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Overland affairs moved more slowly across the plains than they did in California, although several starts were made very early. The country looked towards the building of the entire line from the Iowa end, as no one at that time expected much help from the Pacific Coast.
Surveys really began in 1853, when Henry Farnum and Thomas C. Durant were promoting the Mississippi and Missouri Railroad, the first line surveyed across the state of Iowa. They sent a party organized by their chief engineer, Peter L. Dey, across the Missouri, at the same time the United States government had men in the field. In 1856 both political parties in their conventions passed resolutions favoring the work and President Buchanan advocated it, hoping that it would hold the Pacific Coast loyal to the Union. The one party surveyed along the forty-ninth parallel and it was given the name of the "Northern Route," the line nearest the thirty-ninth parallel was the "Buffalo Trail," that along the thirty-second was "known as the "Southern Route."
Grenville M. Dodge
Major-Gen. U. S. A.
Before the day of the railroad.
From old print.
On returning from one of his surveys in 1856, General Dodge found Abraham Lincoln at the Mormon settlement of Kaysville, where Council
p54 Bluffs now stands, when the two men spent the afternoon discussing the possibilities of an Overland railroad. The chief had reached the river that morning with his exploring outfit, fresh from an expedition as far west as the Rocky Mountains and he had much to tell. In his account of the interview he said, "Mr. Lincoln, by his kindly ways, drew from me all I knew of the country west, and the result of my investigations, getting all the secrets that belonged to my employers."
Bills were introduced from time to time in Congress and in the thirty-sixth session General Curtis became the champion of one making a strong bid for support. It passed the House of Representatives in December but was defeated in the Senate. The country was ablaze with politics and the discussion of Secession brought about by the election of President Lincoln, made it the worst possible time for such a measure.
When the times were ripe Lincoln took the lead, advocating the passage of the Curtis bill, which had been re-introduced, not only as a military necessity, but as a means of holding the Pacific Coast to the Union. The bill passed and was signed on July 1, 1862. The name, "Union Pacific," was p55 given the proposed road in token of the belief that it would unite the Nation.
The Union Pacific Railway was organized on September 2, 1862, at Chicago, Major General S. R. Curtis of Iowa, being chairman of the government commissioners, Henry B. Ogden of Chicago, President of the Railroad Company; Thomas W. Olcott, Treasurer; and Henry V. Poor, Secretary. The act of Congress named men from twenty-five states as incorporators, including Ben Holliday, the great stage man, Dean Richmond of the New York Central, J. Edgar Thompson, President of the Pennsylvania, John Brough, Governor of Ohio, Amasa Stone, William Dennison, C. P. Huntington, Peter Donahue, T. D. Judah, D. O. Mills, Louis McLane and others of California, John Atchinson and John D. Winters of Nevada, Henry Farnum, C. G. Hammond, and Wm. H. Swift of Chicago, with the five commissioners appointed by the Secretary of the Interior. At the first annual meeting of the Board General John A. Dix was elected President; Thomas C. Durant, Vice President and operating executive; A. V. Poor, Secretary, and J. J. Cisco, Treasurer. The ceremony of breaking ground took place on December 1, 1863, but it was a mere matter of form. It was impossible p56 to finance the work until Congress passed a law to double the subsidy, which the President signed on January 2, 1864. No grading was done until the autumn of 1864. The first rail was laid in July, 1865, and •forty miles of track, reaching to Fremont, laid in that year.
In May, 1866, General Dodge resigned from the army to succeed Peter A. Dey as chief engineer. Mr. Dey gave up the best position ever held by any American engineer rather than be forced to accept a piece of road built on a line which he believed to be a mistake.
It was the earnest desire of the company to build by way of Denver, but topography forbade. Neither could they avoid the Black Hills by a detour of •forty miles to the north through Fort Laramie and Sweetwater, owing to a lack of coal, which was found in abundance on the Medicine Bow route, which was adopted.
Actual construction did not begin at Omaha until two years after the Central Pacific people had started their track out of Sacramento, and work was very slow for several years. All material had to be transported by boat coming up the Missouri River from St. Louis, as there was no railroad across the State of Iowa until 1867, when the Chicago p57 and Northwestern reached Council Bluffs. As the river was navigable but three months in the year, it was a tedious undertaking. The rails weighed •sixty pounds to the yard, requiring forty cars for every •mile of iron with its fittings. Oak ties, hewed by hand in Iowa, were ferried over the river on the barges Hero and Heroine and carried across the plains by the thousands. Bridge timbers, fuel, grain, hay, furniture and food for the men loaded long trains over the newly constructed road.
Almost before the work was really started financial troubles came thick and fast. It proved impossible to interest capitalists, even after the subsidy was doubled by the government. In the fall of 1865 the promoters had reached the end of their rope and ruin stared them in the face. At this time they succeeded in interesting two Yankee hardware manufacturers who brought their own fortunes, as well as a very large following, from New England, which really gave the first impetus to the building of the road. Oakes and Oliver Ames were engaged in making shovels on a large scale in the city of Boston, when they were induced to join Thomas C. Durant, Sidney Dillon, and John Duff in the enterprise. It was to their p58 nerve and the use of their unlimited credit that the country owed its first overland railroad. Oakes Ames was a member of Congress at the time and was made president of the company. It was a wise choice, for he came to its rescue at different times to save its finances from chaos and ruin. General Dodge tells of writing him to the effect that unless large sums of money were provided immediately work must stop. At times Ames Brothers were hard pressed themselves, but the answer always was "Go ahead. Work shall not stop even if it takes the shovel shop to keep it going." No man ever devoted himself, his time or his money, with the single purpose of benefiting his country, more loyally than did Oakes Ames, and his only reward was ingratitude and ruin. H. F. Clarke, who was president of the Union Pacific in 1872, said the Ames contract was the wildest he ever knew to be made by a civilized man. However, Ames carried it through but at the cost of his life. In response to popular clamor he was censured by a Congressional committee, which declared him guilty of inducing members to buy stock in Credit Mobilier, but acquitted him of all desire to influence legislation. He soon after died. History shows that all legislation connected with these roads had p59 been passed, signed and written into the laws before he became a member of the company, so now when every dollar loaned by the government has been paid back, principal and interest by both the Union and the Central Pacific roads, the memory of Oakes Ames should be cleared of this stain. The only recognition he ever received comes from the noble monument erected by his family at the summit of the Black Hills, standing •sixty feet square and sixty feet high, in the form of a Pyramid of Rocky Mountain granite. It is built to stand throughout the ages and the United States Government should place upon its records a retraction of the injustice done him.
