The Union Pacific|
The Union Pacific (cont.)|
The Union Pacific (cont.)|
Burlington & Missouri River Railroad|
Sioux City & Pacific Railroad
Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railway Co.
The Express Companies
On the 4th of July, 1828, the corner-stone of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad was laid with grand ceremony. Charles Carroll, of Carrollton, the last surviving signer of the Declaration, then nearly fourscore years and ten, was the central figure of this occasion, and struck the gavel and applied the square to the stone. The first locomotive built in the United States was invented by the venerable Peter Cooper, of New York.
The Union Pacific.--When the United States achieved their independence and became a nation, the Atlantic Ocean on the east and the Mississippi on the west were the boundaries of the American Republic. Thus it remained until 1803. Louisiana had changed owners more than once. France had passed from the reign of Kings to the "Reign of Terrors," and thence to a consulate greater than Kings. The First Napoleon's dreams had many visions, and one of the brightest was "Louisiana under the dominion of France." In 1802, he was impatient with Charles IV until actual possession was surrendered. In 1803, he transferred his entire Louisiana purchase to the United States. No man knew its value better than he, and yet his language was, "I will give Louisiana to the United States." Why was this? Louisiana was Mr. Jefferson's idea, a conception of his great mind worthy of its mightiest exercise. Mr. Monroe was in Europe, co-operating with Mr. Livingston in accomplishing the favorite design, and about this time, George III sent to Parliament his offensive message of March 8, 1803, and, in the language of the historian, "The colonial dreams of the First Consul were dispersed at once," and out of the policy of arrogance and disadvantage to England, Louisiana fell into the arms of the American people. Diplomacy and skill did their full share, but they did not make the circumstances which accomplished the desired end. The Mississippi no longer bounds the western limits of the American Republic, and that very France, which, nearly one hundred years ago, matured a project of confining the Anglo-Saxon dominion to the eastern slope of the Alleghanies furnished to the successors an empire extending to the Pacific. The States of Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and Oregon are but part of the vast possessions.
This has all come in the course of events--not of itself, but under inevitable direction. "There is a divinity that shapes our ends," to accomplish the ends and purposes of his own will in his own way. A plan of Asiatic conquest has since been unfolded and realized, which did not enter into Napoleon's dreams. But it has been the conquest of peace--a triumph of commerce, civilization and Christianity. And yet what is plain to every one now was foreseen by the great intelligence of statesmen long ago. Mr. Benton, in 1825, urged upon Congress the" occupation of Columbia," with the view, amongst other things, "to a communication for commercial purposes between the Pacific and the Mississippi, and to send lights of science and religion into Eastern Asia." It was then known that the communication for commercial purposes could be opened in one way only--across the continent. The light of religion would arise from the West and reflect its rays into the heart of Eastern Asia, and over the land and over the sea, hand in hand, commerce and Christianity would go together.
These were the initiatory movements of which the Pacific road was the natural outgrowth. The details of its early history, as facts go, are general, and the subsequent growth and development of the undertaking involved in doubt and surrounded by obscurity. The claimants for the honor of having first introduced the subject to the American people have been numerous and persistent The subject has been mooted time out of mind, and the question, "Who first suggested the Pacific Railway?" propounded and repeated incessantly. It is said that Jonathan Carver foreshadowed its construction as early as 1778, and if true, he was farthest ahead of all men of the age in which he lived. When, during succeeding years, it was again and again mentioned and pronounced impracticable, California, rich in wealth and resources, sprang as if by magic from the desert, and the undertaking became an enterprise of the present rather than of the future. Since then, the march of progress has, with majestic tread, swept across the continent, populating the valleys, developing the agricultural resources of the plains, bringing to light the hidden mineral wealth of the mountains and inscribing her name upon the brightest pages of history in every State. Upon the banks of the Father of Waters the steps of progress impatiently lingered, but, spanning that stream, she swept along her beneficent career, scattering gems of light and knowledge in her pathway. Next, she reached Nebraska, touching into life with her magic wand the hidden wealth and worth therein sleeping. The Rocky Mountains were crossed, and the Queen of the Pacific reached. Progress wrested from the possession of impracticability the most dazzling jewel that glitters in her coronet, and became vested in its possession.
In 1835, the Rev. Samuel Parker, in his journal of a trip across the continent, recorded an opinion that the mountains p resented no insuperable obstacle to a railroad. In 1836, John Plumbe, Jr., a Welshman by birth, but a naturalized American, residing at Dubuque, commenced, in person and at his own expense, a survey of the route for a railroad from Lake Michigan to the Pacific Ocean, directing public attention to its importance in several well-written articles in the. newspapers of the day. In 1838, he succeeded, through the influence and efforts of the Hon. George W. Jones, in procuring an appropriation from Congress to defray the expenses of locating the first division of the line, devoting his entire attention to and making constant exertions for the promotion of this great national object. He lived until after the gold discoveries of California, and used them as additional arguments in support of his pet scheme.
