William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas


[TOC] [part 3] [part 1] [Cutler's History]


Statement showing the mileage of railroads in Kansas, by whom owned and by what companies operated, December 31, 1882:

                                        No.    By           By           Total
NAME OF ROAD.                           of     Whom         Whom         Number
                                        Miles  Owned        Operated     Miles
Atchison & Nebraska.....                37.24  C.B.&Q.      C.B.&Q.       37.24
Central Branch, U.P. and Branches....     388  U.P.         Mo.P.)
Missouri, Kansas & Texas.............     235  M.K.&T.      Mo.P.}       840
Missouri Pacific.....................     217  Mo.P.        Mo.P.)
Atchison, T'p'ka & Santa Fe & Branches 904.17  A.T.&S.F.    A.T.&S.F.}
Kansas City, Lawrence & Southern Kan.  384.48  A.T.&S.F.    A.T.&S.F.} 1,288.65
Kansas City, Fort Scott & Gulf.......  194.23  K.C.Ft.S.&G. K.C.F.S.&G.)
Memphis, Kansas & Colorado (N.G.)....   49.79  K.C.Ft.S.&G. K.C.F.S.&G.) 244.02
Junction City & Fort Kearney.........    70.5  U.P.         U.P.)
Solomon..............................    56.9  U.P.         U.P.)
Salina & Southwestern................    35.4  U.P.         U.P.)
Lawrence & Emporia...................    31.1  U.P.         U.P.)        993.90
St. Joseph & Western.................     151  U.P.         U.P.)
Kansas Central (N.G.)................     169  U.P.         U.P.)
Union Pacific........................     480  U.P.         U.P.)
St. Louis & San Francisco............  195.50  St.L.&S.F.   St.L.&S.F.   195.50
St. Louis, Fort Scott & Wichita......     133  St.L.Ft.S.&W St.L.Ft.S.&W 133.00
Manhattan, Alma & Burlingame.........   56.62   U.P.        U.P.)
                                                A.T.&S.F.   A.T.&S.F.}   101.62
Leavenworth, Topeka & Southwestern.        45   U.P.        U.P.)
Chicago & Rock Island................       2  C&R.I.       C&R.I.         2
Nebraska, Topeka, Iola & Memphis.....      20  N.T.I.&M.    N.T.I.&M.     20
Total number of miles of railroad in Kan.                              3,855.90

The St. Joseph & Western Railroad commences at St. Joseph, Mo., and enters Kansas in the county of Doniphan and runs westerly through Doniphan, Brown, Nemaha and Marshall Counties, and enters Nebraska from the northeast corner of Washington County. Distance in Kansas, 138 miles. The Marysville & Blue Valley Railroad from Marysville, Kan., to Beatrice, Neb., is a branch. Distance thirty-eight miles (thirteen in Kansas). Total number of miles in Kansas, 151. Owned and operated by the Union Pacific.

The Kansas Central Railroad (N. G.) commences at Leavenworth City and runs westerly through the counties of Leavenworth, Jefferson, Atchison (southwest corner), Jackson, Pottawatomie, Riley and Clay, to Miltonvale, Cloud County. Distance 169 miles. Owned and operated by the Union Pacific.

The Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway (Leavenworth Branch), runs from the west end of the Kansas & Missouri Bridge, at Fort Leavenworth, to Leavenworth City. Distance two miles.

The Nebraska, Topeka, Iola & Memphis Railroad commences at Girard, Crawford County, and runs northwesterly to the northwest corner of Crawford County. Distance twenty miles.


The history of the Santa Fe Trail and the development and progress of the New Mexican trade up to 1843, has been given in a former chapter. For seven years thereafter, during the Mexican war, and until the question of the Texan boundary was finally settled, the trade languished, although the "Trail" held its identity and pre-eminence as the great transcontinental thoroughfare. In 1850, under new and more auspicious conditions the traffic and travel over the route was again renewed. New Mexico and California had become a part of the vast domain of the United States, and the tide of emigration, together with the increasing and now unrestricted trade with the Santa Fe region, increased in volume and importance from year to year, till caravans of emigrants and traders moved along the trail in almost as continuous a line as the trains of the Santa Fe railroad of to-day.

