Publication: The Telegrapher
New York, NY, United States
A Fortnight on the Pacific Railroad.
ON a beautiful Sunday morning in October the writer seated himself in a Pullman palace car at Omaha, for the purpose of taking a hurried trip over the Pacific Railroad, to witness the marvelous growth and development of the country, and revisit the scenes of early days.
Nearly a dozen years before I had started westward, but under far different circumstances. Then I was the owner of a No. 1 bull whip and the manager of four yoke of as lively steers as ever came under the yoke at sound of my gentle voice. Now I was comfortably seated, and each hour, day and night, passed over what before had been a day's journey. Au hour's ride brought us to the famed Platte Valley, up whose broad, fertile bosom we traveled nearly four hundred miles. On the right hand are the Union Pacific wires-numbers one and two under control of the Atlantic and Pacific Telegraph Company. They are well put up on cross-arms, with flint glass insulators of the best quality, and supported by good pine and cedar poles about twenty feet in length. Twenty-five to thirty are used to the mile. Number one wire is used by the railroad company, and is divided into four sections, to correspond with the divisions of the road between Omaha and Ogden. Number two wire is used as a through wire between Chicago and Ogden by the A. & P. Co., but is hardly adequate for their largely increasing business. A third hardly to Julesburg, thence new wires into Colorado, are contemplated next year. On the left side of the track are the Western Union wires-three in number. They are built in a very substantial manner, but in many places the poles have been reset so often as to leave nothing but short stubs, ten or twelve feet in heighth [sic] height. This, however, is no serious objection on the plains. One of this company's wires is used as a through wire between Chicago and San Francisco, but unless the weather is excellent the entire distance, hard work and poor time is the result. The other two wires are worked in short sections, as it has been found impracticable to work more than one long circuit on the same poles in this climate. Western Union offices are from forty to eighty miles apart, and operators are, in most cases, repairers.
We made splendid time up the Platte Valley. Everywhere is seen evidence of thrift and comfort among the settlers, who are rapidly filling up this country. Thriving towns have sprung up at every railroad station, and the operators have not "got left" in the general prosperity. Nearly all own their comfortable little homes, and from a quarter to a full section of farming land in the vicinity. Success to the boys. many of whom are old time friends. May they grow wealthy and great with the country!
On the morning after leaving Omaha I woke up in "my little bed" opposite Julesburg, 375 miles west, within a stone's throw of the spot where, ten years ago, I had woke up in my ox wagon (just a month on the road), cold and stiff, after having forded the Platte river the day previous. A limited wardrobe and a slim chance for breakfast then made my situation not at all enviable. How different now the scene! Rising in a warm and comfortable palace sleeping car, to find my boots polished, and hot or cold water to wash in-a good breakfast cooking twenty-five miles away, which we sit down to in forty minutes. How wonderful the contrast! How great the march of civilization, as shown by this. Leaving Julesburg and the South Platte to the south, our course is up the Lodge Pole Creek, a distance of nearly one hundred miles. Traveling up the Lodge Pole our sight is feasted on numerous villages of prairie dogs and countless herds of antelopes. Several shots from the baggage car put a band of the latter to rapid and beautiful flight.
After breakfast, at Sidney, all interest is centered in obtaining the first view of the Rocky Mountains. My practiced eye soon sights Long's Peak and adjacent ranges far to the left or south, their tops whitened with eternal snow, glistening in the morning sunlight. Still farther to the south is seen the majestic outlines of Pike's Peak, rearing its snow-crowned head high above the lesser beacons. Away in the north, dark colored and hazy, loom up the Black Hills.
At Hillsdale station, the operator has made the platform very attractive with a menagerie and a mineralogical and botanical display. The former contains one prairie dog, quite pretty and tame. The latter is better represented, and consists of petrifications of various kinds, animals' bones, etc., artistically arranged in a circle, with a pretty little spray fountain in the centre. In the water are moss agates and rare stones in abundance. Near by are arranged some fine specimens of the cactus, prickly pear, and artemesia giganticus. Leaving Lodge Pole to the right we cross the divide to Crow Creek, on which Cheyenne is situated. Here is the beginning of the system of snow sheds that are to obstruct the vision at short intervals for two hundred miles. At Cheyenne a good dinner awaits us. Mr. C. F. Annett, the courteous A. & P. manager, is ready with a welcome. I found time to run up town to the Western Union office, where I found two old friends-A. Snyder and Mr. Phippen-hard at work, but looking well fed and contented. The Western Union have two wires from this point to Denver, thence to Kansas City, which are used for eastern business when the Platte route is down.
