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Chapter 23

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Great Iron Trail

by
Robert West Howard

G. P. Putnam's Sons
New York, 1962

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 25

This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

p309 Chapter XXIV
Kidnap

The rocks were worn in various forms — grand old towers, castles and cathedrals. We passed an emigrant encampment. The cattle were tethered nearby, and the long, low wagons stood out in bold relief against the clear grey sky. There was something very picturesque in their bright costumes and in their roughly constructed tents. Great fires had just been lighted for the night. The sun had gone down, and only a rich crimson glow was left in the west that lighted up the party, and made a picture of exquisite beauty. The engine thundered by, and we soon left them far behind. . . . Reverend F. W. Damon, Editor of The Friend, Honolulu, written on one of the first through trains of the Pacific Railroad (May 13, 1869).

The socio-economic changes that paced Union Pacific's tracks across Nebraska and Wyoming and into Utah changed the nation's concept of the West. The Whitney-Benton dream of a throughway to India had persisted with politicians and promoters since the 1830's. During 1867 and 1868 it was replaced by the potentials of a New West that was not a desert, but could be cropped, timbered, mined and urbanized almost as thoroughly — and devastatingly — as the Ohio Valley or the Mississippi Basin. The mirage of a Great Iron Trail for the p310goods of Europe and the wealth of Asia resolved into the Promised Land of Mormon and camp-meeting prophecy.

The hope of an American monopoly on the Europe-Asia traffic was dead. In June, 1868, Henry M. Stanley was in Egypt. A day or two later he began filing a series of articles from Port Said to the New York Herald about the "canal through Suez." More than 20,000 Arabs and Europeans were at work on the vast ditch, and engineers agreed that it would be open to deep-water traffic between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea by October, 1869. The channel depth was 26 feet; the width would vary from 180 to 300 feet. It could handle the largest freighters and passenger ships. Bombay would be 7,000 miles from London instead of the 11,000 miles via Capetown or the 20,000 around Cape Horn. The Pacific Railroad, Stanley made clear, was being built ten years too late to profit from the Europe-Far East trade. His prediction was seconded by General Charles W. Darling, Engineer in Chief for the State of New York, and others who inspected "the great Suez works" that year.

These opinions may have influenced the planning of Union Pacific and Central Pacific. At least, two distinct methods of financing became obvious about this time. Central Pacific's Associates determined to gamble their profits on the development of a railway and steamship empire that would bring them a virtual monopoly on West Coast traffic, from Oregon to Mexico and east to Utah and Louisiana. But most of Union Pacific's directors swung around to Durant's cynical conviction that the only profits they could expect would come via the deceits of the Crédit Mobilier construction contracts and the sale of land grants. The decisions veered Central Pacific's owners toward creation of the gigantic Southern Pacific Company and lured Union Pacific toward a national scandal and eventual bankruptcy.

Central Pacific's expansion problem on the Pacific Coast began in 1867 when its Contract & Finance Company took over the tottering Western Pacific Railroad and completed its p311trackage between Sacramento and San Jose. In 1868, negotiations began for the San Francisco & San Jose Railroad. In September, 1868, the Associates organized the San Francisco Bay Railroad, assigned the construction contract to their Contract & Finance Company, and hired another 2,000 Chinese to build a line 26½ miles from Oakland to a Western Pacific junction. Coincidentally, they opened ferry lines into San Francisco from Oakland and Alameda. By the time the race with Union Pacific ended the Big Four owned all of the railroad routes into San Francisco, operated ferryboat and steamship lines through the bay, and were in a position to launch railroads south and southeast from San Jose and north to Oregon.

During the same years Union Pacific's directors merely wrangled and grubbed dividends for Crédit Mobilier. In the fall of 1868, rumor spread through Echo and Weber Canyons that Union Pacific would start its grade toward the Snake River and Oregon "within a few weeks"; the Deseret News deemed the story valid enough to print. But the order never came; Union Pacific construction from Granger, Wyoming, to a junction with the Oregon Short Line did not begin until 1880. Another opportunity was lost by the Ames-Durant failure to beat the Kansas Pacific into Denver via the obvious water-level route up the South Platte from Julesburg. (The Colorado Central built this trackage before 1875.) Similarly, no effort was made to win Arizona and Southern California traffic via Brigham Young's proposed route southwest from Ogden through Salt Lake City and St. George.

