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Chapter 7

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Transcontinental Railroad

John Debo Galloway

New York, 1950

The text is in the public domain.

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Chapter 9
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

 p171  Chapter 8
The Builders of the Union Pacific Railroad

In the group of men who built the Union Pacific, three were most outstanding for determination, natural ability, and force of character. They were Durant, the projector, vice president, and general manager whose incessant activity carried all before him; Dodge, the chief engineer, under whose direction the difficult location was made; and Oakes Ames, the financier without whose efforts financial failure would have been almost certain. Close behind these three were General Dix, Oliver Ames, Sidney Dillon, Peter A. Dey, the first chief engineer, Samuel B. Reed and James A. Evans, at first engineers on location and later superintendents of construction, and General J. S. Casement and his brother Dan. They were all strong characters and often clashed, but the situation required men of that type. There was no room for weaklings.

 p172  John Adams Dix

As the first president of the Union Pacific Railroad, mention must be made of General Dix, but as he performed none but the most casual duties of the office he was never a factor in the construction of the road.

Dix was born at Boscawen, New Hampshire, July 24, 1798, and joined the army at an early age, yet somehow found time to study law. He moved to Albany, New York, was a Democrat in politics, served an unexpired term as United States Senator, was postmaster at New York, and in 1861 became Secretary of the Treasury at Washington. He was active in war work and was appointed Major General in command of New York State troops. In 1862 he was in command of Fortress Monroe, and in 1863 was placed in command of the Union Army's Department of the East. He served with credit throughout the Civil War, and was appointed Minister to France in November, 1866, a position he held until 1869. He returned to America in 1872 to serve a term as governor of New York and was defeated for a second term.

General Dix had engaged in railroad work before the time of the Union Pacific, as president of the Chicago and Rock Island, and also as president of the Mississippi and Missouri Railroad. He was therefore the logical choice for president of the Union Pacific. However, the outbreak of the war, his services in the army, and his appointment as Minister to France, together with increasing age, made it impossible for him to attend actively to the affairs of the railroad. General Dix was an accomplished gentleman and a scholar, and was everywhere esteemed for his honesty of purpose. He died April 21, 1879.

The duties of active service on the railroad fell upon Thomas Durant, vice president, and later on Oliver Ames, who became president. General Dix was little more than a figurehead, having been given the position of president largely because of his excellent reputation.

 p173  Thomas Clark Durant

Of all the men who were connected with the building of the Union Pacific, Durant was the most important. It was he who conceived the project, fought for it during the years when its future was most uncertain, and remained with it through the rush of construction to the climax on that day in May, 1869, when the rails were joined at Promontory. Thomas C. Durant was born at Lee, Massachusetts, February 6, 1820, and died October 5, 1885. At the age of twenty he graduated from Albany College, where for the next two years he served as assistant professor in medicine. It is from this experience as well as from some practice that he gained the title of Doctor. From medicine he passed into trade in his uncle's firm, but it was not long before the young man became interested in railroads. The rush to extend lines into the West was on, and Durant was the kind of man who would never be satisfied with a humdrum existence at home.

Thomas Durant came into contact with railroad builders through his uncle's firm and quickly made his presence felt among them. The builders were older, but there was a place for an energetic young man such as Durant. In 1851 he was with Henry Farnam on the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad. Then, early in 1853, the Mississippi and Missouri Railroad was organized, with John A. Dix as president. Other men connected with the enterprise were Sheffield, Jervis, and Farnam. It is not apparent what part Durant played in the organization, but it is known that he was active in raising money for the work. Peter A. Dey was chief engineer of the road, and his principal assistant was the young Grenville M. Dodge. Surveys were made in 1853 and reached Council Bluffs in November of that year, after which Dodge crossed the Missouri to examine the possibilities of extending the line westward up the valley of the Platte. The result was that the construction of the M. and M. Railroad was awarded to the firm of Farnam and Durant, as by  p174 that time Sheffield had tired of the work and had given it up. The M. and M. struggled slowly across Iowa, only to be seriously delayed by the panic of 1857, when the original road went into bankruptcy. Reorganized, it was absorbed by the Chicago and Rock Island, and so did not reach Council Bluffs until May, or possibly June, 1869.

Henry Farnam, with whom Durant had formed a partner­ship after the withdrawal of Joseph Sheffield, continued his interest in western railroads, and was later named president of the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad Company. He was active in promoting a railroad to the Pacific coast, and became one of the incorporators of the Union Pacific. Not long afterward he became dissatisfied with the methods of conducting the affairs of that railroad, to a degree that he refused to have anything further to do with it. He lost money in the failure of the M. and M. Railroad in 1857, and in 1863 left the Rock Island and retired from active work. From that time on, Durant acted alone.

During the latter part of the fifties Farnam and Durant furnished the money for surveys and reconnaissance work as far west as the Rocky Mountains, and after Farnam retired, Durant forwarded the project of a railroad west of the Missouri. He was one of the active proponents of the act of Congress of 1862, was a subscriber for fifty shares at the incorporation of the Union Pacific Railroad Company in 1863, and became a member of the board of directors at the election on October 29, 1863. When the board organized, Major General John A. Dix was chosen president, Thomas C. Durant became vice president, Henry V. Poor, secretary, and John J. Cisco, treasurer. The burden fell upon Durant, as he was a member of two important committees, executive and finance. As vice president and general manager, he had charge of practically everything until the road was completed.