This line of traffic already marked by the experience of thirty years as the natural route of travel and traffic to the Southwest and the regions beyond the mountains on the Pacific coast, early suggested to the enterprising and far-seeing men of Kansas the feasibility of establishing a grand trunk railway, essentially over the route which the instincts of pioneer trade had already selected. As soon as the political disturbances incident to the organization of the Territorial government were dispelled, the project took practical form. It is notable that among the inceptors of this magnificent undertaking were those who had been most earnest and bitter antagonists in the political conflicts of the preceding years. No stronger proof of the conservative virtues of commercial interests, in the promotion of the peace and prosperity of communities and nations, can be adduced than that shown in the personnel of those by whom this great project was conceived, and the unity of purpose with which they persevered to its completion.

The Beginning. - The first move for the construction of a railroad from the Missouri, across the Territory to the Southwest, resulted in the charter, by the Territorial Legislature, of the St. Joseph & Topeka Railroad Company, February 20, 1857. The road, as projected, was to start from St. Joseph, Mo., opposite Elwood, Doniphan County, thence crossing the Missouri, through Doniphan, Atchison and Jefferson Counties to Topeka, as its first terminal point. By supplemental legislation, the charter was amended, permitting the extension of the road in the direction of Santa Fe, to the southern or western line of the Territory, thus authorizing its location over essentially the present route of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad.

The anxiety for an early and direct railroad communication with the Missouri River led the citizens of Topeka and other inhabitants of the Territory along the line of the proposed route, to look with favor upon it, although its eastern terminus was outside the limits of the Territory. Topeka had already voted it a subsidy.

The citizens of Atchison, were at that time ambitious to make their thriving town the terminal point and future railway center of the great transcontinental system, the plans of which were then just taking form, and were strongly averse to the project which would make Atchison but a way station on the great road at best, or might leave it out in the cold altogether. With a view to avert the threatened hindrance to its progress, it was determined, if possible, to make Atchison the eastern terminus of the proposed road. The city accordingly raised or loaned its credit to the amount of $150,000, by the aid of which subsidy a direct road was built on the Missouri side of the river, from St. Joseph to that place, and thenceforth under another charter, with Atchison, Kan., instead of St. Joseph, Mo., as the eastern terminus, the enterprise was carried on; the sympathy and interest of the inhabitants of the Territory being transferred to the new project which promised the same advantages, with the added prestige of its being wholly a Kansas corporation.

The Atchison & Topeka Railroad Company was incorporated by act of the Territorial Legislature, February 11, 1859. The persons named as incorporators in the act were: S. C. Pomeroy, Atchison; C. K. Holliday, Topeka; Luther C. Challiss, Atchison; Peter T. Abell, Atchison; Milton C. Dickey, Topeka; Asaph Allen, Topeka; Samuel Dickson, Atchison; Wilson L. Gordon, Topeka; George S. Hillyer, Grasshopper Falls; Lorenzo D. Bird, Atchison; Jeremiah Murphy, Topeka; George H. Fairchild, Atchison, and F. L. Crane, Topeka.

The charter authorized the company "to survey, locate, construct, complete, alter, maintain and operate a railroad with one or more tracks, from or near Atchison in Kansas Territory to the town of Topeka in Kansas Territory, and to such point on the southern or western boundary of said Territory, in the direction of Santa Fe, as may be convenient and suitable for the construction of said road, and also to construct a branch to any point on the southern line of said Territory in the direction of the Gulf of Mexico."

The authorized stock was $1,500,000, with permission to increase to such amount as should be required in the construction of the road.

The first meeting for organization under the charter was held at the office of Luther C. Challiss, in Atchison, September 15, 1859. At this meeting $52,000 of the first subscription was paid, to enable a preliminary survey of the proposed route to be made and the first Board of Directors and officers chosen were as follows:

Directors. - L. C. Challiss, George H. Fairchild, P. T. Abell, S. C. Pomeroy, L. D. Bird, C. K. Holliday, F. L. Crane, E. G. Ross, Joel Huntoon, M. C. Dickey, Jacob Safford, R. H. Weightman and J. H. Stringfellow.

Officers - C. K. Holliday, President; P. T. Abell, Secretary; M. C. Dickey, Treasurer.

