, 1906.
Poem read at the Celebration of the opening of the Pacific Railroad, Chicago, May 10th, 1869.
Ring out, oh bells. Let cannons roar In loudest tones of thunder. The iron bars from shore to shore Are laid and Nations wonder.
Through deserts vast and forests deep Through mountains grand and hoary A path is opened for all time And we behold the glory.
We, who but yesterday appeared But settlers on the border, Where only savages were reared Mid chaos and disorder. We wake to find ourselves midway In continental station, And send our greetings either way Across the mighty nation.
We reach out towards the golden gate And eastward to the ocean. The tea will come at lightning rate And likewise Yankee notions. From spicy islands off the West The breezes now are blowing, And all creation does its best To set the greenbacks flowing.
The eastern tourist will turn out And visit all the stations For Pullman runs upon the route With most attractive rations.
—From the Chicago Tribune, May 11th, 1869.
The First Trans-continental Railroad.
The Project and the Projectors.
President Jefferson First to Act on a Route to the Pacific—Lewis and Clark Expedition—Oregon Missionaries—Railroad Suggested—Mills 1819—The Emigrant 1832—Parker 1835—Dr. Barlow's Plan—Hartwell Carver's—John Plumbe's—Asa Whitney—Senator Benton's National Road.
It would appear that Thomas Jefferson is entitled to the credit of being the first to take action towards the opening of a road or route between the eastern states and the Pacific Coast. While he was in France in 1779 as American Envoy to the Court of Versailles he met one John Ledyard who had been with Captain Cook in his voyage around the world, in the course of which they had visited the coast of California. Out of the acquaintance grew an expedition under Ledyard that was to cross Russia and the Pacific Ocean to Alaska, thence take a Russian trading vessel from Sitka to the Spanish-Russian settlement on Nookta Sound (Coast of California) and from there proceed east overland until the settlements then confined to the Atlantic Seaboard were reached.
Through the efforts of Jefferson the expedition was equipped and started. The Russian Government had promised its support but when the party had crossed Russia, were within two hundred miles of the Pacific, Ledyard was arrested by order of the Empress Catherine, the then ruler of Russia, and the expedition broken up.
Jefferson became President in 1801. In 1803 on his recommendation, Congress made an appropriation "for sending an exploring party to trace the Missouri River to its source, to cross the highlands (i. e. Rocky Mountains) and follow the best route thence to the Pacific Ocean."
So interested was Jefferson that he personally prepared a long and specific letter of instructions and had his confidential man placed in charge. "The object of your mission," said Jefferson, in this letter of instruction "is to explore the Missouri River and such other streams as by their course would seem to offer the most direct and practicable communication across the continent for the purpose of commerce." This expedition known as the Lewis and Clark, made in 1804-1806, brought to light much information relative to the West and demonstrated conclusively the feasibility of crossing overland as well as the resources of the country traversed.
As a result the far West became the Mecca of the fur trappers and traders. Commencing with the Astoria settlement in 1807, for the next forty years or until the opening of the Oregon immigration in 1844, they were practically the only whites to visit it outside of the missionaries, who did more or less exploring and visiting the Indians resulting in the Rev. Jason Lee in 1833 and Dr. Marcus Whitman in 1835 having established mission stations in Oregon.
The next record is of one Robert Mills of Virginia who suggested in a publication on "Internal Improvements in Maryland, Virginia, and South Carolina," issued in 1819, the advisability of connecting the head of navigation of some one of the principal streams entering the Atlantic with the Pacific Ocean by a system of steam propelled carriages. (H. R. Doc. 173, 29th Cong.) This was before there was a mile of Steam Railroad in the world, and under the then existing circumstances was so chimerical as to hardly warrant mention.
In a weekly newspaper published in 1832 at Ann Arbor, Michigan, called "The Emigrant," appeared what was probably the first suggestion in print on the advisability of a Pacific Railroad. The article suggests the advisability of building a line from New York to the Mouth of the Oregon (Columbia River) by way of the south shore of Lake Erie and Lake Michigan, crossing the Mississippi River between 41 and 42 north latitude, the Missouri River about the mouth of the Platte, thence to the Rocky Mountains near the source of the last named river, crossing them and down the valley of the Oregon to the Pacific. It further suggested that it be made a national project, or this failing the grant of three millions of acres to a Company organized for the purpose of constructing it. No name was signed to the article, but the probabilities are that it was written by S. W. Dexter, the Editor of the paper.
With the Whitman party leaving the East for the far northwest to establish a Mission Station was the Rev. Samuel Parker, a Presbyterian minister, who was sent under the auspices of the Missionary Board of his Church to investigate and report on the mission situation and to suggest a plan for Christianizing the Indians. He crossed the continent to Oregon and on his return in 1838, his journal was published. It presented a very correct and interesting account of the scenes he visited. In it he says, "There would be no difficulty in the way of constructing a railroad from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean * * * * and the time may not be so far distant when trips will be made across the continent as they are now to Niagara Falls to see Nature's wonders."
To just whom belongs the credit of being the first to advocate a railroad to the Pacific Coast is in dispute. No doubt the idea occurred to many at the time they were being introduced and successfully operated in the East. The two items referred to seem to be the first record of the idea or possibility.
About the same time, although the date is not positively fixed, Dr. Samuel Bancroft Barlow, a practising physician of Greenville, Mass., commenced writing articles for the newspapers, advocating a Pacific railroad and outlining a plan for its construction.
His proposition contemplated a railroad from New York City to the mouth of the Columbia River. As illustrating the lack of knowledge regarding the cost and operations of railroads, we quote from his writings "Premising the length of the road would be three thousand miles and the average cost ten thousand dollars per mile, we have thirty million dollars as the total cost, and were the United States to engage in its construction, three years time would be amply sufficient * * * * At the very moderate rate of ten miles an hour, a man could go from New York to the mouth of the Columbia River in twelve days and a half."
Another enthusiast was Hartwell Carver, grandson of Jonathan Carver the explorer of 1766. His proposition was to build a railroad from Lake Michigan (Chicago) to the South Pass, with two branches from there, one to the mouth of the Columbia River, and the other due west to California. South Pass received its name from being South of the pass in general use. Strange to say his "true Pacific Route" formulated without knowledge of the lay of the land was absolutely the best and the one that today is followed by the Union Pacific Railway and affiliated lines, substituting Granger for South Pass. Carver's proposition was to build the line by a private corporation who were to receive a grant of land for their right of way, the whole distance, with the privilege of taking from the public lands, material used in construction, with the further privilege of purchasing from the United States Government, eight million acres of selected lands from the public domains at one dollar and twenty-five cents per acre, payable in the stock of the Company. His road was to be laid on stone foundations and to be equipped with sleeping cars, dining cars and salon cars. His ideas as to the cost of the work were far too low, but outside of this he was seemingly inspired. At the time he was writing, 1835, there were seven hundred and ninety-seven miles of railroads in operation in the United States. Passenger coaches were patterned after the old stage coach, the track iron straps on wooden stringers, yet here he was outlining what today is an accomplished fact. A railroad with stone ballast from Chicago to the South Pass (Granger, Wyo.) one branch diverging from there to the mouth of the Columbia, (Portland, Ore.,) the other to California, (San Francisco and Los Angeles, Cal.,) traversed by trains comprised of sleeping cars, dining cars and buffet cars. The Union Pacific and its connections.
Carver spent the best years of his life and what was in those days an ample fortune in endeavoring to further his project. The great opposition to his plan arose from the proposed diversion of the public lands and the stock feature, neither Congress nor the public taking kindly to the idea of the Government giving lands for stock in a private corporation.