Durant wrestled with the problem of starting the road and with the organization of the construction forces. He had employed  p175 as his consulting engineer Silas Seymour, brother of the governor of New York, who was an engineer of some experience in railroad work. The conflict over the location from Omaha to the Platte Valley delayed matters for a year, and that, together with the Hoxie contract, led to the resignation of Dey. The Hoxie contract brought into being the device of the controlled construction company and the formation of the Credit Mobilier.

In July, 1865, Durant became president of the construction company that assumed the obligations that Durant and his friends had taken in financing the Hoxie contract. It was in 1865 that Oakes and Oliver Ames became interested in the Credit Mobilier through purchasing some of its stock. Later, in 1867, Durant was removed from the Credit Mobilier, which act marked the beginning of the struggle between the two factions. Several court actions resulted in the Oakes Ames contract and the formation of a board of seven trustees, which included Durant. When the Oakes Ames contract was completed, Durant made a contract with J. W. Davis, which was assigned to the same trustees, and the road was completed.

Durant at all times appeared on the railroad in a dual capacity. As vice president and general manager, he was supposed to represent the interests of the railroad company. Under the Hoxie contract, first with his associates and then under the Credit Mobilier, he was a contractor, and as trustee under the two following contracts he shared in their profits. He insisted in having all the stockholders of the railroad become equivalent shareholders in the construction company. His lawsuits, while ostensibly in the interests of the stockholders, were in reality attempts on his part to fight the other interests. As soon as matters were smoothed out, he joined with the others in the contracts.

Durant's character was such that he seems to have quarreled with nearly everyone with whom he came in contact. He was supposed to have made himself so objectionable to Henry Farnam as to cause that gentleman to abandon further activities in  p176 railroads west of the Missouri River. He treated his chief engineer, Dey, in ways that caused Dey to resign, and afterward Durant attempted to cast slurs on Dey's reputation. Oakes Ames, writing in September 17, 1867, to McComb, said:

"I do not think we should do right to put Durant in as a director, unless he withdraws his injunction suits and submits to the will of the majority. He cannot hurt us half as badly out of the direction as he can in, and there is no pleasure, peace, safety, or comfort with him unless he agrees to abide by the decision of the majority, as the rest of us do."

When Durant ran into General Dodge he met an antagonist worthy of his steel. Through his subordinates, Dodge had made the location up the slope of the Black Hills, and Durant had caused or permitted his consulting engineer, Silas Seymour, to change it, to the detriment of the road. Then on Rock Creek, west of Laramie, by changing the location already made, they added some twenty miles to the length of the line, with a resulting higher cost to the railroad company. When General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Grant and others came west, the subject was reviewed, with the result that Durant lost the controversy and no more similar changes were made.

Durant also took a hand in directing construction, and S. B. Reed, superintendent of construction thus describes his interference:

"Dr. Durant is still here and of all men to mix accounts and business, he is the chief. . . . To illustrate, I will give you a short history of our work for the past two or three months. In October last I had a large force on grading, enough to have kept the work well out of the way of the track. Davis and his associates had teams enough in the timber to haul ties to the line of the road as fast as they could be laid. The Doctor took all of Davis' and his associates' teams down the road to distribute ties and timber. He also took one half of all the force of all the graders on the line and put them on the same service. This reduction of the grading and tie-hauling teams retarded the work so much that before it could be done the ground was frozen  p177 and a large amount of earth excavation, which should and would have been done before frost, had my arrangements not been interfered with, at a cost of not exceeding thirty cents per cubic yard, now cost as much as any solid rock on the line of work, as it was done night and day by blasting frozen ground. Ties, of course, were all used up in a short time and then all the teams that could be obtained at enormous prices were rushed into the mountains to haul ties to the line of the road. Immense amounts of money were squandered uselessly and not as much work done as would have been done it we had kept steadily moving all branches, seeing that none were behind. Then no confusion would have occurred, each part of the work would have kept pace with the others and today more road would have been built than we now have and money enough saved to nearly complete the road to Ogden, thirty-eight miles. . . .

"A large amount of money has been spent during the past two months and the Doctor himself, I think, is getting frightened at the bills. He costs hundreds of thousands of dollars extra every month he remains here and does not advance, but retards the work. . . .

"No one can tell by Mr. Durant's talk what he thinks of a man, his best friends may not know what he means when talking to them."

These quotations are from a compilation of letters written by Samuel B. Reed to his wife and family covering the period of organization of the Union Pacific's construction, 1864 to 1869.

Durant kept in touch with the road until the rails met at Promontory. He then returned east and never again visited the scene of his labors. On November 18, 1870, he was elected a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Durant sold his Union Pacific stock and with his large fortune engaged in building the Adirondack Railroad, of which he was chief stockholder, president, and general manager. The panic of 1873, however, greatly reduced his fortune. He died in 1885.

Thomas C. Durant was evidently neither better nor worse than his contemporaries. It is evident that he regarded the Union Pacific as a contracting job on which to make money.  p178 However, his restless energy pushed the road to completion years before it was expected to be finished. While he spent money recklessly, rapid construction might have been justified by the fact that interest charges were thereby reduced and the road placed on an earning basis much sooner. Durant's dictatorial character repelled many who might have been his friends. His force of character, unceasing determination, and attention to all details in the office or in the field, justifies the conclusion that Durant was the man who above all others deserves credit as the driving force in the building of the great Union Pacific.

