Tinkham Chapter XVIII

Chapter XVIII


The building of this overland railroad was the greatest enterprise in the nation's history of that period, and regardless of the "roast" criticisms and abuse that have been showered upon the four builders, Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, Collis P. Huntington and Charles Crocker, they stand as among the state's greatest benefactors and they are entitled to high praise (1).

For many years the people of California had been talking of a railroad across the Sierras. Some said that it could be built, some that it was an impossibility. William M. Gwin introduced the subject to Congress in 1854. He proposed a southern line (where now runs the Santa Fe), its western terminus San Diego. Then came sectional jealousy and the northern Congressmen fought for a northern line, over the Lewis and Clark survey of 1804, now the James Hill road, ending in Oregon. Then came the Civil war and the northern nen at once saw the helpless condition of the Pacific coast. They saw that an overland railroad was a necessity, a war measure, for the transportation of troops. A central overland bill was introduced by Senator James A. Mcdougall, granting money and lands to the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads. The bill passed both houses and July 1, 1862, it was signed by Abraham Lincoln (2).

It need not be stated that there was much preliminary work before even this much was accomplished. It was necessary to interest the people that they would be willing to bond the counties through which ran the road. In California in 1860 a Pacific railroad convention was held. Nearly all of the counties in the state sent their delegates. The attention of the convention was called to the fact that, in case of civil war, the state was in a dangerous position both from civil and foreign foes. They were reminded that commerce and trade were greatly retarded because of the long delay in shipping goods from the east. Then there was the China and Japan trade which might be controlled through an overland road. The resolutions were unanimously adopted advocating the Pacific railroad. The Central Pacific was then organized in June, 1861, and the directors employed fine speakers to travel over the state advocating the issuing of bonds. The scheme was well planned and soon the people went wild over the railroad questions and the issuing of bonds (3).

Governor Stanford at the end of his term of office gave his entire attention to the work of construction, and February 22, 1863, at the foot of K street, in the presence of the Legislature and a large crowd of citizens, the ex-Governor shoveled the first earth of the road. Speeches were made by Charles Crocker, J. H. Warwick, the actor, and Leland Stanford. In his address Stanford predicted that in 1870 the road would be finished. In November, 1867, the road was in running order to the highest point of the Sierras, 105 miles, and 6,300 feet above sea level. An excursion train, bearing the officers, a half dozen editors and several ladies, was run to that point November 30th.

In the winter of 1869 track laying was rapidly carried on by the Union and the Central Pacific, each company racing for the bonus given for extra road building. In May the Central Pacific were fast moving on Promontory point, and May 10th was the day set for the driving of the last spike. A celebration was arranged for the grand event. Sacramento was the place selected. The telegraph lines had been arranged, so at the first blow of the hammer driving the spike the news would be telegraphed to all parts of the United States. From 5 in the morning until 10 o'clock thousands began assembling in Sacramento from Reno, Nevada; Stockton and San Francisco. The twenty-one locomotives of the company were drawn up in line on the water front and as the signal was given the engineers opened wide their whistles. The noise of whistles, bells and cannon for a time drowned out all human speech. There was an immense procession, an oration by Governer Haight, a poem and vocal and instrumental music. The day was also honored at San Francisco by a procession, decorations, an oration and an illumination; at Placerville and yreka by bell ringing and illuminations, and at Stockton by bells and a salute of thirty-eight guns.

October 31st the Pacific railroad was completed from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Two months earlier the railbed was laid to Stockton and August 11th Sacramento and Stockton for the first time extended friendly greetings. An excursion had been planned and the Sacramento pioneers became the guests of the pioneers of the San Joaquin. About a fourth of the population of the capital accompanied the pioneers, and about 11 o'clock a.m. forty-two cars, drawn by two locomotives, rounded the curve of the road into Stockton. The firemen, pioneers, mayor and council and "the town" were in waiting to meet their Sacramento brethren and with music and flying banners they marched on the principal streets. Collations were spread for all of the visiting organizations and at 5 o'clock homeward they returned.