Among the many claims is that advanced by the friends of John Wilgus, deceased, formerly a resident of Brownville, Penn. A grandson of that remarkable man lives at present at David City, Neb., and has in his possession the original of the letter from Hon. Andrew Stewart to Mr. Wilgus, sufficient power to control interests common to all the States of the Union. Soon after the establishment of constitutional government, the ill-defined limits of some of the States caused serious troubles, that for a time threatened the stability of the system. At this time, Congress decided that the Territories were common properties, or, in other words, express trusts, to be administered for the benefit of all the States. New York thereupon ceded her unsettled Territory to the United States; Virginia, Georgia and South Carolina disposed of their vacant domain similarly; during the administration of Jefferson, Louisiana was acquired from Spain, and the States of Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, Nebraska and the Indian country created from this purchase. Under the different treaties with Great Britain and France, America's right to the country north of the forty-second parallel--now the State of Oregon and Washington Territory--was conceded; the treaty of 1819 with Spain secured Florida; Texas was admitted in 1845, and in 1848, California and the Territories of New Mexico and Utah became part of the Union. Many millions of acres had been donated for schools, railroads, the Indians, and other beneficent purposes, and in the action by Congress of appropriating tracts of land for the building of the Pacific roads, concluded proponents who sustained such donations, that body not only conformed to constitutional provisions, but relieved the public from taxation and managed the public lands for the good of the whole Union.
Later experience has shown that the proceeds of the grant sought by Whitney would have been utterly insufficient. His plan was conceded to be superior to that submitted by Mr. Plumbe, and was approved by seventeen States; but the Government, deaf to this call of patriotism, refused to grasp the glittering prize of a world's ambition--the trade of China, Japan and the Oriental islands. In 1850, the first Pacific Railroad bill was introduced into Congress by Senator Benton, of Missouri. "Old Bullion" contemplated a railroad only "where practicable," leaving gaps in the impassable mountains to be filled up by wagon roads. The Alleghanies were not even then crossed by an unbroken railway, but by a series of inclined planes, upon which the cars were drawn up and let down by stationary engines. Yet the day was not far distant when should be commenced the great work of uniting with bonds of iron the valley of the Missouri and the valley of Sacramento--of uniting with one continuous railway line the Atlantic and Pacific. The night of dreaming was nearly over, and the day of action was beginning to dawn. The progressive spirit of the age, and the constant demand that the work be done, admitted of but brief delay in the future.
In all ages, mankind has sought the shortest, most expeditious and economical route to market. The Panama route superseded the route to California by way of the Cape of Good Hope; Tehauntepec superseded the Panama route, the Nicaragua the Tehauntepec, and a like cause impelled the construction of the Union Pacific, which superseded them all. The work was demanded in a national point of view, and across the State of Nebraska must the road be built. The questions which primarily suggested themselves--Would it pay? how should it be built? and where was it to leave the frontier?--were made the subjects of careful consideration, but, pending action by Congress, left undecided.
In 1851, the Hon. S. Butler King submitted a plan which received the verdict of a universal approval. It was, practically, that the Government should guarantee to any company or persons who would undertake and complete the road a net dividend of 5 per cent for fifty or one hundred years; the road to be constructed under the supervision of an engineer appointed by the Government, the cost of the road not to exceed a certain sum, and the guaranty not to begin until the road was completed and equipped for operation. Some, however, thought it would be inexpedient for the Government to exercise the power of constructing the road by its own immediate agents. Such a policy would increase the patronage of the Executive to a dangerous extent, besides introducing a system of jobbing and corruption which no vigilance could prevent or detect. The work could only be done under the active supervision of individual and private interests. Therefore, it should be committed to companies incorporated by States, or to agents whose pecuniary interests would be directly involved. Congress might assist them in the work by grants of land or money, or both, under such conditions and restrictions as might be imposed. And, while there was no authority for the appropriation of money for the construction of the road, there might be important collateral considerations urging its beginning of the undertaking. Such a road would be a powerful bond of union between the East and the West. Commercially, it was rapidly becoming indispensable, and the peculiar geographical position of California and the Pacific possessions invited American capital and enterprise into those fruitful fields.
