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Bill Thayer

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Chapter 26

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Great Iron Trail

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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This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

 p351  Chronology of the Pacific Railway


Thomas Hart Benton, editor of the St. Louis Enquirer, wrote series of editorials urging construction of a Northwest Passage canal and road system to connect Missouri and Columbia rivers.


Robert Mills, architect for Bunker Hill and Washington Monuments, urged Congress to consider construction of a railway between Mississippi and Columbia valleys.​a


Construction of the world's first passenger railway, The Stockton & Darlington, was authorized by Great Britain's Parliament.


March 4

Theodore Dehone Judah born in Bridgeport, Conn.

October 7

The U. S. A.'s first railway, The Quincy Tramway, opened its three miles of track between Quincy, Mass granite quarries and the Neponset River's tidewater.


January 15

The first American-built locomotive, Best Friend, opened passenger service on South Carolina R.R., Charleston to Hamburg.

April 12

Grenville Mellen Dodge born at Danvers, Mass.


The Emigrant of Ann Arbor, Mich., editorially proposed New York to Oregon railway.

 p352  1836

Theodore Dehone Judah, Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker, Thomas C. Durant, Sidney Dillon, Bret Harte, Collis P. Huntington, Samuel Montague, Philip H. Sheridan and William Tecumsehº Sheridan all lived at, or visited, pioneer railway junction of Albany and Troy, N. Y.

Texas won War of Independence and became a Republic.

Rev. Marcus Whitman and party crossed Oregon Trail to site of Walla Walla, Wash.

Chicago began Illinois & Michigan Canal.


Congress ruled that railroads could be used as U. S. Postal routes.

Rev. Samuel Parker, who had explored the West with Rev. Marcus Whitman, pronounced the feasibility of a Pacific Railway via the South Pass-Snake River route of The Oregon Trail.


Bartleson-Bidwell wagon train pioneered trans-Utah route that the Pacific Railway would follow 28 years later.


Congress first heard Asa Whitney's petition for a land-grant 60 miles wide and extending from Mississippi to Columbia valleys along which the Pacific Railway would be built. Whitney estimated construction costs at $65,000,000.

That fall, at Commercial Convention in Memphis, Tenn., James Gadsden of Charleston, S. C. urged a South & Pacific Railway, via the all-slavery route through El Paso. Sam Houston, John C. Calhoun and Jefferson Davis supported the Gadsden plan.


May 10

Theodore Judah and Anna Ferona Pierce married at St. James Episcopal Church, Greenfield, Mass.


Thomas Hart Benton introduced bill for Federal financing of Buffalo Trail highway and railroad from St. Louis to San Francisco.


February 20

First passenger train from East reached Chicago via Michigan Southern & Northern Indiana R.R.


May 27

Peter Dey and Grenville Dodge began survey for Mississippi & Missouri R.R., Rock Island, Ill. to Council Bluffs, Iowa.

 p353  Summer.

Jefferson Davis, U. S. Secretary of War, organized Army engineering parties to explore five likeliest routes between Mississippi Valley and the Pacific.

November 22

Dey-Dodge survey completed to bank of Missouri River.

December 30

James Gadsden signed treaty with Mexico for purchase of 45,535 square miles of territory from Gila River south (i.e., the Gadsden Purchase) to provide route for South & Pacific R.R.



Theodore and Anna Judah reached Sacramento to begin surveys for California's first railway, the Sacramento Valley.

May 28

Grenville Dodge and Anne Brown married in Danvers, Mass., then honeymooned west to homestead on Elkhorn Creek, 25 miles west of the village of Omaha.



Jefferson Davis began organization of U. S. Army Camel Corps as patrol force in Southwest deserts, along proposed route of South & Pacific R.R.


Davis announced that reports from the Army survey teams along the five proposed Pacific Railway routes indicated that South & Pacific's route would be cheapest and most expedient.



Theodore Judah reached Washington for futile, winter-long lobby to obtain $200,000 Federal grant for detailed survey of the Sacramento-Salt Lake-Platte Valley route.


February 13

Hannibal & St. Joseph R.R. completed trans-Missouri trackage and became first railroad to reach bank of upper Missouri river.


Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Samuel R. Curtis of Iowa introduced Union-and‑Pacific Railway bill in Congress.

August 19

Abraham Lincoln and Grenville Dodge, in hotel-porch conference at Council Bluffs, discussed Platte Valley route for Pacific Railway.

October 11

California Convention on the Pacific Railway appointed Theodore Judah its agent to carry petition for Federal aid to Pacific Railway to Congress.


April 13

Pony Express completed first 10‑day run with mails between San Francisco and St. Joseph, Mo.

 p354  1861

April 30

Theodore Judah completed organization of Central Pacific Railroad Co. of California, with Leland Stanford as president, Collis P. Huntington as vice-president and Mark Hopkins as treasurer.



Theodore Judah appointed secretary of both House and Senate committees on Pacific Railway Act.

July 1

President Lincoln signed Pacific Railway Act.

September 2

Commissioners from 20 States and Territories met in Bryan Hall, Chicago to create Union Pacific Railroad & Telegraph Co., with William B. Ogden as president, Thomas W. Alcott as treasurer and Henry V. Poor as secretary.

December 27

Charles Crocker & Co. awarded contract for first 18 miles of Central Pacific roadbed.


January 8

Ground-breaking ceremony for Central Pacific at Sacramento.


