This page originally appeared on Thomas Ehrenreich's Railroad Extra Website
By CHARLES S. GLEED.
Charles S. Gleed, of Topeka, Kansas, was born in Vermont, in 1856, of an English father and a New England mother. He removed to Kansas when ten years of age, and has resided in or near Kansas ever since. He grew up as a journalist, concluding his journalistic work as editor of the Denver Daily Tribune. He acquired an extended and diversified experience in the passenger department of the Kansas Pacific, Union Pacific and Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe roads, and in the law department of the last named company. He has also learned much of various western railroad properties as an attorney and has enjoyed special advantages for becoming acquainted with the system about which he writes, because of his long connection with the company, in Its construction days, and subsequently he acquired an extended knowledge of the legal and financial history of the company by work along those lines.
PROSAIC business and genuine romance were never more perfectly compounded than in the history of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad companythe company known on the stock market, and therefore in the east generally, as "The Atchison," and in the west as "The Santa Fe." This company came into existence and its lines were constructed in accordance with more than a quarter of a century of prophecy.
This prophecy was not made, as a rule, by those who were accounted most wise in worldly matters. Financiers for the most part saw little to justify the faith of the soldiers, miners and other frontiers-men who urged that the old Santa Fe trail ought to be converted into a trail of steel, and some day would be.
Down to the very times when the final projector of the line, Cyrus K. Holliday, was patiently begging men of means to take hold of his scheme, great statesmen in congress were echoing the verdict of the great financiers who said as a settled fact that money invested in "the great American desert" would never come back.
Even when Thomas J. Peter, who built the first thousand miles of the road, started west to look over the situation, he believed he was merely to take an interesting but profitless journey to the neglect of his regular business, for he thought there would be no support for an additional railroad west of the Missouri river. His views were not changed until he saw the vast herds of buffalo supported by the prairie grass. This convinced him that under the grass there was that which would support millions of people. On this conviction he concluded to act.
One of the first whom he consulted was the late Senator Preston B. Plumb, who threw all his characteristic energy into the encouragement of the enterprise. There were those who scarcely believed in the road as a financial practicability beyond three or four hundred miles from the Missouri river, yet who thought that from there on the government would some day build a line to the Pacific over the "thirty-fifth parallel route" (through New Mexico and Arizona) as a strategic measure and as a mail route. And so, after all sorts of men with all sorts of views had contributed to the consideration of this question, the right men came and the locomotive and the Pullman car drove out the ox team and the covered wagon, and the desolate trail became the highway of nations.
The originator of the enterprise, the father of it, as he is commonly called, was Colonel Cyrus K. Holliday of Kansas, one of the founders of Topeka, and now a resident of that city. Colonel Holliday drew up the charter of the company and as a member of the territorial senate of 1859 secured its passage. The first name of the company was the Atchison & Topeka Railroad company, but the vast nature of the enterprise was indicated by the authority secured to build toward the city of Santa Fe and the Gulf of Mexico. The name of the company was changed to its present form in November 1863. The original incorporators associated with Colonel Holliday were United States Senator Samuel C. Pomeroy, Luther C. Challis, Peter T. Abell, Milton C. Dickey, Asaph Allen, Samuel Dickson, Nelson L. Gordon, George S. Hillyer, Lorenzo D. Bird, Jeremiah Murphy, George H. Fairchild and R. L. Crane. From the day of the incorporation until 1868 Colonel Holliday importuned the capitalists of the east, in season and out, to take hold of his scheme. Rebuff, not to say ridicule, was nearly all he got for his pains. In 1867 a contract was made with George W. Beach of New York, to build the entire road as then contemplated. Beach failed to execute his contract, and in 1868 assigned it to Mr. T. J. Peter of Cincinnati, now of Alabama, who was the first man found with both the courage and the ability to build the road.
Mr. Peter represented the contracting firm of Dodge, Lord & Co. of Cincinnati, composed of Messrs. Francis Dodge, H. C. Lord (then president of the Indianapolis, Cincinnati & Lafayette road), Orlin Smith (then vice-president of the Baltimore & Ohio road), H. B. Frost, Henry Stearns, George W. Norris and T. J. Pete. On securing the Beach contract in 1868, Dodge, Lord & Co. organized a contracting firm to build the first twenty-five miles of the road. From this time on many famous men were connected with the enterprise. Mr. Peter, as the assignee of Beach, made a contract with the members of his firm and other parties to build from Topeka to Burlingame, Topeka being accessible over the Kansas Pacific road.