The Union Pacific was built by Casement Brothers, John and Dan. They laid the entire track from end to end, did most of the grading, furnished the supplies, transported materials, and managed the men. Jack went into the Civil War from the State of Ohio and came west after he had been a fighting general in the Union army and here he applied military methods in all his work. He and Dan had a hundred teams and a thousand men living at the end of the track. The chief of every gang had been an officer in either the Confederate or the Union army and almost every man a soldier p60 and they entered the service the moment they were mustered out. They could lay from •one to three miles of iron a day, working from sunrise to sunset, and one day they laid •nearly eight miles. Many times they were used as a fighting force against the Indians and it took them no longer to get into line than it did to form for the daily work. They laid the rails, surfaced the track, and also brought forward from the base all materials and supplies.
A visitor, W. A. Bell, in an account of his trip, wrote:
"We stood upon the embankment before that hurrying corps of sturdy operators with a feeling of curiosity, amazement, and profound respect. On they came. A light car drawn by a single horse, gallops up to the front with its load of rails. Two men seize the end of the rail and start forward, the rest of the gang taking hold by twos, until it is clear of the car. They come forward on the run and at the word of command the rail is dropped in place, right side up with care, with the same process on the other side of the car. Less than thirty seconds to a rail for each gang and so four rails go down to the minute. The moment the car is empty it is tipped over beside the track to let the next p61 car go by and then it is tipped back again, and it is a sight to see it go flying back for another load, the horse at full gallop at the end of a •sixty or eighty foot rope, ridden by a young jehu, who drives furiously. Close behind the first gang come the gaugers, spikers and bolters. It is a grand anvil chorus, those sturdy sledges are playing in triple time, three strokes to each spike, ten spikes to the rail."
Eastern sentiment discouraged working on Sunday, so that the only rails ever laid on the holy day were for side tracks.
Bases were laid •from one hundred to two hundred miles apart as needed and each one supported a good sized town, fitted with stores, saloons, hotels, etc., some of them becoming permanent settlements. Julesburg, for instance, was shifted four times, finally settling down just inside the Colorado line at the junction of the branch from Denver.
In his memoirs, General Dodge says:
"When I was West, near Salt Lake, I received a dispatch that a crowd of gamblers had taken our terminal point at Julesburg and refused to obey the local officers we had appointed over it. I wired General Casement to take back his track force, p62 clean the place up, and sustain the officers. When I returned to Julesburg I asked General Casement what he had done. He replied, 'I will show you.' He took me up to a little rise just beyond Julesburg and showed me a small graveyard, saying, 'General, they all died in their boots, but it brought peace.' "
The graveyard is still known as "Boots Hill."
As many as a thousand teams were loading at one time for the front at some of these stations. As the rails were extended towards the west the end of the track was made a new base, temporarily, when the whole town pulled up stakes to move with it.
A telegraph line which was built alongside the road aided greatly in speeding up the work. Strange to say it was never interfered with by the Indians, except at a very early day. The reason is known to few, but the story is that Ed Creighton, the manager, arranged for Washakie, a Sioux Chief, to talk over the wire from the telegraph office in Fort Bridger to Winnemucca, the Piute Chief, in Street's office at Smoky Valley, Nevada. Each was told that he was talking to his friend five hundred miles away and urged to remember just what each had said. Then the Overland Stages carried one p63 east, the other west, until they met in Utah. Comparing notes they were soon convinced that they really had talked together over the wire, so they jumped to the conclusion that spirits were mixed up with the business and that it would be very dangerous to antagonize them. Before that there had been some interruptions by gay young warriors throwing a lasso over the top of a pole, tying the other end to the pony's tail, then yip‑yip across the prairie. When the flying pony straightened the rope there was something doing. Sometimes it was the pole that fell, at others pony and "Injun" scattered out spread-eagle fashion among the sage brush.
The real enemy of the wires was the buffalo. The dust settled in their sweaty coats so that they enjoyed a good scratch against a tree or a sharp rock as well as any beggar, and they actually broke down many of the telegraph poles. To prevent this the manager in Omaha, Mr. Hibbard, conceived the idea of driving sharp shoemaker awls around the poles a few feet from the ground. It was so big a job that he used up every awl he could buy in Council Bluffs, Omaha, and surrounding towns, even buying a few tons in Chicago. The buffaloes responded to the last hoof. Nothing had p64 ever been so satisfactory to them. There had never been a scratching post with corners sharp enough to pierce the thick coat of dirt, hair and sweat until the awls came in. They were so popular that there was a waiting list at every pole for miles and miles. Soon the awls became scarce and if a big buffalo bull was seen racing across the prairie, head down and tail up it was a sure thing that he was searching for a telegraph pole with an awl in it.
Train stopped by buffalo herd.
From old print.
Game was so plentiful that professional hunters and trappers were always in the field. The railroad boys, too, shared the sport, bringing in big game and birds which they distributed freely. These just about filled the bill of fare, so that beef and ham became luxuries. "I'm tired of this bloody antelope, waiter; haven't you any ham?" was frequently heard in the dining room. Elk, black tail deer, mountain sheep, and even bear were not rare, but mountain sheep furnished the juiciest, tenderest and sweetest meat of all; next to it was buffalo hump.
In the summer of 1867 word went out that nothing would be done west of Cheyenne (pronounced then Chienna after the Indian), that year. That no attempt would be made to cross the p65 Black Hills until the spring of 1868. Almost over night the towns to the east were deserted, the thousands who had been following the end of the track pushing on to the new base, which became known all over the west as "The Magic City." The company laid out streets, selling lots readily at one hundred and fifty dollars apiece. The same lots brought a thousand within a month, increasing a thousand a month during all that summer. Before snow fell three newspapers were issuing daily editions, and in September the first bank opened its doors, followed almost immediately by two others. •Three miles away Fort D. A. Russell was established with a small army of troops.a Six thousand people wintered in Cheyenne, mostly in tents or sod houses. It was the gateway to the new, big, West, the real West, the West of the Indian, the buffalo, the beaver, and the bear. Its streets were filled with a motley crew, every class from every land, a mixture of people second to none this side of Galata Bridge, across the Golden Horn. Hunter and trappers, Sioux and Snake, Pawnee and Piegan, Kanaka and Chinaman, cowboy and railroad man, laborer and capitalist, engineer and sightseer, artist and lawyer, thief and highwayman, all sorts and conditions of men, rich and p66 poor, big and little; some there for health, some to escape jail, some to have a good time, but most of us for a chance to win an honest living a little more easily than we could back in the old home.
The titles to town lots had not been settled, but each owner had the guarantee that the deed would follow soon. A public meeting was held in which the railroad was denounced, the lots claimed by the squatters, and the meeting fell into control of the roughs. They jumped the land, refusing to recognize the authorities, who really had no commissions, or to respect any rights except their own. They commenced robbing passengers, broke into stores, and defied the owners. General Dodge telegraphed Col. Stevenson, the commandant at Fort Russell, who marched his soldiers into town, drove every citizen •a mile south of the track where he held a parley with them, though he really had no authority for so bold a measure, but when he explained that the land was owned by the United States, held under a government charter by the company they came to terms immediately. He told them that unless they were ready to recognize the authority of the company they would not be permitted to go back to their property.
