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THE STORY OF A LITTLE RAILROAD AND A BIG BRIDGE.

On preceding pages ("Administration of Benjamin Loder," pages 89-90) has been told how the further progress of the railroad was threatened by the opposition of the Milford and Matamoras Railroad Company, a local corporation of Pike County, Pa., which had been chartered in 1848, and how that opposition was removed by the Erie agreeing to construct and maintain forever a bridge across the Delaware at Matamoras, Pa., near Port Jervis, arranged for a railroad and a wagon way, and to build a track across the bridge and from it to the Erie track at Port Jervis, to give the local railroad connection there - this so that the Erie might be permitted to change its point of entrance into Pennsylvania, as fixed by the Legislature in 1846, to one more suitable and economical, three miles further up the Delaware, at the present place of crossing, the change being vital to the Company, as without it the railroad could not have been progressed sufficiently to get it finished in time (May 14, 1851) to save the Company's charter and property from forfeiture and foreclosure.

The truth of history compels the statement that if the New York and Erie Railroad Company was moved to this compromise in a spirit of good faith, that spirit soon became weak, for, although, according to the provisions of the act of the Pennsylvania Legislature of 1848, the, bridge at Matamoras was to have been completed for use by October 1, 1852, ground had not only not been broken on the work in all that interval, but the Railroad Company had sought the intervention of the courts, and exhausted all its persuasive powers before the Pennsylvania Legislature, in efforts to abrogate its agreement for building the bridge, but had failed everywhere. A provision of the act granting the change of route was that if the Company neglected to build the bridge according to the provisions of the act, it should pay a tax of one dollar on each passenger passing over the road into Pennsylvania until enough money was raised to build the bridge and the connecting railroad. The Railroad Company having at last exhausted the patience of the Pike County people, measures were set afoot by them to enforce the act. Then the Company began work on the bridge, and it was completed in 1854. It cost $80,000. This bridge had a history that connects it closely with the' career of the Erie.

The Milford and Matamoras Railroad Company was organized in January, 1854, but no work was done toward the building of a railroad until many years afterward. The project lay dead until 1870.

The Pennsylvania Legislature granted a charter in 1868 for a railroad from the Lehigh coal regions to the Delaware River at Matamoras. This charter was secured by individuals who organized, in 1869, the Lehigh and Eastern Railroad Company, for the purpose of building such a railroad. This alarmed the Milford and Matamoras Railroad Company, whose charter was on the eve of lapsing; and it revived itself, reorganized, and went to work with some activity toward making its long-neglected railroad. Contracts for grading the road were about making, in the winter Of 1870, when, in March of that year, the Erie bridge at Matamoras, which had been waiting twenty years for the railroad to come up from Milford and cross it, was destroyed in a gale. This did not disturb the Milford and Matamoras Railroad Company, though, for under the act of Legislature granting the Erie Company the right to enter Pennsylvania at Sawmill Rift, that Company was bound to maintain a bridge at Matamoras forever, under penalty of forfeiture of all its rights in that State, including tight of way. So the Milford and Matamoras Railroad Company notified the Erie Railway Company, which was then under the management of Jay Gould, that the Matamoras bridge was down, and that the Erie would be expected to put a new one there without delay. The Erie Railway Company made no move to rebuild the bridge, and after waiting until July, a committee of directors of the Milford and Matamoras Railroad Company went to New York and had audience with Gould. Fisk was also present. The visitors inquired of Gould as to his intentions toward the bridge.

"Bridge?" said Gould, as if surprised. "What bridge, gentlemen?"

"Your bridge across the Delaware at Matamoras," the committee's spokesman replied.

"Our bridge across the Delaware at Matamoras?" said Gould, still apparently in a quandary. "Fisk, have we a bridge across the Delaware at Matamoras?"

"We did have a bridge across the Delaware at Matamoras," replied Fisk, "but it tumbled down last spring."

"That's the one!" the committee's spokesman said.