In 1853-54, nine routes were surveyed across the continent on various parallels between British America and Mexico, under the supervision of Jefferson Davis, then Secretary of War. The results were summarized in the interests of the extreme southern line. Up to this period, the Canadians and many residents of the United States believed that a railway could not be built south of the British possessions, unless it was carried far down toward Mexico. In spite of all this, however, the Union Pacific shouldered the enterprise, and in four years built a total of 1,090 miles. With each returning session of Congress thereafter convened, the benefits and peculiarities of these several routes were submitted. The impracticability of building the road had been from time to time removed by reports of engineers engaged in surveying designated routes, and many advocates were found who urged that the geography of the country and other features of excellence demonstrated, incontestably, that the old Mormon trail up the north side of the Platte River was the most available.
In June, 1857, a number of distinguished gentlemen from various portions of the United States visited Omaha and conferred with interests and corporations having in view the construction of the Pacific road by way of Platte Valley and South Pass. The party included among its number Col. Orr, of South Carolina; Gen. Robinson, John Covode and Mr. Bradshaw, of Pennsylvania; Judge Barber, of Wisconsin; Col. Curtis, of Iowa; Mr. Hosmer, of Ohio; and Mr. Pierce, of Indiana. While in Omaha, they examined the city and vicinity, visited the Platte River, and united in recommending that an appeal to Congress be made for such reasonable grant of land and other aid as would give an impulse to the building of the road.
As regarded the Platte Valley route, its superiority was insisted upon, and the truth of history cited in that behalf. In the early days of Brigham Young's domination, trusty emissaries were by him dispatched for the purpose of obtaining a knowledge of the best road from the Missouri to Salt Lake. After every possible and impossible route from each point on the Missouri River between Kansas City and Sioux City had been thoroughly explored and measured, the shrewd and wily leader, who had more at stake than any man who ever crossed the Western prairies, chose the North Platte route. The speed and safety with which he and his followers traversed it show the careful consideration he had bestowed upon the subject, and attest a sagacity and prudence which only a thorough knowledge of the country would enable him to employ. The first emigrants to California crossed the Missouri at St. Joe, Leavenworth, Kansas City, Independence and elsewhere. But, after the country had been explored thoroughly, the emigration of 1852 was by way of Council Bluffs and the North Platte route.
From the earliest days of the Territory, the people and the official representatives of Nebraska favored the speedy completion of a line through the valley of the Platte. By referring to the proceedings of the Legislature, the reader will see that this was one of the first and most cherished hopes of the new country. Every Governor, from Cuming to Saunders, advocated the measure, and a most urgent spirit was manifested throughout the decade from 1855 to 1865.
The subject received some attention in the Thirty-sixth Congress, but little, owing to the Kansas complications, and the scarcely less perplexing condition of Central American affairs. Early in the session, a committee was appointed in the Senate to inquire into the subject and report, and on the 20th of January, 1858, the committee, through Senator Gwin, of California, reported a bill which proposed to locate the road at some point between the Big Sioux and Kansas Rivers to San Francisco. The bill provided for the donation of alternate sections of land on each side of the route, and $12,500 per mile, the same to be advanced upon the completion of every twenty-five miles of the road, until $25,000,000 are reached; the amounts thus advanced to be returned in mail service and transportation of men and munitions of war; 5 per cent of the stock to be issued, the President of the United States to receive bids and locate the road. The bill, however, was killed in the Senate, and this comprehensive measure effectually postponed to agitate another Congress. At the session of 1859-60, another effort was made, and a bill introduced into the House by Mr. Curtis, of Iowa, which met with more favorable consideration than that which greeted the report of Mr. Gwin's committee. It provided for the construction of a road across the continent, with branches from two points on the navigable waters of the Missouri, to converge and unite within 200 miles of that stream, thence run to the navigable waters of the Sacramento. The bill had been referred to a select committee on the Pacific road revived for the purpose, became the subject of a prolonged and acrimonious debate, and amended in several particulars.
While Congressional efforts failed of securing results, this failure directed attention to the subject and excited general comment. A meeting of the citizens of Omaha was convened at Pioneer Block, on Saturday evening, January 29, 1859, at which a memorial was adopted, which had been prepared by a committee appointed for the purpose at a previous meeting, consisting of William A. Gwyer, G. C. Morrell and A. D. Jones, and addressed to Congress for the Pacific Railroad up Platte Valley. This document was most carefully drawn, presenting valuable information in reference to and setting forth the advantages of the central route more clearly and explicitly than in any previous paper on the subject ever submitted. It proposed Fort Kearney as the central point of the road, leaving the construction of its branches to the indomitable energy and enterprise of the American people. The advantages of the Platte Valley and South Pass routes as at that time known and surveyed, were set forth in a cogent and comprehensive manner. This was circulated in the Territory, and, after receiving generous recognition, forwarded to Washington.