H.C. Lord, the Hon. Ginnery Twitchell, and Henry Keyes were presidents of the company between the time of beginning construction at Topeka and the time the line was complete to the Kansas west line in 1873. The succeeding presidents to the present time were Henry Strong, who served one year; Thomas Nickerson, who served from 1874 to 1880; T. Jeff. Coolidge, who served from 1880 to 1881. William B. Strong, who served from 1881 to 1889, and Allen Manvel, who was chosen to succeed Mr. Strong.
Those who have had immediate charge of the property as general managers, or with equivalent authority, have been: Thomas J. Peter, C. F. Morse, William B. Strong, George O. Manchester, C. C. Wheeler, A. E. Touzalin, C. W. Smith, J. F. Goddard and Albert A. Robinson. To the last-named gentleman belongs the honor of having built every mile of the company's lines not acquired by purchase. He was the first engineer employed by Mr. Peter, and from the first mile to the last he has been the engineer in authority. Probably no engineer in the country has a like record.
In the Santa Fe system there are 9298 miles of tracknearly all single track a mileage more than equal to one-third the distance around the earth. The first twenty-eight miles of this track was constructed in 1869. The entire system, therefore, has come into existence within twenty-three years. It really came into existence in twenty years.
The extreme termini of the system are at Chicago, St. Louis, Galveston, El Paso, Guaymas, San Diego, Grand Junction, Denver, and Superior, Nebraska. These termini transferred eastward in the United States would fall, approximately, at Boston, Jacksonville, Florida; Little Rock, Arkansas; Corpus Christi, Texas; Panhandle, Texas; Omaha, Nebraska; Chicago, Illinois, and Cleveland, Ohio. Or, transferred to the map of Europe, they would fall, approximately, at St. Petersburg, Dunaburg, Vienna, Paris, Rochelle, Cork, Edinburgh, Hamburg and Dantzig.
The approximate number of miles from Chicago to each of the terminal points named is as follows: St. Louis 275, Galveston 1400, El Paso 1600, Guaymas 2100, San Diego 2500, Grand junction 1500, Denver 1200, and Superior 700. Various traffic contracts give the company access to great centres of trade not actually reached by its own tracks, as in the case of San Francisco, Salt Lake, and the connection between St. Louis and Chicago.
The mileage of the system is, substantially, equal to half that of Great Britain and Ireland, half that of France, two-fifths that of Germany, half that of Russia, twice that of Mexico, and one-sixteenth that of the United States. The mileage of the system is distributed in the various states and territories in which it is located, very nearly as follows: Illinois 295, Missouri 1300, Arkansas 102, Texas 1188, Nebraska 3, Colorado 770, Arizona 490, California 475, Iowa 20, Kansas 2978, Indian Territory 555, New Mexico 860, Sonora (Old Mexico) 262.
The greater part of the system lies in a comparatively level country, in which agriculture in all its forms is the chief industry. The mountain lines are in Colorado and New Mexico, where the work of construction was as heavy as almost any in the world. What maybe termed representative altitudes are these: Chicago 593 feet, Kansas City 765 feet, La junta 4061 feet, Denver 5170 feet, the Great Divide (Colorado) 11530 feet; Raton tunnel 7622 feet, Las Vegas 6398 feet, Glorietta 7432 feet, Albuquerque 4949 feet, Continental Divide (Arizona) 7257 feet, Winslow 4848 feet, Flagstaff 6886 feet, the Needles 477 feet, Mojave 2737 feet, Los Angeles 270 feet, San Diego 12 feet, El Paso 3717 feet, and Galveston 10 feet.
There has been much costly and unusual engineering work in the system. The great elevations in New Mexico and Colorado were reached by remarkably difficult work. The longest tunnel, that on Raton mountain, at the Colorado-New Mexico state-line, is 2011 feet long. There are five notable bridges. One crosses the Illinois river and is nearly two miles long. Others cross the Mississippi river at Fort Madison, Iowa, the Missouri river at Sibley, Missouri, and the Colorado river at the Needles. This latter is a cantilever bridge 990 feet long. These bridges cost nearly one million dollars each.