A third proposition was fathered by John Plumbe of Dubuque, Iowa, who suggested at a public meeting, held at his home town in March 1838, that a railroad be built from the great lakes to the Columbia River. His plan contemplated an appropriation from Congress of alternate sections of the public lands on either side of the right of way. The company to be capitalized at one hundred million dollars, twenty million shares at five dollars each. Twenty-five cents per share to be paid down to provide a fund to commence operations and subsequent assessments of like amount to be paid as the money was needed until the full amount had been paid in. One hundred miles to be constructed each year and the whole line completed in twenty years.
All of these propositions were more or less visionary and advanced by men of theory with little or no capital. They had the effect of awakening public interest and paved the way for a more feasible plan. The question of a Pacific railway, its practicability, earnings, and effect, were constantly before the people. In 1844 the idea had become firmly fixed, the leading advocate being a New York merchant named Asa Whitney, who has been called the "Father of the Pacific Railway." Mr. Whitney had spent some years in commercial life in China, returning to the United States with a competency. Becoming enthused with the idea, he put his all,—energy, time, and money into the project of a trans-continental railroad, finding many supporters. At first he advocated Carver's plan, but becoming convinced that it was not feasible, he sprung a new one of his own. He proposed that Congress should give to him, his heirs and assigns, a strip of land, sixty miles wide, with the railroad in the center, this from a point on Lake Michigan to the Pacific Coast. This land he proposed to colonize and sell to emigrants from Europe, from the proceeds build the line, retaining whatever surplus there might be after its completion, as his own.
Whitney was an indefatigable worker, thoroughly in earnest, a fluent speaker, both in public and private, well fortified with statistics and arguments. He personally travelled the whole country from Maine to fifteen miles up the Missouri River. The legislatures of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, Maryland, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia, all endorsed his plan by favorable resolutions.
The Senate Committee on public lands made a report recommending his proposition. Thus strongly endorsed, his plan was brought before Congress in 1848 in a bill entitled "Authorizing Asa Whitney, his heirs or assigns, to construct a railroad from any point on Lake Michigan or the Mississippi River he may designate, in a line as nearly straight as practicable, to some point on the Pacific Ocean where a harbor may be had." The road to be six foot gauge, sixty-four pound rails. The Government to establish tolls and regulate the operation of the line, Whitney to be the sole Owner and receive a salary of four thousand dollars per year for managing it.
The proposition was debated for days in the Senate and then was tabled on a vote of twenty-seven to twenty-one. The opposition dwelt largely on the length of time Whitney would necessarily require. Say he could colonize and sell a million acres a year, this would only be funds enough to build one hundred miles and consequently the two thousand miles would require at least twenty years. The defeat was largely owing to the opposition of Senator Benton of Missouri, the most pronounced friend of the West in the House, who used the argument of the power and capital it would put in the hands of one man, Whitney's. This he characterized as a project to give away an Empire, larger in extent than eight of the original states, with an ocean frontage of sixty miles, with contracting powers and patronage exceeding those of the President.
Upon the defeat of Whitney's project, Benton brought forward in 1849 one of his own for a great national highway from St. Louis to San Francisco, straight as may be, with branches to Oregon and Mexico. The Government to grant a strip one mile wide, so as to provide room for every kind of road, railway, plank, macadamized, and electric motor, or otherwise constructed where not so practicable or advantageous. Sleighs to be used during those months when snow lay on the ground. Funds for its construction to be provided by the sale of public lands. Bare in mind this was only fifty-six years ago, but eighteen years before the Union Pacific Railway was completed, and was the proposition advocated by the recognized leader of the Senate in matters western.
Up to the year 1846 when by the treaty of Guadeloupe-Hidalgo, Mexico, ceded to us California, our only territory on the Pacific Coast was Oregon and Washington. The acquisition of California, followed very shortly by the gold discoveries and the consequent influx of people, gave that state a large population and furnished a prospective business for a Pacific railway. This had heretofore been a matter of theory, very questionable, to say the least, being based on very hazy estimates of the prospective volume of trans-pacific business. With an active and aggressive population of three hundred thousand in California, practically all of eastern birth and affiliations the situation became materially changed and the necessity of railroad communication apparent. Both great political parties pledged their support in their quadrennial platforms. Presidents—Pierce, Buchanan, and Lincoln, in their several messages to Congress, strongly recommended its construction. The matter had been thoroughly discussed, both in and out of Congress and the whole country was convinced of the advisability of its construction, and only awaited a leader and a feasible plan. From 1850 to 1860 the question vied with that of slavery in public interest. Survey after survey was undertaken by the Government and private parties. Senator Benton being the first to introduce a resolution looking to the appropriation of sufficient money to pay for a survey. This being in 1851. The question of the North and South, entered into the matter, as it did everything else in the days preceding the Rebellion. "You shall not build through free soil," said the South and "we won't permit it to run through the Slave States," said the North. Compromise was out of the question, and it was not until the southern element had been eliminated from Congress by their secession was any action possible.
It was found that private corporations, duly aided by land grants from the Government, were able to build the necessary connecting links through the comparatively level country, between Chicago and St. Louis, and the Missouri River. From the Missouri River west it was felt that the undertaking was too great for any one set of men or corporation, besides local interests in California were already in the field, consequently two companies were determined upon, one of them working eastward, the other westward, and it was thus arranged.
The Proposition in Congress.
Situation 1861—Curtis Bill of 1862—Amended Charter of 1864—Further Amendments—1866—Legal Complications in New York—Controversy With Central Pacific.
Commencing with the session of 1835, when a memorial on the subject of railroad communication between Lake Michigan and the Pacific Coast, was presented by Hartwell Carver, up to the present, the Pacific Railways have been ever present in Congress. The Catalogue of Government Publications gives one hundred and eighty-five having the Union Pacific, or Pacific Railroads as their subject.
It is not necessary to recount the many schemes for the construction of these roads that were proposed to Congress. We have already outlined the principal ones previous to 1861.
At this time our country was in the midst of its greatest difficulties. The North and South unable to harmonize over the slavery question, had recourse to the arbitration of arms. The Union forces had met with numerous and severe reverses. The people of the Pacific Coast were loud in their demands for better means of communication. The Government was straining to what seemed the breaking point, their credit and resources to carry on the war and as a Government enterprise the building of a Pacific Railway was out of the question. All were convinced of not only the desirability of such a line but of the absolute necessity thereof, and it had resolved itself into a question of ways and means. Previous discussions had thrashed out the chaff and it now remained for Congress to winnow the wheat. Government surveys had demonstrated the existence of five feasible routes through or over the Rocky Mountains. The Northern, now followed by the Northern Pacific Railroad, the South Pass, Snake and Columbia Rivers, now traversed by the Union Pacific Railroad to Granger, thence the Oregon Short Line and Oregon Railway and Navigation Company. The Middle Route-Union Pacific Railroad in connection with the Southern Pacific Company (Central Pacific Railroad). The thirty-ninth parallel route, now followed by the Santa Fe Route and the Southern via El Paso, now followed by the Sunset Route. The first two while available, could be eliminated owing to their not reaching California direct, as could also the two latter, on account of their traversing in part at least, country that was then in a state of insurrection.
These reasons were in themselves sufficient to determine the selection, but with the many other arguments advanced, there was no trouble in bringing Congress to adopt practically unanimously the "South Pass" "Middle" "True Pacific" Route as it was variously called. For years this had been the route of the fur traders and trappers, the emigrant, the Overland Stage, and the Pony Express, and if these various interests had agreed as to this being the shortest and best route it was evident there were good and sufficient reasons for their decision, it being incontrovertible that it was the shortest one that reached the desired territory. Especially as their decision was reinforced by the result of numerous surveys made by the Government.
The bill creating the Union Pacific Railroad was known as the "Curtis Bill" from its author, Congressman S. R. Curtis of Iowa. It carried the title of "An Act to aid in the construction of a railroad and telegraph line from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean and to secure to the United States Government, the use thereof for postal, military, and other purposes."