In 1860 a miner named William Reed, while prospecting for gold in the Sierras east of Stockton discovered copper. The mines were opened and an immense bed of copper ore was found. A railroad project was next started and in 1862 the Stockton & Copperopolis road was organized. It was believed that the frieght of copper alone would pay all running expenses. San Joaquin county gave the company bonds to the amount of $100,000. The government granted sections of land on each side of the road. In December, 1870, the citizens of Stockton were delighted when the first locomotive ran over a principal street to the water front (4). Ten miles of roadbed in good running order were laid. Then the bottom fell out of copper.

The stockholders could not extend the road. It was then purchased by the Central Pacific. To obtain the bonds and the land, they built the road thirty miles to Milton.

The Copperopolis line was the fourth railroad than running in California. The pioneer of the coast was the Sacramento & Folsom. It was built by the enterprising merchants of Sacramento to catch the trade of the miners of the southern mines. The twenty-two miles of road were completed in February, 1856, and February 22nd a free excursion was given. The Legislators were invited. They were also given passes for themselves and families. The road was a paying proposition from the beginning, as over 8,000 tons of merchandise was weekly landed at the Sacramento wharf, consigned to the mining camps.

The second railroad, known as the California Pacific, was projected from Sacramento to Vallejo in 1857. County subsidies amounting to $120,000 were given to the road. Lack of money, however, retarded its progress. It was not completed until 1869. Then a bitter fight took place between that road and the Central Pacific over the crossing. The Central Pacific had laid their line along the entire water front, and the California Pacific could not enter the city from the Yolo county side. Finally in April, 1871, the California Pacific, through its president, Milton S. Latham, sold out to the Central Pacific.

The third railroad enterprise was the San Jose & San Francisco, which was chartered August 16, 1860. The citizens of the counties were desirous of a railroad and the Legislature authorized the people to vote upon the issuing of $500,000 in bonds to the stockholders (5). The contract to build the road was led to A. H. Houstan and Charles McLaughlin (6) and January 16, 1864, the first train, an excursion, ran from San Francisco to San Jose. The train was drawn by a locomotive built in San Francisco by H. J. Booth. In 1869 this road was extended to Gilroy.

The first regular passenger train from the east arrived at Oakland November 8th. This was preceded some five weeks by an overland excursion train. It was chartered by the Sovereign Grand Lodge, I. O. O. F., assembling that year in San Francisco. The Grand Lodge at the state line were met by brothers from Sacramento, and tarrying in that city for a day, September 15th, they laid the cornerstone of the Odd Fellows' temple. Spending an hour with Nathan Porter, of Alameda, September 16th, they were then transported to San Francisco. There they were welcomed by the order in California and under the escort of the National Guard and a procession of several thousand Odd Fellows, they passed through the principal streets to the California theater, where several addresses were made. The next day they made an excursion around the bay and out upon the Pacific, and during their stay they were royally entertained by brethren and citizens. It was an important occasion, as they were the first national organization to visit California. Others were to follow, but many years intervened.

Many years before the completion of the overland, local lines were running and one of these lines ran from Oakland to Brooklyn, a distance of six miles. As Oakland lies upon the beach, to reach the ferryboat and deep water a wharf three-fourths of a mile was constructed. Trains were running over this line by September, 1863, and in April, 1865, Brooklyn was reached. Three years later (July 4, 1869) the first of those terrible accidents took place at the ferry landing. A large crowd from San Francisco visited the parade in Oakland. As the Oakland visitors werfe about to return to the metropolis by the 5 o'clock boat, they met upon the apron the crowd from the bay city. Jamming and pushing, the weight was too heavy. The chains holding up the apron broke andover a hundred persons were thrown into the water. Two heroic Italians, with others, jumped overboard to save life, and although the Italians saved a dozen persons, they were drowned, together with twenty more.

