Nelson Appleton Miles.

Personal recollections and observations of General Nelson A. Miles embracing a brief view of the Civil War, or, From New England to the Golden Gate : and the story of his Indian campaigns, with comments on the exploration, development and progress of our great western empire online

. (page 48 of 51)
Online LibraryNelson Appleton MilesPersonal recollections and observations of General Nelson A. Miles embracing a brief view of the Civil War, or, From New England to the Golden Gate : and the story of his Indian campaigns, with comments on the exploration, development and progress of our great western empire → online text (page 48 of 51)
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It is a well-known fact that after land has been thoroughly cultivated
by irrigation less water is required; and it is safe to assert that thousands
of acres of so-called desert land may become adapted for agricultural pur-
poses without the quantity of water at first necessary. Immediately fol-
lowing the establishment of an irrigation district, after the canals, with
their lateral ditches have been completed and the cultivation of crops has
commenced, the planting of trees should be encouraged. The eucalyptus
variety is mostly planted in California, and the cottonwood in Arizona and
New Mexico. The former has a very rapid growth, and as a wind-break
and a protection to crops it is used extensively. This tree planting would
in a short time not only change the appearance of the country and supply
the wood which is necessary for fuel, but would also modify the climate.
It would hardly be possible to estimate the value of trees in their useful-
ness toward reclaiming arid lands, and too much cannot be said in urging
the profuse planting of them. In fact, it would be well for the government
in selling land reclaimed through any irrigation system to be established,
to make it compulsory on the purchaser to plant a portion of his acreage
in forest trees. They would only require thorough irrigation during the
first year, less of it the second, very little the third, and possibly none at
all thereafter. Tree culture, especially the planting of trees indigenous to
the country, should by all means be encouraged.

As we review the past, we notice the action of the unscrupulous and
the insatiable in following in the wake or hanging upon the flanks, and
very often seen in a position far in advance, of any humane, progressive
measure which may be adopted for the benefit of mankind, or to promote
the welfare of the people. It is wonderful how difficult it is to ward off
the schemes of avaricious men, and in a measure of this kind, which has
in view the welfare of the entire people, safeguards cannot be too strongly
applied to protect the general public. It is a fact to be regretted that
many of our most commendable measures, whether municipal, State or
National, which have given us avenues of commerce, works of art, and



many improvements for the public good, whether patriotic or beneficent,
have been embarrassed and contaminated by the touch of speculation, and
the purpose of the designer has often been marred and debased by the in-
fluence of those who see nothing in any public or progressive measure
other than the opportunity to gratify their selfish desires.

Moreover, it should be distinctly understood that there are hundreds of
square miles of our public domain where it would be utter folly to spend
more money than the amount necessary to definitely ascertain the fact of
their worthlessness. Extravagance in expenditure should be avoided, and the

government should systematically
improve only its lands which will re-
pay the expenditure, and divide the
same in such manner that it can never
be monopolized by a few, but shall
be cultivated by an industrious, en-
terprising, and intelligent people, who
will build for themselves and their
posterity homes that will enrich and
beautify the region, thus sustaining
and promoting the general welfare.

It may be added, finally, that early
action by the general government
upon the irrigation question is ear-
nestly to be desired. The reserva-
tions made under the surveys alluded
to have not been utilized, and it is
being urged that they could be used
with great advantage to the country
by others, syndicates and corporations,
TUNNEL PORTAL, SAN DIEGO FLUME. if those reservations were annulled.
In view of the magnitude of the work, and its steadily growing necessity,
it seems very desirable that private schemes looking to the acquirement of
the actual control of immense tracts of valuable land, should be discouraged,
or even rendered impossible, by early action by the government in pursu-
ance of the plan under which these surveys and reservations were origi-
nally made.