This act passed the Senate, June 20th, 1862, by a vote of thirty-five to two and became a law July 1st, of that same year. In addition to creating the Union Pacific Railroad Company it also authorized the Central Pacific Railroad Company to build a railroad from Sacramento to the eastern boundary of California, where it was to connect with the Union Pacific Railroad. The bill also recognized a Company chartered by the legislature of Kansas under the name of the Leavenworth, Pawnee and Western Railway Company, later known as the Kansas Pacific Railway. This latter line was to be built from Leavenworth west to a junction with the Union Pacific Railroad at or near the hundredth Meridian or about two hundred and fifty miles west of Omaha.
The principal features of the bill so far as the Union Pacific Railroad were concerned, were, the creation of a Board of Commissioners consisting of one hundred and fifty-eight commissioners to represent the interest of the United States Government and who were to be named by the Secretary of the Interior. These were to constitute a preliminary organization.
The Union Pacific Railroad proper was to commence at a point on the hundredth Meridian, west of Greenwich, between the Valley of the Platte River on the north and the Valley on the Republican River on the south, with branch lines to be known as the Iowa Branch from said point to the Missouri River. On the west it was to extend to the Eastern boundary of California, where it was to connect with the Central Pacific Railroad.
The Capital stock of the Company was to consist of ten thousand shares at one thousand dollars each, not more than two hundred shares to be held by any one person. Right of way through public lands was granted with the privilege of taking therefrom, without charge, earth, stone, lumber, or other material for construction purposes. The Company was granted every alternate section of land as designated by odd numbers to the amount of five sections per mile, on each side of the road within the limits of ten miles, not sold, reserved or otherwise disposed of by the Government, and to which a pre-emption or homestead claim had not been made up to the time the road was finally located, mineral lands being excepted. All lands thus granted, not sold or disposed of three years after the line was completed, were to be sold by the Government at not to exceed one dollar and twenty-five cents per acre, the proceeds to accrue to the Railroad Company. Nothing but American iron was to be used in the rails. As fast as sections of forty miles were completed and accepted by commissioners appointed by the Government for that purpose, one thousand dollar bonds of the United States bearing six per cent. interest, payable in thirty years, were to be issued to the Company constructing the line. Sixteen thousand dollars in bonds to the mile for the distance east of the Rocky Mountains and forty-eight thousand to the mile for one hundred and fifty miles for the mountain portion of the line. Three-fourths of these bonds were to be delivered to the railroad Company as the sections were accepted, the remaining fourth to be retained by the Government until the entire line was completed. The bonds to constitute a first mortgage on the entire line equipment, terminals, etc? The road to be completed within twelve years, the first one hundred miles within two years. Five per cent. of the net earnings, together with the entire amount accruing on transportation furnished the Government was to be applied to the payment of these bonds, principal and interest.
The Bill which in reality constituted a Charter, also provided that the gauge of the road and its eastern terminus should be left to the President of the United States to determine.
These somewhat onerous conditions were accepted by the promoters. Subscription books opened but capital fought shy of the proposition. Two years solicitation only resulted in subscriptions to the amount of two million dollars being paid up in cash.
It being evident that the necessary funds could not be procured on the terms of the original act, an appeal was made to Congress resulting in a supplementary act passing the House of Representatives, July 2nd, 1864, and soon thereafter becoming law. This increased the amount of the Land Grant to the odd numbered sections within ten miles of either side the track, and made the bonds of the Government a second mortgage instead of first, they to be issued on sections of twenty miles instead of forty, two-thirds of the bonds being available as soon as the grading was done. The limit extended in which the line must be completed, and but one-half the earnings on Government business withheld to meet the bonds. The Company was also authorized to maintain a ferry or ferries across the Missouri River at Omaha as a means of connection with the Iowa Lines until such time as they could construct a bridge suitable for this purpose. Coupled with these favorable amendments were two provisions that eventually militated against the Company. One of them permitting the Kansas Pacific Railway to connect with the Union Pacific Railroad at any point its projectors saw fit at or east of a point fifty miles west of Denver, Colo., instead of at the hundredth Meridian. This created a competitor instead of a feeder. The second was allowing the Central Pacific Railroad Company to build on east one hundred and fifty miles to meet the road from the East instead of stopping at the California State line. The restriction to one hundred and fifty miles was withdrawn in subsequent legislation. This resulted in a race as to which Company should cover the most ground and involved both of them in much additional expense. With the Charter thus amended, the Union Pacific Railroad Company which had not thus far done any real work, commenced active construction. The Credit Mobilier was formed to do the actual building, and with many trials, discouragements, and unforeseen expense, the work was continued to its completion.
The initial eastern point had been fixed by the Charter two hundred and forty-seven miles west of Omaha—at the hundredth Meridian, branches being contemplated to connect it with the Missouri River. In 1866 Congress authorized commencement at Omaha without reference to this fact,—the line to extend from Omaha to a connection with the Central Pacific Railroad.
The question of the gauge or width of track was another matter that occupied the attention of Congress. The question had by the Charter been left to the President. There was a divergence of opinions as to the best gauge for railroad tracks. At this time the Erie, and Ohio and Mississippi Railroads used a six foot gauge. The California legislature had fixed five foot as the gauge in that state, while the principal eastern roads including the Baltimore and Ohio, New York Central as well as the Chicago and Iowa lines, were what is known as standard gauge (i. e. four feet, eight and a half inches.) A committee of Parliament had settled on five feet, three inches as the gauge in England. President Lincoln had announced himself as in favor of five foot and the Central Pacific people had ordered their equipment of that width. The influence of the Chicago-Iowa lines as well as that of the Union Pacific people, was thrown in favor of the so called standard gauge, and on March 2nd, 1863, Congress passed what is one of the shortest laws on the Statute Books, namely,
"Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States in Congress assembled, that the gauge of the Pacific Railroad and its branches through its whole extent from the Pacific Coast to the Missouri River, shall be and hereby is established at four feet, eight and one-half inches."
In 1869 about the time the Credit Mobilier Company was about to turn the finished road over, disgruntled stock and bondholders under the leadership of "Jim Fisk" endeavored to wrest possession from the Union Pacific Railway Company. Certain stock was recorded in his name and although paid for with a check that was refused by the bank on which it was drawn, Fisk went into court and secured an injunction preventing the board of directors acting until his relations with the Company had been adjudicated by the Courts. Under cover of these legal proceedings in the state courts, the New York Offices were forcibly entered, the books and securities of the Company removed and a feeling of insecurity and uncertainty aroused that caused a serious depreciation in the value of the securities they were endeavoring to market. W. M. Tweede being appointed receiver by the State Courts of such property of the Company as was to be found within its jurisdiction. It is said the trouble cost the Company some six or seven million dollars. Appealing to Congress, they were granted authority to remove its eastern offices from New York City to Boston. The next appearance in Congress was made necessary by a dispute with the Central Pacific Company over the point of connection. The Union Pacific Company claimed their grade extended to Humboldt Wells, five hundred miles west of Ogden, while the Central Pacific in reprisal claimed the line to the western end of Weber Canon some thirty miles east of Ogden. The facts were the two completed lines met at Promontory Point fifty-three miles west of Ogden, April 28th, 1869. By act of Congress, it was decided that the Union Pacific Railroad Company should build the line to Promontory where the two roads should connect but that the Central Pacific Railroad Company should pay for and own the line west of Ogden. This was "settled out of Court" and the action of Congress simply ratified an agreement made by the two Companies.
The above covers the more important matters so far as the action of Congress was concerned. Many other minor matters received attention at their hands—both before and since the completion of the road. As is stated in the opening paragraph of this chapter, the Pacific Railroads have been ever present in Congress. The more important questions being referred to in their order later.
