The Coming of the Railroad
The surplus products of the fields and herds of the settlers in the interior counties of the new state had to be hauled in wagons or driven on foot to the river towns which were the only commercial outlets. This was a heavy handicap on trade, since it meant in the main low prices for what they had to sell and high prices for what they had to buy. This in turn, by lessening their available resources, was a hindrance both to progress and to prosperity. The need of changed conditions was manifest.
In January, 1848, at an extra session, the First General Assembly, responsive to an expressed public desire, memorialized Congress "for a donation of land to aid in the construction of a railroad from Dubuque to Keokuk in the State of Iowa." The memorial asserted this road would be beneficial in a double way. It would give the community a market, and it would enable the General Government to dispose of vacant prairie lands which otherwise would remain unsold for years to come. As proposed it was to run through the counties of Dubuque, Jones, Linn, Johnson, Washington, Henry and Lee.
On the ground of possessing no definite data in regard to the length of the road or its practicability, Congress took no action. This difficulty, when learned, was felt to be one that could be removed. Locally the movement was viewed with such favor that a "Dubuque and Keokuk Railroad Company" was organized and a partial payment secured on the stock subscribed to provide funds to prosecute the undertaking. A preliminary survey of the route at once was made. A full report of this survey, prepared by the engineer, Thomas J. McKean, and submitted to the second General Assembly, was adopted in January, 1849, by that body, but with an added provision that in the permanent location "Jefferson County" might be substituted for "Henry County." In the belief that Congress would now vote the grant of land asked for, commissioners to administer it were appointed in order that immediate advantage might be taken of the gift.
The permissive optional route would indicate not only that the people of Jefferson County looked with favor upon the general plan, but that they already aimed to bring the road to Fairfield. Of the first stages of this purpose, it is known only that on January 6, 1849, at a public meeting of which Daniel Rider was chairman and Dr. Wm. L. Orr, secretary, Charles Negus, J. Rider, Wm. I. Cooper, Wm. G. Coop, Arthur Bridgman and Wm. Pitkin were chosen "trustees to solicit subscriptions for stock" in the company, and V. P. Van Antwerp, S. J. Bayard and C. W. Slagle were named "to memorialize Congress for a grant of land."
The next two years deepened interest in the project, but accomplished little. For more effective work, the Dubuque and Keokuk Railroad Company was reorganized with two sets of officers, one to look after its interests from Iowa City north, and one to look after its interests from Iowa City south. Two residents of Fairfield bore an active and prominent part in the affairs of the Southern branch. These were C. W. Slagle, its treasurer, and Wm. E. Groff, its secretary.
In February, 1851, the third General Assembly granted to the Dubuque and Keokuk Railroad South, from Iowa City in Johnson County, via Washington and Brighton in Washington County, Fairfield in Jefferson County, Salem in Henry County, West Point and Montrose to Keokuk in Lee County, a right of way 100 feet wide through sections sixteen and other lands owned by the state over which the road might be built. The outlook was promising. In Jefferson County in particular, where some two hundred shares of the company's stock had been taken, the people were sanguine. The people of Keokuk, however, assuming that in any event the trade of the north and west must pass down the Mississippi River and so on account of its location through the "Gate City," were serenely indifferent. The fatal consequence of this attitude was failure to combine in a united and determined effort to accomplish the enterprise quickly.
Before the close of the year a railroad to connect the Mississippi with the Missouri was suggested. This was soon followed by the specific proposal of a road to run from Burlington west to the Missouri River. It was the dawn of a new situation. The advocates of the Dubuque and Keokuk Railroad South took alarm. Its stockholders at their annual meeting in Fairfield on January 2, 1852, urged upon their senators and representatives in Congress "an untiring industry and continual watchfulness" in carrying out the will of the Legislature and people as embodied in their previous instructions. The assurance of the citizens of Keokuk was disturbed. In massmeeting on the 26th, they declared "that a road running west from Burlington to the Missouri River through the southern tier of counties, instead of one from Davenport to Council Bluffs through the very heart and capital of the state, would, in our opinion, be contrary to the wishes and opposed to the interests of a large portion of the people of Iowa."