After a month's discussion of the Curtis bill and its amendments by Congress, a motion to strike out all after the enacting clause, and authorizing the President of the United States to receive bids to contract for the construction of three routes to the Pacific, same to be submitted to the Thirty-seventh Congress, prevailed, and the subject, for the time being, was dropped.
The great difficulty embargoing action at this time seemed to be the selection of a route. As already stated, several routes had been surveyed, and the particulars concerning each detailed in reports which filled thirteen volumes; whether the more northerly or the more southerly route of those surveyed was the more preferable being the point at issue. Representatives of the Northern and Eastern States supported the former; Representatives from the South, the latter. The result was a dissension which promised to be interminable. At this point, the war came, and the solution of what promised to be a Congressional problem of undoubted perplexity was reached. Had it not been for this, the great undertaking might still have remained a project; but the war which settled controversies that had grown gray and decrepit with age, brought this one to a close. The isolation of California was perceived to involve a peril to the Union, and the construction of the transcontinental road became not only a necessary but a strategic move. Those who favored the extreme southerly route were no longer able to take part in the debates of Congress, nor was Congress then in a position to decree the construction of a railway by the southern route. Hence, time, causes and concomitants of an indisputable character, combined to lend their aid and procured the materialization of an enterprise which had been most earnestly advocated by distinguished statesmen since the days when the Republic came from the victorious patriots of the Revolution, with its territorial limits established and recognized in the definitive treaty of peace of 1783. Since the days when Lewis and Clark concluded an expedition from the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri to the mouth of Columbia River, 4,000 miles through a bleak, unbroken wilderness; since the days when Benton, Plumbe, Whitney, Curtis and others urged the importance, as also the necessity, of connecting the East and the West with links that should confirm and strengthen these sections with each succeeding decade.
During 1861, the war, its causes, the means for its support and the results it would promote, monopolized public attention not less than private speculation. It neutralized all other objects. "The Romance" of building the Pacific road, as that venture was suggested by some to have been, became dim and somber in the realities of the strife. In March of that year, a meeting of the select committee on that subject was convened, but adjourned without accomplishing other than a transient agitation of the question.
Early in 1862, the possibility of constructing the road was again mooted, and at this period first took definite shape. The seed planted by the fathers of the Republic, and men of enterprise who followed in their wake, had not fallen upon stony ground, nor had it been dropped altogether amid tares and thistles. On February 5, 1862, Mr. Rollins, of Missouri, by unanimous consent introduced a bill to aid in constructing a railroad and telegraph line from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean, and to secure to the Government the use of the same for postal, military and other purposes, which was read a first and second time in the House, referred to the select committee on the Pacific Railroad, and ordered to be printed. It was substantially the same as that presented by Gen. Curtis at the previous session, which met with general approval among friends of the enterprise all over the country. Indeed, it was considered as among the most sufficient, well considered and complete of any that had ever been submitted for the consideration of Congress.
The bill was presented, reported to the House, placed upon the regular calendar, made the special order, etc., and on April 8, 1862, Mr. Campbell, of the special committee, reported a substitute, giving it direct corporate capacity. In this form the bill was made the subject of debate, participated in by Representatives Campbell, Vallandigham, Kelley, Lovejoy, Dunn, Edwards, Potter, Nelson, Watts, Pike, Morrell, Fessenden and others; a number of amendments accepted and passed, the final vote being taken on May 6, 1862, when its adoption was declared seventy-nine to forty-nine, and the bill sent to the Senate for concurrence.
On May 12, 1862, Senator McDougal of California, reported the bill and amendments according to instructions derived from the Senate Select Committee on the Pacific Road, and moved that the same be made the special order for the Thursday following, with the pledge on the part of friends of the bill that there would be no discussion of its merits. The motion was laid on the table, whence it was not taken until June 11, and after running, the gantlet of amendments, postponement and other parliamentary experiences of a dilatory character, was finally adopted June 20, 1862, by a vote of thirty-five to five, and sent back to the House.
The Senate amendments were more in form than substance, the leading of which was that 25 per cent of all the aid given by the Government to branches, and 15 per cent of the aid given the main line should be reserved until the final completion of the road; also, that the Government should have a lien upon the road and its fixture for all bonds advanced. With these exceptions, the amendments were deemed immaterial, and the committee in the House recommended a concurrence therein. The recommendation was accepted, and the bill with its amendments as returned by the Senate adopted in the House June 24, 1862, the vote being 104 yeas to 21 nays.