Preliminary Organization—Board of Commissioners—Company Organized—Directors and Officers Elected—Hoxie Contract—Credit Mobilier—Ames' Interest—Compromise Contract—Davis Contract—Cost of Line—Land Grant.
When the Pacific Railroad Bill passed Congress and received the President's signature in 1862, there was a well organized company to take hold of the western or California end. The Union Pacific or eastern end was not in such good shape. Thomas C. Durant, who was afterwards Vice President of the Company had with a few associates taken a prominent part in the matter but no regular organization existed.
Under the Charter there were one hundred and fifty-eight persons named, who, together with five to be appointed by the Secretary of the Interior were to constitute a "Board of Commissioners" to effect a preliminary organization, open books for the subscription of stock and to call a meeting of the stockholders to elect a board of directors as soon as two thousand shares had been subscribed and ten dollars per share paid in.
When the board of directors had been elected, the property or rather the proposition was to be turned over to them and the duties of the Board of Commissioners should cease and terminate.
The Company thus organized, should follow established precedents, stockholders should hold annual meetings, elect a board of directors, and adopt bylaws and rules for the conduct of its affairs. The directors thus elected to be not less than thirteen in number, two to be added to their number by appointment of the President of the United States. The Board of Directors to elect the officers of the company and exercise supervision.
The Board of Commissioners met in Chicago in September, 1862, and organized, electing W. B. Ogden, President and H. V. Poor, Secretary, as called for in the charter, and subscription books were duly opened. There was no disposition on the part of moneyed men to subscribe for the stock and it was only owing to a few public-spirited men coming in and taking the two thousand shares that the Charter did not lapse. When the necessary stock had been subscribed, a meeting of the stockholders was held in New York City, in October, 1863, at which a Board of Directors were to be elected,—a strange situation confronted them, there being no man or set of men who were able to assume control, although there were no lack of cliques who were desirous of doing so, but these were largely irresponsible parties either lacking in the necessary capital or not command the confidence of those who did have it.
Something had to be done, and accordingly thirty men of more or less prominence were elected to the position of directors, some of them without their knowledge and some declined to serve. The Company was accordingly organized October 30th, 1863. General John A. Dix, who was elected President, had been a member of the Cabinet and later a general in the United States Army, was a man who was universally respected. The position was not of his seeking, and he gave notice he had neither the time nor inclination to give active attention to its affairs and the burden was practically assumed by the Vice-President Elect, Thomas C. Durant. But two hundred and eighteen thousand dollars the ten dollars per share called for by the Charter on two thousand one hundred and eighty shares had been paid in and further funds were not obtainable. Agitation was kept up and due representation made to Congress, resulting in an amendment to the Charter being passed. After the passage of the Supplementary Act in 1864 made necessary by the failure to secure funds, it was still regarded as an unpromising investment for the reason that investors could not feel any assurance that they or their friends would have any voice in the management of affairs or control of the Company. The capital of the Company was fixed by the supplementary act at one hundred million dollars, (one million shares at one hundred dollars each), consequently any interest holding over fifty millions of the stock would be paramount and vice versa. Until it was determined who would be in control, investors fought shy. Under the Charter the subscription books must remain open until the completion of the road, making it possible for outsiders to wait until the road was near completion and then step in and by large subscriptions acquire control.
As there were some funds available, a contract was entered into in May, 1864, with H. M. Hoxie, to build the first hundred miles. This contract was extended to cover from Omaha to the hundredth Meridian, two hundred and forty-seven miles, on October 3rd, 1864, and on the 7th of the same month assigned to a company (simple partnership) composed of Vice-President Durant and six others, all stockholders of the Railroad Company. The capital of this partnership consisted of four hundred thousand dollars (but a small percentage of the amount necessary to carry out the Hoxie contract). The members of the firm were unable or else unwilling, owing to the immense personal liability involved, to put up further funds and some other action was necessary.
Durant and his friends accordingly purchased the Charter of a Pennsylvania Corporation of limited liability and elastic powers, known as the "Pennsylvania Fiscal Agency" changed its name by legislative enactment to the Credit Mobilier of America. Subscribers of the two million one hundred and eighty thousand dollars of Union Pacific Stock were given the option of either exchanging Union Pacific stock for that of the Credit Mobilier, sell their Union Pacific stock to the Credit Mobilier, or turn it back to the Union Pacific Railroad Company and have it redeemed. By this the stockholders of the Credit Mobilier became the sole holders of the Union Pacific stock.
The Hoxie contract was reassigned to the Credit Mobilier who duly completed the work, finishing the line to the point specified October 5th, 1866. Owing to their inability to raise funds, it seemed as though the two companies, Union Pacific and Credit Mobilier, would fall down. There was no sale for the First Mortgage bonds of the railroad, the Government bonds were but little better, being worth but sixty-five cents on the dollar. Durant and his friends were not men of wealth nor did they command the confidence of wealthy men. The Company had become greatly involved and was compelled to sell some of its rolling stock to pay pressing debts. It was at this junction that Oakes Ames entered the field, being persuaded, it is said, to do so by President Lincoln who desired to enlist his well-known executive ability and capital in the enterprise. Through the efforts of himself and associates the paid up subscriptions were increased to two and a half million dollars.
The original or first contract made with Hoxie for a hundred miles had been extended to cover up to the hundredth Meridian, and the line to that point, two hundred and forty-seven miles from Omaha, was completed October 5th, 1866.
The second contract made was with a Mr. Boomer for one hundred and fifty-three and thirty-five hundredths miles from the hundredth Meridian west, at the rate of nineteen thousand five hundred dollars per mile for that part of the distance East of the North Platte River and twenty thousand dollars per mile west thereof. Bridges, station buildings, and equipment to be additional. This contract was also assigned to the Credit Mobilier. On this, fifty-eight miles were completed when dissensions arose, occasioned by financial stringency among the stockholders of the Credit Mobilier. Vice-President Durant going into court, compelled suspension of action on the third contract, made March 1st, 1867, with one J. M. Williams who had assigned it to the Credit Mobilier. This covered two hundred and sixty-six and fifty-two hundredths miles, commencing at the hundredth Meridian at the rate of fifty thousand dollars per mile. For a time matters were at a standstill, injunctions preventing the completion of present or the making of new contracts.
Finally a compromise was affected between the two factions, Durant and his friends on the one side, and the Ames interests on the other.
Under this, a fourth contract was made with Oakes Ames for which he was to receive from forty-two thousand to ninety-six thousand dollars per mile or forty-seven million nine hundred and fifteen thousand dollars for six hundred and sixty-seven miles, commencing at the hundredth Meridian. This it is supposed is the largest contract ever made by one individual. It was later transferred by Oakes Ames to seven trustees acting for the Credit Mobilier, he and his brother Oliver Ames being among the number. This last contract carried the line to nine hundred and fourteen miles from Omaha.
The fifth contract was made with J. W. Davis for one hundred and twenty-two miles at twenty-three million four hundred thousand dollars, and was in turn assigned to the same seven trustees for completion. In adjustment of accounts the Union Pacific Railroad Company would turn over to the Credit Mobilier or the Trustees for the Credit Mobilier in payment for the work as fast as it was completed First Mortgage (Union Pacific Railroad) Bonds, Government Bonds, Union Pacific Railroad Income Bonds and Union Pacific Railroad Stock, these being sold or hypothecated by the trustees, furnished them the necessary funds required to pay for the construction work.
As the Union Pacific Stock could only be sold for cash at par according to act of Congress, notwithstanding it was only worth thirty cents on the market, the Railroad Company would give their check to the Credit Mobilier on construction account and this check could then be used in payment of stock, making it a cash transaction.
