Early Transportation in Dutchess County--Part 2

By James H. Smith

Chapter XI

Early Railroad Enterprises in Duchess County-Duchess Railroad Co.-Poughkeepsie & Eastern Railroad Co.

        Early in the history of railroad enterprises the project of a railroad from Poughkeepsie to the rich and thriving regions of the Eastern States was agitated, but not until 1872 were the hopes then expressed fully realized. Some years before the first railroad in America was built, at Quincy, Mass., in 1826, in which year the first railroad company was chartered in this state, though the road was not in operation till 1831, a letter appeared in the Poughkeepsie Journal and another in the Telegraph, proposing a road from Poughkeepsie to Sharon, but the people of that day thought a canal from Amenia to the Hudson River would furnish better and more speedy means of communication, and a charter for such canal was obtained. In the discussion of the relative merits of the two projects, however, nothing was done. March 28,1832, the Duchess Railroad Co., of which William DAVIES and his associates were incorporators, was chartered to construct a railroad from Poughkeepsie to the Connecticut State line. William DAVIES, Henry CONKLIN, Paraclete POTTER, Homer WHEATON, and Morgan CARPENTER were appointed commissioners to receive subscriptions. The capital was fixed at $600,000. No action was taken under this charter, except that the project excited considerable discussion, and the route was surveyed, also a route to the State line in North East, Henry WHINFIELD and William DEWEY being the engineers. May 25,1836, the company was rechartered under the same title, and a capital of $1,000,000., but with greater latitude in the location of the route, which might extend from Poughkeepsie to the Massachusetts or Connecticut State line. Gideon P. HEWETT, James GRANT, Jr., Homer WHEATON, Peter P. HAYES, Isaac MERRITT, Abijah S. HATCH, John D. ROBINSON, Thomas WILLIAMS, Jacob VAN BENTHUYSEN, Matthew VASSAR, Samuel B. DUTTON, George P. OAKLEY and Henry CONKLIN were named commissioners to receive subscriptions. Beyond the surveying of routes east to Amenia and through Pine Plains to North East nothing was done under this charter, and the matter was allowed to sleep until 1855, when a meeting was called at Washington Hollow of all who were in favor of a road from the east part of the county to the Hudson. Quite a number were present from the central part of the county, and a few from Poughkeepsie, but during the meeting the question was agitated, as it was subsequently, whether the terminus should be in Poughkeepsie or Fishkill. The advocates of the latter terminus were in the majority and voted accordingly, whereupon the Poughkeepsie people withdrew from the enterprise, and it was dropped for ten years.
        The idea of a railroad, however, was not lost sight of, and renewed agitation resulted in the construction of a road from each place. Isaac PLATT, the senior editor of the Poughkeepsie Eagle was always a strong advocate of the Poughkeepsie route. He wrote in favor of it from 1826, and took occasion whenever opportunity offered to publish articles on the subject. Among these was a series of communications from the civil engineer, then residing at Poughkeepsie, whose statements attracted considerable attention, and new movements were proposed. The breaking out of the war in 1861, again put a stop to all operations, but some time in 1863, they were resumed, and the people began to feel something like a general interest in them. In the spring of 1865, there was quite an arousing on the subject. Another meeting was held at Washington Hollow, and hostility to Poughkeepsie again appeared. It was then that the representatives of Poughkeepsie resolved to abandon all action in that direction and act independently. A meeting was then called at Salt Point, which was adjourned for a more general one at Bangall. This latter meeting was largely attended, an organization under the general railroad law was formed, and it was resolved to have the requisite surveys made for the road, which was to be built from Poughkeepsie, via Pine Plains to Aancram or Copake and thence to the Connecticut line. The survey was made by P. P. DICKINSON, who reported February 15, 1866, the estimated cost of the road and equipments at $1,002,206.80. April 15, 1866, the Poughkeepsie & Eastern Railroad Co. was incorporated, with a capital of $1,000,000.00 to construct a road over the above route, with a branch at or near Salt Point to the Harlem Road at Wassaic. The first directors were: George INNIS, Isaac PLATT, James G. WOOD, George MORGAN, Harvey G. EASTMAN, and Robert F. WILKINSON, Poughkeepsie; Pomeroy P.DICKINSON, Birdsall CORNELL,AND William CORWIN, New York; William ENO, Pine Plains; Platt G. VAN VLIET and Stephen T. ANGELL, Pleasant Valley; James M. WELLING, Washington; Elihu GRIFFEN, Clinton; Issac CARPENTER, Standford; George PEASLEY and Conrad NIVER, Ancram.
        The first meeting of the directors was held at the office of the company in Poughkeepsie, April 28, 1866, and the following named officers were chosen: President, George INNIS; Vice-President, George MORGAN; Treasurer, Isaac G. SANDS; Secretary, Robert F.WILKINSON; Attorney, Mark D.WILBER; Chief Engineer, P. P. DICKINSON. George MORGAN, H. G. EASTMAN, James G. WOOD, Birdsall CORNELL, Platt G. VAN VLIET, William ENO, and Conrad NIVER were constituted an Executive Committee, with authority to employ agents in the city and towns to obtain subscriptions to stock.
        Meantime the opposition project of a railroad to Fishkill was revived with greater force, and, receiving a powerful ally in the person of George H. BROWN, of Washington, made rapid progress. Some of the Poughkeepsie people were in favor of a road more directly east from Amenia instead of the route to Pine Plains, and this idea was fostered as much as possible by the friends of the Fishkill road. At the same time a violent opposition displayed itself among the largest property holders and prominent men in Poughkeepsie, and but for George INNIS, President of the Fallkill Bank, the untiring energy of Mark D. WILBER, and the continued efforts of the Eagle, it is doubtful if the enterprise would not have dropped again, as it did on previous occasions. In October,1866, a series of meetings was held in the interest of the Poughkeepsie and Eastern Railroad at Washington Hollow, Bangall, and Pine Plains, and addresses were made by P. P. DICKINSON, George INNIS, Mark D. WILBER, H. G. EASTMAN, Isaac PLATT, and others. Subscriptions to the stock of the company were opened. It was proposed to raise $300,000 in this way before starting to build the road, but it was found that very little aid could be expected from the country, as the towns on which most dependence had been placed had become interested in the Fishkill road. After a long effort, mainly by a few men, at the head of whom Mr. WILBER continued to be most active and persistent, the subscription was given up, and it was decided instead to bond the city for $200,000 and obtain individual subscriptions for $100,000.
        By great labor and persistency, mainly through the persevering efforts of Mark D. WILBER, the project of bonding the city proved successful; and April 1, 1869, a small number of men proceeded to a point on the farm of John A. VAN WAGNER, just north of the crossing of the Salt Point turnpike, near the bank of the Fallkill, and there, without special ceremony, ground was broken for the Poughkeepsie & Eastern Railroad. In 1870, 15.26 miles of road were built; in 1871,5.57 miles; and in 1872,21.02 miles. Jan.24,1871,the opening of the first division of twenty-one miles, from Poughkeepsie to Stissing, was celebrated by an excursion over that portion of the road. In the fall of 1872, the road was completed to the Connecticut line, and October 1, 1872, trains commenced running regularly from Poughkeepsie to that point, a distance of forty-three miles. There then remained to be built the division between Smith Street in Poughkeepsie and the Hudson River, the grading on which was pretty much done, and the laying of the rails commenced. The road is 44.88 miles long. It follows the line of the Fallkill, and thence crosses to the valley of Wappingers Creek up which it continues to the north line of the county, thence passes east around the north end of the range of hills that enclose the Harlem Railroad, reaches the state line at the terminus of the Connecticut Western Railroad, near Millerton. It touches the Duchess and Columbia (now Newburgh, Duchess & Connecticut) at Stissing, and crosses the Harlem at Boston Corners.
        The stations and their distances on this road from Poughkeepsie in miles are as follows:

Van Wagner 3.79
Pleasant Valley 6.04
Russel’s 8.02
Salt Point 10.64
Clinton Corners 13.13
Willow Brook 15.72
Stanfordville 17.71
McIntyre 19.73
Stissing 21.02
Pine Plains 26.55
Ancram Lead Mines 30.59
Halstead’s 32.31
Tanner’s 34.28
Boston Corners 37.0
Mt. Riga 40.87
C.W. R. R. Junction 43.09
Millerton 44.88

        July 1,1870 , the company executed and delivered to James WINSLOW as trustee a mortgage on its road and appurtenances. Jan. 30, 1875, the Supreme Court decreed the foreclosure of the first mortgage bonds on the road, which were sold April14,1875, and deeded May 15, 1875, to George P. PELTON, of Poughkeepsie, who organized the latter date, the Poughkeepsie, Hartford & Boston R.R.Co., with a capital of $850,000, and associated with himself the following persons as directors: E .L. BOLLES, of New York City and George INNIS, John F. WINSLOW, George R. GAYLORD, Edward L .BEADLE, Alanson SWAIN, John O. WHITEHOUSE, and Michael J. MYERS, of Poughkeepsie.
        The total cost of road and equipment to 1879, was $1,499,920.40. The rate of fare charged for first-class through passengers is 3.02 cents and for first-class way passengers, 4 cents per mile. (We are indebted to the files of the Poughkeepsie Eagle; the State Engineers Report on Railroads, 1879; and other documents, for data respecting these early railroad enterprises.)


Typed and submitted by Richard Coon

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