The bill was approved July 1, 1862, when it became a law, and provided among other things, that Walter S. Burgess, William P. Blodgett, Benjamin H. Cheever, Charles F. Fletcher, of Rhode Island; Augustus Brewster, Henry P. Haven, Cornelius S. Bushnell, Henry Hammond, of Connecticut; I. Sherman, Dean Richmond, Royal Phelps, W. H. Ferry, H. A. Paddock, Lewis J. Stancliff, Charles A. Secor, Samuel R. Campbell, Alfred E. Tilton, John Anderson. Azariah Broody, John S. Kennedy, H. Carver, Joseph Field, Benjamin F. Camp, O. W. Childs, A. J. Bergen, Ben Holliday, D. N. Barney, S. D. W. Bloodgood, W. H. Grant, T. W. Olcott. S. B. Ruggles, J. B. Nelson of New York; Ephriam Marsh, C. M. Harker of New Jersey; J. Edgar Thompson, Benjamin Haywood, Joseph H. Scranton, Joseph Harrison, George W. Cass, John H. Bryant, Daniel J. Morrell, Thomas M. Howe, William F. Johnson, Robert Finney, John A. Green, E. R. Myre, Charles F. Wells, Jr., of Pennsylvania; Noah L. Wilson, Amasa Stone, S. S. L. Hommedien, John Brough, William Donnison, Jacob Bleckensdorfer, of Ohio; William M. McPherson, R. W. Wells, Millard P. Hall, A. Beatty, John Corby, of Missouri; S. J. Hensley, Peter Donahue, C. P. Huntington, T. D. Judah, James Bailey, James T. Ryan, C. Hosmer, C. Marsh, D. O. Mills, S. Bell, Louis McLane, G. W. Mowe, Charles McLaughlin, Timothy Dame, John R. Robinson, of California; John Atchison and John D. Winter, of the Territory of Nevada; John D. Campbell, R. N. Rice, Charles A. Trowbridge, Ransom Gardner, Charles W. Penny, Charles T. Gorham, William McConnell, of Michigan; William F. Coolbaugh, Lucius H. Langworthy, Hugh T. Reid, Hoyt Sherman, Lyman Cook, Samuel R. Curtis, Lewis A. Thomas, Platt Smith, of Iowa; William B. Ogden, Charles G. Hammond, Henry Farnum, A. C. Babcock, W. S. Gale, Nehemiah Bushnell, Lorenzo Bull, of Illinois; W. H. Swift, S. T. Dana, John Bertram, F. S. Stevens, E. R. Tucker, of Massachusetts; Franklin Gorin, L. J. Bradford, John T. Lewis, of Kentucky; James Dunning, Edwin Noyes, Joseph Eaton, of Maine; H. H. Baister, George W. Collamer, Henry Keyes, Thomas H. Canfield, of Vermont; W. S. Ladd, A. S. Berry, B. F. Harding, of Oregon; W. Bunn, Jr., John Catlin, Levi Sterling, John Thompson, E. C. Phillips, W. D. McIndoe, T. B. Stoddard, E. H. Brodhead, A. H. Virgin, of Wisconsin; Charles Paine, Thomas A. Morris, D. C. Bronham, Samuel Hanna, Jonas Volaw, Jesse L. Williams, Isaac Elston, of Indiana; Thomas Swan, Chauncey Brooks, Edward Mekins, of Maryland; F. R. E. Cornell, David Blakely, A. D. Seward, Henry A. Swift, Dwight Woodbury, John McKusick, John R. Jones, of Minnesota; J. A. Gilmore, C. W. Woodman, of New Hampshire; W. H. Grimes, J. C. Stone, Chester Thomas, John Kerr, W. R. Davis, L. C. Challis, J. Miller, of Kansas; Gilbert C. Monell, A. Kountze, T. M. Marquette, W. H. Taylor, Alvin Saunders, of Nebraska, John Evans, of Colorado, together with five Commissioners, to be appointed by the Secretary of the Interior, etc., are hereby created and erected into a body corporate and politic in law and deed by the name, style and title of "The Union Pacific Railroad Company."
The bill further provided for the laying-out and construction of a continuous railroad and telegraph line, with the appurtenances, from a point on the 100th Meridian of longitude west of Greenwich, between the mouth margin of the Republican River and the north margin of the valley of the Platte River in the Territory of Nebraska to the western boundary of Nevada Territory; for the amount of the capital stock; the appointment of Commissioners and other officers; the election of Directors; the right of way through public lands; the extinguishment of Indian titles; the donations of alternate sections; except mineral lands; the conveyance of lands upon completion of forty consecutive miles of road, and the issue and payment of bonds therefor; the designation of the route of the road; time of completion; for the completion of the main line in 1876; the company to make annual reports containing names of stockholders and directors, amount of stock subscribed, description of lines of road surveyed and cost, receipts and expenses; also of general indebtedness, and to do and perform such other duties and be entitled to such other privileges as belong to a body corporate and politic.
