[NOTE -- Captain James H. Cook was a famous guide and scout in the Indian campaigns of the '70's and '80's. Afterward he became one of Nebraska's big ranchmen.]
THE PIONEER RAILWAY OF NEBRASKA
the time of the first emigrant travel to Oregon, Nebraska
has been traversed by a great national highway with many
important feeding branches converging into it. This fact, of
great commercial importance and historical interest, is due
to the intersection of the state by the great Platte valley,
a natural way for general travel, an unrivaled railway
route, and in the direct line of the most rapid and constant
territorial development and commercial progress toward the
West. In Chapter III these early roads have been traced and
described according to the best historical data available.
The first local record of them appears in the plats of the
surveys which began soon after the organization of the
territory, and, continuing down to and during the time in
which the first railway of the territory -- the Union
Pacific -- was constructed, afford an accurate outline of
the principal wagon roads in use during the period of about
fifteen years immediately before they were superseded by the
railway system of the state.
It is seldom that an important
discovery may be attributed to one man or assigned to a
specific date, and this is true also of the initiative or
suggestion of great enterprises; and so the idea of the
building of a Pacific railway was in the minds of many men,
simultaneously, and many years before it was practically
applied. The pioneers of Nebraska realized the importance of
a Pacific railway, and actually promoted the great project.
This is attested by the resolutions introduced by M. H.
Clark in the first territorial legislature, and by a notable
memorial to Congress, drafted by Wm. A. Gwyer, and adopted
at a mass meeting held in Omaha January 29, 1859. The Omaha
Republican gave an account of a meeting held at Omaha
for the purpose of encouraging immigration, which was
attended by George Francis Train, Major-General Samuel R.
Curtis, and Col. J. H. Simpson, all of whom were connected
with the building of the Union Pacific railroad. In his
speech, General Curtis said that in 1825 the commanding
Council Bluff (General Leavenworth) made an elaborate
report urging a Pacific railway as a military convenience,
and that General Frémont, when he explored the great
mountain pass at the head of the Platte valley, wrote on the
spot, "This will one day be the route of a railroad that
will span the continent from ocean to ocean." Progressive
temperament and quick insight, stimulated by lively
imagination, form a strong American characteristic. Within
two years of the time of the introduction of the steam
railway into America a Pacific railroad was proposed in the
Emigrant, a journal published at Ann Arbor, Michigan;
and in 1836, John Plumbe, a civil engineer, called the first
public meeting to promote the project, at Dubuque, Iowa.
General Curtis said that in 1839 he drew up a petition,
which was printed, signed by many, and forwarded to Mr.
Adams, who presented it in the House with commendations.
entirely too magnificent for me. I want a road, and for
the present I want one road, and only one road, for one is
all we can get now." In fact, neither the time nor the
method for building the road was ripe. This novel and
astounding enterprise was not to be the creature of a day.
It must be a growth. But the general method by which the
road was finally to be built was outlined in a substitute
for the Gwin bill known as the Rusk bill. This bill provided
that the President, with the aid of army and civil
engineers, should designate the most practicable route and
the termini of the railway, and the project should-have a
subsidy of alternate sections of land on each side of the
road, six miles in the states and twelve miles in the
territories, and in addition United States bonds in the
amount of $20,000,000. Though President Pierce favored this
bill or a bill of this kind, the unripeness of the times,
which means largely the impracticability of adjusting
sectional difficulties, defeated the bill.
From an engraving in the History of Wyoming by C. G. Coutant.
THOMAS C. DURANT SIDNEY DILLON THOMAS A. SCOTT
JAY GOULDOAKES AMES
series of grievous public scandals, and without impeding
proper and healthy railway extension. He might have induced
a policy of precaution or prevention instead of a policy,
like to that traditional typical feat of leaving the stable
door unlocked until the horse is stolen, which offered
opportunity for colossal land-grabbing and afterward
demned the principle and sought to recover from the
grabbers the rich booty which they had acquired under the
form of the law.
an act passed about the time when the resolutions of 1798
were passed, and the report of 1799 was adopted-an act that
we thought came exactly within the spirit of those
resolutions. . . There is nothing in this bill that violates
any one principle which has prevailed in every mail contract
that has been made from the days of Dr. Franklin down to the
elevation of James Buchanan to the presidency.