The most fickle guide to things right or wrong, just or unjust, is public opinion. For twenty years the people were clamoring for railroads. When the opportunity was offered they gave liberally of their money and time to railroad propositions. In less than ten years the people were as bitterly fighting the railroads as previously they had been praising them. For this change of sentiment here were many causes. Some reasons were just, others unjust. The causes of complaint were all local, and the first came from Alameda county. That county gave bonds to the "Western Pacific," on condition that all of the money should be expended for road building in that county. The Western Pacific, unable to carry on the work, sold out to the Central Pacific. That company, building four hundred miles of roadbed, foundit inadvisable to perform special work in Alameda county. They refused to deliver the bonds. The railroad commenced suit and for nearly forty years Alameda county was at enmity with the Central Pacific.

I have not the space to enumerate one-quarter of the battles between the people and the railroad. One only will I record, that of San Francisco over the Goat island terminus. The metropolis voted bonds in large amounts, but when they learned that Sacramento was to be the terminus of the Central Pacific the supervisors refused to issue the bonds. Later Stanford acquired the Western Pacific and the road was extended to Oakland. San Francisco was first jealous of the capital. Now she is jealous of Oakland, and fearing that Oakland would get all of the interior trade, San Francisco asked the Central Pacific to bridge the bay and run their trains into San Francisco. The company agreed to the proposition, provided the metropolis voted the company bonds to the amount of $3,000,000 to build the bridge. The citizens voted the bonds. Again the supervisors held them up. Then was begun a long contested lawsuit.

Unable to quickly win the suit, and naturally irritated because of the fight, the Central Pacific now sought a permanent terminus of the road. Oakland proper was out of the question, as the low marsh lands prevented the docking of steamers either large or small. Compelled to make deep water their terminal point, the company petitioned the government for Goat island. Then arose the merchants of San Francisco as one man and strongly protested. Searching diligently, they found engineers who asserted that the occupation of Goat island by a bridgeway would injure its military defense. And the Chamber of Commerce March, 1872, appointed a committee of one hundred to defeat the measure in Congress if possible. The government refused to permit the occupation of the island.

Oakland was wise and some time previous (March 10, 1868) the Legislature, at the request of Oakland, granted the Central Pacific submerged and tide lands for depots and commercial facilities. The company at once took possession of these lands, filling in a solid roadbed from Oakland to deep water. They constructed a depot of glass and iron and made further improvements amouting to millions of dollars. From that point ferryboats began running to San Francisco, steaming the four and on-half miles in fifteen minutes.

Fifteen years passed; the animosity against the railroad was greatly lessened and once more the Goat island subject came before the people. Now public sentiment favored the Central Pacific; the citizens of the state and many in San Francisco said, "Let the railroad occupy the island." In March, 1893, the Legislature in joint session passed a resolution calling upon the California representatives in Congress to use all legitimate means to secure the passage of a bill ceding Goat island to California, that she might lease it to the Central Pacific and not a voice was raised in opposition. Again in 1895 the subject was brought forth in the Senate, and now the state is willing that the railroad should occupy Goat island. It is well adapted for a railroad terminus and San Francisco could be reached by ferry in ten minutes.

Completing the central division of the great overland railroad, the company in 1872 began building a railroad down the valley. It was their object to connect at Mohave with the Atchison & Topeka, then building westward from New Orleans. The Central Pacific, along their proposed route, demanded tribute of every farmer and of every town. If the farmer or the town refused to accede to their "hold-up," then the rancher was put to every possible inconvenience and new towns were founded in opposition to those already established (7).

They began their Southern Pacific road at Lathrop, twelve miles south of Stockton. There they established a railroad center and built a fine large hotel. In the extension of the road the company in crossing the Tehachapi mountain performed a very remarkable piece of engineering work (8). After several years of labor and at a heavy expense, the natural obstacles were surmounted and upon reaching the desert "Mohave" was founded. A branch road in September, 1876, was completed to Los Angeles.