This outbreak was but the beginning of a troublous p67 time, a season of unparalleled liberty and license never equalled in any other American community since the country was settled. The Territory of Wyoming was set apart in August, 1868, from Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, and Utah, and there it was left unorganized, with no official existence until April, 1869. It had no governor, no United States marshall, no judges nor courts for those eight months. The Civil War had just come to an end and soldiers from both armies flocked in, while outlaws from every country on the globe came in droves, and there being no extradition laws, they made it a veritable house of refuge. If a criminal could reach the Rocky Mountains he was safe from pursuit, no matter what his crime had been. Not one in ten went by his right name, taking any one that chance threw at him or his fancy chose. Wild Bill, Tex, Yank, Handsome Harry, Big Bill, Tiger Jack, Red Mike, were common, while a tall, slim woman had one no better than "Straight Edge." Any physical deformity was excuse for a name descriptive of a victim, so Peg Leg limped along on a stump, while Flat Wheel sported a limb drawn up by an accident. "Slim" and "Fatty" need no description.
It was the greatest nest for gambling ever p68 opened on the frontier, and it was full of desperate, hardened criminals.
During the winter and spring of 1868 immense stores were piled up at Cheyenne preparatory to a start. It was planned to push the road over the Black Hills, across the main divide and the Wasatch Mountains in order to reach Salt Lake Valley ahead of the Central Pacific, if men and money would do it. General Dodge was consulted by the Board and said such haste would cost ten million dollars additional. He was ordered to go ahead regardless of expense.
Wasatch in 1869.
From an old photograph.
Money was plentiful, more so than it ever was before in any American community, unless it was in the mines of California during the flush times. The company was spending vast sums to expedite construction, paying the highest prices for both labor and materials, and the money was scattered among all classes. Every known form of gambling crowded the tables in fandango houses and saloons day and night. Immense tents, each with a long bar on one side, kept open house for everybody, with bands of music blaring dance tunes for men and women, whose only admission fee was the dollar which dropped into the till as the couples lined up and took a drink after every dance, the p69 man paying for his partner and himself at fifty cents per.
Into this jungle of vice and crime I was sent fifty-two years ago and was engaged for the first few weeks as night telegraph operator at Piedmont, in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. As its name implies, it was the station at the foot of a steep grade and a village sprang up to supply men working in the tie camps in the Uintah Range.
The office was in a cloth tent with a saloon next door, also in a tent. One night a noisy row broke out among the drunken gamblers and pistol shots began to rattle across our apartment. I got down behind the stove, calling all the time to the day operator to roll off the bunk on which he was lying, but got no response. I gave him up for dead, not thinking any one could sleep through such a din. Soon, however, he turned half over with a snore which was music to me.
The spring saw me stationed at Bryan, as train dispatcher over a long and hard division that crossed two ranges of mountains, one of them the backbone of the continent.
Every town had its share of crime, but Bryan had a surplus. Hundreds of Wyoming's worst citizens p70 congregated there and it was one of the bad places of the system. More murders were committed there on less provocation than at any place of the same size. In one week there was found on the street, what the slang described as "A man for breakfast" every morning for five days in succession. One ruffian stabbed a companion within a few feet of the spot where a friend and I were passing. We rushed up to stop the assault, but too late. As he was seized the murderer whined, "I was forced to do it, gentlemen. He called me a vile name."
That same week a rough looking stranger who had been drinking, ordered the section man's wife to give him food. When she refused he knocked her down, just as her husband came up. The ruffian was seized, a court was convened, which sat all day at the railroad round house. By nightfall their deliberations ended, the vote standing eight for hanging, eight against. One vote remained, and it was cast by a timekeeper in the shops, the mildest mannered, best dressed man in the place, "Hang him." The jury went to supper, while two men who had been on other cases brought a rope, in which they made a neat loop, smearing it thoroughly with soap. Just at midnight p71 the dozen and a half men came silently out of nowhere, the prisoner among them and climbed into the cab and on the tender of the switch engine. As they started I stepped on the pilot of the engine as a disinterested spectator. After a cautious run of a couple of miles, they came to a halt, lifted a box and a barrel off the tender and stood them under a telegraph pole, the box underneath. A lusty young man climbed up a ways and threw the rope over the crossarm for the men to fasten as it fell, with the noose dangling •eight or nine feet from the ground. The victim was assisted to his place on top of the barrel and the noose adjusted with the knot under his left ear. He was left standing with a rather uncertain footing, when some one asked him if he had any message to send. He asked that his mother in St. Louis might be notified of his sad end. His knees began to wobble and he said, "I am falling, gentlemen," and still no one tried to remove the box and the barrel. One tall man finally went by him on the run and in passing jostled the underpinning out from under his feet. The rope stretched, the body sank, swinging slowly back and forth, stiffly bending at the hips a few times, then came to rest. It was too solemn a scene p72 for words and not a sound escaped the crowd as the town was approached. The body was buried by the section men next day in an unmarked grave. There seemed to be some rough justice in the verdict as the baby born in the section house soon after, was dead.
One of the most picturesque of the ruffians was known as "Tiger Bill," his real name was Strong and it chanced that he was born in my old home town in Ohio where he had been a pretty regular attendant at the county jail for one small crime after another. He came west early and in 1867 the vigilants drove him out of Cheyenne. He took advantage of the enforced vacation to visit the home of his childhood, where he devoted himself so assiduously to the wife of one of the businessmen that it broke up her home. Her husband escorted her to the train, set her valise on the car step and turned away. She cried a little and said "Goodbye," but he walked off without a word. At the next station she met Strong who took her to Laramie, where he started a fence to buy and sell stolen property at auction. He was found to be one of a gang of cut throats that was ordered out by the committee. In a drunken frenzy he strode up and down the streets p73 with a big revolver in each hand swearing that no blankety blanks could run him out of Laramie. The woman persuaded him, however, and they left. Soon after word came that he had been shot and killed in an Idaho town in a quarrel over a horse. Forty years later a friend in a California town told me that he boarded with a woman who thought she knew him. "Her name now is Ward, but when I knew her first it was Strong," he said. It was my old townswoman but I did not call to renew the acquaintance.
Those guilty of homicide came to be a peculiar class known in every town. Even one who fought in self defense became a marked man, with the recollection always before him as well as his neighbors. No one who "had killed his man" ever forgot it, but seemed to be forever expecting to kill another or be killed himself.
I heard a death yell once and only once, but I can never forget it. Half a block away a noisy quarrel was in progress one quiet evening, when a blaze a foot long flew out of the mouth of a revolver, apparently a big one. It was a fatal shot and the stricken man let out a yell, half squeal, half roar, so filled with terror that it seemed hardly human. It was a negro who had p74 had words with a white man off the grade, drew a razor and cut the latter across the wrist. Of course the man was "heeled," everybody was, and drawing a big Colts navy he fired at short range, dropping the negro in his tracks.