Union Pacific's tracks virtually created Nebraska and Wyoming and could have dominated Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Arizona and Southern California as well. The reason for the Ames-Durant failure to do this traces back to Crédit Mobilier and Thomas Durant's gambler's urge to "grab a wad from the construction fees — and get out." A comparison of statistics supports this conclusion. Crédit Mobilier's charges to Union Pacific Railroad and Telegraph Company for the 1,000 p312miles of track between Omaha and Promontory totaled $93,546,287 in cash and bonds — a contemporary gold value of more than $77,000,000. Thus construction costs were billed at an average of $70,000-plus per mile. Central Pacific's involved accounts' juggling of the Associates, the Crocker Construction Company and the Contract & Finance Company indicates construction costs averaging $64,000 a mile between Sacramento and Promontory.

But the construction charges paid to subcontractors and provisioners by Crédit Mobilier totaled only $50,720,000, or little more than $45,000 per mile — $19,000 a mile less than the cost estimates finally pried out of the Big Four by Federal investigators during the 1880's. The $27,000,000 difference between Crédit Mobilier's charge to Union Pacific and its payments to subcontractors could, at $45,000 per mile, have financed construction of a Pacific Coast outlet for Union Pacific of either Portland or Los Angeles.

Reports on freight and passenger revenues during the construction years are just as revealing. Both lines operated freight, mail and passenger services between terminals and railhead. Central Pacific's revenue between 1864 and the end of 1869 totaled $10,799,849. Costs of $4,561,922 were charged against this. The road conceded a net income of $6,237,927 on transportation services.

Union Pacific did not open public transportation services out of Omaha until 1867. During the next threeº years (1867‑70 inclusive)º it listed revenues of $20,888,669 — almost twice as much as Central Pacific admitted for the 1864‑69 period. But Union Pacific billed $15,416,288 of this to "operational costs" and conceded a net income of only $5,472,381 — $765,546 less than Central Pacific's conceded net on approximately one half as much business.

Consistent with this policy, Crédit Mobilier declared five more dividends between January 3 and December 29, 1868, with a face value of $14,786,022 and a contemporary cash value of $9,003,214. During the same months Union Pacific p313was running into debt and frantically making loans, at 15- to 20‑per‑cent annual interest, to meet operating and equipment costs plus the payments to Crédit Mobilier. By the summer of 1869 Union Pacific's current debts exceeded $6,000,000.

This was the economic chaos dominating New York headquarters while Sam Reed and the Casements cajoled the gangs into new records across the most brutal terrain of the line. Somehow they bluffed around the paymasters' persistent failure to show up, outtalked — or strong-armed — the crews who threatened to strike, then as winter neared stepped the work week to seven days with promises of double pay for Sundays — when the paymaster did roll in from Omaha.

In late July the Casements poised at the new town of Benton. Just why Benton was located on the desert six miles from the oasis of General Rawlins' Spring remains a mystery. It was Union Pacific's only tribute to Senator Benton and a scurvy one. "The streets were eight inches deep in white dust as I entered the city of canvas tents and polehouses," wrote J. H. Beadle in Underdeveloped West. "The suburbs appear as banks of dirty white lime, and a new arrival with black clothes looks like nothing so much as a cockroach struggling through a flour barrel. The great institution of Benton was 'The Big Tent' . . . a nice frame building 100 feet long and 40 feet wide, covered with canvas and conveniently floored for dancing, to which and gambling it was entirely devoted . . . Twice every day immense trains arrived and departed, and stages left for Utah, Montana and Idaho. All goods formerly hauled across the plains came here by rail and were reshipped . . . The streets were filled with Indians, gamblers, 'cappers,' saloonkeepers, merchants, miners, and mulewhackers."

Benton's life span was too brief for Vigilantes to organize. By August 11 it was Wyoming's first ghost town. The Casements were averaging more than two miles of track a day. Ironmen and graders learned the value of the Mexican sombrero that summer; sunstroke built a trail of graves through p314Bitter Creek, Point of Rocks and Salt Wells. Crew bosses sent out youngsters with six-shooters to clear rattlesnakes off a section before shovelmen and dump carts moved in. Mule deer, elk, moose and antelope fed in the blue-gray shadows of the buttes. With sage hens and now and then a few piquant, porklike prairie dogs, they provided the most varied protein diet yet. But the Irish, Cornish and Scandinaviansº still favored a feast of beef from the Casements'º railhead herd.