One of the chief difficulties encountered by the company in building through New Mexico was the physical peculiarity of the country. Mr. Robinson left nothing undone to discover what must be guarded against in the work of construction. For example, the oldest inhabitants were consulted at great length as to what ought to be expected as to rain and the water courses. But after the line was constructed the water made light of all that had ever been said about it historically. It ran where it had never been before and it failed to appear where it was most expected. Mile after mile of track was lifted from its place in the canyons and hung in graceful festoons on the trees and hillsides. Suddenly, on occasion, a shallow valley in which water never seemed to have been heard of before would contain a roaring torrent, which would run madly at the intruding railroad and reduce it to its primitive level. In the Rio Grande valley, the river, with all the capriciousness of the wind, ran first on one side of the valley and then on the other, each time leaving the track to sink or swim as its superintendent might manage. It was no uncommon spectacle, even as late as 1884, to see Superintendent George L. Sands, with his men, wading and swimming from bank to bank in an heroic endeavor to "make both ends meet." Iron bridges, longer spans, higher locations, elaborate dikes and ditches seem to have fixed things so that water may be defied. Parts of the system were built with incredible rapidity. Track-laying at the rate of a mile a day was often achieved. The track across the Great Divide winds and climbs and crosses and recrosses itself in a wonderful manner.
The traffic of the company has been managed largely by the same man through almost the whole life of the road. The freight department was managed, until about three years ago, by Mr. J. F. Goddard, who succeeded Mr. Fink as chief of the trunk line associations in New York. Mr. Goddard's chief assistant for many years, was Mr. J. S. Leeds, now manager of the Citizens' Traffic Association of San Francisco. The traffic official longest and most prominently connected with the system is Mr. William Francis White, the present manager of all the passenger traffic of the system. He began with the company when both the freight and passenger business was scarcely sufficient to keep one man busy. He has had immediate supervision of a large part of the settlement of the vast territory of the system, and in that way has participated more than almost any other man in the development of the country.
Most of the lines of the system preceded settlement, not to say civilization, passing through new country, too remote for substantial settlement without railway communication. The people of New Mexico, Mexico and Arizona, were nearly all Spanish Americans, except the Indians, and the railway was constructed under conditions very peculiar, to say the least. The native citizens were torn with conflicting sentiments, fear and admiration striving for the mastery. The whole situation was so novel that one of the early directors of the company predicted that the lines in New Mexico and Arizona would never pay operating expenses.
What may be termed the grand divisions of the system, each planned according to well-defined theories of possible traffic, are nine in number.
The Kansas lines reach the agricultural, grazing and mining regions of the southern half of Kansas and parts of the northern half, the north border of the Indian Territory and northwestern Texas, by east and west lines through the Kansas, Neosho, Arkansas and lesser valleys of the state.
The Colorado lines reach the agricultural, grazing and mining regions and the health and pleasure resorts of Colorado and Utah, by way of a north and south line along the eastern foot hills of the Rocky range, crossing the mouths of the great mountain canyons, and by an east and west system from Colorado Springs to Utah.
The New Mexico lines reach the mining, grazing and fruit raising regions, and the health and pleasure resorts of New Mexico, by a north and south line through the Raton, Pecos, Rio Grande and other valleys from Colorado to El Paso, where connection is made with the Mexican Central line through Old Mexico.
The Arizona line reaches the mining and grazing regions of northern Arizona, by an east and west line from New Mexico to California; and does most of the transcontinental business of the system.
The Sonora (Mexico) line reaches the mines of southern Arizona, the fruit and grazing regions of northwestern Old Mexico, and the seaboard at Guaymas.
The California lines are confined to the southern half of the state, and are planned to do all sorts of local business and to exchange a trans-continental business with the Arizona line.
The Indian Territory and Texas lines reach the agricultural, grazing and lumber regions of Texas by a north and south line from Kansas to the seaboard at Galveston. Cotton and cattle are the chief products for transportation on this division, though the ocean traffic from Mexico, Central and South America, and even European points, is increasing, and will increase rapidly with the achievement of deep water by the government work in Galveston bay or elsewhere in that vicinity.
The lines west and southwest from St. Louis reach the agricultural, grazing, mining and timber regions of southern Missouri, northern Arkansas, southeastern Kansas, eastern, Indian Territory and northeastern Texas.
The Chicago and Missouri river lines connect the trans-Missouri system, as above described, with the great lakes at Chicago.
In brief, the general plan is of a system with both cast and west and north and south routes to and from the center of traffic.