Human life was held as cheaply as on a battle field, with tragedy so common that death seemed almost a matter of course. Desperadoes fought at a word, almost at a look, and were accountable to no one. Whiskey or opium, one or both, caused most men's downfall, and were the immediate cause of most of the crimes. Women gambled too, mixing indiscriminately with the men, most of them drinking heavily and as ready for rough house. The life reduced them in a very short time to the lowest level. Some had come from good homes, where they had been tenderly reared, with taste in dress and polite manners, yet after the first step was taken they soon became like the rest, and with bloated forms, distorted features and blotched complexions were doomed to early graves. Almost without exception they became drug fiends, which made suicides so common as to pass almost unnoticed.
Slumming probably originated here. Passengers from the trains were given abundant time and p75 many strolled across to hurdy gurdy houses where men and women danced, drank, sang and shouted, and the worse it was the better the spectators seemed to enjoy it, especially the ladies. Sometimes the toughs staged a fist fight, or a shooting scrape, to add to the spirit of the occasion. If a panic ensued the scampering took on a picturesque side very much enjoyed by the gang. At times some dressy dudes or dainty dames concealed their fears if they had any and stood their ground much to the admiration of the roughs. A spirit of bravado prevailed, impossible to be understood by those who never lived on the frontier. Even merchants, hotel keepers, advertisers, and the general public fell into it and the most ordinary announcements were likely to be made in slang, often mixed with profanity. One dealer stretched a sign across the front of his store, which read "If you want to buy brimstone go to Hell, I sell furniture." The first successful candidate for mayor in one town mounted a box addressing his admiring constituents as follows: "Come one and all, both great and small, and short and tall, to the billiard hall and take a drink with Tom Murrin, the mayor of the city."
Pioneer conditions seem conducive to original p76 expression and platitudes are at discount to be avoided at almost any cost.
Mark Twain, 1864.
From rare photograph.
"If I were a few years younger I would come out. I would renew my youth, and talk, and talk, and talk, and have the time of my life. I would march the unforgotten and unforgettable antiques by and name their names and give them reverend hail and farewell as they passed. Goodman, McCarthy, Gillis, Curry, Baldwin, Winters, Howard, Nye, Stewart, Neeley Johnson, Hal Clayton, Jones, North, Root, and my brother, upon whom be peace, and then the desperadoes, who made life a joy and the "slaughter-house" a precious possession; Sam Brown, Farmer Pete, Bill Mayfield, Six-Fingered Jake, Jack Williams, and the rest of the crimson discipleship. Believe me I would start a resurrection it would do you more good to look at than p78 the next one will, if you go on the way you are going now.
"Those were the days, those old ones. They will come no more. Youth will come no more. They were full to the brim with the wine of life. There have been no others like them. It chokes me up to think of them.
Goodbye, and take an old man's blessing,
"(Signed) Mark Twain.
Half way down the west side of Aspen Hill, Bear river came in from the south, carrying ties and timbers cut in the Uintah mountains. Bear River City sprang up with a mixed population. Many clashes occurred and the two sides maintained a rough and ready organization. Following an unusual outbreak of crime a pitched battle followed with no quarter given or taken. Enough dead bodies were gathered up in the street to fill quite a graveyard on the hillside, where most of them still remain.
Things went from bad to worse. Without political organization there was no safety for life or property except by organizing Judge Lynch's Court. Hangings by the score followed, some in almost every camp along the whole line. The railroad p79 officials finally gave the proceedings their sanction, many raids against criminals being led by them. It was the custom of the country for even the inoffensive man to wear a gun and I can never forget the impression by the superintendent of our division as he appeared every morning with a Winchester strapped to his back. Very distinct lines were drawn, law and order on one side, crime, vice and disorder on the other. The popular tribunals, as the vigilant committees became known, presumed as little as possible upon their power, dissolving at the earliest possible moment, to reassemble only when every other measure failed to protect life and property. They made it a rule to ascertain the standing of every resident. I remember being asked to join the body at Bryan, with the assurance that I was not needed for any violence but simply to identify me with the safe side. I took some form of obligation and agreed to maintain secrecy and that was the last I heard of it.
Generally the criminals were given an opportunity to move on, unless they were considered incorrigible or were taken red handed in crime. If they refused to go, as many did, they were forced out or perhaps hanged. In some cases their bravado was inconceivable. How men could face death as p80 some of them did, cursing and swearing, betokens a form of insanity found only among the masses of men given over to vice, intemperance and crime. Bancroft, in his history, recites blood curdling incidents by the score. One man about to be hanged sold his head to a doctor in the crowd. He took ten dollars for it, handing the money to the sheriff with the request that it be sent to his mother. Joaquin Miller tells of a man dancing a jig on his coffin while waiting for the rope. In Bryan one man refused to leave when ordered and being asked if he had any dying request said, "Yes, I have. Damn you, I want you to bury me in a red fir coffin so I'll go through hell crackin."
Such was the life for several years. Sundays came and went unnoticed. Religious services were so rare that they threatened to become a lost art with many. A Baptist minister, Brother Arnold, happened along one day to preach in the section house. The first interruption came when an overloaded bench broke down with a crash. The next when a runaway team was caught in front of the open window. The driver, in ribald mood, had given a scripture name to each of his four mules, John the Baptist, Judas Iscariot, Postle Paul and Simon Peter. In his rage he roared forth a stream p81 of profanity in a big, resounding voice, the oaths, epithets and bible names mixing together very effectively.
One summer the grand Duke Alexis of Russia came out with quite a party for a buffalo hunt. The President sent W. F. Cody, "Buffalo Bill," as guide. Ned Buntline, the story writer for the New York Weekly, came to write it up for his paper. He was greatly taken with Cody and his writing did much to make Bill famous. The expenses of the royal party were not considered, as the Russian people paid the bills. The duke had special trains, the best suites in the big hotels throughout the country, and was very free with tips. Everywhere their bills were put up to the limit. One landlord footed up his account several times before it suited him, then went over it once more, adding what he could, but not satisfied even then he put in a line "to damn fuss generally, $500.00."
Utah sent us a visitation in the shape of a vast swarm of grasshoppers, the darkened the sun. Flying towards the east, at an elevation of •from two hundred to five hundred feet, they made •about eleven or twelve miles a day. When they reached Medicine Bay they disappeared and we never heard of them again.
p82 The Indians were on the war path almost all the time the road was in course of construction. The graders went to their work as soldiers and stacked their arms, working all day with bands of hostile Indians in view ready to pounce upon, kill and scalp any unlucky or negligent person who gave them an opportunity. Two passenger conductors, who went furthering one day in the creek near Sidney were surrounded by Indians who had been in hiding. One, Wilkes Edmunson, escaped; but the other, Tommy Cahoon, was riddled by arrows, scalped, and left for dead. He recovered, however, living many years with a patch of false hair the size of a silver dollar on his crown. The victims were always scalped unless they happened to be bald, in which case a tribal superstition protected the corpse from mutilation.