The Army's concessions to the Indians in the Fort Laramie and Fort Bridger treaties ensured peace along the railroad. A Sioux war party led by Roman Nose jumped Major George "Sandy" Forsyth and 28 cavalrymen at a fork of the Republican River south of Julesburg that summer. (Frederic Remington would immortalize the battle in a painting.)a Another Sioux party derailed a Union Pacific train near Oglalla, Nebraska, but fled when the passengers began slamming lead into them from the coaches. In Wyoming the most dangerous assignments of the summer for North's Pawnee Scouts were to hunt down mules and horses spooked out of the grade camps by young Shoshone and Arapaho and to order away the squaws operating cut-rate "cribs" in the brush.

The Hell on Wheels' blacklegs and the Vigilantes were the actual Western savages of the Wyoming crossing. The "masked-rider" mode spread east to Sidney, Nebraska, where 100 hooded Vigilantes surrounded a jail, called out two prisoners accused of gun murders, hung them and rode off. Laramie's first mayor and city officials resigned the week after the Dodge-Durant harangue on Main Street; neither Durant nor the Town Lots Company invited the army in for a spell of martial law. Gamblers, pimps and gunmen ruled the town until August when a Vigilante Committee of 20 began active recruiting, and by October had 500 members. Most of them gathered for an assault on the gambling casinos of Cribhouse Row on the night of October 29. Five men were killed and 15 wounded in gun fights. Before dawn four more p315"Hell-towners" dangled from telegraph poles along the Union Pacific tracks. Vigilantes patrolled the streets on Election Day; the second city government stayed put.

The routine persisted at Bryan, Bear River City and Wasatch. At Wasatch, in 1869, travelers were told, "Out of 24 graves here, but one holds the remains of a person who died a natural death — and she was a prostitute who poisoned herself." Bryan, thirteen miles west of Green River, was another of the division points. Masons built machine shops and a 12‑stall roundhouse. A stage line began semiweekly runs to South Pass and the Sweetwater mines. Hell on Wheels paused for a few weeks; the usual brawls followed; a Vigilante Committee formed.b

At Bear River City, within shouting distance of the Utah line, Legh Freeman and the Frontier Index finally met their comeuppance in the same freebooter way. The Freemans unloaded their press at the townsite sometime during October, and, typically, began to boom the location as "the Queen City of Western Wyoming." The Town Lots Company, meanwhile, decided on another townsite two miles away, and named it Evanstonc for Silas Seymour's favorite cousin, Engineer John Evans. Both communities became trade and amusement centers, not only for the grading and bridge gangs, but for hundreds of tie hacks working in Bear Valley forests. The Freemans claimed 15,000 circulation for Frontier Index; the issues averaged fifteen columns of display advertising by Chicago, Salt Lake City, Laramie, and Bear River City merchants.

[image ALT: In a barren landscape of mostly dirt with an occasional low shrub, a town of maybe a hundred small shacks extends away from the viewer and toward the right. In the center of the photograph, a single-story, single-room timber building with a false façade meant to make it look like a two-story building. A pair of men stand in front of it; here and there on the dirt road into town a horse or a pedestrian can be seen. It is a view of Bear River City, Wyoming Territory, in about 1868.]

Bear River City, Wyoming Territory, where the Frontier Index plant was burned by a mob and the Freemans were threatened with a "necktie party." Union Pacific Railroad

Again gunmen moved in with saloons and cribwomen. Drunks were robbed and garroted; holdups became a nightly commonplace. On November 10 a Vigilante Committee formed at Bear River City, picked up a gunman called "Little Jack O'Neil" and two companions, and hung them. The rumor spread that Legh Freeman was "Chief of the Vigilantes." Freeman pungently denied it in the Frontier Index, issue of November 13, but added, "We are in favor of hanging several more who are in our midst . . . There are plenty of men who p316rather delight in doing the dirty work of hanging without us, as was evidenced Tuesday night, and as will be witnessed again if the ring leaders are found in town by midnight of this Friday, November 13."