Power struggles between Theodore Judah, Charles Crocker and Collis P. Huntington reached crisis.

October 30

Illegal stock purchases by Thomas C. Durant enabled transfer of Union Pacific Railroad & Telegraph Co. to private management, with John A. Dix as president, Thomas C. Durant as vice-president and general manager.

November 1

Theodore Judah died in Metropolitan Hotel, New York City, a few blocks from office where Union Pacific's new officers were meeting.

December 2

Ground-breaking ceremony for Union Pacific on Missouri River bluffs, two miles north of Omaha.



Thomas Durant, George Francis Train and associates created Crédit Mobilier of America from Pennsylvania Fiscal Agency.


Contract for construction of 247 miles of Union Pacific to 100th meridian assigned to Herbert Hoxie, Iowa politician, who promptly re-assigned it to Crédit Mobilier.



Peter Dey resigned as Chief Engineer of Union Pacific.


Charles Crocker began hiring Chinese "coolies" for Central Pacific's work-gangs.

 p355  August

Colfax-Bowles party toured Central Pacific's 50 miles of track up Sierra's west face.

September 22

Major General Grenville Dodge and patrol, besieged by Crow war-party, discovered Lone Pine Pass across Black Hills.


General William T. Sherman, perched on nailkeg, rode Union Pacific's first "Grand Excursion" from Omaha 15 miles to end-of‑track.


February 8

J. S. and D. T. Casement contracted to build first construction-train and undertake tracklaying for Union Pacific.


Samuel B. Reed and Hoxie organized Chicago-St. Joseph-Omaha relay route for delivery of Union Pacific's supplies.


Casement's construction-train began laying track at record-breaking pace of one mile a day.


Central Pacific's tracks entered Dutch Flat, 67 miles from Sacramento.


Union Pacific gangs fought off first Indian attack near Plum Creek, 200 miles west of Omaha.

October 15

Special train left New York City with guests for Durant's Grand Excursion to the 100th meridian.

November 22

Casement construction-train wintered in at junction of North and South Platte rivers, thus founding North Platte (i.e., the first Hell-on‑Wheels).

November 23

Oliver Ames elected president of Union Pacific Railroad & Telegraph Co.

November 25

Central Pacific gangs began gargantuan task of hauling locomotives, rails, supplies up wagonroad from Cisco 15 miles across Sierra summit.


Early Spring

First nitroglycerin factory presumably built near Donner Lake by Central Pacific.

March 6

Anti-Coolie Labor Association founded in San Francisco.


Heavy floods and snowslides wrecked trackage along both railroads. Crocker and Montague reached decision to build snowsheds through Sierra.

 p356  July 4

Generals Rawlins and Dodge christen new city of Cheyenne.

July 23

Percy Browne, chief of Union Pacific survey crew, fatally wounded during siege by 300 Sioux in Wyoming's Great Basin.


Henry M. Stanley, reporter for the Missouri Democrat, pronounced Julesburg, Neb. "The wickedest city in America."

August 6

Cheyenne raiders, led by Chief Turkey Foot, achieved first derailment and looting of Union Pacific train (i.e., near Plum Creek, Neb.).

August 30

Rawlins-Dodge conferred with Brigham Young about L. D. S. contract for grading through Wasatch.

October 1

With trackage completed 250 miles west of 100th meridian, Union Pacific's directors finally awarded contract for construction 667 miles west of 100th meridian to Oakes Ames.

November 13

Union Pacific tracks entered Cheyenne.


Central Pacific completed Summit Tunnel.



Casement work-train laid track down west slope of Black Hills and founded Laramie.

May 4

Central Pacific trackage reached Lake's Crossing, Nev., and village name changed to Reno.

May 26

Samuel Reed and Brigham Young signed contract for grading by LDS crews down Echo and Weber canyons.

July 26

The "show down" conference on the Durant-Dodge feud held at Fort Sanders, Wyo., with general Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.U. S. Grant presiding.

Christmas Week

Union Pacific trackage entered Echo canyon, Utah; Central Pacific entered Elko, Nev.



First Union Pacific engines steamed past 1,000 Mile Post in Weber Canyon.


Mormon work-crews blasted parallel Union Pacific and Central Pacific grades across desert north of Salt Lake.

March 3

Union Pacific entered Ogden, Utah.

April 9

Huntington, Durant, Dodge agreed on Promontory Point as meeting place for Union Pacific and Central Pacific tracks.

 p357  April 27 or 28

Thomas Durant and guests kidnapped by Union Pacific work-gangs near Bear River, Wyo. and held for ransom of "$1,000,000 in back wages."

April 29

Crocker's work-gangs gave record-breaking display of laying 10 miles of track.

May 10

Golden Spike ceremony at Promontory Point on 22d Wedding Anniversary of Theodore and Anna Judah.

[image ALT: A long narrow room, divided lengthwise down the center by a carpeted aisle, with rows of two plush-upholstered seats on either side, and a continuous series of arched windows running down each side. The room is elaborately decorated with wrought-iron work; it is in fact the interior of a Union Pacific Railroad coach in 1870.]

Interior of a Union Pacific Railroad coach, 1870. Union Pacific Railroad

Thayer's Note:

a John Galloway, in The First Transcontinental Railroad (p32), believes this project to have been for a road, not a railway. I have not seen Mills' original memorial to Congress.

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Page updated: 9 Mar 13