Subsequently, an act amendatory of this act creating the corporation was introduced into Congress directing that the first meeting be held at Bryon Hall, in the city of Chicago, on the first Tuesday of September, 1862, at 12 o'clock at noon and a notice thereof published once a week for six consecutive weeks, commencing on the 20th of July, 1862, in one daily newspaper in each of the cities of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis.
The objects of the meeting were the completion of the organization and the opening of books of subscription to the capital stock. The act was approved July 12, 1862, and duly promulgated and the meeting was held as provided, Gen. A. R. Curtis, of Iowa, presiding, Robert Finney, of Pennsylvania, and J. R. Robinson, of California, officiating as Secretaries, and there being seventy-three Commissioners in attendance. The convention was permanently organized by the election of W. B. Ogden, of Illinois, as President, and H. V. Poor, of New York, Secretary. Resolutions were adopted in reference to points raised during the deliberations. A committee of thirteen was appointed to advise and co-operate with the officers, and the meeting adjourned subject to the call of the President and Secretary, upon notice of not less than ten days.
On the 29th of October, 1863, this great national enterprise was formally organized in the city of New York by the election of a board of thirteen Directors, on the part of the stockholders, and the appointment of two Directors on the pert of the Government, as follows, pursuant to the charter: George Opdyke, John A. Dix, T. C. Duvant, E. W. Dunham, P. Clark, E. T. M. Gibson, J. F. D. Louier, G. T. M. Davis, A. G. Jerome, August Belmont, L. C. Clark, Charles Tuttle, Henry V. Poor, and George Griswold, New York City; J. V. L. Pruyn, Albany; E. H. Rosekrans, Glenn's Falls; A. A. Lowe, San Francisco; W. B. Ogden and J. F. Tracy, Chicago; Nathaniel Thayer and C. A. Lombard, Boston; C. S. Bushnell, New Haven; J. H. Scranton, Scranton; J. Edgar Thompson, Philadelphia; Ebenezer Cook and John E. Henry, Davenport; H. T. McConeb, Wilmington, Del.; Augustus Kontze, Omaha; John J. Blair, Belvedere, N. J.; and S. C. Pomeroy, Atchison, Kan., who were elected at the same meeting--John A. Dix, President; T. C. Durant, Vice President; John J. Cisco, Treasurer, and Henry V. Poor, Secretary.
At that time four lines of railroads had been projected. and were in process of construction across the State of Iowa to points on the Missouri River--the Burlington & Missouri, the most southern; the Mississippi & Missouri the next north; the Chicago, Iowa & Nebraska, farther north, and the Dubuque & Sioux City. The first named was in operation about one hundred miles westward from Burlington, with its western terminus undecided. The Mississippi & Missouri was in operation from Davenport to Grinnell, with its western terminus established at Council Bluffs, opposite Omaha. The Chicago, Iowa & Nebraska road was in operation from Clinton and Lyons to Marshalltown, and the Dubuque & Sioux City was operated a short distance west of Dubuque with its western terminus at Sioux City. For this latter road a connection with the trunk line of the Pacific road was expressly provided in the act of Congress incorporating the Union Pacific, obliging that company to construct a branch to a point opposite Sioux City, whenever a road should be completed there to cross the State of Iowa.
At the same time there was no inconsiderable anxiety throughout the West, traveled by these competing lines as to what place on the Missouri River the President would select as the initial point of the road, and Omaha or Council Bluffs, it was insisted upon, offered superior inducements in that connection. In support of this conclusion, it was argued that the managers of the Chicago, Iowa & Nebraska route had abandoned :heir original design, intending to diverge their road into the line of the Mississippi & Missouri road between Des Moines and Council Bluffs, or to follow the Boyer or some other valley and strike the river as far south as near to Council Bluffs and Omaha as possible. Further, that there were many evidences that the Burlington & Missouri road would be diverged to a point as near as practicable to, but south of the Platte River. These two roads would, therefore, if ever completed, have a terminus at no great distance from that of the Mississippi & Missouri road, while the latter was being built due west on its original line of survey to its first chosen terminus. On its line were the important cities of Davenport, Iowa City, Des Moines and Council Bluffs. The country through which its route extended was not surpassed in richness. The superior advantages of its western terminus had been conclusively demonstrated, and it was apparent that the situation of the Iowa roads led to Omaha as the point opposite Iowa from which the main branch of the Pacific road should be constructed for the best accommodation of the various and heavy interests involved. The principal argument, however, advanced, was contained in the act of incorporation providing that the line of said railroad should commence "at a point on the 100th Meridian west from Greenwich, between the south margin of the valley of the Republican River and the north margin of the valley of the Platte River, in the Territory of Nebraska, at a point to be fixed by the President of the United States," etc., and the only question which remained to be disposed of was whether the road should commence in the Republican or in the Platte Valley. The preliminary surveys had demonstrated that it was wholly impracticable to construct a railroad west from the parallel designated in the Republican Valley, while it could not be gainsaid that the eastern terminus at the 100th parallel would not be in the valley of the Platte. Such being the facts, the main branch must be located from Omaha opposite the western terminus of the Mississippi & Missouri road, unless in the decision of the matter all geography and all topography should be set at naught.
