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[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.]



Letter/IconROM 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outline of the principal wagon roads in use during the period of about fifteen years immediately before they were superseded by the railway system of the state.

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   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 officer at



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.
   Thomas Ewing, in his report as secretary of the interior for 1849, in urging the building of a road of some kind to the Pacific, said: "Opinion as expressed and elicited by two large and respectable conventions, recently assembled at St. Louis and Memphis, points to a railroad as that which would best meet the wants and satisfy the wishes of our people. But what that road will be, and where and by whom constructed, must depend upon the action of Congress."
   Asa Whitney, a merchant of New York, engaged in trade with China, made the first definite proposition for building a Pacific railway. His first memorial to Congress on the subject was presented in 1845. In the third memorial, presented in March, 1848, he proposed to build a road from Lake Michigan to the Pacific coast, an estimated distance of 2,030 miles, on condition that the United States should sell him a strip of land sixty miles wide along the line at sixteen cents an acre; such lands, or their proceeds which might be left after the road was built, should be reserved to keep it in operation and repair until it should become self-sustaining, and the remainder should then revert to the grantee or builder of the road. Whitney estimated that only the first eight hundred miles of the grant of land would be valuable, and he calculated that the cost of the road would be $60,000,000.
   The committee on roads and canals of House of Representatives submitted a report on this memorial in March, 1850. They approved the project for the following reasons: That it would cement the commercial, social, and political relations of the East and the West; would be a highway for the commerce of Europe and Asia to the great advantage of this country; would tend to secure the peace of the world; and would transfer to the United States part of the commercial importance of Great Britain. The committee preferred Whitney's plan to any of the others because it was a purely private enterprise in which the government would be in no way entangled; because the route had fertile land and timber in greater quantities than any of the more southerly routes; because the rivers could be bridged more easily on this route; because owing to the dryness of the atmosphere, the snowfall was less than on other routes; because the northern passes are lower than those of the south; because perishable products could be carried more safely than on the warmer southern routes; because the higher the latitude the shorter the distance to be traveled; because the plan created the means for self-execution; and because no other plan proposed to lower the cost of transportation.
   These reasons anticipated, substantially, all that were afterward urged to the same purpose. Bills embodying Whitney's proposition were introduced into both houses in 1850, but no vote was taken on either. Before the end of the thirty-second Congress the project of Pacific railways had come to be of leading importance. Senator Gwin of California introduced a bill for the building of a main line and branches involving the magnificent distance of 5,115 miles. The main line was to run from San Francisco, through Walker's Pass and New Mexico, and down the Red river to Fulton in southwestern Arkansas. A numerous family of branches was to spring from this trunk, running to the north and to the south. Lewis Cass struck the keynote of the knell of this overdone enterprise: "It is



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.
   The origination of important public measures or policies and procuring their enactment into law or their practical introduction and administration is a test of great statesmanship. Stephen A. Douglas, the father of organic Nebraska, exhibited great prescience and capacity for practical leadership in recognizing the importance, and instituting a method of protecting the rights of the public under the railway land grant system which he, probably more than any other statesman, was instrumental in establishing. He pushed through Congress the first railway land grant, by which the state of Illinois received 2,595,000 acres of land, which in turn was granted by charter February 10, 1851, to the Illinois Central railway company, to be used in constructing its first line of 705 1/2 miles. Douglas had defeated a previous attempt to grant this land direct to an irresponsible company, and also a corrupt attempt by the legislature to bestow it upon the same interests; and he then procured the insertion in the charter of the Illinois Central company a provision that it should pay to the state annually five per cent of its gross earnings. By agreement, after two years this payment was increased to seven per cent, and the requirement to pay this amount was embodied in the state constitution of 1870. In the year 1900 the revenue paid to the state on this 705 miles of road, through the foresight and imperious influence of Douglas, was $784,093, and in 1901 it was $844,133. If Douglas had remained in the Senate through the prodigal and prolific period of railway land grants, many millions of acres of the best lands would have been saved for direct homestead settlement, and the country would have been saved from a long

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From an engraving in the History of Wyoming by C. G. Coutant.


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 frantically con-



demned the principle and sought to recover from the grabbers the rich booty which they had acquired under the form of the law.
   Douglas was a pioneer projector of a Pacific railway, and in a speech in the United States Senate, April 17, 1858, in advocating a Pacific railway bill he said: "I suppose that Kansas City, Wyandott, Weston, Leavenworth, Atchison, Platte's Mouth City, Omaha, De Soto, Sioux City, and various other towns whose names have not become familiar to us, and have found no resting place on the map, each thinks it has the exact place where the road should begin. Well, sir, I do not desire to have any preference between these towns; either of them would suit me very well; and we leave it to the contractors to decide which shall be the one . . . I am unwilling to postpone the bill until next December. I have seen these postponements from session to session for the last ten years, with the confident assurance every year that the next session we should have abundance of time to take up the bill and act upon it . . . I care not whether you look at it in a commercial point of view, as a matter of administrative economy at home, as a question of military defense, or in reference to the building up of the national wealth, and power, and glory; it is the great measure of the age -- a measure, that in my opinion has been postponed too long." Douglas had made precisely the same complaint regarding the disappointing delays in the passage of his bills for organizing the territory of Nebraska, and in this speech he originated the idea which was carried out in the Pacific railway bill enacted in 1862, leaving the builders of the road to determine the route between the termini. This enterprise was pressed without cessation by Congress after Congress until the passage of a bill in 1862.
   In the course of this speech, Douglas throws much light on the general question of the construction of the Pacific railway, as it was regarded at that time, and also on the efforts which had been made to carry out the enterprise. He began in a tone of deprecation and disappointment:

    I have witnessed with deep regret the indications that this measure is to be defeated at the present session of congress. I had hoped that this congress would signalize itself by inaugurating the great measure of connecting the Mississippi valley with the Pacific Ocean by a railroad. I had supposed that the people of the United States had decided that question at the last presidential election in a manner so emphatic as to leave no doubt that their will was to be carried into effect. I believe that all the presidential candidates at the last election were committed to the measure. All the presidential platforms sanctioned it as a part of their creed . . . Various objections have been raised to this bill, some referring to the route, involving sectional considerations; others to the form of the bill; others to the present time as inauspicious for the construction of such a railroad under any circumstances. I have examined this bill very carefully. I was a member of the committee which framed it. I am free to say that I think it is the best bill that has ever been reported to the senate of the United States for the construction of a Pacific railroad. I say this with great disinterestedness, for I have heretofore reported several myself, and I believe I have invariably been a member of the committees which have reported such bills.
   Douglas did not conceal his impatience with the "state rights" objection to the Pacific railway scheme. To evade this difficulty the measure was named a "bill to authorize the President of the United States to contract for the transportation of the mails, troops, seamen, munitions of war, and all other government service by railroad, from the Missouri river, to San Francisco in the state of California"; and on this point Douglas said:

   Some gentlemen think it is an unsound policy, leading to the doctrine of internal improvements by the federal government within the different states of the union. We are told we must confine the road to the limits of the territories and not extend it into the states, because it is supposed that entering a state with this contract violates some great principle of state rights. The committee considered that proposition, and they avoided that objection, in the estimation of the most strict, rigid, tight-laced, state-rights men that we have in the body. We struck out the provision in the bill first drawn, that the president should contract for the construction of a railroad from the Missouri river to the Pacific Ocean, and followed an example that we found on the statute books for carrying the mails from Alexandria to Richmond, Va. --



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.
   The present day imperialist may find more than a crumb of comfort in the high estimate which the great promoter of organization and transportation for the trans-Missouri region put upon the value of Pacific commerce:

    Sir, if we intend to extend our commerce; if we intend to make the great ports of the world tributary to our wealth, we must prosecute our trade eastward, or westward as you please; we must penetrate the Pacific, its islands, and its continent, where the great mass of the human family reside, where the articles that have built up the powerful nations of the world have always come from. That is the direction in which we should look for the expansion of our commerce and of our trade. That is the direction our public policy should take a direction that is facilitated by the great work now proposed to be made.

   The select committees of the two houses agreed upon the form of a bill presented by Douglas in January, 1855.
   This bill contemplated three lines, one from the western border of Texas to the Pacific coast in the state of California, to be called the Southern Pacific railroad; another from a point on the western border of Missouri or Iowa to San Francisco, to be called the Central Pacific; and the third from the western border of Wisconsin, in the territory of Minnesota, to the Pacific coast in Oregon or Washington, to be known as the Northern Pacific railroad. It is a curious fact that railroads were subsequently built substantially as indicated in this bill, and were called by the same names which Douglas proposed, except that the eastern part of the central line was known as the Union Pacific. These roads were to be built by the aid of subsidies of lands and bonds granted by the United States, but the bidders who were to construct them were required to agree to turn them over to the United States after a certain number of years, and the roads were then to become the property of the several states through which they should pass. This remarkable bill passed the Senate in February, 1855, by a vote of 24 to 21. In the House it had almost as stormy a time as the Kansas-Nebraska bill had met with the year before, but it was defeated chiefly through the now chronic and insurmountable sectional difficulties. Salmon P. Chase was the author of the first Pacific railway bill which was passed by Congress in 1853, but it provided only for money to defray the expense of exploring routes for the proposed road.
   The solicitude of democrats of the old school to avoid trespassing upon the "rights" of a state is illustrated in the remarks of Lyman Trumbull, then a democratic senator from Illinois, in the final debate on the act of 1862: "The northern boundary of Kansas is on the 40th parallel of latitude, and in case the points selected should be below that on the Missouri river, it would be necessary, in my opinion, to have the consent of the state of Kansas to the construction of the road."
   Mr. Trumbull stoutly objected to the branch lines from the Missouri to connect with the main line, and he contended at the outset for having "one road from the Missouri river to the eastern boundary of California and to get rid of all the branches." Senator Harlan of Iowa, on the other hand, contended that it would be both discreet and just to give the four lines that were coming from the East to the Missouri river across the state of Iowa, as also roads "that are intended to form the connection at the mouth of the Kansas river," the benefit of a share in the proposed bounty, so as to make their connections in the most favorable way, and to secure or enhance their friendship for the main enterprise. Mr. Doolittle of Wisconsin seconded Harlan. He characterized the Union Pacific project as "the most gigantic work that was ever performed by man on the face of the earth, so far as any material work is concerned in the development of the world; there is nothing like it. I undertake to say that to build a Pacific railroad, unless you can combine the railroad interests to push it on, is an impos-

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