On February 5th, there was published in The Ledger a communication in which were discussed the claims for popular favor of the rival railroads. Its author concealed his identity under the pseudonym "Jefferson County." He opposed a north and south road as a visionary scheme. It would compete with the Mississippi River. Its aim was the advantage merely of a small portion of the state. On this ground a memorial for a grant of lands to aid in its construction would be rejected. Without such aid it could not be built, as it offered no inducement to eastern capitalists to invest their means in it since it would not profitably connect with any road either in prospect or existing in which their capital was already employed. He argues for a road west from Burlington for various reasons. It had for its object the good of a large extent of country. It would therefore present stronger claims for the sanction of Congress. It would favorably connect with a magnificent system of railroads destined soon to traverse the rich and beautiful plains of Illinois. "No other improvement in Iowa," he asserted, "would benefit so large a proportion of the population or a greater area of territory than the proposed road from Burlington to Council Bluffs."
The appearance of this article was not accidental. It was clearly a recognition of the fact that just then the people of Jefferson County held the power of election and rejection. It was designed to influence at the moment the sentiment of the community which was the chief factor in the contest. It anticipated by a few days a "state railroad convention" which on February 11th assembled at Fairfield. This convention had a large attendance. The counties of Jones, Johnson, Linn, Iowa, Scott, Washington, Mahaska, Polk, Marion, Van Buren, Lee, Henry and Jefferson were represented. The delegates of Dubuque County, not being able to be present "on account of short notice, distance and bad roads," desired the delegates from Lee County to cast their votes for them. The privilege was authorized on the motion of George Acheson.
The Jefferson County delegation consisted of George Acheson, W. E. Groff, Dr. J. T. Huey, Samuel Noble, W. E. Sargent, A. H. Brown, Ezra Drown, T. D. Evans, C. W. Slagle, Caleb Baldwin, William Baker, Charles David, Thomas Miller, L. Grady, F. Hurd, John Andrews, Evan Jones, George Craine, Dr. J. D. Stark, Dr. J. C. Wear, Dr. W. L. Orr, Robert McElhinny, Alexander Fulton, Dr. N. Steel, Samuel Clinton, E. J. Gilham, William S. Lynch, W. S. Cook, S. C. Day, John Cochran, Joseph Fell, John Fell and Thomas Foster. It took a prominent place in the proceedings. Caleb Baldwin served as one of the secretaries. C. W. Slagle and Ezra Drown were members of the committee on resolutions. George Acheson, Charles Negus and Dr. J. D. Stark addressed the convention.
Something of feeling crept into the resolutions. They pronounced for a grant of lands in and of the construction of railroads from Dubuque to Keokuk and from Davenport to the Missouri River, "no more no less." They affirmed the right of the people of Iowa to ask this of Congress and to receive it. They asserted that "these two roads, one running north and south, the other east and west, through the central and most populous (present and prospective) of the state," would be of more benefit than any other roads suggested. They recalled that the people of Iowa had "expressed their wishes in every variety of form and upon numberless occasions for more than five years past." They denounced the allegations of the enemies of the Dubuque and Keokuk Railroad that its route ran either "along the banks of the Mississippi River" or "parallel" with it as "a gross and inexcusable perversion of fact," the truth being that it penetrated the interior at a distance, generally of some fifty or sixty miles, and embraced probably a majority of the population of the state between it and the river. They urged that those who held in their hands the destiny of these important measures should constantly bear in mind that these roads terminated, "the one at Davenport and the other at Keokuk, points where the Mississippi with rock bottom and high banks may be easily bridged." They insisted that "the arguments and instructions of three legislative sessions, four state conventions, a score or more of district meetings, and a multitude of petitions" had demonstrated the preeminent claims to Congressional favor of these coordinate roads and made it the paramount duty of the Iowa delegation to support them with all their skill and energy. They declared "an unalterable determination to adhere to them through every vicissitude and at every hazard," and invited their fellow citizens throughout the state to unite with them in their efforts.