There are many practical difficulties to be overcome, and the highest
engineering skill will be required. Holland was won from the sea with an
immense expenditure of time, toil and money. Our task is the opposite



one, but attended with difficulties almost as great. The work to be done
must be widely distributed, and must cover an immense area, and when
done constant vigilance will be the price of permanence. The dams and
catch-basins will fill with silt, the washings of the mountain sides. The
ditches will wash and break ; the first cost will be enormous ; the care will
be costly and continuous. But the question is one that must nevertheless
be met. We have grown to more than seventy millions. The waste and
idleness of any of our natural resources will soon come to be regarded as a
culpable negligence, if not a crime. The richest soil and the most favor-
able climate lie within the arid regions. To utilize all the water that the
sky yields is unquestionably within the genius of a nation that thus far
has been daunted by no obstacles and deterred by no circumstances.

A long residence in the West in contact with its people, have turned
the writer's attention to such features of the irrigation problem as are
here set down, and as such they fall within the scope of the present volume.
Aridness, a condition of nature, is, indeed, the only bar to the com-
plete victory of that vanguard which the soldiers led. It must be con-
quered now by science, and under the law of the greatest good to the
greatest number.





N the preceding chapter I have described the vast country which
lies between the region which now by universal consent is the East,
and that which in recent times has become the actual West ; the
West which lies beyond the supposed possibilities of even a few
years ago, and which is now bounded not by an idea of comparative
locality, but by the Pacific.

This arid region had not within it the inducements to rapid set-
tlement and remarkable growth which had already made rich and
populous all the splendid commonwealths which were once called
Western States ; which had dotted them with cities and had crossed them
in all directions with railroad lines. Yet, beyond it lay the beautiful
State, which I shall describe in the last chapter of this volume, and in
its center lay gems like Colorado, with vast resources as yet only surmised
along its length and hidden in its nooks and corners. More than fifteen
hundred miles of mountain and plain lay almost uninhabited between the
most eastern settlements of the western coast and the western borders of
the Valley of the Mississippi.

With a brief glance at the history of the small beginnings of the vast
railroad system of the United States, I shall in this chapter describe how
this arid and then unproductive region was bridged, how the farther East
was united with the utmost West, and the means by which all that lies
between was made accessible to the energy of the American people, with
the vast results, some of whose beginnings have been sketched in these


The locomotive with its long attendant train of cars has now become
such a familiar feature of our landscape that it attracts but little notice.
Still it is less than the three score and ten years that are the allotted span
of human life since,through the magic power of steam, was evolved so potent
a factor in our civilization. A journey that once might have consumed
weeks can now be performed in a day; and a journey, which in winter,
could only be accomplished at the cost of exposure to cold and storms and
the suffering entailed thereby, can now be taken with as much comfort as
if we remained in our own homes. Now the products of each respective
section are no longer enjoyed merely in that particular portion of the
country, but are obtainable everywhere; and in our new West are popu-
lous cities, that seem to have sprung up almost in a night, which never
could have been born, much less attained such a growth if they had not
been connected with the older portions of the country by the shining
bands of steel over which glides the swift train.

The idea of a graded or artificial roadway is not a new one by any
means, for as far back as when Rome was mistress of the world, her
people, who were always famous road builders, constructed ways of cut
stone. About one hundred and fifty years ago what were known as tram-
roads were built in England to facilitate the conveyance of coal from the
mines to the place of shipment, and here iron was used instead of steel for
rails, as at the present day.

Railways would be of little value without some power of rapid trans-
portation, so when James Watt invented the steam engine in 1773, earnest
thinkers began to conceive the idea of a locomotive, and the tropical
imagination of Erasmus Darwin led him to make in 1781 his famous

"Soon shall thy arm, unconquered steam! afar
Drag the slow barge or drive the rapid car."

The first locomotive that was successfully used was the " Puffing Billy"
built in 1813, which can to-day be seen in the museum of the English Pat-
ent Office. In 1821 the Stockton and Darlington Railroad in England used
a steam locomotive, built by the Stephensons, but it was only used to haul
freight over a road twelve miles long. In 1825 a locomotive drew the first
passenger train over this road, making the distance of twelve miles in
two hours. In order that no one might be injured by their indulgence in
this swift rate of speed the kind-hearted manager sent a horseman ahead
to ride down the track in front of the engine and warn people to get out
of the way.