At all of their towns the company erected good hotels, comfortable depots and made them shipping or terminal stations. They laid their track over the sandy desert where roamed wild deer and jackrabbits by the thousands. The land was of no value except for pasture, and the traveler would journey for many miles, seeing no signs of civilization save bands of sheep and herders' tents. Twenty years have passed, and lo! what a wonderful change! The land then worth but $2.50 an acre arose to $50.00, $100.00 and even $200.00 per acre, after the irrigation canals were built. The desert was literally made to "blossom like the rose," gardens, orchards and vineyards covered the land. The counties grew with astonishing rapidity. Stanislaus, with a population in 1870 of 6,497, in 1890 had 10,040, increased in 1910 to 22,522; Merced in the same time from 2,097 to 8,035, and in 1910, 15,148; Tulare in 1870 had 4,533, in 1890 had 24,574, and in 1910 had 35,440. Fresno in population exceeded all. In 1870 the population was 6,336, in 1890 it rose to 32,026, and in 1910 to 75,657.

When the Southern Pacific, and a few years later the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railroad, entered Los Angeles the dawn of a new era arose in Southern California. They were no longer dependent upon the ocean steamer and the slow traveling coach for communication by the way of San Francisco with the outside world. The old Mexicans, born in adobe huts or upon ranchos, living indolent, lazy lives, were to witness under more favorable circumstances and under a higher form of civilization the repeated story of 1849. Again letters were sent east boasting of the climate, soil and wonderful productions of California. Tons of printed matter were there distributed, describing in glowing terms the "new south." Once again the name of California resounded along the Atlantic shore. Regarding the land of gold? No, the land of orange groves and health giving resorts. The distance was great, but the way was easy. No need now of an iron frame and a rugged constitution to reach the Golden State. No six months' journey across the plains or dangerous voyage upon the stormy waters was necessary. The pioneers, God bless them all, had made the way smooth and easy, and with only a five days' ride in a handsome palace coach the traveler could enter the new land and there find accommodations equal to those he left behind. The judicious advertising of Southern California soon produced results. The people came by the thousands and the tidal wave of 1849 was again repeated. Were they seekers of gold? No, some came to purchase land, millionaires visited the coast to spend the winter, and the sick came to regain their health. So large was this immigration Los Angeles was for a season called the "one lung city." The old pueblo became a live, hustling, bustling modern city. Her population increased with astonishing rapidity. In 1850 her population was only 1,610, in 1870 it was 5,728. From that on it jumped by leaps and bounds, in 1880, 11,383; 1890, 50,395; 1900, 102,479; and 1910, 310,108.

As the result of this "boom," which stopped not at Los Angeles, but spreading through all the smaller towns reached San Diego, the south grew with marvelous rapidity. The flush time which San Diego enjoyed in early days again returned, and awaking from her forty years of siesta she took on life, energy and enterprise, unparalleled by any other city of the coast, save her rival one hundred miles to the north. Her harbor, next to San Francisco the finest on the coast, was alive with steamers and ships, and her population, less than 5,000 in 1870, twenty years later had increased to 16,000, and in 1910 was 30,578. The county population during the same period increased from 8,618 to 34,987, and in 1910 was 61,665. The limits of the old pueblo were extended in every direction, fine blocks of stores and dwellings were erected, a magnificent summer resort costing a million and a half was built on Coronado Beach, and millions spent in constructing Sweet Water Dam, a magnificent piece of work.

  1. Collis P. Huntington, the financier of he Central Pacific, was born in New York October 22, 1821. His father was a wool merchant. Huntington at the age of twenty-two engaged in general merchandising. In 1849 he came to California and opened a store of hardware and miners' supplies in Sacramento. In 1855 he took in as his partner Mark Hopkins, and this partnership continued until Hopkins' death in March, 1878.