The terrible drought of 1860 totally paralyzed every business enterprise of the Territory, and with the organization completed as above stated, the work on the road was held in abeyance till more propitious times should warrant a beginning that might promise success. The famine was so complete and general as to completely impoverish the whole farming community. In the natural course of events, should no further disasters befall them, it seemed unlikely that the settlers could so far recuperate as to rended any adequate aid to the project for years to come.

At this juncture, the directors determined to press the claims of Kansas for a national subsidy, and, as early as the session of 1859-60, C. K. Holliday and his associates were in Washington, urging the claims of their enterprise. Every session of Congress thereafter saw an efficient delegation of lobby members from Kansas, working with discretionary zeal for a land grant for the great trans-continental (sic) railway, till the desired aid was obtained. March 3, 1863, by act of Congress, a grant of land was made to the State of Kansas, giving alternate sections, one mile square, ten in width, on either side of the proposed road, amounting to 6,400 acres per mile, on condition that it should be finished within, or at the expiration of, ten years from the approval of the act. The grant was accepted by the State, and transferred to the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, *February 9, 1864.

* A new charter was granted by the Kansas State Legislature, March 3, 1863, under the above name, absorbing the rights and franchises of the A. & T.

The war of the rebellion was then at white heat, especially in Kansas, and little could be done further than to keep up the organization and hold secure the land grants conferred upon the road as a basis of credit for the ultimate completion of the road. February 17, 1864, eight days after the land grant was legally in the possession of the corporation, a meeting of stockholders was holden for the purpose of electing officers, and such other business as the new order of things required.

The first officers under the land grant were as follows:

Directors - S. C. Pomeroy, L. C. Challis, B. F. Stringfellow, Atchison; D. L. Lakin, Jefferson County; C. K. Holliday, F. L. Crane, Jacob Safford, Topeka; H. W. Farnsworth, Kaw Agency; S. N. Wood, Council Grove; Joseph Frost, Lyon County; W. R. Saunders, Coffey County; W. F. M. Arny, Santa Fe.

Officers - S. C. Pomeroy, President; S. N. Wood, Vice President; C. K. Holliday, Secretary; D. L. Lakin, Treasurer.

A committee was appointed to open books and procure subscriptions for the stock. They were to offer the stock first to citizens of the State, and failing in thus procuring the desired support, were to operate in the Eastern monetary centers. The committee consisted of S. C. Pomeroy, S. M. Wood, Jacob Safford and C. K. Holliday.

A committee, consisting of Jacob Safford, C. K. Holliday and D. L. Lakin, was appointed to draft an act and work it through the Kansas Legislature, authorizing the counties along the proposed line to loan their credit to the proposed road. This committee had the honor of framing and presenting the first bill which inaugurated the granting of local subsidies to railroads in Kansas. Their labors resulted successfully in the passage of a bill, March 1, 1864, authorizing the counties of Atchison, Jefferson, Shawnee and other counties, through and near which the proposed line was to pass, to issue their corporate bonds to the road for a like amount of stock, the limited maximum of such issue being $200,000 for any single county, and such issue not to be made except after the proposal had been submitted, to and accepted by, the voters and tax-payers of each county. Under the provisions of this act, subsidies were voted by the counties along the line of the proposed road, as follows: Atchison County, $150,000; Jefferson County, $200,000; Shawnee County, $250,000; Osage County, $150,000; Lyon County, $200,000.

C. K. Holliday, as one of the stock committee before mentioned, went to New York during the spring of 1864, and there first presented the merits of the project to the attention of Eastern capitalists, with a view to negotiating the stock and contracting or otherwise providing for the building of the road. He returned without consummating any definite arrangement, and reported progress. S. C. Pomeroy, taking up the work where Mr. Holliday had left it, repaired to New York, and early in 1865, effected a negotiation with Willis Gaylord, whereby sufficient stock was disposed of and means otherwise secured to warrant the construction of the road. The first contract was made with George W. Beach and his associates - A. P. Balch, of Hanover, N. H., and Messrs. Dodge, Lord & Co., Cincinnati. Beach came to Topeka in the summer of 1865, with a view to beginning the work. He seems to have been a man of good intentions, great pretensions, and of more than ordinary executive ability. He lacked, however, the money required to start the undertaking, and could not inspire his associates with sufficient confidence to induce them to invest under his management. It is unnecessary to recount the various and ever-futile attempts made by him to even begin the work. Months and even years went by, during which, in the words of a chronicler of the times, Beach endured and "Iliad of woes" - no less, perhaps, than the impatient directors, who were powerless, till the expiration of the time of his contract, to help themselves - but the road remained unbuilt and unbegun.