These arguments and considerations undoubtedly weighed the balance in favor of Omaha, for on the morning of Wednesday, December 2, 1863, the Engineer of the road received a telegram from New York announcing that the President of the United States had fixed the initial point of the road on "the western boundary of the State of Iowa," opposite Omaha, and directing him to formally "break ground" and inaugurate the great work of that day.
Preparations for the ceremony were immediately commenced. A Committee of Arrangements was appointed, consisting of the following gentlemen: Augustus Kountze, Dr. E. Lowe, John McCormick, A. J. Hanscom, B. F. Lushbaugh, A. J. Poppleton, John I. Redick, Ezra Millard, E. Esterbrook, E. B. Taylor, George M. Mills, W. F. Sapp, Jesse Low, O. P. Hurford, E. Creighton, J. J. Brown and George B. Lake. Two o'clock was selected as the hour at which the ceremonies would commence, and the grounds at the northern end of the levee, donated by the city to the railway company, the point selected.
At 2 o'clock, on the date indicated, the exercises were opened with a solemn and impressive prayer by the Rev. T. B. Lemon, in which he invoked the blessing of Divine Providence upon the great work about to be inaugurated. At its conclusion, the Engineer of the Board, assisted by Augustus Kountze, of Omaha, George Francis Train, of New York, Dr. Atchison, of the Western Stage Company, and William E. Harvey, Territorial Auditor, with pick in hand, commenced to clear the ground preparatory to removing the "first shovelful of earth." This preliminary having been concluded, Gov. Saunders, Mayor Kennedy, of Omaha, and Mayor Palmer, of Council Bluffs, proceeded to remove the earth amid the roar of artillery from either shore of the Missouri, and the shouts of the assembled multitude. These proceedings were followed by addresses by Gov. Sanders, Mayor Kennedy, A. J. Poppleton and George Frances Train, the festivities of the day concluding with a supper and ball at the Herndon House, a general illumination of the city, and other observances.
The location of the road and the commencement of operations looking to the building of its route, tended to fill up Nebraska, then a Territory with a thrifty population, as also to develop its agricultural and mineral wealth. The immediate effects were, of course, experienced first by that portion of the domain through which the road passed, and in other portions of the Territory as its influence gradually extended to the population. The great empire west of Omaha, along the base of the Rocky Mountains, rich in mineral wealth beyond any other portion of the country, has since been populated by millions of people, engaged not in agricultural pursuits, but in digging gold. These people must be fed and supplied with every article of prime necessity from the Missouri River. The productive lands of Nebraska have been brought into requisition to furnish them with wheat, corn, potatoes and other cereals and esculents, while the wholesale merchants of her metropolis are employed in contributing to their necessities. The building of the road cheapened transportation also, promoted the interests of agriculture, and resolved the West instead of the East into markets for Nebraska farmers. Millions of acres are now cultivated where there once was but a limited area, and sources of wealth then unknown, were soon after developed and became prosperous before Nebraska emerged from its condition of pupilage and put on the habiliments of a State.
It might be here stated that after the location of the road had been settled in favor of Omaha, combinations were formed for the purpose of influencing the President to change the same, so far as to take it north of the city, to the vicinity of De Soto, in Washington County, for the better accommodation of the Galena & Chicago Union, and the Chicago, Iowa & Nebraska roads. A committee visited the President in behalf of the change, but responding that the road had been located in conformity with the requirements of the charter, the President added that he had no lawful right, and no disposition to revoke the decision rendered in that connection during December, 1863.
To aid in the construction of this great National highway, the United States Government conferred upon the Union Pacific a magnificent land grant, amounting to 12,000,000 of acres, or 19,000 square miles--a domain equal in area to the States of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont, These lands are contained in alternate sections of one square mile each, within a breadth of twenty miles on either side of the railroad, and extend along its entire line.