You know the Erie is bound by law to keep a bridge there, and we came to tell you that if you do not replace that bridge forthwith we shall have recourse to the law, and shut you out of Pennsylvania."

"Why, that's the bridge that we sold all our right, title, and franchise in to the Lamonte Mining and Railroad Company, a few weeks ago, isn't it, Fisk?" said Gould.

"That's the bridge," replied Fisk. "Yes, gentlemen," said Fisk to the committee, "we have no rights at all in that bridge any more. It belongs to the Lamonte Mining and Railroad Company. See them. They'll talk to you about it."

The surprised committee returned home and began a search for the Lamonte Mining and Railroad Company, of which they had never heard before. They discovered that such a company had been chartered by the Pennsylvania Legislature, March 26th of that year, a few days after the Matamoras bridge blew down. By that charter the company was empowered to purchase all the right, title, and franchises of any bridges on the Delaware that wanted to sell. Further than that no sign of the existence of the Lamonte corporation could be discovered. There was no record at Harrisburgh to show by whom the bill had been introduced in the Legislature. It was learned that a representative of the Erie Railway Company had been some time at Harrisburg, about the time the bill was passed, and that he had said to member of the Legislature Keene, of one of the coal counties, upon bidding him good-by on leaving Harrisburg:

"I had $15,000 in this satchel when I came here. I haven't got it now."

The representative from the Pike and Wayne district in the lower house of the Legislature, where this mysterious bill originated, was William H. Dimmick, a young Honesdale lawyer. He was called to attend a meeting of indignant stockholders of the Milford and Matamoras Railroad Company at Milford, and explain how it was that his constituents stood thus betrayed. He attended the meeting, and his explanations were not entirely acceptable to the people until he made a revelation that came as another surprise from the Legislature.

The same Legislature that smuggled the mysterious Lamonte Act through passed another bill appropriating from the State Treasury to the Milford and Matamoras Railroad Company for ninety-nine years the $10,000 annual bonus the Erie Railway Company was obliged to pay the State for right of way through Pike County, and authorizing the local railroad company to issue its bonds to the amount of $16o,ooo, thus virtually giving to such bonds the State's guarantee. The legislator for Pike County assured his constituents that the Lamonte bill was unconstitutional, and would be so declared as soon as it was brought before the Supreme Court; so the Milford and Matamoras Railroad was looked upon as being as good as built. The Company was reorganized, the bonds were immediately issued and placed, and the first installment of the Erie State annual bonus of $10,000 collected. But in the reorganization of the Company, which was controlled by W. H. Dimmick, many of the old stockholders were left out, and the result was that, although contracts were let for grading the road-bed, and much of the grading was done, the opposition of the old stockholders was so great and persistent that it resulted in the repeal of the act appropriating the Erie $10,000 bonus to the Milford and Matamoras Railroad Company, in response to a special message from Governor Geary to the Legislature, early in the session of 1871. Suit was brought against the Erie Railway Company in that year, through the Attorney-General of Pennsylvania, to have the Lamonte Mining and Railroad Company legislation declared unconstitutional, and to compel the Erie Railway to build the Matamoras Bridge, but pending the proceedings a private bridge company purchased the charter of the Lamonte Company—which was a company only in the minds of the Erie managers—and proceeded with the building of a bridge, known as the Barret Bridge, across the Delaware at the foot of Pike Street, Port Jervis. Although this bridge was a very long way below the original bridge, assurances were made to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania that it was satisfactory, and, much to the surprise of the people of Pike County, the Attorney-General withdrew the proceedings against the Erie. That the people would have established their contention, and the Erie Railway Company been compelled to rebuild the bridge that had given them the right to change its route, save it half a million of money, and many weeks of invaluable time, the best lawyers have but one opinion.

The Milford and Matamoras Railroad remains still unbuilt, although a corporation known as the Milford, Matamoras and New York Railroad Company constructed, in 1898, an iron railroad bridge on the foundations of the old Erie bridge, and built a railroad from Port Jervis across it to certain slate gravel beds below Matamoras, the avowed intention being to some time extend the railroad to Milford.


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