In settlement of the several contracts, the Union Pacific Railroad Company paid the Credit Mobilier:
Hoxie Contract Miles Omaha to 100th Meridian 247 $12,974,416.24 Ames Contract 100th Meridian West 667 57,140,102.94 Davis Contract To point five miles west of Ogden 125 23,431,768.10 ___ 1039 $93,546,287.28
These figures represent stocks and bonds at par and deducting amount of depreciation, would bring the actual cost of the Main Line Omaha to Ogden to about seventy-three million dollars.
There were issued in payment for this construction, equipment, station building, and the expense of the Company during the construction period.
Government Bonds $ 27,236,512.00 First Mortgage Bonds 27,213,000.00 Income Bonds 9,355,000.00 Land Grant Bonds 9,224,000.00 Union Pacific Stock 36,000,000.00 ___ $109,028,512.00
There were granted to the Union Pacific Railroad Company under its Charter land grants of eleven million three hundred and nine thousand eight hundred and forty-four acres. Up to December 31st, 1866, sales of this land had brought in nineteen million ninety thousand six hundred and seventy-two dollars and forty-two cents and unsold land was then valued at two million three hundred and ninety five thousand five hundred and seven dollars.
During the palmy days of the Credit Mobilier following the adjustment of the differences with the Durant faction, thousands of dollars were spent in advertising and placing the stock. Display advertisements were inserted in all the prominent newspapers and paid agents located in all the important cities. The result demonstrated the wisdom of the expenses, as not only were large quantities of its stock sold but the prices obtained for it were greatly advanced.
No sooner was the completion of the road assured than did antagonism and hostility appear. For instance in 1867 a government inspector appointed for the purpose of examining and accepting completed sections of the road, refused to do so, until he received "his fee" (?) which he put at twenty-five thousand dollars, he being in no way entitled to anything from the Company. By his refusal he tied up the issue of the Government bonds, seriously affecting the credit of the Company at a critical time.
In Washington the lobbyists were demanding blackmail with threats of organized hostility. Speculators in Well Street were a unit in bearing the stock and in attacking the credit of the Company.
The stock of the Credit Mobilier up to the assignment by Ames to the seven trustees, had not met with anything like a ready sale. For reasons of policy, some of this was assigned to members of Congress, Senators, and other public men. Some being paid for, others had it carried on their account. After the crisis had passed, the value of the stock rapidly appreciated and in the forthcoming political campaign the subornation of Congress in the interest of the Credit Mobilier by the use of this stock was made an issue and occasioned a great outcry. The accusation was thoroughly investigated by two committees during the next session and it was clearly proven to have been unfounded, so far as members of Congress having received the stock as bribes, it being demonstrated that the Company had no further favors to ask from Congress and that the members receiving it had paid the market value therefor. Notwithstanding, Oakes Ames was called to the bar of the House and severely censured for having sold it to them. The facts were, popular clamor demanded a scapegoat and Ames was selected. This, and the anxiety and strain of the load he had been carrying proved too much for him and he died May 8th, 1873. After his death the voice of calumny silenced, his work and character received the recognition it so well deserved.
The cost of material used in the construction of the road was enormous, thus the ties brought from the East ran as high as two dollars and fifty cents laid down in Omaha. The rails for the first four hundred and forty miles one hundred and thirty-five dollars per ton. This was before railroad connection was established between Council Bluffs and the East. After that the price got down to ninety-seven dollars and fifty cents per ton.
The pay of laborers ran from two dollars and twenty-five cents to three dollars and fifty cents per day. Train men two hundred dollars per month for conductors, one hundred and twenty-five dollars for brakemen, two hundred dollars to two hundred and fifty dollars for engineers, and one hundred and fifty dollars to one hundred and seventy-five dollars for firemen. Telegraph operators eighty dollars to a hundred dollars.
At times the Company (Credit Mobilier) was paying as high as five hundred thousand dollars per month interest. And in fact it was claimed by several of the directors that the paramount reason for the haste displayed in building the road was not so much the competition with the Central Pacific as it was to get rid of the enormous interest charges they were paying and which they would cut off upon the road being accepted by the Government and the consequent receipt of Government Bonds.
Commencement of the work.
Selection of Omaha as Eastern Terminus—Celebration Over Breaking Ground—Speech, George Francis Train—Commencement of Work—Conditions October, 1864—Routes Considered.
The first move towards the construction of the road was the selection of an eastern terminus which by the Charter was left to the President of the United States. This was fixed by President Lincoln on December 2nd, 1863, the official announcement being as follows: "I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do upon application of said Company (The Union Pacific Railroad) designate and establish such first above named point on the western boundary of the state of Iowa east of and opposite to the east line of Section Ten in Township fifteen, north of range thirteen, east of the sixth principal Meridian in the territory of Nebraska."
"Done at the city of Washington this 7th day of March in the year of our Lord 1864.
Immediately upon receipt of advice as to the President's action on December 2nd, 1863, the citizens of Omaha regardless of their connection with the road arranged to break ground for the Union Pacific Railroad and to properly celebrate the commencement of the work and especially the selection of their city as the eastern terminus, which was accordingly done. The spot selected for the initial point was near the Ferry Landing and not far above where the Union Pacific shops are now located. This particular spot with the first mile of track constructed, was long ago swept away by the Missouri River.
The ceremonies were commenced by asking the Divine Blessing on the enterprise in a prayer by the Rev. T. B. Lemon, Pastor of the First Methodist Church in Omaha. The Reverend Gentleman petitioned that the road make one the people of the East and West. That it would result in peopling the waste places of the West; that it might lend security to those on the frontier, and other similar requests, all of which have been fulfilled to a degree that is past being coincidental. The first earth was then removed by Governor Saunders of Nebraska Territory, Mayor Kennedy of Omaha, George Francis Train and others assisting. Congratulatory messages were received from different parts of the country. Speeches were made by A. J. Poppleton and others, the day being wound up by a banquet in the evening. The speech of the day was delivered by George Francis Train, then in his heyday, which is so characteristic of the man and of the ideas then prevalent relative to the road and the results of its construction as to warrant the following somewhat lengthy extracts:
"I have no telegrams to read, no sentiments to recite. The official business being over and as I happen to be lying around loose in this part of the country at this particular time, it gives me a chance to meet some of the live men of Nebraska at the inauguration of the grandest enterprise under God the world had ever witnessed.
"America is the stage, the world the audience of today, while one act of the drama represents the booming of cannon on the Rapidan, the Cumberland and the Rio Grande, sounding the death knell of rebellion, the next scene has the booming of cannon on both sides the Missouri to celebrate the grandest work of peace that ever engaged the energies of man. The great Pacific Railroad is commenced and if you know the men who have hold of the enterprise as well as I do, no doubt would arise as to its speedy completion.
"Four thousand years ago the Pyramids were started, but they simply represented the vanity of man. The Chinese wall was grand in conception, but built to break the tide of invasion. The Suez Canal was gigantic, but how limited all those things appear in comparison to this enterprise.
"Before the first century of our nation's birth we may see in the New York Depots, some strange Pacific Railroad notices such as,
'European passengers for Japan will please take the night train. Passengers for China this way. African and Asiatic freight must be distinctly marked For Pekin via San Francisco.'
"Ere ten years go by I intend to let the European traveller get a new sensation by standing on the ridge pole of the American Nation and sliding off into the sea.
"One day a dispatch will come in—we have tapped a mountain of copper, nineteen miles square, later on—we have just opened up another field of coal—or—we have struck another iron mountain this morning—when Eureka—a telegram electrifies the speculators in Wall Streets and gold drops below par—at ten this morning we struck a pick into a mountain of solid gold.
"The Pacific Railroad is the nation, and the nation is the Pacific Railroad. Labor and capital shake hands today. The lion and the lamb sleep together. Here in the West are the representatives of labor and in the East are those of capital. The two united make the era of progress. Steam, Gas, and Electricity are the liberty, fraternity, and equality of the people. The world is on the rampage. Events are earthquakes now.
"Ten millions of emigrants will settle in this golden land in twenty years."