Four of the general divisions of the present system were not built by the Santa Fe, but were bought. The Atlantic & Pacific road was built under separate management, though owned half by the Santa Fe and half by the St. Louis & San Francisco. The joint agreement for construction was entered into in 1880. The Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe was built between 1873 and 1876, mostly by local energy. Mr. Albert Somerville was president, and General Braxton Bragg, of war fame chief-engineer. It was bought by the Santa Fe under Mr. Strong's management in 1878. The St. Louis & San Francisco and the Colorado Midland roads were bought by the present management. The Colorado Midland was built with English money by Mr. J. J. Hagerman of Colorado Springs.
The building of the Mexican Central Railway from El Paso to the City of Mexico naturally followed the completion of the Santa Fe to El Paso. The Mexican Central was never technically a part of the Santa Fe, but the ownership of the two properties was very much the same for several years. It was expected by Mr. Thomas Nickerson (at one time the president of the two companies) and others who were associated with him in the projection of the Mexican line, that it would be a repetition or continuation of the success of the Santa Fe; but they were doomed to disappointment. There were radical differences in the country and in the customs of the people, which had not been fully taken into account. The Mexican property never experienced the financial buoyancy of the Santa Fe and was therefore a severe disappointment to its original owners. But it is now steadily improving and is sure to rank eventually as one of the greatest properties on the continent.
The country immediately tributary to the Santa Fe system constitutes a complete world in itself It is difficult to think of any important requisite to a well balanced civilization wanting in the physical territory of the system. In the Rocky mountain regions are found the resources, advantages and attractions peculiar to the mountainous heart of Europe. Here are the mineral treasures of the continent, the most healthful of climates and the most sublime natural characteristics. From this great central citadel the slopes go gently to the sea. On these slopes every pastoral occupation flourishes. What will not grow in the rich waves of Kansas soil will in the warmer fields of Texas and California and between. If the land of corn and cotton and cattle is in some ways incompetent, the sheltered valleys of the far southwest furnish a full recompense. No section is far distant from all necessary forms of food and fuel and the materials for mechanical arts. Iron, lead, coal and salt in measureless deposits underlie the fertile acres of the great slope from the mountains to the Gulf, the Mississippi and the great lakes. In the giant Rockies, besides the mines, there are productive valleys capable of the support of millions of human beings. The great expanse of coast line means ready access to the products of the sea and ready communication with all parts of the world. The people of this territory are already engaged in practically every pursuit known to civilized man. Products are being intelligently diversified, manufactures are multiplying daily, and wealth is steadily increasing. The teacher and the preacher were never more active and the workers in all lines were never anywhere more capable or more faithful. While an infinite improvement still remains to be achieved, it is yet true that the people are making a progress never before surpassed anywhere in the world.
The financial history of the Santa Fe is a remarkably instructive one. From the time Mr. Peter and his associates took hold to the year 1889, the company really never felt a dangerous financial stringency. To put it differently, there never was a time in that period when there was imminent danger of bankruptcy. There were close economies and many cautious policies. In fact, considering what we now know, much was lost by financial timidity. But there never was a time when the holders of defaulted securities came knocking at the door. The first dividend on the capital stock was paid August 25th 1879.
When trouble finally came, it proved to be just such trouble as had been foretold by both Thomas Nickerson and Mr. William B. Strong. The former said in his annual report in 1874 "We are and must be for a long time without a rival or competitor which can materially interfere with our local business." Mr. Strong said in his annual report in 1883. "What the future plans of the company shall be must largely depend upon the course pursued by its connections and competitors. The assurance may be given that every prudent measure shall be taken to preserve the property in its integrity." From exactly the source hinted at by Mr. Nickerson, and clearly stated by Mr. Strong, the cyclone finally came. The increased expense and the diminished receipts, due to the acts of competitors, brought on a crisis. The stock of the company had come to be considered among the surest on the market and was held by thirteen or fourteen thousand persons, who paid for it probably an average price of one dollar-some having paid as high as one dollar and forty cents. So long as the company was permitted to have full possession of its immediate traffic field, it could and did keep up with its debts and pay dividends steadily. There was no doubt of the honest and intelligent management of the road, and holders were serene. But the day came when the traffic of the company was everywhere slaughtered by competition. The Canadian Pacific, Texas & Pacific, Union Pacific, Northern Pacific, and other lines cut into the trans-continental business of the company. Then the local business of the company was cut into by the heavy new mileage of the Missouri Pacific, the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific, the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, the Denver, Texas & Fort Worth, the Kansas City, Fort Scott & Memphis, and other roads. In 1885, 1886 and 1887 the Missouri Pacific alone built 1071 miles of road in the Santa Fe's immediate territory. In the same years the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific road constructed about 1300 miles also in the immediate territory of the Santa Fe.