Oakes Ames

Oakes Ames was also an indispensable man in the building of the Union Pacific. It was his task, which he took upon himself, to bring to the work sufficient cash resources to make the project financially possible.

Oakes Ames, the son of Oliver and Susannah Ames, was born at Easton, Massachusetts, January 10, 1804, and died at the same place May 8, 1873. His education was obtained in the public schools, with a few months being spent at Dighton Academy. He then entered his father's tool and shovel factory as a laborer. When his father retired in 1844, the factory was continued by Oakes and his younger brother, Oliver, who in later years became president of the Union Pacific. Shovels made by the Ames brothers were known over the entire country for their excellent quality.

Like many Massachusetts men, Oakes Ames was a "Free Soiler," with an interest in politics, so that in 1860 he became a member of the Executive Council of his state. In 1862 he was elected to the national House of Representatives, and was re-elected four times, serving until his death. In the House he was a member of the Committees on Manufactures and of the Pacific Railroads, where he became familiar with the transcontinental railroad project.

In 1865 Ames interested himself in the Credit Mobilier, and  p179 by his efforts the capital of that company was brought up to $2,500,000, later to be increased to $3,750,000 in 1867. By that time it had become apparent that Durant and his friends did not have sufficient resources to carry on the work of building the road. In addition, a rupture took place between Ames and Durant. Durant was thereupon ejected from the Credit Mobilier, with Ames taking over the work of raising funds to complete the road. In this he was successful, although at times the brothers' shovel business was badly in debt. At one point their private affairs carried obligations amounting to some $8,000,000, which were liquidated only after Oakes Ames was dead.

In order to forward the work on the railroad, Ames took a contract in 1867 for the construction and equipment of 667 miles of road. This section extended from the 100th meridian westward over the Black Hills, and in the opinion of many at the time, the contract was an insane venture owing to the unknown costs that would be encountered in such a region. The venture was ultimately profitable, but Ames made himself responsible for a contract involving over $47,000,000. However, he assigned the contract to the seven trustees and thus personal liability was avoided. It was only by Ames's assuming a personal contract that financial interests in New England could be brought to the point where they were willing to buy the railroad's securities. When the Ames contract was completed, the road was so far advanced that the moneyed men saw the project through to the end.

It was Oakes Ames's policy personally to interview men of means to show them the chances of profit in the railroad, which was a difficult job at best because not even Ames himself was positive that it would pay out. However, the construction company that received the railroad securities as payment for work done, did offer a chance to make an immediate profit on the investment, an argument evidently used by Ames. It was with this inducement that he sold a few shares of Credit Mobilier to  p180 members of Congress in 1867 and 1868. Some of the most prominent members of Congress, twenty-two in all, purchased stock from Ames in small amounts, Ames's idea being, of course, that the railroad needed friends in that body. The road was being assailed from every side by a variety of enemies, some of whom were in Congress, at a time when the company was split by internal dissension. When, in 1872 and 1873, the storm broke in Congress with the Credit Mobilier investigation, most of the members of that august body who had bought stock, ran for cover. Some denied their transactions and all had excuses for being "accidentally" involved.

The result of the investigation was that the Poland Committee brought in a verdict of guilty and recommended the expulsion of Oakes Ames from Congress. Ames had given complete information regarding the transactions and throughout the inquiry had maintained his innocence. The House then changed the verdict to one of censure, which proved to be one of the most absurd verdicts in American history. By it, Ames was judged guilty of having given bribes, but Representative Schuyler Colfax, who was later Vice President, James A. Garfield who later became President, and other Senators and Representatives, were not guilty of having accepted the alleged bribes.

Oakes Ames returned to his home at Easton, a worn-out and disillusioned man, stung by the ingratitude of the people whom he thought he had served to the best of his ability. Ten weeks after the vote of censure, he died. His friends, however, did not accept the decision of the politicians in Washington. From all sides came expressions of confidence in Ames and belief in his innocence. A resolution to that effect was even put through the legislature at the time. At a later date the Union Pacific erected a granite pyramid sixty feet high on the Sherman Summit of the Black Hills, on which a bronze tablet records that it was erected to the memory of Oakes and Oliver Ames. The monument still stands, but the relocated line of the railroad today passes several miles to the south.

 p181  Oakes Ames was a strong, rugged, and tireless worker who gave his energies and his wealth to the building of the Union Pacific in what he believed was his patriotic duty. His method of handling the contracting company was bad for the railroad, since it loaded the road with debt, but it was the method common at the time and Oakes Ames took the situation as he found it. The chance of large profits was the only thing that could induce men of wealth to provide the necessary funds, and even so it required the example of Oakes Ames and his brother Oliver to induce them to subscribe. The condemnation of Ames by the House of Representatives was an ignoble example of politics brought about by the desire of the people for a scapegoat.

