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
"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 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
Companywhich was a company only in the minds of the Erie
managersand 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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