Two days later another "state railroad convention" met at Ottumwa. From Jefferson County were present W. H. Wallace, J. W. Culbertson, Charles Negus and Samuel Clinton. Wallace was chosen president and Negus a vice president. It was intended that the wind should sit in the right quarter.
Elaborate resolutions, notable for their sweep and vision, were adopted. They termed a railroad from Lafayette to the Missouri River, as proposed in bills introduced in each branch of Congress, "a great national enterprise." They set out that it excelled any road of equal length in the United States in ease of construction and directness of course; that it passed through a country more generally inland and remote from other facilities of transportation than any other; that it would create opportunities for commerce where they were most needed; that it had the merit of being the most central route through the states which it traversed, and was preeminently entitled to national support as furnishing the most direct communication ever yet projected to the mouth of the Platte, "along the valley of which river runs the only practicable route to the Pacific."
With prophetic instinct they regarded "the early construction of a railroad connecting the Atlantic States with those springing upon the Pacific as a military and political as well as a commercial necessity." As the contempleted road in connection with those already constructed or in progress would complete the line of railroads entirely across the Atlantic States, they asserted that it was in extraordinary degree entitled to the aid of the General Government in amy mode "which is constitutional and proper."
They viewed the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad as accommodating the largest portion of the citizens of Iowa, "as vital in developing the resources of the state, as essential to the early and successful settlement of the vast public domain in the interior of the state, and as furnishing an early and direct communication with the Atlantic cities and the commerce of the world."
In defense or in explanation of their position they affirmed that in their efforts to construct through the southern interior of Iowa a railroad that would accommodate 17,000 square miles of territory upon which in 1850 there was a population of 123,000 souls, they could be actuated by no narrow feeling of sectional jealousy. They claimed the privilege, which they likewise conceded to others, to express an opinion in relation to any plan of internal improvement sought to be accomplished by enlisting in its behalf the political power and influence of the commonwealth. With sarcastic thrust, they averred that they were not aware that any particular section of the state had procured a legal preemption right to the location of a railroad to be constructed under the auspices of the General Government, and maintained their "undoubted right" to secure their own interest "without asking the permission of any self-constituted dictators of state policy or guardians of state prosperity."
They requested their senators and representatives to work for a grant of lands to the railroad from Lafayette to the Missouri River. They expressed the belief that without the eastern connection the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad was indispensable to the best populated and most fertile portion of the state, inasmuch as it would afford the only outlet of its productions to the Mississippi River. Finally, they pledged themselves, if aid was withheld, to secure its completion by their own efforts and resources at the earliest possible day.
The two proposals continued to be pressed throughout the year by their respective supporters. Again Congress failed to make any donation of lands for the construction of railroads in Iowa. The fourth General Assembly, which met in December, took up the subject. There was a struggle to control its declarations. In a letter written the day before Christmas, James W. Grimes announced the result to Senator Dodge. "The project of a road from Dubuque is entirely dead. It has only twenty-one friends in the House to forty-two against it, and the disproportion is about the same in the Senate. Memorials passed are for three roads:
"1st. A road from Burlington to the Missouri River, at or near the mouth of Platte.
"2nd. A road from Davenport via Muscatine to Kanesville (Council Bluffs).
"3d. A road from Dubuque to Fort Des Moines.
"No other memorials will pass this winter, and the above may be regarded as the settled policy of the state."