In later years, long after Ames was dead, the people of Boston erected a memorial hall to record his services. It was opened November 7, 1881, with a ceremony at which tributes by prominent men from various parts of the country were read. General Dodge expressed his opinion of Oakes Ames and the proceedings in Congress in the following terms:

"In 1865 Oakes and Oliver Ames of Boston became interested in the enterprise, bringing their own fortune and a very large following, and really gave the first impetus to the building of the road. There was no man connected with it who devoted his time and money with the single purpose of benefit to the country and Government more than Oakes Ames, and there never was a more unjust, uncalled-for and ungrateful act of Congress than that which censured him for inducing, as it is claimed, members of Congress to take interest in the construction company. . . . Oakes Ames once wrote me, when it seemed almost impossible to raise money to meet ofº expenditures: 'Go ahead; the work shall not stop, even if it takes the shovel shop.' . . . When the day came that the business of the Ameses should go or the Union Pacific, Oakes Ames said: 'Save the credit of the road; I will fail.' It took a man of courage and patriotism to make that decision and lay down a reputation and business credit  p182 that was invaluable in New England, and one that had come down through almost a century."

Senator William Stewart of Nevada, who as a member of the Senate at the time of the investigation was familiar with the proceedings, said in his Reminiscences:º

"I do not feel disposed to discuss or criticize persons who were involved in the Credit Mobilier investigation, but Oakes Ames, notwithstanding the errors he unwittingly committed, deserves well of the American people, and his name should be cherished by all as a brave, energetic, enterprising man.

"The unjust and violent criticism of the press and of ambitious partisans will be deplored in view of the accomplishments of the great work under embarrassing and adverse circumstances and particularly in view of the fact that the Government has received back all of the subsidy granted, dollar for dollar, with interest at six per cent per annum, while the Government was borrowing money for less than four per cent per annum, making a net gain in interest of from two to three per cent."

Grenville Mellen Dodge

The boy who was to become a major general of the Union Armies in the Civil War, and who afterward was chief engineer of construction on the Union Pacific and still later on other railroads, was born at Danvers, Massachusetts, on the 12th of April, 1831. He died at his home in Council Bluffs on January 3, 1916, after having lived eighty-five eventful years. In fact, he outlived most of his comrades of the Civil War, as well as many of the men with whom he had been associated during the building of the Union Pacific.

After the usual amount of schooling, Dodge was graduated from Norwich University in December, 1850, and in the following year underwent a six months'º special military training. This training was to be of value when he entered the army at the outbreak of the Civil War.

 p183  On leaving school, Dodge yielded to the fever that drove able men out of the civilized East into the undeveloped West. With some friends, he worked on survey parties at Peru, Illinois, and shortly afterward joined a survey party on the Illinois Central. Itº was at Peru that he met Anne Brown, whom he married on May 28, 1854.

Dodge soon tired of the work on the Illinois Central, so it was a stroke of good fortune when he was introduced to Peter A. Dey in 1852. The next year Dodge was made chief of a survey party. As chief engineer of the Mississippi and Missouri Railroad, Dey was about to begin location surveys across Iowa. The surveys commenced at Rock Island and across the river at Davenport, Iowa, on May 27, 1853, with Sheffield, Farnam, and Dey being the moving spirits. Dodge, who then was only twenty-two years of age, was appointed principal assistant in charge of party under Dey.

The surveyors passed Iowa City and on the 22nd of November reached Council Bluffs, formerly known as Kanesville and at the time a river town of some importance. The Mormons had gathered near there in 1846 and it was from that point in 1847 that Brigham Young led the first party across the plains mountains to found Salt Lake City. On instruction from Dey, Dodge took his party across the Missouri River and examined the country westward across the rolling hills to the Elkhorn River, where they reached the valley of the Platte.

Unfortunately, financial troubles of the following years put a stop to railroad construction in Iowa, with the result that the M. and M. project failed. Dodge then engaged in various kinds of work, and at one time settled on a farm along the Elkhorn River. However, he continued to gather all information available on the emigrant trails to the Pacific and on the nature of the country, so that he was able to prepare a map that was used by emigrants who crossed the Missouri at Council Bluffs on their way west.

In the spring of 1856 Dodge was again at work on the construction  p184 of the M. and M. Railroad, the promoters again were busy trying to get subsidies from the state and counties, and again the work was stopped, this time by the panic of 1857. After a trip to New York, where he explained the situation to the directors of the M. and M. and of the Rock Island, Dodge moved his home to Council Bluffs, where with a partner he engaged in the business of banking, milling, merchandising, contracting, freighting, and real estate. However, in 1859 he was back again in the valley of the Platte making a railroad reconnaissance for Henry Farnam.

It was in that same summer of 1859 that, in connection with real estate interests, Lincoln visited Council Bluffs, and Dodge was called on to give the future President a detailed description of the projected route to the West. Later, when President, Lincoln remembered the conversation with Dodge and called him to Washington for further information.

Dodge was in Washington when Lincoln was inaugurated, having gone there with Farnam, Durant, and other railroad men. Farnam wanted him to give up business so that he could join the Rock Island, and a few days later Dodge did go to New York to talk with the men of that railroad. However, the Civil War broke out shortly after that, and all thoughts of railroading were forgotten for the time being.