The standard recital of the riot that followed claimed that friends of the hanged men incited tie hacks and grade gangs against Freeman, and led them in an assault on the index office. But the real reason for the mob may have stemmed instead from the lead editorial in that same November 13th issue. Legh Freeman was in a foul mood; General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Grant's election over Horatio Seymour had just been conceded. Freeman poured Secesh bitterness into his editorial:

What We Expect — Prepare for the Worst

Grant, the whisky bloated, squaw ravishing adulterer, monkey ridden, nigger worshipping mogul is rejoicing over his election to the Presidency. On the fourth of March next, the hellborn satrap will (if he be alive) assume the honors (?) and robe of a dictator . . . The road to the White House which Grant has traveled over during our last campaign is paved with the skeletons of many thousand soldiers whom he slaughtered uselessly during his western and southern military career. A blindly infatuated people seem to have rejoiced over the actual murder of their friends and kindred — Eastern mothers must tremble for the safety of their daughters' virtue, knowing that the gaudy military uniform of their President and ruler covers the filthy, lecherous carcass of a libertine, seducer and polygamic squaw keeper. . . . Time only will tell how this "elevation of one of the mob" will end, and in the meantime we advise our friends to be prepared for the worst. Booth still lives. Sic semper tyrannis.

Thousands of Union Pacific's builders were Union Veterans; both Grenville Dodge and Jack Casement had served under Grant as generals; Grant was still the Army's Commanding General. The facts have never been clarified about the march on Bear Cityº that shaped up after the November 13th issue reached the graders and tie-hack camps. Legh Freeman later claimed that he was "done in" by "General Williamson, the Crédit Mobilier Town Lot agent at Fort Bridger." The Salt p317Lake City Daily Telegraph of November 20 shrilled that "The telegraph informs us that a terrible state of affairs exists at the magic city of Bear River. Some 200 rioters have possession of the city; they have burnt down offices of the Frontier Index and fears are entertained that the whole city will be destroyed. The muss arose from the action taken by the Vigilante Committee in hanging three men on the 11th instant, and it is stated that the citizens have fired upon the rioters, killing 25 and wounding 60."

Indications are that Legh Freeman signed the Frontier Index death warrant when he published that editorial. Union veterans roared in, told the Freemans to "git," smashed the press and burned the office. Legh and Ada Freeman went back to Bryan and announced plans for the publication of the Frontier Phoenix. Legh covered the Golden Spike ceremony at Promontory the following May as editor of the new newspaper. In 1875, when the couple founded the Ogden Freeman, Legh was as vindictive as ever. His masthead slogan then read: Anti-Mormon — Anti-Chinese — Anti-Indian. That paper also failed.

The birth struggles of the new towns across Wyoming were of little interest to the Ames Brothers, Dillon and Durant. They nagged the Casements and Dodge for more speed. The Casements' contract demanded speed too. They badgered the ironmen to a new challenge. Central Pacific's Chinese were only 400 miles west. The Casements began posting daily "lay-down" by each road. The muttering trailed up the line: "No bunch of Chinamen's going to show us up!" Union Pacific's pace stepped up to three . . . four . . . five miles of new track a day. Slamming out of the Bitter Creek barrens toward Green River one September dawn, the gangs laid six miles before dusk and gasped in to dinner with the boast, "That'll show 'em!" But it didn't. A few days later Central Pacific laid seven miles in a 14‑hour day.

p318 Edward Creighton and a party of Iowans toured to railhead in mid-October. In 1861 Creighton had built the first transcontinental telegraph along the Pony Express route. The Casements planned a record-breaking lay-down for his visit. The crews tumbled out at 4 A.M. and had the first half mile of rail down by sunrise. By sunset Union Pacific was seven and a half miles closer to Great Salt Lake.

A day or two later Crocker sent a wire to the Casements: The Central promises ten miles in one working day. The message was relayed in to Durant in New York. "Ten thousand dollars," Durant challenged, "that you can't do it before witnesses." Crocker replied, "We'll notify you," then told Strobridge to select a flat stretch somewhere along the head of Salt Lake. The potential of racism bothered him, though. He decided there is would be best to use only Irish ironmen that day; no sense in asking for a race riot.