Early in 1864 work was begun on the first hundred miles. The actual work being commenced within the corporate limits of Omaha in February. About one hundred thousand dollars was spent in grading a due westerly route out of Omaha. This was abandoned on account of it being so hilly, and a route south and thence west was adopted. The ties for this section were cottonwood from the Missouri River bottom lands, treated with a view of making them last. It was found that the treatment was not effective and for the balance of the road, hard wood ties from Michigan, Indiana, and even as far east as Pennsylvania were used, some of them costing as much as two dollars and fifty cents laid down in Omaha.
At this time there was no railroad completed into Omaha from the East. The Chicago and Northwestern being the first to reach there, and its first train ran into Council Bluffs on Sunday, January 17th, 1867. Consequently all supplies, other than those coming to them via the Missouri River, had to be wagoned from Des Moines, Iowa, one hundred and thirty-three miles.
On the Missouri River the Company had in service six large steamboats carrying supplies and material for construction from Kansas City where there was railroad connection with the East by way of the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad and the Missouri Pacific Railroad.
Everything had to be brought in, the country being destitute of even stone and lumber, involving great expense and delays. While the level country enabled rapid progress to be made in grading, it was almost impossible to bring forward the requisite material to keep up with the graders and track-layers.
The contract for the first hundred miles had been let May, 1864, to Hubert M. Hoxie. By its terms he was to receive securities to the face value of $50,000 per mile. Sidings were to be not less than 6 per cent. of the main line. Station buildings, water-tanks and equipment was to be furnished by him to the value of five thousand dollars per mile. Hoxie before this had been in the employ of the Company in charge of the Ferry between Omaha and Council Bluffs. In March 1865, his contract was transferred to the Credit Mobilier Company, which as has been previously stated, was organized by the promoters and insiders of the Railroad Company to do the actual construction. Several experiences with individual contractors had demonstrated that they could not be relied upon, in fact that it required more in the way of capital-influence, and omnipresence than any individual could exert, consequently all original contracts for the construction and equipping of the line were handled by the Credit Mobilier who subcontracted it with firms and individuals, they by their close relations with the Company and financial interests as well as by their wide ramifications, being able to purchase materials and supplies to better advantage.
Everything was still held at war prices, iron, ties, lumber, provisions, etc., while currency and the Government bonds on which they were relying, were greatly depreciated in value. Labor was scarce and only to be had at extravagant figures.
In the report of one of the Government inspectors, made in 1864, when the grading had progressed some twenty miles out of Omaha, he stated: "There are now some two hundred men employed on the work and a like number of horses and oxen, together with two excavating machines that are doing the work of many men. It is confidently expected that this Section (the first forty miles) will be ready to be laid with rails by June 1st, next." This he regarded as very commendable but as compared with four years later, when there were nearly twelve thousand men engaged and track was going down from two to ten miles a day, it seems anything else but satisfactory.
A great amount of the preliminary work in the way of reconnoissance, surveying, and even locating was done under Governmental auspices previous to 1860, most of it by officers of the army. All of their reports and surveys were by action of Congress given to the Railroad Company, thus saving them greatly in time as well as in money. In addition to the Government surveys the Company investigated and did more or less surveying before deciding upon the route to be followed through the Rockies.
In the report of the Government directors for 1866 they refer to the following eight routes as having been investigated during the preceding year by the Company, viz.:
1st Via South Platte River and Hoosier Pass. 2nd Via Platte River and Tarryall Pass. 3rd Via North Fork of South Platte River. 4th Via Berthoud Pass. 5th Via Boulder Pass. 6th Via Cash le Poudre-Dale Creek and Antelope Pass. 7th Via Evans Pass. 8th Via Lodge Pole Creek, Cow Creek, and Evans Pass. 9th Via Lodge Pole Creek and Cheyenne Pass. 10th Via Lodge Pole Creek and South Pass.
The first seven of these routes included Denver en route. Something that the Company considered essential and which was very reluctantly abandoned.
Completion of Eleven Miles—Excursion—Officers—Labor Supply—Ex-Soldiers—Methods Employed—Progress Made—Headquarter Towns—Rough Times—Competition With Central Pacific for Territory—Stations—Buildings, Etc.
As we saw in our last chapter, ground was broken at Omaha, December 2nd, 1863. This, however, was more in the nature of a jollification on the part of the citizens of Omaha over the selection of their city as the eastern terminus of the line,—it being under the auspices of "the leading citizens," organized and enthused by the irrepressible George Francis Train.
Grading was commenced in July, 1864, and track-laying the spring of 1865. The start was not auspicious, the line was originally located directly west from Omaha, but after one hundred thousand dollars had been spent, it was abandoned on account of the hills and consequent heavy grades, and two new lines were surveyed, one to the north and then west and the other south nearly to Bellevue, Kan., and then west. This latter was called the "Ox-bow Route" and was finally selected by the Company, notwithstanding violent opposition on the part of the people of Omaha, who feared that the Company would cross the Missouri at Bellevue, thus leaving Omaha out.
September 25th, 1865, saw eleven miles finished, and in November an excursion was run from Omaha to the end of the track, fifteen miles. This was gotten up by Vice-President Durant, who took an engine and flat car, inviting about twenty gentlemen to go with him on the first inspection trip to Sailing's Grove. Among the excursionists was General Sherman who gloried in the undertaking and expressed regret that at his age he could hardly anticipate living until the completion of the work. The party was very enthusiastic, and as the narrator naively puts it "as the commissary was well supplied, the gentlemen enjoyed themselves."
For a number of reasons the work dragged. It took one year to complete the first forty miles. The lack of rail connections east of Omaha were, previous to January, 1867, when the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad reached Council Bluffs, a very serious occasion of expense and delay. The work was new, those in charge were not at that time experienced, funds were scarce, and the credit of the Company not yet established, and as a result the average rate of progress during the first twelve months was but a mile a week.
The work of construction was in charge of Vice-President and General Manager, Thomas C. Durant.—The location, General Granville M. Dodge, Chief Engineer, formerly General of the United States Army and who had up to this time been in charge of the department. The operation of the line, forwarding of material and supplies, actual construction, etc., was in charge of Samuel B. Reed, General Superintendent and Engineer in charge of Construction. The track laying was done under contract by "Casement Brothers" (General and Daniel) while Mr. H. M. Hoxie was ubiquitous with the title of General Western Agent. Colonel Silas Seymour of New York was Consulting Engineer and Mr. W. Snyder, Assistant Superintendent and General Freight and Ticket Agent.
Another of the reasons for the slow progress made up to 1865 was the scarcity of labor. The surrounding territory had no surplus workmen and the East had not as yet grasped the idea that the road was actually under construction. With the disbandment of the armies, both North and South after the war, this situation was changed for the better. Large numbers of the ex-soldiers drifted West and were glad to find steady work at remunerative wages with the construction forces.
The Secretary of the Interior in his annual report for 1866 stated that out of fifteen hundred laborers employed on the Pacific Railways, three hundred were negroes and performed their duties faithfully and well, and he recommended legislation looking to the employment of more of the surplus freedmen on the same work. Among the officials,—engineers and bosses,—there were many who were ex-officers in the army. Thus the Chief Engineer had been a General, the Consulting Engineer, a Colonel, the head of the track-laying force, a General. This can best be explained by quoting from a paper on trans-continental railroads read by General Dodge, before the Society of the Army of the Tennessee at Toledo, Ohio, September, 1888.
"The work was military in character and one is not surprised to find among the superintendents and others in charge, a liberal sprinkling of military titles. Surveying parties were always accompanied by a detachment of soldiers as a protection against Indians. The construction trains were amply supplied with rifles and other arms and it was boasted that a gang of track-layers could be transmuted into a battalion of infantry at any moment. Over half of the men had shouldered muskets in many a battle."