Owing to his military training at Norwich, young Dodge was made colonel of the 4th Iowa regiment. He was at the head of his regiment at the Battle of Pea Ridge, where he was wounded and out of action for two weeks. For his services at Pea Ridge he was made a brigadier general, and in 1862 was sent east of the Mississippi to repair railroads that the Confederates had destroyed. Much of his time in the war was spent in such work. He served under Grant in the western campaigns and was assigned to command a division of the Army of the Tennessee. When Grant went east to command all the armies, Dodge was transferred to Sherman's command, being with that general on his march to the sea. Dodge next commanded the Sixteenth  p185 Corps at the Battle of Atlanta, which proved to be the deciding battle of the campaign. Later, in August, the general was critically wounded in the head by a rifle ball and lay unconscious for two days. In fact, a report reached his home in Danvers that he had been killed. On his partial recovery, he went to New York at the request of Durant to discuss the affairs of the Union Pacific, and from there proceeded to Grant's headquarters. He had been commissioned a major general and wanted to get back into the war, but both Grant and Sherman knew that he was physically unfit. He was ordered to the Army of the Tennessee at Nashville, but before reaching it was diverted to St. Louis, where he was given command of the Department of Missouri and told by Lincoln to pacify that state, which was half Union and half Confederate. Dodge took strong measures, remaining in command two months. The war was drawing to a close, so that when the headquarters of the Department of Missouri were moved to Fort Leavenworth to be combined with the Department of Kansas, Dodge was placed in command on January 30, 1865. When the war ended, Grant asked that Dodge remain in the regular army.

At this time the Indians had become more troublesome than usual, and after Lincoln was assassinated and it was found that the Missouri troubles were not likely to break out again, Dodge was given command of all the United States forces in Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, and Utah. It was during the military movements of 1865, when General Dodge was returning through the Black Hills from Fort Laramie, that the long sloping ridge from a mountain pass was discovered. It was the key to an entrance through the mountain fastness for which Dodge had been looking, and it was along that ridge that the Union Pacific was later built.

During the war, and afterward in the Indian campaigns, Durant was in constant touch with Dodge and frequently asked him to leave the army to become chief engineer of the railroad, which was then getting started. Durant had tried to handle the  p186 engineering with several subordinates but had not succeeded, since in the meantime he had alienated Peter Dey. His associates were suspicious of his actions, with the result that after he had spent a large part of his own fortune he could not raise any more money. It was not until the Indian campaign was completed that Durant prevailed on Dodge to leave the army, and Dodge in turn prevailed on Grant and Sherman to allow him to leave. Dodge met Durant in April, 1866, and on obtaining a leave of absence from the army from General Grant, he entered upon his duties as the Union Pacific's chief engineer at Omaha, May 6, 1866.

At that time the Hoxie contract was under way and the railroad was moving west toward the 100th meridian. From that point on, the story of the Union Pacific was to a great extent the story of its chief engineer. Dodge's attention was directed first to determining the route over the Black Hills and across the Wyoming Basin to Salt Lake. As chief engineer of the railroad he did not have charge of construction and had no control over contractors, but he did occupy a position of trust with the parties in the organization opposed to Durant and they relied upon him to counterbalance Durant's questionable moves. It was Dodge who stood his ground when Durant revised the location of the line to the disadvantage of the railroad at a great increase in cost, most of which went into the treasury of the Credit Mobilier.

Throughout the entire work Dodge had the full confidence of the men who furnishing the money, and he also had the full confidence of Generals Grant and Sherman. While Durant had the power, and while he made enemies at every turn, the influence of Dodge went a long way in holding Durant in check and in keeping the project moving.

Mrs. Dodge, with money probably furnished by her husband, bought 100 shares of Credit Mobilier stock; and the Wilson Committee, in 1873, endeavored to blacken Dodge's reputation from this circumstance. Fortunately the attempt failed, and  p187 the honorable reputation of the great engineer increased with the years.

After the Union Pacific was joined with the Central Pacific at Promontory, Dodge spent a good deal of his time in bringing the road up to standard. Durant was gone, and a large part of the internal strife that had marked the construction of the road vanished. Dodge played an important part in constructing the bridge over the Missouri River between Omaha and Council Bluffs, a work that finally completed the original Union Pacific. Although he resigned from the service of the road in 1870, he served afterward on the company's board of directors.

In 1866 Dodge was elected a representative to Congress from the fifth Iowa district and served one term. He declined renomination, but afterward he was often in Washington in the interests of the Union Pacific and other roads.

After completion of the Union Pacific, Dodge resigned to become chief engineer of the Texas Pacific in 1871. That road failed in 1873, whereupon Dodge became identified with the projects of Jay Gould, for whom he worked ten years. Afterward he conducted the surveys that formed the basis for the extension of the Union Pacific to Portland and Puget Sound. Under Gould, Dodge became president of a number of southwestern railroads and was employed in the management of the large system of roads. He found time, however, to examine projects in association with Sir William Van Horne of the Canadian Pacific for railroads in Cuba, and directed the construction of a road across the island.

Increasing age finally compelled Dodge to retire from active participation in railroad affairs after 1912. It was nearly sixty years since he carried his surveys across Iowa to Council Bluffs for the Mississippi and Missouri Railroad, and then had crossed the Missouri on a flatboat for the investigation westward that marked the beginning of the Union Pacific. In length of service and in magnitude of works, General Dodge must be classified as the foremost railroad engineer of his century. In recognition  p188 of his services to the profession of engineering, the American Society of Civil Engineers, on March 2, 1915, conferred upon him the degree of Honorary Member, the highest award the Society can bestow.

Peter A. Dey

The first chief engineer of the Union Pacific was a man of sterling character who enjoyed a long and honorable career. His connection with the railroad was brief and it terminated before much construction work had been done. However, as the predecessor of Grenville Dodge and as the man in direct charge of engineering at the beginning, his work is worth noting.