    Charles Crocker was another New Yorker, born September 16, 1822. At ten years of age he began working, as his parents were very poor. He worked upon a farm, in a sawmill, and in a forge and mastered the trade. Coming to California in 1850, two years later he engaged in the dry goods business in the capital city.

    Mark Hopkins, the oldest of the four railroad kings, was also born in New York, September 1, 1813. He was clerking at the age of sixteen, studying law eight years later, and landed in San Francisco in August, 1849. A few months later he reached Sacramento, and loading an ox team with groceries, traveled to Placerville and opened a general merchandising store.

    Leland Sanford we have already noticed in another part of this work.

    These four men in Huntington's store on K street listened attentively to an engineer and surveyor, Theodore D. Judah, while he explained to them the practicability, the importance and the possibilities of an overland railroad across the Sierras.

    These men believed such a railroad possible, and with a combined capital of only $200,000 they had the nerve to attempt to carry out an enterprise that would cost millions of dollars and several years of hard work.

    With the highest confidencre in T. D. Judah they organized the Central Pacific Railroad Company. Then Huntington and Judah visited Congress and succeeded with others in having passed the overland railroad bill. Then cme the work of construction. They were compelled to employ cheap labor. And as labor on this coast was scarce and high priced, agents were sent to China to import coolie laborers. They posted notices in the two Chinese ports of emigration, Canton and Hongkong, that the Central Pacific railroad wanted laborers. They would be given free passage to California and $25.00 per month. These coolies did nothing but pick and shovel work. I understand 6,000 were employed. Then there were the forests to cut, ties to make, bridges, sheds and buildings to erect, rock to blast and cars and locomotives to build, and this gave work to an army of mechanics and white laborers. In the Sierras alone, to say nothing of shop work, over 9,000 white men were employed for three years in various occupations. In their blasting over five hundred kegs of powder were used daily. The company ws compelled to ship all of their material from the east by ship and the freight on ten locomotives cost $20,000, the engines themselves costing $19,000 apiece.

  2. When the news arrived of the signing of the bill, California was celebrating our national day. About noon at Stockton the citizens were on parade. One of the citizens, turning to a second, inquired, "What's the bells ringing for?" Soon he learned, as down the street the newsboys ran shouting, "Extra, extra, signing of the Pacific railroad bill."

  3. The largest amount of bonds issued was in 1863. In that year San Joaquin county voted $250,000 in bonds to the Western Pacific andlater $100,000 to the Stockton & Copperopolis. Tuolumne and Calaveras counties each gave $50,000 to the Copperopolis road. El Dorado gave $250,000 to the Sacramento & Placerville. Sacramento voted $300,000 in bonds to the Central Pacific, taking in payment 3,000 shares of stock, and Placer county gave $250,000 in bonds provided the road ran through the county to the state line by the way of Clipper Gap and Dutch Flat. The company changed the route, yet they tried to collect the bonds, and under the name of the Dutch Flat swindle over thirty years the litigations were in court. San Francisco votged $1,000,000 in bonds to the Western and the Central Pacific. The Legislature voted the Central Pacific warrants calling for $200,000 at the completion of every twenty miles of road. The limit was fifty miles. The directors agreed to haul free of cost all exhibits for the state fair, all convicts and public messengers and all troops in time of war.

  4. Years later this street roadbed, over which ran tooting locomotives and long trains of freight cars, became an intolerable nuisance. There was no law, however, that could prevent it. Finally the merchants gave the Central Pacific $10,000 to remove their track. They expected, sharp enough, to have the council grant them much better accommodations along the west end of the street.

  5. On the question of bonds, San Mateo county voted yes 7,309, no 1,932; Santa Clara county, yes 1,467, no 735. Later by a large majority San Francisco county voted $600,000 in bonds. The common council refused to issue the bonds. When the Central Pacific obtained possession of the road they commenced suit against the city and won it.