They are situated on about the 41° of north latitude, the central line of the great Temperate Zone of the American Continent, giving a climate equally removed from the severe cold and long winters of the North, and the sultry, relaxing influences of the South. They extend throughout Central Nebraska, Southern Wyoming, the northern portions of Colorado and Utah, and include within their limits the splendid agricultural lands of the Platte Valley, the great natural pasturages of Laramie Plains, the valleys of Lodge Pole Creek and Bear River, and the rich iron and coal-fields between Carbon and Evanston. A part of the valuable lands have been placed in the market and disposed of to settlers at low prices and upon easy terms of payment. The intervening square miles have been reserved by the Government and placed under the provisions of the homestead act, by which act an adult or person at the head of a family may have eighty acres free by making it his or her home.
The great Platte Valley, upon which many of the lands in Nebraska are located extends for more than 300 miles, is from ten to fifteen miles in width, and widely celebrated for its picturesque scenery, rich, productive soil, and mild and healthful climate. From any point on the railway the traveler beholds stretching far away to the distant horizon the gently undulating prairie, a flowery meadow of great fertility, clothed with nutritious grasses and watered by numerous streams, the margins of which are skirted with timber. The climate is temperate and salubrious, the winters of short duration, the air dry and pure. Fever and ague is of rare occurrence, and epidemics are unknown. The soil is of a rich, alluvial character, with a retentive subsoil, containing the most fertilizing properties. Springs and streams are numerous, and the rolling surface secures drainage and prevents stagnation. The greater portion of the prairie is ready at once for the plow, requiring but one year to open a farm. Wood is found in sufficient quantities for fuel, and timber grows with great rapidity. Efficient herding laws render fencing unnecessary. All the productions of Northern and Eastern States are raised in profusion. By soil and climate this section is admirably adapted to wheat growing, producing a greater average yield per acre than any other State. For stock raising in all its branches, it is unsurpassed, and market facilities, both East and West, are unequaled. The liberal provision made for education, the freedom from State debt, the rapidity with which these lands are settling, the flourishing towns and villages springing up along the line of railway, offering inducements to the merchant and mechanic, render this country a most desirable location for the industrious man of limited means, to secure a comfortable home and acquire competence, independence and position.
Western Nebraska and Southeastern Wyoming are watered by the North Fork of the Platte and its affluents, among which are Laramie and Sweetwater Rivers, and Lodge Pole Creek. The valleys of these streams are among the most remarkable grazing grounds in the world. The Laramie Plains, an extensive plateau with an altitude of 7,000 feet above the tide, are situated in the southern portion of Wyoming, west of the Black Hills, and extend to the Wasatch Mountains, covering an area of about 30,000 square miles. The healthfulness of the climate, the dryness and purity of the atmosphere, and the nutritious grasses upon which stock can subsist during the entire year, are destined to render these plains the pasture grounds of innumerable flocks and herds, and the source of untold wealth. The grasses of these high plains, when ripe, dries upon the stalk, forming hay superior to that prepared by the most careful curing in the Eastern States. For years past, large herds of cattle and numerous flocks of sheep have been fattened upon these grounds, and it has been found by experience that the per cent of annual loss of stock herded upon these plains is less than among the carefully fed and sheltered herds in the older States.
For more than 400 miles, the Union Pacific passes through a region remarkably rich in coal, iron and other mineral deposits. Immense deposits of excellent coal are found in the Laramie Plains, and the mountains at the west.
These are included in the land grant of the company, and are of incalculable value to the country along the line of the road, by which ready means of transportation are furnished both East and West. The existence of these large deposits of mineral fuel in connection with the vast quantities of iron ore in close proximity to this great natural thoroughfare have exerted a most powerful influence in the development of the resources of this region and of the great West.
Work was commenced at once and progressed expeditiously and satisfactorily through 1864. The road had been located and placed under contract from the west bank of the Missouri River, a distance of 100 miles westerly, in the great Valley of the Platte River, and surveys continued from that point to the 100th Meridian of longitude. They had been run from Camp Walbach, in the valley of Lodge Pole Creek and La Porte in the valley of Cache la Poudre Creek, to a point near the crossing of Laramie River, thence by Budger's Pass to Green River, and thence by the valleys of Echo and Chalk Creeks respectively, and Weber River, to Great Salt Lake City. Also, a line from a point in the Weber Valley, near the mouth of Chalk Creek, by Kansas Prairie, Tempanago's Valley and the valley of Utah Lake, to a point in the Tuilla Valley.
In the fall of 1864, Jesse L. Williams, one of the Government directors, and Silas Seymour, consulting engineer of the road, visited this portion of the line, entering the Great Platte Valley at the crossing of the Elkhorn River, and, upon their return to New York, united in a recommendation that the company change the location of the line between the Missouri River and Platte Valley, for the purpose of avoiding the heavy rolling grades of eighty feet per mile, which had been adopted by the engineers then in charge of the work, substituting therefor a line about nine miles longer with maximum grades of forty feet per mile.