Peter Anthony Dey was born at Romulus, New York, on July 27, 1825, and he died at the advanced age of eighty-six years, July 12, 1911. His ancestry was Dutch. His early life was spent in New York where after a two-year course at Geneva College, ending in 1840, he studied law for two years and was admitted to practice. From there his inclination led him into railroad engineering, and for two years he worked for the New York and Erie Railroad, after which he was employed for two years on the canals of New York, constructing locks. In 1850 he came into contact with Joseph E. Sheffield and Henry Farnam, the railroad builders, on the La Porte section of the Northern Indiana Railroad, and was with them when the Michigan Southern Railroad entered Chicago in March, 1852.

When the railroad builders were moving westward, Dey was made one of the principal assistant engineers under William Jarvis on the Chicago and Rock Island, in which capacity he hired young Grenville Dodge in 1852. The surveys across Iowa in 1853 led to the reconnaissance of the Platte Valley, and when the intermittent work on the Mississippi and Missouri Railroad was going forward, Dey was with that line as chief engineer of construction.

It was while living in Iowa City that Dey married Catherine  p189 Thompson, on October 23, 1856. In 1860 he was elected mayor of the town.

Three years later, in 1863, Durant ordered Dey to make surveys for a railroad westward from Omaha to the Platte Valley, and also to make a reconnaissance up the Platte Valley across the Rocky and Wasatch mountains to Salt Lake City. Returning from the trip, Dey went to Washington and New York with the report.

Ground for the Union Pacific was broken at the end of 1863, and on January 3, 1864, Dey was appointed chief engineer of the railroad, a position he was to occupy for only a year. It was when construction out of Omaha was started on the line Dey had located that the controversy over the route took place, and this was also the time when the first of the construction contracts, the so‑called Hoxie contract, that was later turned over to the Credit Mobilier, was drawn up. Dey strenuously opposed the contract, with the result that he resigned rather than be a party to a form of proceeding that had hindered the construction of the M. and M. line. His resignation and protest to General Dix, president of the railroad, had no effect, and from that time on Dey had no connection with the railroad he had helped to start. However, he testified at the Credit Mobilier investigation in Washington in 1873.

Of Dey, General Dodge said: "Mr. Dey was made chief engineer of the M. and M. and took me to Iowa as assistant, and placed me in charge of the party in the field — certainly a very fine promotion for the limited experience I had had — and it is one of the greatest satisfactions and pleasures of my life to have had his friendship from the time I entered his service until now. Mr. Dey is not only a very distinguished citizen of Iowa, but is one of the most distinguished engineers in the country. He is known for his great ability, his uprightness, and the square deal he gave every one, and he has greatly honored the state in the many public positions he has held. I look back upon my service with him with the greatest pleasure. My practical experience  p190 under him and the confidence he placed in me were of incalculable benefit to me, and the example he set us has lasted me through my life, and I shall always honor, respect, and hold him in the highest consideration and friendship."

Samuel Benedict Reed

By perusing the biographies of the engineers who were connected with the Union Pacific, one can trace the history of American railroad construction all the way from the eastern states in the early part of the nineteenth century to the Far West when the line across the continent was completed in 1869. Take, for example, the life story of Samuel Benedict Reed.

Reed was born at Arlington, Vermont, November 18, 1818, and after a long life mostly taken up with railroad building, he died near Pasadena, California, on Christmas Day, 1891. In 1855 he married Jane Eliza Earl, a Pennsylvania girl, whose letters from her husband show that she was a good and faithful wife.

Reed was educated at Middleport Academy and, like many another young engineer, worked on the Erie Canal in 1841. In 1842 he went west to find employment on the Detroit and Pontiac Railroad. Then he moved to Joliet, Illinois, with his father, and later became locating engineer on the Michigan Central. It was there that that he became friends with Sheffield, Farnam, John B. Jervis, and Peter A. Dey. Before the road was completed to Chicago, Reed was engaged on location for the Chicago and Rock Island from Joliet to Chicago. In 1859 he was in Iowa on the Burlington Railroad, and finally in 1864 he began work for the Union Pacific.

Reed was sent to Salt Lake City by Peter A. Dey as chief engineer in charge of one of the three parties on the final surveys before definite location. The only other surveys that had been made in that portion of the country had been made by a son of Brigham Young in the previous year. After extensive surveys, the work closed down for the winter, but by 1865 Reed  p191 was again in charge of the job in that region. He also conducted a reconnaissance of the Wasatch Mountains and surveys across the deserts south of Great Salt Lake to the Humboldt River.

Active construction work on the railroad started in 1866, whereupon Reed was taken from the surveys and made superintendent of construction. For the next three and a half years he was at the head of the construction forces and, largely in response to his efforts, the railroad was driven westward at a speed never before equaled. It was a time of trial, hard work and disappointments, due to the high-handed actions of Dr. Durant. At one time Reed wanted to resign, but Dodge supported him, as did other men in the East, with the result that Durant reappointed Reed to his former position. In the end Reed carried the work to a conclusion at Promontory where, together with Strobridge of the Central Pacific, he placed in position the polished laurel tie that held the last spike of gold.