M. <S



The Carbondale Railroad in Pennsylvania was the first road in this coun-
try on which a locomotive was used. This engine was known as the
" Stourbridge Lion," and was built in England by Horatio Allen, who went
there for that express purpose.

The locomotives invented by the Stephensons could not go around sharp
corners, and vast sums were therefore expended to make the line as straight
as possible and to obtain easy grades. When the Americans first began
to build railways in 1831, the English designs were followed for a time, but

,,., ^ s our engineers soon found that

their money would not be
ample if such a course was
pursued, and so were either
forced to stop
building or find
someway to over-
come these obsta-
cles. The result
was that the swiv-
elling truck was
invented, and also the
equalizing beams or
levers, by which the
weight of the engine
is always borne by three out of
four or more driving wheels.
These two improvements, which
are absolutely necessary for the
building of roads in new coun-
tries, are also of the greatest value on the smoothest and straightest
tracks. Another American invention is the switchback. By this plan
the length of line required to ease the gradient is obtained by running a
zigzag course instead of going straight up a mountain. This device
was first used in Pennsylvania to lower coal cars down into the Neshoning.
Then it was employed to carry the temporary tracks of the Cascade
Division of the Northern Pacific Railroad over the Stampede Pass with
grades of 297 feet per mile, while a tunnel was being driven through
the mountain. This device has now reached such perfection that
it is quite a common occurrence for a road to run above itself in spiral





The first cars were built in the form of stagecoaches with outside and
inside seats; then they were built like two or three coaches joined together,
and finally assumed the rectangular form now commonly in use. The first
time-table in this country was published in Baltimore about 1832, and
referred to the "brigade of cars" that would leave the depot at a certain

The rate of speed attainable by railroad trains is wondeiiully increased.
In 1835 when the road was chartered to connect Philadelphia with Harris-
burg, there was a town meeting held to discuss the practicability of the
scheme. The Hon. Simon Cameron, who advocated the measure, was so
carried away by his enthusiasm that he predicted that there were persons
present at the time who would live to see a passenger take his breakfast
in Harrisburg and his supper in Philadelphia on the same day. After he
had finished speaking, a friend took him aside and said:

" That's all right Simon, to tell the boys, but you and I are no such
infernal fools as to believe it."

They both lived to make the distance in but little more than two hours.
The fastest record was made in 1893 on the New York Central when a
mile was made in thirty-two seconds or at the rate of one hundred and
twelve and one-half miles an hour.

In 1830 there were but twenty-three miles of railroad in the whole
United States. In 1840 the number had increased to 2,818. During
the next twenty years the increase was more rapid, making a showing of
30,635 miles of road in 1860. During another score of years the number
was increased more than threefold, giving a total of 93,450 miles in 1880.
The building of the trans-continental roads advanced the rate of increase,
and in 1893 the whole number of miles of railroad in the United States
was 173,433. The greatest yearly increase was in 1882, showing an ad-
vance of 11,596 miles in a single year. The length of the world's railways
in 1894 was 410,000 miles, or more than sixteen times the greatest circum-
ference of the earth.

The first passenger car which showed a radical departure from the old
model, was built by Mr. Pullman, after a number of years devoted to ex-
perimenting, and was designated by the letter " A," evidently no one hav-
ing the idea that the twenty-six letters of the alphabet would not be
sufficient to furnish names for the cars that would afterward be built.
The Pullman and Wagner companies have introduced the hotel-car, and
the dining-car has started on its travels. Several ingenious inventions
have been patented for heating the cars with steam from the engines. At


the present time, on the same train may be found sleeping-cars, dining-
cars, smoking-saloon. bath-room, barber shop and library with books, desks
and writing materials. There is free circulation of air throughout the
train and the electric lights and steam heating apparatus all serve to make
traveling comfortable.