In the spring of 1868, C. K. Holliday, D. L. Lakin and Jacob Safford, being in New York, met Thomas J. Peter, then a civil engineer of acknowledge ability, who had been for years successfully engaged in railroad building in the Western States. They prevailed on him to visit Kansas and look into the merits of their project, then quietly reposing under the terms of Beach's unfulfilled contract. His visit resulted in the purchase of Mr. Beach's interest, or rather in his withdrawal, and the organization of a new construction company. The new organization, with Mr. Peter as Chief Engineer and General Manager, combined all the elements to insure success, viz.: the best engineering skill, practical energy, and the command of ample credit and ready means.

The members were: T. J. Peter, Charles W. Pierce, Carlos Pierce, Henry Keyes, C. K. Holliday, D. L. Lakin, M. L. Sargent, Jacob Safford, Emmonds Raymond, Boston; A. P. Balch, Hanover, N. H.; Thomas Sherlock, Geroge A. Hill, H. C. Lord, N. Lord, Jr., F. Dodge and H. Stearnes, Cincinnati; C. J. Broadwell, Willis Gaylord, G. Opdyke, Dr. Caswell, J. W. Ellis, Perkins, Livingstone & Post, New York; A. E. Burnside, Rhode Island; B. M. Smith and W. Dennison, Columbus, Ohio.

In October, 1868, nearly ten years after the granting of the first charter, the work of building the road was begun at Topeka, by the construction company, under the direction of Thomas J. Peter. The road was first built southward in order to reach, as soon as possible, the coal region of Osage County. The work was pushed with an energy and rapidity hitherto unparalleled in the history of railroad construction. The progress and completion of the work is shown below.

Road commenced at Topeka in October, 1868; opened to Carbondale, 18 miles from Topeka, July, 1869; to Burlingame, 27 miles, September, 1869; to Osage City, 35 miles, May, 1870; to Reading, 45 miles, June, 1870; to Emporia, 62 miles, July, 1870; to Cottonwood, 82 miles, March, 1871; to Florence, 107 miles, May, 1871; to Peabody, 119 miles, June, 1871; to Newton, 136 miles, July ,1871; to Sedgwick, 147 miles, April, 1872; to Wichita, 163 miles, May, 1872; Atchison to Topeka, 49 miles, May, 1872; Newton to Hutchinson, 217 miles from Atchison, June, 1872; to Great Bend, 269 miles, July, 1872; to Larned, 291 miles, August, 1872; to Dodge City, 351 miles, September, 1872; to the western State line, 470 miles, December 23, 1872. Time of building, four years and three months.

The road was completed as far as Burlingame by the "construction company," at which point the contract was canceled by the company, as such, nearly all the members being also stockholders in the road, and the building was thenceforward carried on to its completion under the direction of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Co., Mr. Peter remaining as the General Manager until the road was finished.

It is not within the scope of this work to follow this road in detail through the vicissitudes of its growth to the colossal proportions it has attained, further than to note its extensions and acquisitions from year to year until the trunk road with its various branch connections owned or controlled by the company, comprises of itself one of the most important railway systems of the nation.

The trunk line as now (1881) completed, extends through the southwestern part of Colorado, thence in a southerly direction as far as Deming, New Mexico, having a continuous trunk line of 1,133 miles. The New Mexico Division was opened to Santa Fe February 16, 1880; to Alberquerque, April 15, 1880; to San Marcial, October 1, 1880; and to Deming, where the line connects with the Southern Pacific Railroad of California, March 10, 1881. The extension of the trunk line through New Mexico in 1880 to its present terminus was 400 miles in length.

At the time the grant was made (1864) there could not have been along the whole proposed line in the counties above named to exceed 5,000 inhabitants. During the period of its construction (1868 to 1873) emigration set strongly to the counties along the road, and at the time of its completion the population aggregated not far from 40,000. During the succeeding seven years it increased to 125,000, and is now estimated at the close of the first decade (1883) at 140,000.

[TOC] [part 3] [part 1] [Cutler's History]