That Mr. Reed was a competent engineer was well recognized during his life time, nor was he forgotten after his death. When a celebration was held on October 10, 1922, at Joliet by the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway to commemorate its seventieth year of service, a monument supplied by that road and the Union Pacific was dedicated to Samuel B. Reed. It was an eighteen-ton granite boulder from Echo Canyon and was placed in the courthouse yard, that being the spot where Reed began his surveys for the road seventy-two years before. A bronze tablet set in the boulder recites the facts of the first survey, together with the manifold services of the engineer.

John Stephen Casement

General Casement's career is a good example of how an able man of character and determination could reach a position high among those who developed the country when the movement westward was in full tide. His parents came from the Isle of Man, and shortly after they reached America, he was born at  p192 Geneva, New York, January 19, 1829. As a boy, he found a boy's employment on a railroad. Later, when he was fourteen, the family moved to a farm near Ann Arbor, Michigan, near which he worked as a common laborer on the Michigan Central when he was sixteen. Although of slight stature, young Casement was noted for his strength and ability in railroad work. His father having died at an early age, the young man made a home for his mother and maintained it.

At the age of twenty-one, in the spring of 1850, Casement worked as a laborer on the Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati Railroad, later becoming foreman of a track-laying gang. From 1852 to 1853 he ran a freight train on the Cleveland, Painesville and Ashtabula Railroad, now a part of the New York Central System, and in the spring of 1853 he took his first contract for filling ravines crossed by trestles, as well as for laying some sections of double track. At this period Casement married Frances Jennings and made his home at Painesville, Ohio.

His next contract was for laying track and ballasting 300 miles on one road and 150 miles on another line. While he was engaged in this work, the Civil War broke out. Leaving the contracts in charge of his brother Dan, John Casement enlisted in the 7th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, where he was made a major. At the battle of Cross Lanes in West Virginia he performed such good service that he was made a colonel, and mustered the 103rd Ohio Volunteers, which regiment he commanded at the end of the war. For distinguished service at the battle of Franklin, Casement was brevetted brigadier general by President Lincoln.

At the close of the war he formed a partner­ship with his brother Daniel under the firm name of J. S. and D. T. Casement, whereupon they took the contract for laying the track of the Union Pacific, which contract was to include a large part of the grading. On completing that work the firm engaged extensively in railroad construction throughout New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Nebraska and West  p193 Virginia. In 1897, at the age of sixty-eight, he contracted with the government of Costa Rica for railroad work that required six years for completion. He served a term as delegate to Congress from the territory of Wyoming and he also served a term in the Ohio State Senate. He died in his eightieth year. His work on the Union Pacific was done, in the language of General Dodge, by "the best-organized, best-equipped, and best-disciplined track force I have ever seen."

Sidney Dillon

Of all the men connected with the building of the Union Pacific Railroad, Sidney Dillon had had more railroad experience than anyone else, not even excepting Thomas C. Durant. In 1887 he testified: "I saw the first locomotive run in the United States over the Albany and Schenectady Railroad, the little 'John Bull,' and since that day I have done nothing much but build railroads and manage them."

It was estimated that he built from 2,500 to 3,000 miles of road, costing somewhere between $75,000,000 and $100,000,000, sometimes alone, at other times with associates.

Dillon was born on May 7, 1812, in Northampton, New York, where the family had resided for several generations, his grandfather having served with the American forces during the Revolution. He received such elementary education as the times afforded, but native ability explained his rise to the position of success that he attained in his long life of eighty years.

He first served as errand boy on the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad, and later on the Rensselaer and Saratoga Railroad. Next, as overseer for contractors and later as foreman, he worked on railroads in Connecticut and Massachusetts. He then entered the contracting business on his own account. In this capacity he executed contracts for a predecessor of the Boston and Albany, for the Troy and Schenectady, the Cheshire Railroad of Vermont, the Vermont and Massachusetts Railroad, the Rutland and Burlington in Vermont, the Central Railroad of New Jersey,  p194 the Philadelphia and Erie, the Erie and Cleveland, the New Jersey Central, the Morris and Essex, the New Orleans, and the Mobile and Chattanooga. He had a contract for widening the Morris Canal, and even when the Union Pacific was under construction he was associated with John I. Blair in contracting for Iowa railroads as well as executing contracts on the Boston, Hartford and Erie Railroad, the Connecticut Valley, the Chillicothe, Council Bluffs and Omaha, and the Canada Southern, together with additional work on the Morris and Essex line. One of his major contracts was the building of the tunnel for the Grand Central Station in New York, a job that cost $5,000,000.

Dillon first became interested in the Union Pacific project in 1865, when he became a stockholder in the Credit Mobilier. His wide experience in railroad building led him to take an active part in the work, so that when Durant was ousted from control of the company Dillon was made president, a position that he filled until that road was finished. He was a member of the board that had charge of the Oakes Ames and the Davis contracts, and with John B. Alley and Rowland Hazard, formed the executive committee of the trustees. Dillon became a stockholder in the Union Pacific Railroad and at a meeting in New York October 3, 1886, was elected a director, in which capacity he served for nearly twenty-six years. He was president of the Union Pacific for two periods: March 11, 1874, to June 19, 1884; and again, November 26, 1890, to April 23, 1892, for a total of nearly twelve years. For a long time he was a member of the executive committee of the Union Pacific, especially during the construction of the road, and after his retirement from the presidency he remained as chairman of the board of directors until his death.

