Friday, April 26, 2019

Transcontinental Railroad Sesquicentennial by Zina Abbott

May 10th of next month marks the sesquicentennial of the joining of the Central Pacific Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad at Promontory Point, often known as the Golden Spike ceremony. Over the course of several blog posts, I hope to share bits and pieces of this endeavor. I do have a vested interest in the topic for several reasons. For one, my great-grandfather worked for the Union Pacific Railroad as it cut its way through Echo Canyon in Utah. Also, the history of the Central Pacific Railroad plays a big role in the early history of California, my adopted state.

The First Transcontinental Railroad, known originally as the "Pacific Railroad" and later as the “Overland Route," was a 1,912-mile (3,077 km) continuous railroad line constructed between 1863 and 1869 that connected the existing eastern U.S. rail network at Omaha, Nebraska/Council Bluffs, Iowa with the Pacific coast at the Oakland Long Wharf on San Francisco Bay. The rail line was built by three private companies over public lands provided by extensive US land grants. Construction was financed by both state and US government subsidy bonds as well as by company issued mortgage bonds. The Western Pacific Railroad Company built 132 mi (212 km) of track from Oakland/Alameda to Sacramento, California. The Central Pacific Railroad Company of California (CPRR) constructed 690 mi (1,110 km) eastward from Sacramento to Promontory Summit, Utah Territory. The Union Pacific built 1,085 mi (1,746 km) from the road's eastern terminus at Council Bluffs near Omaha, Nebraska westward to Promontory Summit.

The railroad opened for through traffic on May 10, 1869 when CPRR President Leland Stanford ceremonially drove the gold "Last Spike. " which was later often called the "Golden Spike," with a silver hammer at Promontory Summit.

Historian Stephen E. Ambrose wrote, “Next to winning the Civil War and abolishing slavery, building the first transcontinental railroad from Omaha, Nebraska, to Sacramento, California, was the greatest achievement of the American people in the nineteenth century….”1

The completion of this railroad proved to be a monumental feat that revolutionized the settlement and economy of the American West. Where before, my pioneer ancestors traveled for months across the plains to reach their destination, the trip on the railroad from New York to San Francisco could be made in seven days. It used to cost about $1,000 (value of that time) to travel by wagon and ox team from New York to San Francisco. Once the Transcontinental Railroad was completed, the cost of a rail ticket was $150.00 for first class and $70 for third, or emigrant, class (hard, narrow benches set close together). Freight rates by railroad were far less than for oxen- or horse-driven wagons, sailboats or steamships. Cross country mail that once cost dollars per ounce and took months to reach its destination now cost pennies and was delivered in a matter of days.

I will end with this quote printed in the Deseret News, the primary newspaper of Salt Lake City, the largest and only city of any size between the Missouri and California:

         “The last tie has been laid, the last rail is placed in position, and the last spike is driven, which binds the Atlantic and Pacific oceans with an iron band. The electric flash has borne the tidings to the world, and it now devolves upon us, the favored eye-witnesses of the monumental feat, to enter our record of the facts…. Never before has this continent disclosed anything bearing comparison with it. The massive oaken-hued trains of the Central Pacific lie upon their iron path, confronted by the elegant coaches of the Union pacific.
         “Thousands of throbbing hearts impulsively beat to the motion of the trains at the front locomotives of each company led on majestically up to the very verge of the narrow break between the lines where, in a few moments, was to be consummated the nuptial rites uniting the gorgeous East and the imperial West with the indissoluble seal of inter-oceanic commerce.”2

Golden Spike Ceremony Recreation - Ctsy Hyrum K. Wright

My most recent book, Virginia’s Vocation, is now available on Amazon. In 1859, when Virginia, escorted by her older brother, Jefferson, travel from Missouri to Ohio, the train that had almost reached St. Joseph, Missouri was the most westerly point served by a railroad east of the Missouri River. This was a mere decade before the east and west were joined by the Transcontinental Railroad. To read the book description and access the purchase link, please CLICK HERE.

1. Taken from the Stephen B. Ambrose, Nothing Like It in the World (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000), 369-70. Reprinted in Museum Memories, Volume 1 (Salt Lake City, Utah: International Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 2009), pg. 393-95.

2. Taken from the Deseret News, May 19, 1869, 169; Kate B. Carter, Our Pioneer Heritage (Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1969), 12:285. Reprinted in Museum Memories, Volume 1 (Salt Lake City, Utah: International Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 2009), pg. 393.


Museum Memories, Volume 1 (Salt Lake City, Utah: International Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 2009)


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

So you want to meet an Outlaw?

In the world of rodeo, our equine partners are the most important part. You can be an insanely talented Calf Roper or Barrel Racer, but if you don’t have an insanely talented horse to help you out, you won’t get very far. The same goes for the bucking stock.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to Tyler Waguespack’s Outlaw. He’s one of the best Steer Wrestling horses to ever go down the road. Although semi-retired now, Tyler pulls him out for the big rodeos close to home.

Fans of the Red Bluff, California rodeo are especially fond of Outlaw. He’s carried the last four Red Bluff Champions to the winner’s circle. The palomino partnered with Tyler Pearson last year, Chance Howard in 2017, Ty Erickson in 2016, and Tyler Waguespack the year before that.