The same facts are brought out by the following extract from a newspaper of that day.
"The whole organization of the road is semi-military. The men who go ahead (surveyors and locators) are the advance guard, following them is the second line (the graders) cutting through the gorges, grading the road and building the bridges. Then comes the main body of the army, placing the ties, laying the track, spiking down the rails, perfecting the alignment, ballasting and dressing up and completing the road for immediate use. Along the line of the completed road are construction trains pushing 'to the front' with supplies. The advance limit of the rails is occupied by a train of long box-cars with bunks built within them, in which the men sleep at night and take their meals. Close behind this train come train loads of ties, rails, spikes, etc., which are thrown off to the side. A light car drawn by a single horse gallops up, is loaded with this material and then is off again to the front. Two men grasp the forward end of the rail and start ahead with it, the rest of the gang taking hold two by two, until it is clear of the car. At the word of command it is dropped into place, right side up, during which a similar operation has been going on with the rail for the other side,—thirty seconds to the rail for each gang, four rails to the minute. As soon as a car is unloaded, it is tipped over to permit another to pass it to the front and then it is righted again and hustled back for another load.
"Close behind the track-layers comes the gaugers, then the spikers and bolters. Three strokes to the spike, ten spikes to the rail, four hundred rails to the mile. Quick work you say,—but the fellows on the Union Pacific are tremendously in earnest."
Or as another writer has it, "We witnessed here the fabulous speed with which the line was built. Through the two or three hundred miles beyond were scattered ten to fifteen thousand men (?) in great gangs preparing the road-bed with plows, scrapers, shovels, picks, and carts, and among the rocks, with drills and powder were doing the grading as rapidly as men could stand and move with their tools. Long trains brought up to the end of the track, loads of ties and rails the former were transferred to teams and sent one or two miles ahead and put in place on the grade, then spikes and rails were reloaded on platform cars and pushed up to the last previously laid rail and with an automatic movement and celerity that was wonderful, practiced hands dropped the fresh rails one after another on the ties exactly in line. Hugh sledges sent the spikes home,—the car rolled on and the operation was repeated; while every few minutes the long heavy train behind sent out a puff of smoke from its locomotive and caught up with its load of material the advancing work. The only limit to the rapidity with which the track could thus be laid was the power of the road behind to bring forward material."
The above description applies to the later period of construction, when the forces had become thoroughly organized and the work systematized. The following table shows the rate of construction:
Ground broken at Omaha December 2nd, 1863. Work commenced at Omaha Spring, 1864. 11 Miles completed to Gilmore September 25th, 1865. 40 Miles completed to Valley December 31st, 1865. 47 Miles completed to Fremont January 24th, 1866. 50 Miles completed March 13th, 1866. 100 Miles completed June 2nd, 1866. 247 Miles completed to the 100th Meridian October 5th, 1866. 305 Miles completed December 31st, 1866. 414 Miles completed to Sidney, Wyo. August, 1867. 516 Miles completed to Cheyenne, Wyo. November 13th, 1867. 573 Miles completed to Laramie, Wyo. May 9th, 1868. 745 Miles completed December 31st, 1868. 1033 Miles completed to Ogden, Utah March 8th, 1869. 1086 Miles completed: To Promontory, Utah April 28th, 1869. Formal connection made May 10, 1869. Regular train service commenced July 15th, 1869. Completed according to Judicial decision November 6th, 1869.
The progress made was daily wired East and published in the principal newspapers. Thus in the "Chicago Tribune" items such as "One and nine-tenth miles of track laid yesterday on the Union Pacific Railroad" appeared in every issue.
During the construction of the line, headquarters were established at different points at the front, which were used as a basis of operations for the construction of the section beyond. These places enjoyed a temporary boom, some of them like Jonah's Gourd to wither up and die away, others profiting by the start are today points of importance. The first of these was North Platte, Nebraska, its selection being caused by the delay incident to bridging the river. This was the terminus of the road during the fall of 1866 and up to June 1867. During this time it was the distributing point for all the country west. The mixture of railroad laborers, freighters, etc., all of them with more or less money, inaugurated a rough time and was the beginning of the wild scenes that attended the construction of the line. The town during the winter had a population of five thousand and over a thousand buildings. With the completion of the line to Sidney, Wyo., in June, 1867, the rough element left and established themselves at that point, leaving at North Platte about three hundred of the more sedentary law-abiding class who had determined on that point for their home. In moving to the front, houses were torn down, loaded on cars to be taken to the new site and there re-erected.
When it was known that Cheyenne was to be the terminus for the winter of 1867-1868, there was a grand hegira of roughs, gamblers, prostitutes from all along the line and from the East. The population jumped to six thousand. Dwellings sprang up like mushrooms. They were of every conceivable character. Some simply holes in the ground roofed over, known as "dug outs," others of canvas, while some few were of wood and stone. Town lots were sold at fabulous prices. The only pastimes were gambling and drinking. Shooting scrapes with "a man for breakfast" were an every day occurrence, and stealing so common as to occasion no comment. It is said of old Colonel Murrian, the then Mayor of Cheyenne, that he advanced the City's script eighteen cents on the dollar, by inflicting a fine of ten dollars on those who "made a gun play" i. e. shot at any one,—and that it was his custom to add a quarter to the fines he inflicted, making them ten dollars and twenty-five cents or twenty-five dollars and twenty-five cents, with the explanation that his was dry work and the extra quarter was to cover the stimulant his arduous duties required.
Such conditions brought about an uprising on the part of the more respectable element. Vigilance committees with "Judge Lynch" in command, took hold and from his Court there was neither appeal, nor stays. Witnesses were not held to be essential. The toughs were known and the judgments of the Court generally right. At least the defendants were not left in a condition to make complaint or appeal. The Vigilance Committee during the first year of its existence hung or shot twelve of the desperadoes, and were instrumental in sending as many more to the Penitentiary. The effect was to compel the tough element to either leave or abide by the laws and to put the decent element in control.
The next headquarters was Benton, Wyo. In two weeks (July 1868) a city of three thousand inhabitants sprang up as if by the touch of Aladdin's Lamp. It was laid out in regular squares, divided into five wards, had a Mayor and Board of Aldermen, a Daily Paper and volume of ordinances for the City Government. It was the end of the freight and passenger service and the beginning of the division under construction. Twice a day, long trains arrived from and departed for the East, while stages and wagon trains connected it with points in Idaho, Montana, and Utah. All the passengers and goods for the West, came here by rail and were re-shipped to their several destinations.
Twenty-three saloons paid license to the city, while dance halls and gambling dens were even more numerous. The great institution was the "Big Tent." This was a frame structure, one hundred feet long and forty feet wide, floored for dancing, to which and gambling it was entirely devoted. A visitor to the city thus described it: "One to two thousand men and a dozen or more women were encamped on the alkali plain in tents and shanties." Only a small proportion of them had aught to do with the road or any legitimate occupation. Restaurant and saloon keepers, gamblers, desperadoes of every grade, the vilest of men and women made up this "Hell on Wheels" as it was most aptly termed. Six months later, all that was left to mark the site was a few rock piles and half destroyed chimneys together with piles of old cans. The city after a tumultuous existence of only sixty days had "got up and pulled its freight" to the next headquarters.
Green River, Bryan, Bear River City, and Wasatch were the headquarters successively. The first, owing to the railroad having made it the end of a division and located shops there, has survived; the other three are but memories.
At Bear River City, the tough element who had been driven out of the different points East, congregated in large numbers, proposing to make a stand, it being supposed it would become a permanent town. The law abiding element numbered about a thousand, the toughs as many more. Three thugs were hung for murder, and in a reprisal the town was attacked on November 19th, 1868, by the tough element. They seized and burned the jail, then sacked and destroyed the plant of the "Frontier Index," a printing outfit that followed up the railroad, issuing a Daily Paper, and which had been particularly outspoken in its denunciation of the lawless element. They then proceeded to attack some of the stores, but were met by the townspeople and in the pitched battle that ensued, badly defeated. They made an undignified retreat, leaving fifteen of their number dead in the streets. From this time on the tough element fought shy of the city and with the extension of the road, its business left. Today there is not a thing to indicate that a town of four or five thousand had ever stood there.