The result of this paralleling and bisecting process was, first, that the Atchison company found it imperatively necessary to protect itself by building a new trunk line from the Missouri river to Chicago, and many branch lines so located that they would "feather" in towards the main line rather than out towards rival main lines, by which construction fixed charges and operating expenses were greatly increased; and, second, that all local rates were cut, particularly at the important points and on all classes of through business. It was natural, therefore, that the company found itself in financial distressa distress greatly increased by the prevalence of poor crops and the adverse work of various legislatures, railroad commissioners and courts. Its annual fixed charges had come to be over eleven million dollars. An interest payment was approaching. Every effort was made and the money was actually arranged for to tide over the payment. This one danger passed and all might be well; but at the last moment a personal quarrel in the board led to a division of strength and consequent failure. The old board virtually abandoned the field and the stock went down to a market price of nearly twenty cents, making a total loss to stockholders, assuming the average cost of their stock to be one dollar, of between fifty and seventy-five million dollars. For the next annual meeting the stockholders sent their proxies to Messrs. Kidder, Peabody & Co., as requested. Messrs. George C. Magoun, John J. McCook and Thomas Baring, with other gentlemen of their selection, were elected directors, and Mr. Magoun became chairman of the board. Mr. Strong left the company and Mr. Allen Manvel became president. Messrs. Magoun, McCook, and Baring are recognized as the authoritative directors of the company. Mr. Marvel at once put into effect the most rigid economies, coupled with the most careful management generally. He paid Mr. Strong the high compliment of retaining practically all of his chief assistants.
The first work of the new board, after a long and careful examination of the property, was to reorganize the finances of the company. This they did by a most remarkable process, at once bold and ingenious, a process largely elaborated by Mr. J. W. Reinhart, the first vice-president of the company.
Under the reorganization plan the company authorized the issue of one hundred and fifty million dollars of one-hundred year four per cent. bonds and eighty million dollars of five per cent. income bonds. The old debt was all replaced by the new securities, so as to reduce the annual fixed charges from $11,157,769.60 to $7,352,390.
Subsequently the company substituted a second mortgage for the eighty million dollars of income bonds, the second mortgage bearing a graduated rate of interest, beginning with two and a half per cent. per annum. The income bondholders preferred a definite mortgage, and the company believed the interest on the incomes would exceed that to be paid on the seconds on the graduated plan. Both sides were, therefore, willing to make the exchange. It will certainly be a long time before so bold a reorganization is again effected so neatly and quietly. By another bold stroke the St. Louis and San Francisco road was bought. This road had a large floating debt, but it was a heavy competitor of the Santa Fe and its full possession enabled the Santa Fe to come nearer holding its other competitors' level, and at the same time procured for it the outstanding half of the Atlantic and Pacific stock. The purchase of the Colorado Midland was a transaction of like character.
The legal history of the system is also a remarkable one. Ninety-five corporations which have at one time or another played an important part in the history of the road are dead and inactive by abandonment or absorption. There are now seventy-nine active companies. The manipulation and amalgamation of this vast number of properties has been done chiefly in a legal way by Mr. George R. Peck of Kansas, who entered the service of the system in 1878. To him, chiefly, has fallen the task of welding together this vast number of corporations which have from time to time been merged into the present system, or set to revolving in close connection with it.
Kansas is the legal home of the Santa Fe, and the headquarters building of the company stands within a stone's throw of the capitol building of the state. Anti-railroad agitators have a happy little joke, oft repeated, about the seat of government being in the railroad building instead of in the state building. As a matter of fact, the Santa Fe management has always endeavored not to be a political stumbling-block. Mr. Strong and Mr. Peck assisted in establishing a board of railroad commissioners, when the measure might have been deferred, and the company has in every way sought to obey the law and encourage sound legislation. The company has believed that this policy would in the end earn the most money. A similar policy has been pursued with reference to employees. Labor strikes and troubles have been very infrequent and of little consequence. Mr. Edward Wilder, the treasurer, once paid all the employees of the line with currency, carried in a satchel. Now there are over 35,000 men on the rolls. Harmony between managers and employees has been in every way encouraged. For years a reading-room and library system was maintained along the line, and a splendid hospital service is now in effect.