Plans for building the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad rapidly developed. The first action was taken by the people of Burlington. On March 16, 1853, a meeting of citizens of Jefferson County was held at Fairfield to determine what it was their part to do. Thomas McCulloch of Abingdon presided. Henry Warner was secretary. H. B. Hendershott of Ottumwa and Charles Negus made addresses. David Sheward, Jesse Williams and James Thompson prepared the resolutions. They noted "with great pleasure and deep interest" the efforts of Burlington and other places in the undertaking. They believed that "the wants of this portion of Iowa, viewed in a proper light," demanded the construction of the road, and that "the best and most feasible" route was west from Burlington through Mount Pleasant, through Fairfield and through Ottumwa. Inasmuch as eastern capitalists had proffered aid, they favored the proposition and requested the county judge "to submit the question of the taking of $100,000 stock by the county to the people to be voted upon at the coming August election, or some time prior thereto." They also desired that "books be opened for private subscriptions" at Fairfield. Acting upon a suggestion originating without the county, they called a convention for April 20th and invited "the friends of the road, east, west, north and south, to take part."
Des Moines, Henry, Jefferson, Wapello, Marion and Decatur Counties responded to the call. Jefferson County's delegation consisted of ninety or more representative citizens. James M. Morgan of Des Moines County was selected for president. W. H. Wallace of Jefferson County and Thomas Ping of Wapello County were the vice presidents. J. P. Grantham of Henry County and David Sheward of Jefferson County were the secretaries. There were addresses by W. Thompson and H. W. Starr, both of Burlington. J. C. Hall of Des Moines County, Alvin Saunders of Henry County, James Thompson of Jefferson County, H. Kramer of Wapello County, and O. N. Kellogg of Decatur County reported the resolutions.
The necessity of a railroad "from the Mississippi at Burlington to the mouth of the Platte on the Missouri" was reiterated. Their faith was strong enough to warrant a statement "that a sufficient amount of stock can be taken by individuals, towns and counties to create a capital" upon which the road can be built, "and abundant security given to capitalists who will furnish money" for the work. In doubt whether counties could take stock in railroads, they called upon the governor to convene the Legislature on the second Monday in June to pass a law authorizing them to subscribe for stock in such companies under proper restrictions. To this request a peculiar significance attaches. They recommended that the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad Company reopen its stock books, that all the counties along the line be invited to subscribe as soon as they have authority, that private subscriptions be solicited, and that early steps be taken to survey the route. They desired county judges "to appropriate sufficient funds to secure a reconnoissance" of the several routes through the two southern tiers of counties. They recommended that a committee of five be appointed in each county to present the subject to them and if necessary to procure private subscriptions for this survey.
The committee named for Jefferson County were Jesse Williams, James Thompson, D. Sheward, L. F. Boerstler and A. R. Fulton.
On the 25th of June there was a meeting at Fairfield to review the situation. Caleb Baldwin was chairman, Charles Negus, secretary. The submission to the voters of a proposition for the county to borrow $100,000 to aid in the construction of the road was favored. A committee was appointed to attend to this and another to meet a corps of engineers engaged in examining the country to find a suitable route.
To obtain a favorable vote the county was systematically organized and thoroughly canvassed. Public meetings were held at private houses and at schoolhouses in the various localities. The Germans of Walnut Township were addressed in their native tongue. A special committee looked after each township. The committee for Polk were J. C. Wear, T. McCulloch, J. D. Stark; for Des Moines, M. Black, S. Jacobs. J. F. Wilson; for Locust Grove, H. B. Mitchell, S. Clinton, T. M. Brooks; for Liberty, T. B. Shamp, D. Rodabaugh, J. Cunningham; for Cedar, M. McClellan, P. L. Huyett, G. W. Honn; for Lockridge, S. H. Bradley, J. R. Parsons, W. E. Sargent; for Walnut, C. Negus, H. Gorsuch, A. H. Brown; for Round Prairie, J. T. Moberly, S. Lynch, G. Acheson; for Penn, J. Eckert, E. Jones, D. Switzer; for Blackhawk, J. C. Fetter, C. David, C. W. Slagle; for Fairfield, J. Beatty, D. Sheward, C. Baldwin.