All this is in strong contrast to the methods that prevailed during the
first fifteen or twenty years after traveling by steam was introduced. At
that time the car ceilings were low and without ventilation; there were
stoves at either end of the car but they had little effect on the tempera-
ture of the middle seats, while the cars were filled with cinders in a way
that seemed marvelous in contrast to the difficulty of introducing fresh
air. Tallow candles were used for illumination purposes and were chiefly
noticeable for their odor. The roughness of the track and the jarring of
the train made conversation impossible. The flat rails used were cut at
an angle and with lapped edges so they were occasionally caught by the.
wheels and driven up through the floor, impaling the unfortunate passen-
ger who might happen to be sitting directly over the spot. Through tickets
were unknown, and at the end of each short line the passenger had to
purchase a new ticket, change cars, and personally attend to the transfer
of his baggage.

Railways have so cheapened the cost of transportation that it is said
that while a load of wheat loses all its value by being hauled one hundred
miles over a common road, meat and flour enough to support a man a
year can be hauled fifteen hundred miles over a railroad for one day's
wages of a skilled mechanic. The number of people employed in con-
structing, equipping and operating our railways is approximately two

The first man to advocate a trans-continental railway is believed to
have been Doctor Barlow, of Massachusetts, who began in 1834 when the
railroad business was still in its infancy to write articles for the news-
papers advocating the undertaking by the general government of the con-
struction of a railroad from New York city to the mouth of the Columbia.
But Asa Whitney was the first man to put the idea into practical shape
and urge it upon the attention of Congress. He had lived for a number of
years in China, and being familiar with the conditions of the Chinese and
the East Indian trade, and carefully calculating the distance from Liverpool
to the point where that trade centered, he found that a route across the
United States by rail, and by sea by the way of Puget Sound, would be
considerably shorter than the all sea route around the Cape of Good Hope.


In December, 1845, he appeared in Washington with a scheme for a rail-
road from Lake Michigan to the Pacific Coast, to be built by him with the
proceeds of a grant of land for thirty miles on each side of the track. At
first his scheme received nothing but ridicule, but nothing daunted he
returned again and again to the attack until in 1847 he obtained a favor-
able report from the Senate committee on public lands. He spent his
entire fortune in his efforts in behalf of this project, but achieved no
tangible results. Still his agitation of the subject did much good, for it
brought the subject prominently before the people, and in 1853 Congress
authorized the survey of various possible routes.

There was much rivalry between the different sections of the country
to secure the route most favorable to their especial interests. Under the
provisions of a bill passed in 1862 the Union Pacific, starting at Omaha,
received a subsidy in government bonds of $16,000 per mile for the portion
of its line traversing the great plains; $48,000 per mile for the one hundred
and fifty miles across the Rocky Mountains, and $32,000 per mile for the
remainder of the line. The aggregate of this subsidy for the 1,033 miles
of road was $27,226,512. The Central Pacific received at the same time a
similar subsidy in bonds, the total amount being $27,855,680, or a little
more than that of the Union Pacific. Each company obtained at the same
time a grant of public lands of 12,800 acres per mile of road. This route
was naturally the first selected, as it closely followed the overland trail to
California made by the gold hunters and was the route that was trav-
ersed by the overland mail and passenger coaches, and the thrifty agri-
cultural settlements of the Mormons in the valley of the Great Salt Lake
were also on the way.

Stimulated by the aid bestowed by the federal government the Union
Pacific and the Central Pacific, which together formed the first trans-
continental line, made rapid progress. The Central Pacific was the first
to begin operations, the work of grading being commenced at Sacramento
in January, 1863, though but few people had faith in its ability to complete
such an undertaking. A notable feature in the construction of this road
was the employment of Chinese labor. At first there were many dis-
couragements to be encountered in the work of construction, but after a
time public confidence was secured, the company became more prosperous,
and its monthly earnings increased.