Under an act of congress of 1863, supplemented by an act of the Kansas legislature in 1864, the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe company received a grant of land, approximating 3,000,000 acres. The grant comprised alternate sections in a ten-mile strip on each side of the main line of the road through Kansas. Wherever one of these alternate sections had been pre-empted by a settler, the company was indemnified by the right to take land in the second ten-mile strip on each side of the road. The taking of this land was coupled with a large number of conditions as to price, method of selling, etc., and the lands were all taxable. The sale of this land was concluded two or three years ago, except as to such pieces of land as were sold on contract and have since been turned back to the company by forfeiture. This amounts to a very small acreage. The lands were sold at an average of about five dollars per acre and netted the company something like five million dollars; but from this five million dollars should be deducted all free transportation, advertising and other passenger department expenses which related to land sales, which leaves the land grant account showing not over three millions to the good, while some call it approximately even. That is to say, properly speaking, there was no profit in the transaction, except as it came indirectly by what was made from the railroad. The railroad, of course, could not have existed except for the presence of this land as an attraction to settlers, and it could not have been built when it was if the possession of the land had not enabled the company to borrow money with which to build the road. The taxes on this railroad land grant built schoolhouses and court-houses from one end of Kansas to the other. There are very many instances where one section of land was taxed to build three school-houses, this being accomplished by changing school-districts so as to bring the given section of land under the necessity of contributing to the building of the three separate houses. There is a distinct line of demarkation between the school-houses and courthouses within the limits of the railroad land grant and those outside of that limit, the comparison being in favor of the railroad buildings. The people seem to have been universally willing that the railroad lands should pay for first-class improvements. For many years, Reno county, for instance, received something like $250,000 in taxes from the land grant.
The lands granted to the company in Kansas, on which they netted about one dollar per acre, were twice exposed to terrible devastations which materially reduced the benefit the company would have received from them. In 1874 the sale of the grant was absolutely stopped, by reason of the plague of grasshoppers that visited the state. There was no real recovery from this until the effect of the Centennial Exposition began to be felt in 1876 and1877. Again, in 1879 and 1880 there was a very dry time, which gave the sale of the grant another set-back. On both of these occasions many thousands of people were transported free from their prairie homes to their original homes in the east. Seed grain was furnished all who would use it, and vast amounts of help were otherwise contributed by the company in the task of tiding over the hard times.
The building of the Santa Fe through Kansas was not interrupted by either natural or personal interference. "The end of the track," and many stations which had once been at the end of the track were for a long time very disorderly towns. Murder and the milder but more interesting crimes were of constant occurrence. Cowboys of the bad kind, Indians, railroad construction stragglers, and hard characters generally were at first largely in the majority in most of the Santa Fe villages and made them more painfully active than they ever will be again. Judge Lynch was a popular dispenser of justice, and without his help the regular courts could hardly have kept up their work. But when the road crossed the Kansas line new things were encountered. Mr. Strong, then the vice-president and general manager, was full of fire and fight, and wanted to take the Rocky mountain country by storm. Only two obstacles were in his way. One was the ultra conservative attitude of Mr. Thomas Nickerson, the president, who was an able financier, but not a practical railroad man, and the other was the presence in Colorado of the Denver & Rio Grande railway, a narrow-gauge line extending from Denver to Pueblo, with branches south and west from the latter point. Mr. Strong knew the financial weakness of the "little road," as Colorado people affectionately called it, and was eager to push his lines into its territory until a satisfactory purchase could be made. But Mr. Nickerson refused to let anything of the kind be done, and protracted negotiations were entered into for a lease. Finally a lease was consummated, Mr. Nickerson personally supervising the preparation of the papers. This lease was made on the 19th of October 1878, and the road came into the possession of the Santa Fe on the 14th of December of the same year. The operation of the road under this lease was continued until June 11th 1879, when the Rio Grande repudiated the lease and by physical force regained possession of the road. The United States court restored the property to the Santa Fe on the 16th of July 1879, and on the 14th of the following August put it in the hands of a receiver. Mr. Strong matured plans to take the road from the receiver, but Mr. Nickerson would not cooperate.