Shortly after leaving Cheyenne we reach Sherman, at an elevation of 8,242 feet. A neat sign at the A. and P. office admonishes tourists to telegraph their friends "from the highest railroad point in the world." Near here, emblazoned on the bare walls of stupendous rocks, can be seen "S. T. 1860 X," and "Plantation Bitters;" evidence of an energy in advertising rarely witnessed. Two miles west is the Dale Creek Bridge, 125 feet high. After leaving the Black Hills we cross over the North Platte into the Bitter Creek land. This extends about 100 miles, and is as arid a desert as exists in Africa. The water is unfit to drink and poisonous. Stations are numerous, with one or two operators at each. The "Heathen Chinee" predominate as section men from here west-congenial company for the boys, and an inviting picture for your eastern city artist desirous of emigrating.
We reach Green River the second morning for breakfast. Near here are found moss agates and petrifactions in unlimited quantities. Three hours' ride brings us to Carter Station, where the Government have a wire to Fort Bridger, twelve miles south. Not far west of Carter's can be seen the quaking ash poles of the old California line, stretching its tortuous path over the hills on each side of the railroad. Deserted now, like the old Pony Express and Overland Stage, they remind one tenderly of departed friends.
"There's no time like the old time."
We cross the Wahsatch Mountains at noon, and descend into the celebrated Echo Canon, twenty-two miles long. At the mouth of the canon I tarried two days with my old Overland Stage friends, prince among whom is Jim Bromley, for many years one of Ben Holliday's most indefatigable superintendents. Every old time telegrapher on the plains will remember Bromley and his penchant for a good yarn. To his friends, with the most sublime audacity, he would introduce me as the "Fust man that jerked lightning through Echo Kanyou!" Of course this is an error, yet I relished the compliment keenly. Near here, on the Weber river, is Geo. W. Carleton, well known as the manager of Salt Lake office in early times. George is the owner of valuable coal mines, which, with the impetus mineral development has lately received in Utah, will yield him a fortune. At nightfall we arrived at Ogden. Next morning, in company with Manager Giles, of the A. and P., and. Manager Morrison, of the "C. P.," I visited Salt Lake.
The Deseret Telegraph Company, of which Brigham Young is President, have lines connecting the northern and southern Mormon settlements with Salt Lake. Business is exchanged with the A. and P. Between Ogden and Salt Lake the Deseret and W. U. wires occupy the same poles, and, in fact, wherever it is convenient to be so, they are found on Deseret poles. In the east this would be considered contaminating, but western men are more matter of fact people, and study economy as well as interest. In the City of Salt Lake large handsome poles have been erected by the Deseret Company, on which compound wire is strung in an artistic manner. The Western Union uses some of these wires, as Brigham does not propose that his shade trees or sidewalks shall be injured by the mercenary gentile. Mr. Musser is superintendent of the Deseret lines, and Mr. Dongall office manager. Both are pleasant and affable gentlemen, full of enterprise, and I understand make their lines pay.
The Western Union here is just now in a muddle in consequence of the removal of Mark Croxall, who has been manager for six or seven years. The primary cause is said to be his faith in the Latter Day Saints, and in that being offensive to the Federal officers. However this may be, it comes with bad grace after a knowledge of Croxall's religious proclivities since the date of his appointment. Mr. Ed. Conway, superintendent of the Western Union, is here, active and energetic as in the days of the Russian telegraph enterprise. He is acting manager of the office for the present, but anxiously waiting for a new appointment. Both companies have several branch offices, but I think they are not remunerative. The Deseret Company have their lines running into President Young's private office. B. Y. is the call, and I presume, when the faith of the saints waver, and they sigh for the flesh pots of Egypt, they may gain immediate inspiration from their spiritual bead. Charles E. Pomeroy, a well known telegrapher in the east, is here filling a responsible position in the First National Bank. Pomeroy, it Wes said, had departed front' the faith of his fathers, and was the husband of two or more wives. This he indignantly denied, and authorized me to make it as profane as I considered necessary, which I now do.
I remained in the City of the Saints several days, greatly impressed by the activity and energy displayed by the gentiles in their inroads upon the old Mormon regime of a bushel of wheat for a telegram, or a few pumpkins for admission into the theatre, The scene on Main street now, buying and selling mining stocks, reminds one of Broad street in its palmiest days, and indeed it does not take a prophet to foretell the early ascendancy of gentile rule in this city and territory.
Eastward' from Ogden to Laramie I fell in company with Mr. J. J. Dickey, of the Union Pacific lines, who is vigilant and untiring in looking after the interests of his company, making frequent trips over its entire length. Thence homeward my journey was rapid; arriving at Omaha I felt refreshed and invigorated, with a feeling of pride for the Pacific Railroad, that has made the desert to bloom, and brought distant hearts to beat in such close unison.
|Date completed:||December 15, 2005 by: Elton Gish;|