Work was not begun at the eastern end of the road by the Union
Pacific Company for eighteen months after it was inaugurated at the
western terminus, but fast time was made after it did commence, as it was



able to carry the work on during the winter while the Central was delayed
by the deep snows. It had, besides, the advantage that there was a level
plain over which to lay its tracks for five hundred miles. The Northwest
Bailroad between Chicago and Missouri was completed by this time so the
Union Pacific was enabled to transport all its supplies by rail while the
Central Pacific had to wait until its materials were brought around by the
way of Cape Horn. By the summer of 1867 the Central Pacific had reached
the summit of the Sierras, fifteen tunnels were far advanced toward com-
pletion, and ten thousand men and thirteen hundred teams were working
on the grade down the eastern slope. The Union Pacific had a still larger
force at work and was now well on to the foot-hills of the Rocky Moun-

As the work began to near completion, it was pushed forward by both
companies to the utmost
limit of their ability.
Twenty-five thousand work-
men and six thousand teams
were ceaselessly at work on
the road, and six hundred
tons of material were daily
forwarded from either end
of the track. At one time
there were thirty vessels en
route around Cape Horn with
rolling stock for the Central
Pacific, besides what was
transported across the isth-
mus. The Union Pacific showed equal energy, and the fact is recorded
that "more ground was ironed in a day than was traversed by the ox
teams of the pioneers of '49."

The work progressed so rapidly that by the 10th of June, 1869, the last
spike in the last rail was to be driven. Governor Stanford and Vice-Pres-
ident Durant, the two great leaders, shook hands over the last rail as it
was laid in place. Arrangements were made with the superintendents of
telegraph lines to connect with all the fire alarm bells in the various cities
all over the country, that they might be struck as the last spike was
driven. Two gold spikes were sent from California and two silver ones
from Nevada and Arizona respectively. At the final ceremonies the two
silver spikes were driven first, after which Vice-President Durant drove



one of the golden spikes, and then Leland Stanford stood with uplifted
arm waiting the moment that should give the signal that the work was
accomplished; the blow fell, the last spike was driven, and the East
was united in closer ties with the West than had ever before been

The advocates of the Northern route did not venture to compete with
the schemes described, but they did get a charter and land grant, although
they did not ask for money or credit, and their bill was passed through
Congress at the same time with the Union and Central bill and was signed
by President Lincoln July 2, 1864. The land grant, instead of being
twenty sections to a mile of track, was twenty in Minnesota and Oregon
and forty for the remainder of the way, but there was no provision for a
subsidy in government bonds. The passage of this act was largely due to
the efforts of Mr. Perham, who had previously advocated a road from the
Missouri River to the Bay of San Francisco. He gained the favor and
friendship of Thaddeus Stevens, of Pennsylvania, who did much to aid the
passage of the bill.

Thus the great enterprise was launched but made very little progress
for the next few years. The franchise was transferred, a new board of
directors was elected, and Congress was applied to for aid. The time for
commencement should have been in July, 1866, but the new company
obtained an extension of time, and not succeeding in getting financial aid
from Congress determined to wait no longer, but obtained the passage of
an act authorizing the company to issue its bonds and secure them by a
mortgage upon its railroad and telegraph line. The services of the great
banking house of Jay Cooke and Company were secured for the sale of the
bonds, which under their management soon became a favorite form of
investment for the small savings of mechanics, farmers and tradesmen, as
well as for the larger accumulations of capitalists.

The construction of the Northern Pacific began in the summer of 1870 r
but the first ground was broken during the winter about a mile west of the

Online LibraryNelson Appleton MilesPersonal recollections and observations of General Nelson A. Miles embracing a brief view of the Civil War, or, From New England to the Golden Gate : and the story of his Indian campaigns, with comments on the exploration, development and progress of our great western empire → online text (page 48 of 51)