Outlaw was originally trained as a barrel horse, but he made it clear, he didn’t like that event. Waguespack and his father bought him to try. There’s one thing that all good barrel horses and steer wrestling horses have in common, and that’s speed. Outlaw has plenty of speed. “He was a run-off,” Waguespack said. “He wouldn’t turn the first barrel.”

It is common for steer wrestlers to share horses during the hectic months of the rodeo season. Many times the cowboys fly to rodeos and borrow someone else’s mount. Outlaw is so good that many cowboys want to compete on him.

The yellow gelding has helped pull checks from rodeos across the country. Waguespack has brought him to California for four rodeos; Red Bluff, Salinas, Clovis, and Oakdale, and he’s carried the champion at each of those rodeos. At Clovis, he’s been the horse ridden by the champ two of the last four years.

Outlaw won’t be going to California this year. He’s staying closer to home. Waguespack knows the horse is up to the job, but he’s earned the right to take it easy.

Outlaw in the hydro-therapy bath.

If you love rodeo horses, check out Tied to a Dream, the first book in my new series, Harney County Cowboys series. It features the heroine's barrel horse, Dreamer. Find it and my other books on my Amazon Author page.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Abe Lincoln, Indian Fighter!

By Andrea Downing

Lincoln, 1846--earliest known photo of him
 Sometimes it might seem that the life of Abraham Lincoln commenced with the Civil War, or perhaps it skipped from birth in a log cabin to the Civil War. And sometimes it seems that ‘The West’ starts with Kansas, part of present-day ‘flyover country’. But long before the Civil War and the great American expansion westward, long before the Transcontinental Railway, the west included Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois, And then, as later, Native Americans fought for their rights.  So I wonder if you know that Honest Abe was an Indian fighter?  Sort of…
In the early 1800s, there was little sympathy for Native Americans and Lincoln could be considered a man of his time, although a fair one. In 1832 the Illinois militia, which included all white men over the age of eighteen, was called out due to the movement of the Sauk and Fox peoples past the Illinois border.  The United States had previously forced them off their homelands in Illinois, across the Mississippi River. There was a treaty, of course:  the Fourth Treaty of Prairie du Chien, of July, 1830. These Sauk lands stretched from northwestern Illinois to southwestern Wisconsin, but the US government sought to make room for settlers moving into that area and therefore pushed the Indians into present-day Iowa.  The Native Americans faced a hard winter there and were unable to produce crops. It fell to a warrior, Black Hawk, to take them back across the river and try to regain their lands. Having fought on the side of the British in the War of 1812, Black Hawk’s band were known as the British Band and numbered four to five hundred.
Lincoln, then aged twenty-three, joined the Illinois militia. He already had political aspirations and was known locally for his leadership skills. It was no surprise, therefore, that the men—most of whom were rough prairie people—elected him Captain, and he served in this capacity for one month from late April to late May, 1832. He was in the 31st Regiment of Sangamon County Militia, 1st Division, and put in charge of a rifle company of the 4th Regiment of Mounted Volunteers. Lincoln remained modest about his captaincy, although he valued the honor of being chosen.  Fortunately for future events, he never saw any action other than a wrestling match to claim a good camping spot. Years later, in Congress in 1848, Lincoln jested about his militia days and the lack of any fighting: “By the way, Mr. Speaker, did you know I am a military Hero? Yes sir; in the days of the Black Hawk war, I fought, bled, and came away.... I had a good many bloody struggles with the mosquitoes; and, although I never fainted from loss of blood, I can truly say I was often very hungry.” [1]
All of this is not to say Lincoln’s time in the militia was a walk in the park.  He and his men came upon the results of the Battle of Kellogg’s Grove. Sources quote him as saying, “I remember just how those men looked as we rode up the little hill where their camp was. The red light of the morning sun was streaming upon them as they lay head towards us on the ground. And every man had a round red spot on top of his head, about as big as a dollar where the redskins had taken his scalp. It was frightful, but it was grotesque, and the red sunlight seemed to paint everything all over.”2
Lincoln gets between his men and a Sauk
Despite this, Lincoln was able to save one Sauk, an old man who gave himself up at the camp showing a paper which stated in English that he was a good man.  When Lincoln's men wished to kill him anyway, the Captain got between the Indian and the men and convinced them that this was not the thing civilized men would do.
Lincoln, of course, was eventually mustered out and went on to his political career.  But what happened to Black Hawk? Needless to say, he and his men lost the war.  They were taken captive until another worthless treaty was forced upon them, the so-called Black Hawk Purchase or ‘Treaty with Sauk and Foxes, 1832’, which this time took six million acres in the northeast corner of Iowa—a forty mile strip—at eleven cents an acre.  There would be two further purchases in 1837 and 1842.
Black Hawk lived with the Sauk along the Iowa River and later moved to the Des Moines River near Iowaville in what is present-day south east Iowa. He passed after a short illness in 1838.
Black Hawk

As for Abraham Lincoln, I leave that for your research.

[1] Wikimedia quotes this and gives two sources.

[2] Again, several sources quote this as mentioned in Wiki, above.
      All photos Wikimedia