Indians' first view of railroad train.
From an old drawing.
Once, when the track was out from Omaha a couple of hundred miles a crowd of Pawnees captured a freight train, breaking open the cars to gather spoils. General Dodge, who was approaching from the west in a special which was a travelling arsenal, had twenty men with him, whom he called upon to fall in line and every man, by the way he shouldered his gun, showed that he had been a soldier. By this time the Indians p83 were having a joyous time each in his own way. Tying the end of a web of red flannel or calico to his horse's tail, a young buck would gallop across the plain, the bolt of dry goods bobbing up and down over the bushes, forming a flying banner worthy of a fourth of July celebration. Upon the approach of General Dodge's party the band took to their heels and disappeared.
Julesburg was the scene of the hardest Indian fighting in the whole Platte Valley. It was sacked and burned by the Indians in February, 1865, and in the July following the great Sioux war broke out. The settlement was a wide awake camp from the first and at one time had seven thousand people. It lies in a good grass country where the buffalo were the thickest and grew the fattest. Vast herds of cattle have taken their places and the buffalo is but a memory. When the Indians occupied the valley, a buffalo robe could be gotten in trade for a cup of sugar or a yard of red flannel. Many Indians were buried in buffalo robes, or tied in the tree tops wrapped up in them. Many of these robes were stripped from red men's bodies and sold in the market. As many had died of small-pox this practice spread disease in many States.
A battle was fought in Wind River Valley, p84 north of Bryan, in which Lieutenant Stanbaugh and Chief Little Bear were killed. Both were gallant young men and we can picture each of one starting out to make a name in the rude shock of battle, only to fall at the first fire. The soldiers brought Little Bear's war dress down and gave it to me. It was of the finest deer skin, with a warplume of eagle feathers extending from the forehead to the heel.
The railroad stations had needle guns with plenty of ammunition supplied from army stores left over from the Civil War and every caboose and baggage car had racks filled with rifles. At exposed stations the section houses and the telegraph office were connected by tunnels with dugouts standing high enough above the ground to allow for loopholes for gun practice. The Indians were invariably mounted on fine horses, which they rode like centaurs, dashing into a post without a moment's warning, and out again like a flash. When there was a dull time with no attacks for a longer period than usual, fake scares were gotten up by the settlers in order to encourage the army to maintain good sized detachments, generally cavalry. There was hay for sale along most of the creek bottoms, which commanded good prices as long as the p85 soldiers stayed. It was no unusual sight to see a bareheaded rider come tearing into town, his horse lathering with sweat, and he frantically swinging his arms, yelling "Indians, Indians." Still we had several real scares, with one fatality, when a band of Arapahoes, just at noon one sunny summer day, dashed across the track at the edge of the town of Rawlins Springs, then our division headquarters. About twenty of us armed hastily and sallied forth to battle. The village milk man, a veteran Indian fighter, rushed ahead on his old white horse, soon leaving the pedestrians behind. The Indians circled around him, as their custom was, closing in gradually in the attempt to draw his fire. When they came near he dismounted, firing a shot which caught the chief under the left arm, with a bullet that pierced his heart. His men tried to rescue the body, but Towse, the milkman, was too good a shot, so after he had killed a horse or two they drew off, very much disconcerted. Towse took the body to town where he scalped it, leaving it for the section men to bury. An hour later I received a telegram from the army surgeon at Fort Steele, •a dozen miles away, offering ten dollars for the Indian corpse. So the section men dug it up, but when they offered it to DeVold, the railroad agent, p86 for shipment, he refused the commission, tartly remarking, "I am not shipping dead Indians." I then told the men to throw their freight into an empty box car just passing and wired the number of the car to the doctor. At the same time I asked him why the troops stationed at Fort Steele did not supply his needs in that line. That was a trifle sarcastic for it is a well known fact that when a doctor really wanted a body for professional purposes the settler or the hunter could be depended upon with much more confidence than the regular soldier. Other small companies of Sioux less bold were seen, but none came into conflict with us. General Brisbin, the commandant of Fort Fred Steele, sent a company of the second cavalry under Captain B. Dewees to camp with us which kept the Indians wary. He made himself very popular with me by mounting me on a fine horse and sending a detachment of three or four soldiers equally well mounted when I wanted a canter through the hills. The treeless stretches of country and the crisp mountain air were very attractive for such exercise. Once when we were out later than was expected a runner declared he had sighted "signs" and the captain sent out a force to "discover" us and defend us if necessary. To give the devil his p87 due the Indian of the plains had many high qualities and only fought the white man because he did not want his home destroyed and his country taken from him. Far beyond memory or tradition his people had owned the land and the droves of buffalo, deer, antelope and elk, all of which he knew would be his no longer if he failed to defend his rights. He fought with unparalleled bravery and with the craft he inherited from a race of warriors. All the qualities that we call noble and are recognized as such by mankind in every age and in every land were his. It would have been impossible to enslave him as other races have been enslaved. The Indian would die first, die to the last man.
During these turbulent times the railroad was crowded with traffic, mostly material and supplies. As fast as it was extended towards the west train service was organized with a splendid corps of operatives, most of them hardly more than boys, but with good training and with no end of life and energy. Few of them joined in the wild orgies, for they had all they could do to carry on the service. Indeed there was not much temptation to dissipate, for vice under those conditions assumed such a hideous mien that it was repulsive to any right-minded p88 young man. Among the hundreds of those in the operating department, dishonesty was almost unknown and incompetency very rare indeed. One freight conductor did sell a car load of shelled corn, which was in his train, to a needy contractor on the grade, but the lapses were few. It was not the sloven nor the drone that stood ready to leave the land of steady habits in the hope of starting a new career in this strange land, and now as I sit by my winter fire, I recall with mixed emotions the boys of fifty years ago. Many! oh! so many have been borne to the windowless house, and the snows that never melt are falling fast upon the heads of those who remain.