The aspen shivered naked in November fogs when the Casement gangs reached the 7,540‑foot crest of the Bear River Divide. Fifty miles ahead the graders were making first contacts with the Mormons on the Echo and Weber Canyon digs. The zealous "Anon" recorded their arrival at Tunnelville, 12 miles below the mouth of Echo:

At this stage of the work come along the company's swarms of "ould Ireland's" sons, direct from the scene of hostilities at Bear River . . . [They] at once supplanted the industrious "shifts" of Bishop Sharp. This Sunday morning the Bishop drew off his men to other work, giving the Celts full possession. Not fully aware of such change, this evening as I passed down, everything tunnelward seemed unaccountably metamorphosed. Not one familiar face, . . . When we crossed the river into Tunnelville, then I understood the cause. It is claimed by the newcomers that they "can put her through" (that is, the tunnel, of course) within six weeks, which if accomplished, will be doing more in that space of time than has been done during the past summer and fall. . . . Our estimable Bishop Sharp evinces no perceptible dullness under these cutting approximations. His new neighbors and he are upon very affable terms.

p319 Trackage groped across the Utah line in snowstorms during December, and on Christmas Day was 966 miles out of Omaha at Wasatch. The year's build was 425 miles of main line and 100 miles of siding, plus machine shops and roundhouses at Laramie and Bryan and the spawn of a dozen towns. That week Central Pacific was operating trains 300 miles west of the California border. Its railhead probed toward Elko, the new treasure town for the White Pine mines.

Christmas in the Wasatch gloom was a respite of drugged sleep, with the snow piled above the train windows. Durant was there, in conference with the Casements and the division engineers. Sam Reed established division headquarters at Echo City and wrote his family in Joliet, Illinois, to "come out here for the finish." Anon wrote of the warehouse where, "tools and supplies issued to contractors, incredible as it may appear, to the enormous amount of $350,000 per month." On the morning of the 26th Durant sledged on to Tunnelville. Work must go on, he ordered; promise double wages if necessary.

During the next three months Union Pacific fought the white hell that the coolies had experienced around Summit Tunnel and on the Sierra's east slope. Both Dodge and Reed had erred by failing to provide snowshed protection for the Black Hills and Wyoming Basin. Central Pacific's 37 miles of snowsheds were finished; publicity releases out of Sacramento smugly announced that "no Central Pacific train is running more than two hours late." But from February on, Eastern papers carried successive features about Union Pacific trains stalled in Evans Pass . . . at Rawlins . . . on the Red Desert. At Echo the stockpiles of iron ran low. The Irish failed to "put'r through" at Tunnelville. Grade gangs sledged back into Echo to dig out snowdrifts 20 feet high so that the track could be laid, without ballast, on the frozen earth. Anon wrote from there on March 24:

The track from Echo to this point is sadly in need of ballasting. . . . The ties were, for the most part, laid upon snow, with a p320chunk of ice, snow, or frozen clod crammed hastily underneath to "bring 'em up to the straight edge." Now that these arctic proppings have slid from under, the ties, instead of supporting the rails, hang dangling in the air, suspended from the rail by the spikeheads. In other places, the ties have "squashed" nearly out of sight in the slush of a winter finished grade. In other instances, below here, the entire grade has slid off into the river, or to the bottom, cars and all . . . Last night while Mr. Maltoy's train was dragging its slow length along over the 3,000 feet of trestle work around the tunnel point a box car, filled with humans, was thrown off the track and came frightfully close toº being precipitated into the river bed . . . This morning another one was thrown off the same work. It is a ten degree curve and so sharp that it is grating business for any sized engine to drag a train through.

The curving trestle Anon described was around Tunnel No. 3, 508 feet long, in Weber Canyon. Tunnel No. 2, at the head of Echo, wasn't blasted through until January and didn't open for transit until mid-May, a week after the Golden Spike ceremony. To circumvent it, the Casements had laid track on river-bed trestles and up cliff faces in an awesome roller coaster 8 miles long.

Nitroglycerin was the standard explosive used on all the Wasatch tunnels. Again, Anon provides the best detail about its use:

No blast in rock or rifled gun bears any comparison, in effective force, with glycerine. I saw a single drop . . . it was like a drop of olive oil . . . exploded by concussion with a hammer on a rock. It sounded like a musket. A few drops thus exploded go off with musket force. Even the empty glycerine cans are dangerous commodities . . . as they accumulate in camp, they are now put in some secure place and exploded by fire; and I am informed that, by the trifling smearings remaining in the cans, the tin is literally torn into fragments . . . With powder, the average progress in tunneling here was less than two feet per day of 24 hours. With glycerine, an average daily progress is made of about six feet, with but about one-third of the expense.

Anon also reported the existence of a glycerin house near the west end of Tunnel No. 3. It caught fire one morning in p321March but was saved when "the glycerin man dashed in regardless of consequences, with two pails of water, by a judicious application of which he succeeded in quenching the flames." Presumablyº this was only a storehouse, and the tins were freighted in from the manufacturing shack somewhere in the Black Hills or perhaps deep in the Wasatch. No historian has yet succeeded in running down a report about Union Pacific's nitroglycerin manufacturing shacks or the chemists who did the blending.