Meantime work had been pushed on the Santa Fe line to Leadville. The grade was practically completed and twenty-two miles of the track laid when, on July 14th 1879, work was stopped by an injunction granted at the request of the Rio Grande people. Prior to this the Santa Fe had achieved a victory over the Rio Grande at Raton mountain Mr. Strong had been overland to Santa Fe and secured the legislation he needed under which to build through the territory. He demanded authority of Mr. Nickerson to build into New Mexico at once. Mr. Nickerson refused, but was immediately met by a disagreeable alternative presented by Mr. Strong, which caused him to name a sum of money which could be expended. Mr. Strong without delay ordered Chief-engineer Robinson to make a location through Raton canyon into New Mexico. Mr. Robinson and Mr. McMurtrie, chief-engineer of the Rio Grande, reached Trinidad the same night. McMurtie's men went to bed. Mr. Robinson pressed on and located his line that night on the north side of Raton mountain, and at four o'clock next morning began the location, of his line on the south side of the mountain. Thirty minutes after, Mr. McMurtie appeared on the south side of the mountain, too late. Had McMurtie secured this pass the Santa Fe road might have remained a small affair, as the narrow-gauge of the Rio Grande would have enabled it to traverse New Mexico quickly and cheaply. The Santa Fe constructed its "switchback" over the Raton about Christmas 1889. Afterwards the switchback was abandoned for a tunnel previously mentioned cut through the solid rock.
Between the time when the Rio Grande repudiated its lease and the time that that the receivership ended all controversyall in the first half of I879occurred the "Rio Grande war." This was war indeed. From three to five hundred men on each side were armed and in the field in true soldier fashion. The officers on both sidesMr. Strong and Mr. Robinson for the Santa Fe, and Mr. Palmer and Mr. McMurtie for the Rio Grandewere not only combatants in the field, but were also fighting a legal war. To be a "magnate" at that time and place meant to be half the time a rioter and the other half a fugitive. To be a judge was to be in more than a physician's danger of being wanted at any hour of the day or night. The newspapers were spouting fire with every issue. Colorado was never so excited. Finally the main body of the Santa Fe forces was surrounded in the round house at Pueblo and made to surrender. The thrilling occurrences of this busy half year would make a long story indeed.
The romance involved in the history of the Santa Fe system can scarcely be more than hinted at here. There can never be again in this country such a life as was led by President Strong. Strictly within the bounds of civil life, he was yet as free as Columbus to discover new commercial worlds, declare war and wage it, organize and build communities, overturn political powers of long standing, replace old civilizations with new-and do all this asking no men's leave, save those whose money was to be risked, or those, few in number, whose tasks were somewhat like his and in the same field. Under his administration of the affairs of the Santa Fe Kansas was mostly settled, Colorado was developed, New Mexico was transformed, Arizona was awakened, Texas, California and Mexico were bound together, by way of Kansas, and all were guyed to the great western metropolis, Chicago. Towns were located and built, cities were brought into being, mines were opened, millions of people were moved, wars were waged and customs and precedents established in commerce and law. All this was done with one man as the chief arbitrator of many destinies. Law has succeeded much of this individual power. Legislative bodies, courts, government commissions, commercial organizations, labor organizations-all these have now come on the scene; and to Mr. Manvel has fallen the task of managing this vast property, in spite of these thwarting and throttling combinations. Thus the romance in the business has largely gone. It went with the Indian, who once burned station-houses and murdered settlers along the line; with the Colorado and Kansas grasshoppers that stopped the very trains on the track; with the drought that drove the settlers back and threatened ruin to the whole new field of commerce. It went with the struggle for the valuable mountain passes and the richest valleys; with the riot of new discoveries in the mineral worldthe sudden upturning of precious metals, and the incredible incoming of eager fortune hunters from every quarter of the globe. It went with the terrors of the border, the great wave of hardened and reckless humanity which precedes rigid civilization; with the countless herds of buffalo and the prairie dog and the coyote. It went with the unorganized political activity which naturally gathered about so great a nucleus of power as the railway. It went with the advent of the now oninipresent hand of law and legal resistance; with the revelations of the printed sheet, the decorated car, and the great centennial exhibit. It went with the passing of many of the rare, famous or notorious men of the day, the men who made the history of their times: with the end of the great gulf stream of humanity that poured out of the old world into the new; with the flinging open of Oklahoma. It went with the bold break for liberty, in rushing the new trunk line from the Missouri river to the great lakes. It went in all these ways and others, and it went to stay. The remnant is a vast business machine, the management of which will continue as heretofore to tax the strongest men to the limit of their enduranceand sometimes beyond.
The Catskill Archive website and all contents, unless otherwise specified,