The result proved the effectiveness of their oversight and watchful care. There was cast a total of 1,159 votes for the loan and but 424 votes against it. Fairfield Township gave 371 votes for the loan and no vote against it. The most opposition to it was in the townships of Liberty and Des Moines.
In August a survey was run from Mount Pleasant to Fairfield. About the same time the citizens of the county appear to have realized that without individual subscriptions in a large amount for stock they were in danger of losing the road. On the 24th of the month there was a meeting at Fairfield to consider what to do in this emergency. Charles Negus was chairman and J. F. Wilson secretary. It was resolved to use every effort to comply with the requirement, "provided the Town of Fairfield, Jefferson County, is made a point on the railroad." Dr. J. D. Stark, R. McElhinny, James Thompson, and W. F. Campbell were named as a soliciting committee.
The restriction was added because there really was or seemed to be a serious attempt to secure the adoption of a route through the Salem and Van Buren County. On account of that movement a massmeeting assembled on March 4, 1854, at Fairfield to devise a means to prevent its consummation. Alexander Fulton was chosen chairman and J. T. Huey secretary. The necessity for earnest and prompt action was made clear. A committee of thirty was appointed to procure the right of way and to obtain private subscriptions for stock. Some thirty shares were subscribed for by persons present. An adjournment was then taken for one week.
At the continuance of the meeting on the 11th, the committee through D. Sheward reported some $28,000 subscribed for stock and with few exceptions the right of way clear. After a number of stirring speeches, eleven more shares of stock were taken. It was then decided "to adjourn till early candle lighting." At the night session the soliciting committee was increased to fifty members and instructed to report on the next Thursday evening. There was full confidence in the outcome. Resolutions, drafted with an eye to the future, were submitted by Negus, Sheward and Williams and unanimously approved. They may be accepted as expressing the state of mind of the community.
"Resolved, That we feel a deep interest in the actions of Congress in relation to granting lands to the State of Iowa for railroad purposes, and we believe the policy adopted by the last Legislature in relation to grants of land for railroad purposes is the one best calculated for the general interests of the state, and we urge upon our senators and representatives to use their utmost exertions to obtain a grant of land for the roads asked for by the Legislature and that they ask for that, and no more until that is obtained.
"Resolved, That we believe it would be to the interest of the state if those newly projected routes would withdraw their petitions and forces from Washington and allow the original bill to pass; and further, that by so doing they will secure the grant and open the door for a supplemental act, by which the state policy may be changed and they come in for their quota."
A vote of thanks was returned the men who had sacrificed their personal interests in giving the right of way through their farms.
On the 13th, when the soliciting committee had ended its labors, the subscriptions for stock amounted to $42,000.
On the 22d, at Burlington, the directors of the company, after inspecting the subscription books, examining the reports of the several surveys, and weighing the arguments presented for the different routes, located the road through Fairfield to Agency City.
The good fortune achieved by the long struggle called for a celebration. It was arranged for the evening of April 1st and was styled "A Railroad Supper and an Illumination." The supper was served at the three hotels, each of which provided for forty persons. These hotels were The National, on the north side of the square, The Eagle, on the west side of the square, and The Clay, which continues as The Leggett House. Tickets to the entertainment cost 50 cents each and were "lifted at the table." A president and vice president were assigned to each. At The National these honorary officrs were James Thompson and Alexander Fulton; at The Eagle, Dr. J. D. Stark and Thomas Moorman; at The Clay, Dr. Darling and Smith Ball. The feasts, which sustained the favorable reputations of the landlords, were followed by speeches and toasts. The regular toasts read at the three places were these:
"The B. and M. R. R. Company -- May it prove a unit in all its actions, and may the efforts of the directors be successful to the speedy completion of the road.
"Railroads -- The very articles by which to develop the resources and wealth of a community."
"The Mississippi and the Des Moines -- May they soon be united by the iron bands, and may that union prove fruitful.