It was March when the ironmen swung through Devil's Gate, the lowering defile that tumbles Weber River out on the east slope of Salt Lake Valley. The bridge there, Mormon Elder John Taylor wrote to the Deseret News, ". . . has in it, I am informed, 180,000 feet of timber and was put up in one week . . . The mountain sides have fallen, the valleys have been exalted, the pathway has been made through the mountains fastnesses and the railroad is now un fait accompli."

[image ALT: A truss bridge across a shallow creek in front of a bleak rocky cliff some 80 m tall. The bridge is almost completely covered by an 8‑car train. At either end of the bridge, a group of three or four men, dwarfed by the scenery and the bridge, can be made out. It is the Devil's Gate Bridge, at Devil's Gate, the Utah crossing of the Weber River on the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869.]

The Devil's Gate Bridge, at Devil's Gate, the Utah crossing of the Weber River. Wreckage of the original wooden span is visible in the river and along the banks. The Howe-Truss span was installed during the summer of 1869. Union Pacific Railroad

A brass band led the parade through Ogden to meet the spikers at the head of Main Street. The street banners read Hail to the highway of nations! Utah bids you welcome. Grenville Dodge, Sam Reed and the Casements rode down to share in the cheers; then they pleaded an "emergency" and asked to be excused from the afternoon's festivities.

Another message was in from Durant; Collis Huntington had won his campaign. The last official meeting of President Johnson's Cabinet on March 3 ordered the Treasury Department to turn the $2,400,000 worth of Federal bonds over to Central Pacific for the route across Utah. Secretary of the Interior Browning coupled it with a peremptory order to Union Pacific to "Halt all work west of Ogden." But on March 6, at his first Cabinet meeting, President Grant annulled the Johnson order, ruled that no bonds were to be issued to either Central Pacific or Union Pacific until a commission investigated "the Utah situation," and advised on a junction point for the completion of the Pacific Railroad. Dodge was to come to Washington at once.

p322 "Stay with it," the four ruled that afternoon. "Trackage heads west at dawn. We should be able to win half of Utah, at least."

Over the 150 miles now separating the railroads, chaos began to thunder. Crocker and Strobridge ordered Chinese out to the Salt Lake ridges to supplement the Mormons. After March 1, hundreds of Union Pacific's veterans moved out too. The Deseret News stepped up its coverage of the race and on March 5th reported:

Five miles west of Brigham City is situated the new town of Corinne, built of canvas and board shanties. The place is fast becoming civilized, several men having been killed there already. The last one was found in the river with four bullet holes through him and his head badly mangled. Work is being vigorously prosecuted on the U. P. R. R. and C. P. R. R., both lines running near each other and occasionally crossing . . . From Corinne west thirty miles, the grading camps present the appearance of a mighty army. As far as the eye can reach are to be seen almost a continuous line of tents, wagons and men.

Junction City, 21 miles west of Corinne, is the largest and most lively of any of the new towns in this vicinity. Built in the valley near where the lines begin the ascent to the Promontory, it is nearly surrounded by grading camps . . . The heaviest work on the Promontory is within a few miles of headquarters. Sharp & Young's blasters are jarring the earth every few minutes with their glycerine and powder, lifting whole ledges of limestone rock from their long resting places, hurling them hundreds of feet in the air and scattering them around for a half mile in every direction.

At Carlisle's works a few days ago four men were preparing a blast by filling a large crevice in a ledge with powder. After pouring in the powder they undertook to work it down with iron bars. The bars striking the rock caused an explosion; one of the men was blown two or three hundred feet in the air, breaking every bone in his body, the other three were terribly burnt and wounded with flying stones.

President Grant's Commission of Federal Investigators, headed by Major General G. K. Warren, rode into the desert, p323decided the situation was hopeless, and became a cheering gallery. On April 7 the Casement work train reached Corinne; Central Pacific's railhead was only 50 miles west.