Wealth came to him from his many contracts, so that after 1870 his time was largely taken up with financial affairs. He was an associate with Jay Gould in the management of the properties controlled by Gould, and later was a director of the  p195 Western Union Telegraph, the Manhattan Elevated Railroad, the Missouri Pacific Railway, the Wabash Railway, the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway, the Canada Southern Railway, the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railroad, the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, and other smaller organizations.

Dillon was elected a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers on March 20, 1870.

As a typical representative of the Union Pacific men, Sidney Dillon's useful career has been set forth at some length. He was active in the construction of the railroad and was present when the roads were joined at Promontory on that day in May, 1869, receiving the silver spike that was driven after the golden spike. He was highly esteemed by his associates and on his death a resolution was adopted by the Union Pacific's board of directors, from which the following is taken: "The part taken by Mr. Dillon in the construction of the Union Pacific Company's lines and in the administration of its affairs, his steadfast devotion through evil and through good report, and his long and honorable service in its executive departments have more than once been attested by this board. Those of us who have been associated with him know with what pride he contemplated the growth and development of the enterprise, his confidence in its future, and his zeal for its further growth and expansion. His pride was almost paternal, his loyalty to it was strenuous and constant."

George Francis Train

While Train was not directly connected with the building of the Union Pacific, he was a factor in its organization, and as such merits our attention. He was born in Boston May 24, 1829, and died in New York, January 19, 1904. The son of a Boston merchant, he was sent to Liverpool at the age of twenty-one to take charge of that branch of his father's business. He became a partner in 1853, and in 1854 he was in Australia. In 1858, on terminating the partner­ship, he became interested in  p196 English street railways and also was instrumental in floating bonds for the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad. During the Civil War he made speeches in England in favor of the Northern side.

Returning to America, Train plunged into the world of railroading, where he was active in the organization of the Union Pacific, having subscribed for twenty shares of the original list. He was commissioned by Durant to purchase the charter of the Pennsylvania Fiscal Agency, which he did, the name being changed later to the Credit Mobilier. He was also in the Credit Foncier, which was organized to deal in lands along the Union Pacific, when towns were laid out by the railroad company and lots sold. One who saw him in 1866 describes him this way:

He organized and conducted a heavy commission business in Australia and astonished his neighbors in that era of fabulous prices, with Brussels carpets and marble counters and a free champagne luncheon daily in his business office. Afterward he made the circuit of the world, wrote books of travel, fought British prejudice against street railways, occupying his leisure by fiery and audacious American war speeches to our island cousins, until he spent a fortune, and enjoyed the delights of a month in a British prison.

"Thence he returned to America, lectured everywhere; and now he is trying to build a belt of cities across the continent. At least a magnificent project. Curiously combining keen sagacity with wild enthusiasm, a man who might have built the pyramids, or been confined in a straight jacket for eccentricities, according to the age he lived in, he observes dryly that since he began to make money, people no longer pronounce him crazy."

Train was at the breaking of ground at Omaha and helped in the Grand Pacific Excursion, making speeches and trying to please everyone. Such a man could not possibly get along with Durant. Superintendent Reed observed:

"The political fight . . . was terminated so that all were disappointed. George Francis Train, as he says, was sacrificed by  p197 the railroad men and cursed long and loud. He gave us all notice that none that are now in good places will be there in thirty days from the time of his starting for New York, including T. C. Durant. One stage coach or steamboat could not hold two such men as T. C. Durant and G. F. Train on their way east. George Francis goes from Nebraska disgusted with western politics, and I think with a large flea in his ear."

In 1868 Train was a candidate for the presidency. He made five trips around the world, wrote many books, was in the Paris Commune of 1871, and was finally adjudged insane. His land speculations at Council Bluffs were largely a failure and he claimed title to land in Omaha worth $30,000,000, but nothing ever came of it.

The sketches of the careers of the most prominent men connected with the building of the Union Pacific, as given in the preceding pages, illustrate the type of men that carried the enterprise to completion. It remains to mention others who played a greater or lesser part in the work.

Oliver Ames, the younger brother of Oakes Ames, was president pro tem of the railroad company during the absence of General Dix, and in March, 1868, became president, a position he held until March, 1871. He was also connected with the Credit Mobilier. Other directors either of the railroad or of the Credit Mobilier were John B. Alley, Cornelius S. Bushnell, Rowland G. Hazard, John R. Duff, at one time vice president, Henry S. McComb, and Charles A. Lambard. John J. Cisco was treasurer for a time, and at another time E. H. Rollins was treasurer and secretary of the railroad. Henry V. Poor was secretary when the Union Pacific was organized, the same position being held in 1876 by Charles Tuttle.

Operation of the railroad was under the direction of Webster Snyder, who was an active and efficient railroad man.

Among the engineers were Colonel Silas Seymour, the consulting engineer, B. B. Brayton, F. M. Case, and Samuel B.  p198 Reed. James A. Evans and J. E. House, along with Reed, were division engineers in charge of surveying parties. Chief of the survey parties, designated as assistant engineers, were Percy T. Brown and L. L. Hills, who were killed by Indians, Colonel J. O. Hudnut, M. F. Hurd, Thomas H. Bates, F. C. Hodges, Jacob Blickensderfer, Jr., John O'Neill, James R. Maxwell, Francis E. Appleton, and J. F. McCabe. Reed and Evans became superintendents of construction on completion of the surveys. The first geologist employed was James T. Hodge, who was followed by David Van Lennep.

Page updated: 5 Jun 17