"Jefferson County -- Third in rank, as name, it is but due to the enterprise and energy of her citizens that she rank among the first.
"Fairfield -- Destined to be the Queen City of the Prairies -- May her citizens ever prove true to her best interests.
"'Honor to whom honor is due' -- May those who have employed their time and property to the furtherance of our railroad project meet with a speedy and liberal reward.
"Our Farmers -- Success to them, one and all -- May their harvests be abundant and their sales profitable.
"The 'Iron Horse' -- May we soon witness the laying of the 'track' upon which he will come bounding with iron nerve across the prairies of old Jefferson, as though he were in fact 'a thing of life.'
"Our Merchants -- May the time soon arrive when they will not have to 'wait for the wagon' for the transportation of their goods.
"The Hawyekes -- Deserving the appellation, they have commenced a work in the completion of which they view a brilliant future.
"Our Host and Hostess -- Deserving of praise for the repast they have set before us -- May they secure to themselves health and wealth by 'car' loads."
Voluteer toasts succeeded. At The National two were offered by D. Sheward.
"Judge Knapp of Van Buren County -- A thoroughgoing railroad man -- May Van Buren, through his influence, soon experience the benefits of a railroad."
The judge responded.
"Our Presiding Officer, Colonel Thompson -- and Vice President -- Much praise is due them for the zeal and untiring energy made manifest in the furtherance of our railroad project." The president responded.
At The Eagle a number of volunteer toasts were offered.
By Dr. J. C. Ware: "The Railroad Is Located -- Hurrah for Old Jefferson! Who shall dare say that our prospects are not destined to be brilliant -- that we shall not take the first rank in the market as well as in the affairs of state? Our destiny is fixed, and henceforth ours is to be the Queen City of the West. May it bring an overflowing business to Fairfield."
By A. R. Fulton: "Our Worthy President, Dr. J. D. Stark -- A zealous and energetic railroad man, deserving of the gratitude of the community for the interest he has ever exhibited in our railroad enterprise."
By Thomas Moorman: "Fairfield -- The Queen Town of the West -- May she be the Queen City."
By A. R. Fulton: "Our Vice President, Thomas Moorman -- A faithful worker in the good cause, may his energies be rewarded by the realization of our fondest hopes."
By H. L. Bassett: "The Steam Car -- May it ever prove successful in pleasure trips to the ladies of Fairfield."
By Dr. J. D. Stark: "The Press of Fairfield -- It has ever seconded all our railroad exertions -- may a thousand and one successes attend it."
By J. W. DuBois: "Fairfield, Her Future Destiny -- A bright particular star among the inland cities of the west -- in the bright galaxy of railroad realities."
By J. W. Fulton: "The Eagle -- May it fly away with the man who opposed the railroad tax."
By A. R. Fulton: "Jesse Williams, Our Director -- We have entire confidence in his fitness and ability for the discharge of the duties of his position."
By Ezra D. Thompson: "Libertyville -- May her jealousy toward her big sister subside, and she again be received into the family circle."
By A. R. Fulton: "The Hotels of Fairfield -- Where the stranger may ever find a comfortable home, and the weary traveler a resting place -- may the cars of the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad soon bring thousands to partake of their bounties."
At The Clay there were three volunteer toasts.
By I. W. McManaman: "Our Jefferson County Citizens -- Their energy for the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad, their talents and sterling integrity would do honor to any state."
By Caleb Baldwin: "The West -- Her brilliant prospects for the future -- soil as rich as any in the world, with climate as healthful as could be desired -- settled with a people unsurpassed in enterprise and intelligence, with room for more -- she bids the world welcome."
By I. W. McManaman: "The Hawkeyes of Iowa, Sons of the Pioneers -- Neither appalled by difficulties nor enfeebled by indulgence, they will rise to the elevation to which they are pointed by the example of their fathers, and to which they seem destined by Providence."