The tough element started in to make Rawlins one of the "Hells" but the decent element had had enough and proceeded to clean up the town—showing they proposed to stand no foolishness.
The last of the railroad towns was Wasatch located at the eastern end of the longest tunnel (770 feet) on the road. In fact it was the delay occasioned by this work that gave rise to the town. When the line was put down a temporary track was built around the obstruction so as to permit the materials for the track beyond to reach the front. This place originally had a machine shop, round house and eating station all of which were removed to Evanston in 1870.
Upon the passage of the supplementary Charter in 1864 the restriction confining the Central Pacific to the State of California was withdrawn and they were authorized to build for one hundred and fifty miles east of the California boundary. This latter restriction was also withdrawn by Congress in 1866, leaving the meeting point to be determined by the rapidity of the construction of the respective lines, or as the Act of Congress put it, they could locate, construct, and continue their line until it should meet the Union Pacific continuous line. With the experience of three years behind them and the Land Grant, Government Bonds and prospective earnings, not to speak of the element of pride ahead, the two lines entered into a race the like of which had never been seen. The rivalry extended from the Presidents of the respective Companies down to the boy who carried water to the graders. Both forces, justly proud of their achievements, considered themselves a little better than the other. One form of the rivalry was as to which outfit could get the greatest amount of track down in one day. The Union Pacific's forces led off with six miles, soon after the Central went them a mile better. Then seven and a half miles were put down by the Union Pacific; the Central Pacific forces not to be outdone announced they could get down ten miles inside of one working day. Vice-President Durant offered to wager ten thousand dollars it could not be done, and the Central Pacific outfit resolved it should be done. Waiting until there were but fourteen miles for them to lay, they started in and laid ten miles and two hundred feet from seven A.M. to seven P.M., using four thousand men in the operation. And then the Union Pacific outfit was mad. They claimed if they had massed their forces, made special preparation, etc., they could do better than their competitors, but they could not prove it for there was no more track to lay.
The Central Pacific people ran their grade east of Ogden to Echo Canon, this when their completed line was only built to the vicinity of Wadsworth, Nev. The Union Pacific Railroad located their line to the California State line and had their graders at work as far west as Humboldt Wells, Nev., four hundred and sixty miles west of Ogden. This line west of Promontory was never built, however, and it is said that one million dollars was expended in this way. As it was the Central Pacific had their grade established some eighty miles east of Promontory Point, thirty miles east of Ogden, and this when the Union Pacific were laying their completed track within a mile of and parallel to their grade. The prize was so great that every nerve was strained on the part of both contestants as to who should push their track the further. The advantages were about equal. The Central Pacific were somewhat nearer their base of supplies, their laborers were the quiet, orderly, and easily managed Chinese and then they were in comparatively good financial shape. The Union Pacific, though farther from their base of supplies, were in railroad communication with the points of manufacture, their men, while turbulent and hard to control, were enthusiastic and worth three to one of the opposing forces. They were well paid, well housed and well fed, and were handled by men who had as a rule, army experience back of them and who certainly were "bosses" in the best and fullest sense. During the winter of 1868-1869 the advantage was with the Central Pacific Company. Their line across the Sierras was fully protected by snow sheds and they only met with one week's suspension of business from snow troubles during the whole winter, while the Union Pacific were blocked between Cheyenne and Green River for four long months. The rate of construction grew rapidly. During 1864 there were about two hundred men employed on the grading and track-laying. While it took one year to complete the first forty miles, the second year, the year 1865, saw two hundred and sixty five miles done, over a mile a day working time, and this was exceeded from that on. There were about two thousand five hundred graders employed in 1867 in addition to four hundred and fifty track-layers and from this number up, until the completion of the road. Their forces numbered twelve thousand men and three thousand teams, while six hundred tons of material were placed daily during the spring of 1869 when the contest was at its height. The maximum track laid in one day, was seven and a half miles. As the line progressed round houses were put up at Omaha, North Platte, Cheyenne, Laramie, and Ogden, each having twenty stalls, and at Grand Island, Sidney, Rawlins, Bitter Creek, Medicine Bow and Bryan, of ten stalls each. These were substantial buildings of brick or stone with sheet-iron roofs thoroughly fire proof.
In addition to the large shops at Omaha where much of the building of equipment was done, repair shops were built at Cheyenne and Laramie.
Stations were established at an average of fourteen miles apart. The station buildings were built of wood and of two classes, three-fourths of them twenty-five by forty feet, the remaining one-fourth thirty-six by sixty feet. At each station water tanks were erected, surmounted by wind mills. Sidings three thousand feet long were located at each station and in some cases at points intermediate fifteen hundred feet long. In all there was about six per cent of the main line distance in side tracks.
To accommodate not only the Public, but their own employees, the Company put up good sized hotels at North Platte, Cheyenne, Laramie and Rawlins.
Eating houses were established at Grand Island, North Platte, Sidney, Cheyenne, Laramie, Rawlins, Bryan (Near Granger long ago passed out of existence) Wasatch (afterwards removed to Evanston) and Ogden. During construction days the charge for a meal was a dollar and a quarter, but with the opening of the road this was reduced to one dollar and afterwards to the present price seventy-five cents.
Indian Troubles during construction.
History of 1864-1865-1866-1867-1868 and 1869—Government Posts Established—Major North and His Pawnees—Ex-Soldiers Ogallala—Plum Creek—Sidney—Battle At Julesburg.
The country through which the Union Pacific Railroad was built was the hunting grounds of the Pawnee, Sioux, Arapahoes, Crows, Blackfeet, Bannock, Snake and Shoshones, the first three on the plains and the others to the west. These were among the most warlike tribes of the West, and during the construction of the road they were the occasion of serious trouble, not to speak of the annoyance and delay as well as the extra expense occasioned.
The following summarizes the conditions existing on the plains during the time the road was under construction.
During the summer of 1864, the whole line of the Overland Stage from St. Joseph, Mo., to Salt Lake City, was subject to Indian depredations, so much so, that Ben Holliday, its proprietor, asked the Government for five soldiers at each of the stage stations, and two to accompany each coach. Without these, he stated, he would discontinue the line.
The year 1865 was known as "The Bloody Year on the Plains," and its history is one constant account of attacks, skirmishes, depredations and murders by the Indians.
Notwithstanding the Peace Conference at Laramie in May, the year 1866, was not much better and the relations between the whites and the Indians were kept at a fighting point, culminating in the massacre by the Indians at Fort Phil Kearney of eighty-one regular soldiers.
The year 1867 opened with troubles all along the line. The Government inspectors reported "Indian depredations have caused serious embarrassment to the locating, construction and operation of the line. Constant and persistent attacks have occasioned great delay and expense." The Government aroused to the dangers of temporizing, pushed a large number of troops into the field, restored old and built many new posts. This, together with the ease of communication resulting from the rapidly extending railroad, had a deterrent effect on the Indians.
1868 was a repetition of the preceding year. A Peace Conference at Fort Laramie called for April was not attended by the Indians until November. Numerous attacks were made by them on the whites and the country kept in a turmoil. During the fall there was desperate fighting and the army assisted by citizens soldiers punished the Indians as they had never been punished before, resulting in a much better condition of affairs during 1869 and thereafter. Nearly all the Indian troubles occurred on the plains and east of Cheyenne. West thereof, either owing to better organization on the part of the railroad and military, or else to the intimidation of the tribes, there was but little annoyance from this source.