In the intervening years some have become national figures. E. E. Calvin began as operator at Granger and was by turns train dispatcher, manager, and president until the war broke out, when Uncle Sam made him Federal director of the Union Pacific system. Simon Bamberger is governor of Utah, a big change from clerk in a forwarding house in Bryan, fifty years ago. R. B. Campbell left the Union Pacific to be general manager of the Baltimore & Ohio; Theodore N. Vail, the great telephone man was operator at Pine Bluffs, in the Indian country; James Agler worked his way p89 gradually from the Rawlins office to be the manager of the Southern Pacific Railroad. William Daley was one of the builders of the Union Pacific stations and is now owner of banks, sheep ranches, and cattle camps in different parts of Wyoming. He entertained President Roosevelt with a big elk hunt, winding up at Denver. About forty years ago, Mr. Daley served a term as sheriff of Carbon County, during which a notorious prisoner disappeared from the jail and was never captured. A couple of years ago, the workmen who were excavating for the foundation of a new jail exhumed human bones which were identified as those of the man so long missing, clearing Mr. Daley of the cloud which had hung all these years over his head, as it was thought by some that he had connived at the escape of the desperado. Among the beginners of that day were my brother, John M. Fulton, now at the head of traffic in Utah and Nevada, and Robert W. Baxter, who is now traffic director of all the Guggenheim properties in Alaska, mines, railroads and steamboats. His father was road master of the division when the last rail was laid at Promontory. At his intercession, Bob came into our office as messenger boy and he certainly did expand. One day he said to me, "Mr. Bob, p90 you have too much to do; you need a secretary. Give me the job." "You would make a fine secretary," I said. "Suppose Mr. Filmore were to wire asking me how many cars of coal we have ready to go East, what would you say?" Instantly he answered, "I'd tell him I didn't know and sign your name to it."
Our general master mechanic, I. H. Congden, was a very dignified man, always wearing a frock coat and a high, stiff hat. Just as he entered the shop door one afternoon a flying disc cut out of thin steel whirled at lighteningº speed and shaved the top off his hat as clean as any razor. He was astonished and indignant but no effort ever revealed the name of the lad who made the throw. A couple of years ago, Frank Patrick, now a gray headed resident of Reno, confided to me the secret that he had thrown the disc but had never been suspected. He was then a mischievous young apprentice.
As the road was lengthened the service was simplified and Bridger division was cut out. Our superintendent, W. W. Hungerford, sought a new field and Luther Filmore was made manager west of Cheyenne. I was transferred from Bryan to Rawlins Springs and made train dispatcher of p91 Laramie division, which took in half of my old and as much new track. Mr. Filmore sent his son to act as my assistant and when I came to make up the pay roll for the division, I asked him what his salary was to be. He said, with a growl, "I suppose anybody else would get a hundred and twenty-five but dad said my salary would be ninety a month." I said, "I'll fix that" so I headed the payroll with my name, R. L. Fulton, train dispatcher, $140," following with "J. M. Filmore, train dispatcher, $140," and so on with the agents and operators of the division, and sent it in. As soon as the mails could bring a return I received a note from Mr. Filmore advising me that my salary would thereafter be $150 per month.
I think the first railroad library ever established was opened in an empty room, which I fitted up with shelves, tables and benches, filling them with the best magazines, newspapers, and quite a collection of standard works, from a fund subscribed by the employees. It proved popular and was going strong when I left the territory.
A supply train ran from the last station to the end of the track. The crowd of men that were pushing their way across the gap to the California side boarded the cars riding as best they could on p92 the rails and boxes. Paddy Miles was the conductor, responsible only to the contractors, with no reports to make out or tariffs to consult. He made his own rates and collected fares with a free hand. One old passenger conductor said it was the finest rake off he had ever seen in all his experience and another said he would rather have Paddy's job than to be president of the road.
A snow storm in the Rocky Mountains is in a class by itself. Fierce gales come down from the North and when the thermometer goes below zero, it is no time for human beings to be out. Even a mild wind will gather up the light snow as fast as it falls carrying it for miles until some obstruction like a railroad bank or a cut crosses its path creating an eddy which causes it to deposit its whole load. Thus a snow fall of •an inch or less might block the trains.
Our first winters were exceedingly cold and stormy. It seemed as though nature objected to the iron cavalry and set out to repel the invasion. The new track on fresh dirt banks could hardly hold its place; really some of the track was laid on snow and ice, so that when the spring thaw came there was no foundation. General Dodge, in a report, declared that he saw a whole freight train p93 slide off the grade carrying the rails and ties with it. One conductor reported to me that his train ran off the track twenty-two times in going •fifteen miles. The snow packed like ice during every storm, so that nothing but picks and shovels would break the crust. During the first winter the road was blocked for three weeks, and as there was no track into Utah we were shut in and provisions were soon reduced to dried herring and crackers, relief coming just as we were getting badly scared.
The reader must not imagine that in all this hurly burly, big business, outside of the railroad, was left to the riffraff, or that it was handled by chance. Far from it. Every known trade and profession was represented, every branch of trade carried on in large volume to feed, clothe, and cater to the multitudes of men employed and the other multitudes that constantly came and went.
In this great division of the work the pioneers, the men who had found their places in the country before the railroad was begun,
"The first low wash of waves
Where now there rolls a human sea"
played no mean part. They took tie contracts, graded road bed, ran stage lines, built hotels, saloons, p94 and stores. Their tales of adventure were a constant source of delight to us youngsters, and truth to tell some of them belonged to the ancient order of Ananias with their dues paid far in advance.
The mountaineers were almost invariably splendid specimens of American manhood, tall, strong, and active. Hardly one of them had a surplus of avoirdupois. Many of them I knew and I cannot remember a fat one. Boney, muscular and wiry, Henry Ward Beecher said they were "whalebone and catgut." Mr. Majors of the firm of Russell, Majors & Waddell, founders of the world famous Poneyº Express, who had a great supply store in a huge pine log building at Piedmont, was over •six feet tall, without an ounce of extra weight. Col. Carter, for whom the Union Pacific named a station, was a medium sized man, with hair turned gray, but no other sign of age. Jim Bridger, the first white settler in all that neighborhood was a Virginian born in 1804, coming West when a very young man. No one knew the Rocky Mountains better than he. In 1824 he discovered Great Salt Lake, which he thought was an arm of the Pacific Ocean. Two years later he sent men to row around the shores in skin boats. When the Mormons passed p95 by his post he urged them to keep away from Salt Lake Valley, as it was not believed that crops would grow, on account of frost and cold. He offered to give them a thousand dollars for the first ear of corn raised there. Brigham Young, guided by divine inspiration, knew better. He said, "Wait and see."
Pony Express Station.
From an old print.