Side by side, across a deep gorge on the east slope of Promontory Ridge, rival construction crews built crossings. Central Pacific decided on a durable fill, 170 feet high and 500 feet long; 500 coolies worked there, with 250 wagons, through February, March and early April. Silas Seymour ambled back in as Union Pacific's acting chief engineer when Dodge went to Washington. Seymour ordered a trestle, 400 feet long and 85 feet high, built across the gorge. A reporter for San Francisco's Daily Morning Call saw it nearing completion and wrote, "It will shake the nerves of the stoutest hearts of railroad travelers when they see that a few feet of round timbers and seveninch spikes are expected to uphold a train in motion."

One evening during the first week in April, President Grant summoned Dodge to a conference at the White House. The discussion lasted three hours. Grant threatened that unless Central Pacific and Union Pacific decided on a junction point within a week the Government would step in, stop all construction, and launch a full investigation of the finances of both companies. There are reasons for believing that Grant knew some of the details about the operation of Crédit Mobilier as well as those of the Associates. And he was intimately familiar with the Ames, Durant and Dodge enmities.

Huntington, Durant and Dodge went into conference on the morning of April 9. Dodge reported the White House interview. Huntington grumped but gave in. By dinnertime a contract had been drawn to join the two lines at Promontory Summit. Both companies would accept Federal bonds to an official terminal "within 8 miles west of Ogden." Central Pacific would buy Union Pacific's trackage between this legal terminal point and Promontory. On April 11, Congress approved p324the agreement by joint resolution. Orders went out to stop all grading except on a main line to Promontory Summit.

Quiet crept back over the desert. Idle crews gathered in Corinne's Hell on Wheels to brood about back pay and the prospects of layoff. Crocker sent telegrams to Stanford and Durant announcing that Central Pacific's "display" of 10 miles of tracklaying in one day would take place on Promontory's west approach beginning at dawn on April 29. Casements' ironmen sneered; there wouldn't be enough mileage left on Union Pacific's line to answer the challenge.

But Crocker promised a pageantlike race as a prelude to the Golden Spike ceremonies scheduled for the first week in May. And Durant had put up the $10,000 bet. A Palace car carried Durant, John Duff and a dozen other Union Pacific executives and their wives toward Utah sometime during the week of April 25th.

Writing from Sam Reed's Echo headquarters on April 27, Anon reported other details that have been puzzling historians ever since:

The Hon. Sidney Dillon supersedes Dr. Durant in the general management of the U. P. R. R. This gentleman, together with Supt. S. B. Reed, Col. Seymour, Mark Seymour, H. M. Hoxie and two engineers passed down to the end of the remark on Friday evening last [April 23] to institute a final survey and measurement of the road, from Ogden to the Promontory Summit, prior to sale and transfer to the Central." [In other dispatches that week, Anon indicated that Dillon was using the Lincoln car, and state that "a man was killed coupling it at Wasatch."]

Through Weber Canyon the track is yet very wavy . . . Tunnel No. 3 fired its last glycerine blast yesterday. After a strike of two weeks for their wages, the workmen finally resumed three or four days ago. Tomorrow evening the first car will probably pass through this 508 feet of tunnel work. Four of the eight Howe Truss bridges to be put in below Lost Creek are already up . . . The longest bridges in the canyon are 300 feet span. The bridges are made in Chicago. Every piece of timber, every bolt, rod, plate and fastener of the bridge, exactly fitted, is laid down at the point p325desired, from the cars. They are put together without any interruption of the trains.

The Palace car hooked onto the overnight train out of Cheyenne must have been creaking up the Bear River Divide during midmorning April 27 or 28. One of the car windows shattered; a bullet cracked into the woodwork; the engine slammed to a halt. Several of the party were thrown to the floor. A woman screamed. Durant, stooping to the level of the window ledges, scuttled to the vestibule and peered out. A gang of white men were crouched on the bank, guns trained on the car. Two of them started walking toward the car; one of them carried an uncoupling hammer.

Durant cowered for an instant, then stepped out to the platform and barked, "What's the meaning of this?" The men laughed and swung their guns toward him. The one hammering at the coupling pin stopped, spat, and straightened up. "Jes' a leetul layover, Dr. Durant," he drawled. "You're stayin' right here until we get out back pay. Anytime you wanta talk about it, we'll be here waitin'."


Thayer's Notes:

a Full details of the attack are given in Ganoe, The History of the United States Army, p319 f.

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b For a rather different view of the vigilante committees, and specifically at Bryan, by a man who was there, see R. L. Fulton, Epic of the Overland, pp78 ff.

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c A very early photograph of Evanston is given in Epic of the Overland.


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