The Atchison Topeka
& Santa Fe
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
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
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
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 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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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