  6. Charles McLaughlin, who later became a millionaire and one of the Central Pacific's principal agents, was shot and killed December 13, 1883, by Jerome B. Cox, a sub-contractor who did thousands of dollars worth of work for McLaughlin, and he refused to pay Cox. Time and time again Cox obtained judgment in the courts, but new trials were granted the defendant. After nearly twenty years of worry and trouble, Cox entered McLaughlin's office on the day mentioned and demanded a settlement for the $40,000 due him on past contracts. The men were alone. Outsiders, hearing three shots, rushed into the room. They found McLaughlin mortally wounded and dying. Cox declared that he shot in self-defense, as McLaughlin tried to stab him with a bowie knife. Cox was discharged in the preliminary examination. Public opinion justified Cox. After twenty-one years of litigation the courts gave Cox the money due. To honor the man, September 28, 1886, the united labor party made Cox their nominee for Govenor.

  7. The farmer who gave the company the right of way free of cost received as a compensation a siding or side track, or perhaps a flag station. Towns that put up money and gave the right of way were given depots and perhaps terminal privileges. If they refused, opposition towns were founded. A town was founded in opposition to Stockton and named Lathrop in honor of Stanford's wife, her maiden name. It was built to "cause the grass to grow in the streets of Stockton." Fortunately, the city had deep water communication with San Francisco bay. Modesto was founded and named Ralston. Because of Wm. C. Ralston's modesty, he refused this honor. The name was then changed to Modesto, a Spanish word meaning modest. Then came the fight with Knights Ferry for the county seat. Railroad money was freely used and Modesto won.

    Visalia with a population of 2,000 inhabitants ws unable to pay the tribute. Then the railroad founded Goshen, six miles distant. Bakersfield was a large town. They wouldn't cough up and Sumner was started only two miles away and the people of Bakersfield were compelled to walk to the new station. When the Santa Fe track was laid they ran to Visalia and Bakersfield, thus compelling the Southern Pacific to extend their lines.

    For nearly twenty-five years the state, or a large part of it, was antagonistic to the Southern Pacific. There were hundreds of reasons for this antagonism. I will take Stockton to illustrate a few of these reasons. Stanford asked for a right of way through a principal street near the water front. The council refused. He asked for another street. The council could not agree as to the street they would grant him. The company could not wait. They laid their track outside the city limits. Four years later the people extended the city limits beyond the roadbed. The coming of the railroad had increased the outside population. Stanford was compelled to pay city taxes and he was hot. Later a company of "honorable" citizens organized the Stockton & Visalia road. It was their agreed purpose to build a railroad from Stockton to Visalia. It was to be an opposition road to the Southern Pacific. The city and county went wild and voted them $500,000 in bonds. The citizens built a road ten miles south rom Peters, a station on the Copperopolis road. Then they sold out to Stanford. He called for the bonds. After twenty years of litigation a compromise was made of $300,000. During this time the Southern Pacific did all things possible to injure the city. Maps were published; Stockton was not on the map. Lathrop, with less than two hundred inhabitants, was a large dot. Thousands of tons of wheat were then being raised and shipped. Stockton was a wheat depot, but the company carried wheat to Port Costa, a fifty-mile farther haul, twenty-five per cent cheaper than they would bring it to Stockton. For years the city was a way station, not a terminal point, and freight shipped from the east consigned to Stockton merchants ws not side-tracked here until it had gone to Oakland and returned. We had at that time a railroad commission. They were presumed to regulate these railroad grievances. But as Governor Johnson said in his campaign speech in 1914, "You had the railroad and the railroad was the commission. The railroad commission did one work * * * it drew its salary every month for thirty years."

  8. The roadbed there crossing itself forms a complete loop three-fourths of a mile in length. The highest point of the road is 3,694 feet. In reaching the loop the train was compelled to travel fifty-five miles.

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