A later comer was a young Texas ranger, John Sparks, •six feet two and straight as a pine. He had been employed on a cattle ranch after the war closed. Coming to St. Louis with a drove of mules he visited the zoo and there saw his first elk. "What is that?" he inquired of a guard. "That is an elk," was the reply; "they come from Wyoming." "Is there a railroad to that place?" he inquired, and when he found there was he lost no time in finding the Union depot. "Give me a ticket to Wyoming," he said, and never stopped until he reached Cheyenne. There he joined another Texan, and the firm of Sparks & Tinnin soon held more range land and branded more calves than any other firm in three States. Sparks made his home in Nevada, became Governor of the State and died from overwork and exposure during the Goldfield strike. He was a great hunter and every spring between rodeo and haying seasons he entertained p96 like a lord, after the manner of the olden times. Filling up the grub wagon and taking Jeff, the colored cook, he collected a few kindred spirits to spend a month in his different camps in northeastern Nevada, southern Idaho and western Utah, shooting, fishing, and sleeping out in the open. Saddle horses were plentiful and they were kept on the jump from early morn till dewy eve. Deer were brought to camp by the dozen, a few antelope and trout from brooks, on all sides. One guest, Judge Sanderson, from San Francisco, insisted that he would not go home until he had shot a grizzly bear. He and a buckaroo the boys called "Skinner," slept at the edge of a paw-paw thicket one night under a guarantee that there would be bear for breakfast. Sure enough, Skinner roused the judge just in time to see a great grizzly standing straight up reaching for the ripe berries with a paw as big as a man's leg, bending the bushes down and leisurely licking up the juicy fruit. Skinner had the gun ready but the judge hesitated and finally he said, "Skinner, I don't believe I want to shoot that bear." Skinner, very much excited, said, "Give me the gun. He will slip into the bushes if we wait." The judge held to the gun saying, "I'll tell you what I'll do, Skinner. I will give you the gun p97 if you won't shoot till I get over to the horse. By this time the bear had disappeared in the thicket and saved his hide. Sparks was a dead shot, with a long barreled rifle he had carried for many years. He called it the "Alcalde" and it had rows of notches cut in the stock, some small, others medium, and half a dozen large ones. He was quite ready to explain that the numerous small ones stood for deer, the larger ones for bear, but nobody could ever find out what the big notches meant. I made a guess that they were for Yankee soldiers.
Our landlord, John Sibson, concealed a turbulent past under a smooth exterior. It seems that he had been a sutler at Fort Laramie with an Indian wife, to whom he was married in their fashion. Tiring of the life he stole off to his old home in New York, where he with two partners engaged in merchandising. On a certain day he started for New York City with a fund of company money to buy goods, but at the railroad station he saw his Indian wife step from the car that he had intended to take. He boarded instead, a west bound train on another track and the train for New York went through a bridge in what was known as the Mast Hope disaster, one of the worst railroad accidents ever known. A burned body was taken from p98 the wreck, and buried as John Sibson. Soon he turned up at Bryan, where we knew him as a commonplace, inoffensive citizen, somewhat given to lively conversation.
Men of mixed blood were common. Jim Beckworth,º the famous scout, was largely negro, with some white and a little Indian blood. In his prime he made the record long distance run of •117 miles when Colorow, the Pawnee chief, chased him into Denver. When he arrived the veins in his legs were burst and his shoes were full of blood.
He came west in the early fifties, laying out a route for immigrant travel from the Truckee river, where Reno now stands, to Bear Valley, by way of Beckworth Pass, which he claimed to have discovered and named. He guided General Sherman with a troop to Monterey during the Mexican war and the general pronounced him the most picturesque and persistent prevaricator he had ever known. Any one who will read his numerous autobiographies will agree.
Kit Carson died in Pueblo, Colorado, in 1869, so we never knew the foremost of plainsmen. He was the personification of their good qualities and deserves the fame so freely accorded him.
As the road approached Utah matters assumed p99 a somewhat different shape, the Mormons proving a great asset. Brigham Young entered heartily into the work, as grading, tie or building contracts, enriched many of his church people. He was inclined to be rebellious when the line was laid out through Ogden and along the north shore of Great Salt Lake instead of his city. The Union Pacific people undertook to build a branch line, but Brigham said "No, we will build that line ourselves," and they did.
As the end came near, many expensive offices were eliminated and it became quite the fashion for the men to present their retiring chief with "a token of respect and esteem." Some suspicious people suggested that padding the payroll may have helped the fund, but it was not so in every case. Fine gold watches, a purse of money, or a diamond ring were popular "tokens." The foreman of the stone workers, Barney Lantry, a burly Scotchman, was thus honored. He responded to the presentation speech, saying: "Well, boys, I can't make a speech, but I'm bully glad for the watch."
That portion of the road extending from Piedmont to Promontory was built under a contract made with Davis and associates, who sublet most of the work and the laboring element made trouble p100 more than once when payday was delayed. At one time gangs even refused to go out until paid their day's wages in advance. Idle rumors of the wildest kind were circulated and sometimes they came just when money was scarce. Near the end a story started that the subsidies were all the two companies were working for and that as soon as they were earned the roads would be abandoned and the laborers and other creditors left in the lurch with the debts unpaid.
On Wednesday, the fifth day of May, 1869, the Central Pacific track crossed Promontory Point, stopping within •a few rods of the end of Union Pacific rails. A village had sprung up over night just outside of the right of way line and a couple of tent saloons were doing a flourishing trade. The ceremony of driving the last spike was billed for Friday, the seventh, and the special train from California arrived one day in advance with a large delegation to take part. The Union Pacific party wired that they would not be able to reach Promontory before Monday, the tenth. The delay was caused by the crowd at Piedmont holding Mr. Durant's train up until they received their back pay. Durant kept the wires hot, but it took two days to raise the embargo. Very indignant, Mr. p101 Durant waited only for the ceremony at Promontory to close when he left Utah and the Union Pacific forever, never seeing the road nor the country again. It seems almost criminal that the man who had given so generously of his time and his means to secure the success of the enterprise should be so shabbily treated just when he was no longer needed. He was a man of tremendous ability in his line as a promoter, and a dead game sport, as the saying is. His connection with the Mississippi and Missouri Railroad in Iowa, led naturally to the interest he took in the Overland to California. In 1853 he financed the surveys for the Union Pacific and followed them up through war, pestilence and famine, overcoming difficulties that can hardly be described, until the last rail was laid and the last spike driven. He asked for no publicity, wrote no books, and yielded the higher positions to other men, but all the time he was a powerful factor in the management, and a tower of strength in financial affairs. His last days were embittered by what he took to be ingratitude and he resented it in a characteristic way.
The delay of Durant's train permitted those who had come on the Central Pacific special to see something of Utah, so there was a visit to the p102 Union Pacific camp and a trip to Ogden in a train provided by General Casement. A grand mountain storm came up with a display of wind and rain, thunder and lightning, which gave an added charm to the Wahsatchº range in the eyes of the Californians.
On the morning of the tenth the Union forces brought their track to within a rail length of that from the west. Al. Bowsher, the Central Pacific wireman, climbed a telegraph pole to connect the wire with the spike maul and F. L. Vanderburgh, superintendent of the Central Company's lines made the attachment with the instruments to complete the circuit. A large number came from the Union Pacific side on the work train and about ten o'clock Vice President Durant's special rolled into view, with the chief on the platform resplendent in a black velvet coast and bright colored necktie, which made him very conspicuous. John Duff, Sidney Dillon, General Dodge, and a host of lesser lights, with quite a number of ladies, were on the train. A detachment of troops from the twenty-first infantry with their wives, arrived just in time to parade under arms and add to the festivities with patriotic airs from their brass band. Neither Ames Brothers from the Union Pacific, nor Crocker, nor p103 Huntington, from the West were present, though they sent two car loads of guests.
General Dodge of the Union Pacific and Edgar Mills of Sacramento arranged the program. A prayer was offered by Rev. Dr. Todd of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Governor Stanford made a few remarks, General Dodge responded for the Union Pacific, then a polished laurel tie, contributed by Wes. Evans of California was placed in position, the last rail was lowered into its place and silver spikes from Montana, Idaho, and Nevada, with one of iron, silver and gold contributed by Governor Spoffard of Arizona, were driven by different officials. The ceremony of uniting the two roads ended when Dr. Harkness handed the governor a gold spike donated by David Hewes of California. Mr. Durant gave it a tap for courtesy then Governor Stanford raised high in air a silver spike maul presented by Manager Coe of the Pacific Union Express, and brought it down lustily, sending a flash to both ends of the continent, New York on the East, San Francisco on the West, as the operator said "Done." If the truth must be told, they swung like beginners at golf, but holes had been bored in the ties so the spikes went home quite successfully under blows from General Dodge, Chief Engineer p104 of the Union Pacific and S. S. Montague of the Central Pacific. The gold spike did not stay long, however, as it went with the hammer and the tie to rest in the steel safe of the Southern Pacific at headquarters. The tie was burned in the San Francisco fierce of 1906. The two locomotives slowly approached each other to rub noses, No. 119 from the east, the Jupiter from the west, with roars from every whistle within a mile and each engineer broke a bottle of champagne on the opposite engine. Numerous photographs were taken and the event was celebrated in every part of the Union. Regular trains were put on both roads on June 11th, with time tables written with pen and ink, and the laborers were shipped out of country as fast as engines and cars could take them. Hundreds and hundreds rode away on flat cars, and every effort was made to prevent their scattering, as they were really a menace to the towns as long as they remained idle. Business was very light for some time. One daily passenger train each way and a freight train with commoner cars to carry immigrants were ample for the traffic. One of these emigrant cars was the so‑called "Lincoln Car" which had been used by the Pennsylvania Railroad to carry the remains of the murdered p105 President from Washington to Springfield, Illinois, for burial. It never was used as a private car by Lincoln nor anybody else, and when it was discarded and sold to the Union Pacific, it ran back and forth carrying second class passengers for several years. Last summer an enterprising Utah reporter ran a picture of it in his account of the fiftieth anniversary of the laying of the last rail with the comment that "it was in this car that President Lincoln rode from Washington to Promontory in May, 1869, when the roads were united."
In the endeavor to stimulate travel the Union Pacific in the summer of 1870, put on a fast train to run one day in the week, each way, between Omaha and Ogden, with a dining car and ten dollars extra fare. The order from headquarters was to give them each a clear track, so they, being generally a little behind time, I had to make all the meeting points for everything on the division regardless of the time card. However, the train did not pay expenses and was taken off after a month or two.
Even ten years later I rode on the main Overland train when it consisted of a locomotive, a baggage and express car in one, a passenger coach divided by a partition half way back from the door, and p106 an old fashioned, round end sleeper. That was the only Overland road then in existence and it carried just one through paying passenger that day.
We youngsters did not believe the roads would ever pay, for there was nothing to indicate to us that a vast business was in store for them. Indeed we did not pay a great deal of attention. You know how boys are. Knowing little of the country we judged by its forbidding appearance, its dry seasons, and cold winters that it would never settle up. When a few sheep began to straggle into the bleak and lonely land it looked like a case of cruelty to animals, notwithstanding the fact that Wyoming today leads the Union in the value of its mutton and wool crop.
From an old photograph.
The financial world seemed to share our doubts, if the statesmen did not. The control of Union Pacific changed hands at twelve or thirteen cents a share several times and Charles Crocker and his brother, Judge E. B. Crocker, sold all their stock to their associates at thirteen and a half cents in 1871. Mr. Crocker travelled for his health and when he returned to California he bought back his stock at the price he sold it for.
In its first season the road carried, probably the most exclusive class of travel that the world afforded. p107 Although California and the Rocky Mountains were world famous, very few had seen either as compared with those who know them now. As soon as conditions became settled those who could manage it, planned to make the trip, and it cost so much in time and money that the hoi polloi were shut out. I have ridden on trains with the Emperor of Brazil, with a president of the United States, half a dozen generals of the army, with Henry Ward Beecher, Oscar Wilde, George Francis Train, John C. Fremont, Tom Thumb, Schuyler Colfax, Bret Harte, and many other famous people.
The conductor of every westbound train gave the Associated Press at Carlin a list of his passengers, which appeared as a leading item in every paper in California.
All changed cars at Ogden for a number of years, and their baggage was rechecked, going both ways in new cars. Freight was transferred there also for years, as cars coming from the east were so poorly equipped with brakes that the officers of the Central Pacific would not trust to them on the mountain grades. Train time was slow, four days between Omaha and Sacramento. Usually the whole town turned out to attend the train at every station, remaining at the depot until it left. p108 Its stay was the event of the day. Silver palace sleeping cars ran from Sacramento to Ogden, each one with a porter, but no conductor. The railroad company owned them and it was many years before Pullman acquired the right to run his cars to San Francisco. His cars ran from Omaha to Ogden from the first day, each with a separate conductor and porter.
The intervening fifty years have swiftly passed and Western America has been literally transformed. The completion of the Overland Railroad marked the end of one epoch and the beginning of another. It closed forever the era of the wild Indian and the buffalo, opening a new empire to settlement. Perhaps nothing more dramatic or romantic has ever been recorded than the development within half a century of such a vast and seemingly worthless desert waste as large as all Europe, into a dozen highly civilized States.
"Oh! strange New World that yet was never young,
Whose youth from thee by gripin' need was wrung,
And who grew strong thruº shifts and wants and pains,
Nursed by stern men with empires in their brains,
Thou skilled by freedom and by great events
To pitch new states as Old World men pitch tents,
Thou taught by fate to know Jehovah's plans,
That man's devices can't unmake a man."
p109 It has been a great and inspiring experience for the men who have lived through it. They have seen States in the making and fortunes come and go like fleecy vapor. It is a chapter which history can never repeat. There is no place left on earth where one generation can accomplish so much. It adds emphasis for the thoughtful student of history when he remembers that between the years 1860 and 1870 the Civil War was begun and ended, the slaves freed, the Homestead law passed, the Atlantic cable laid, a telegraph line built to China, and the Overland Railroad built, uniting the Atlantic and Pacific.
No other one decade in all the history of the human race has seen such substantial progress.
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