Before April passed, H. Thielsen, the chief engineer, advertised for proposals on grading and bridge work from Burlington to Ottumwa. Early in May contracts were "let in sections" numbered consecutively from the place of beginning; Alexander Fulton was awarded sections 54 and 55, which were a short distance west of Fairfield. He was the only local contractor.
On May 8th, the directors issued a call for the payment on June 1st of a first installment, on July 1st of a second installment, and on August 1 of a third installment, each of 5 per cent on the stock. Under the law this money had to be expended in the counties from which it was obtained. The subscribers in Jefferson County were authorized to make their payments to Henn, Williams and Company. Under this and the next call bonds for $30,000 were issued by the county judge, Moses Black.
On May 9th, there gathered at Fairfield a "railroad convention," the call for which originated at Keokuk. Its ostensible purpose was to urge Congress to pass the "Iowa land bill." There was a suspicion it meant something more. The Ledger voiced the common sentiment. "While we will do all we can to secure the grant under consideration that Keokuk may reap a portion of its benefits, we can do nothing that will in any degree diminish our aid in furtherance of the other enterprise in which we are engaged and to which we are pledged."
The meeting which named the Jefferson County delegation of sixty members also stated the local position. Their own rosy prospects were not lightly to be jeopardized by generous impulses toward other communities.
"Resolved, That we hail with pleasure the holding of a convention at this point, for the endorsement of the Iowa delegation in Congress in the course they have pursued relative to the memorials of the last State Legislature, asking for a grant of lands for the Dubuque, Davenport and Muscatine, Burlington and Keokuk and Missouri River Railroads, in presenting a bill which has passed the Senate, and is now pending in the House, and that while we firmly adhere to the policy set forth in said memorial we do not in the least wish to detract from the merits of the new projects now attracting the attentions of our neighbors.
"Resolved, That we desire the delegation to stand by the bill as introduced by Hon. A. C. Dodge, believing it to be in accordance with the memorials of our State Legislature."
The convention met with representatives present from the counties of Des Moines, Lee, Van Buren, Jefferson, Wapello, Keokuk, Davis, Appanoose, Lucas and Monroe. In the morning a temporary organization was effected. In the afternoon the permanent officers were seated. The president was James Thompson of Jefferson; the vice presidents were George Reynolds of Wapello, J. A. Williamson of Keokuk, A. White of Monroe, A. McCullough of Lee, John S. Sheller of Lucas, J. D. Baker of Van Buren, I. Kister of Davis, and A. Harris of Appanoose. The secretaries were C. Franklin and George Mitchler.
The committee on resolutions, the members of which were D. Sheward of Jefferson, D. F. Gaylord of Wapello, J. C. Hall of Des Moines, and T. B. Cuming of Lee, submitted the result of their deliberations. A letter and resolutions purporting to come from a convention held by the friends of the Fort Madison, Keosauqua and Bloomfield route, were next read. Over these arose an exciting debate.
An editorial comment of The Ledger two days later discloses the different viewpoints. "We would rejoice at the passage of that bill as the best that we have any possibility of getting at present, but it is an utter absurdity to think of obtaining a grant in such a way as to harmonize the various conflicting interests. Even if a general grant were made to the state to be distributed by our Legislature, it could not be expected that that body could possibly succeed in rendering entire satisfaction to every town and county in the state."
The committee's report was accepted without change.
"Whereas, The subject of a grant of land for railroad purposes is exciting to some extent, the different portions of our state through which routes have been made and are now surveying; and
"Whereas, A bill known as the 'Iowa Land Bill' is now pending in the House of Representatives, having passed the Senate; and
"Whereas, Said bill is drawn up in accordance with memorials passed by the Legislature of Iowa, at the session of 1852-3; and
"Whereas, Strenuous efforts are being made to defeat the bill, by foreign capitalists, as well as some of the friends of new and rival routes at home; and
"Whereas, We believe it to be the duty of Congress to consult and carry out the wishes of the citizens of Iowa, as expressed in their state policy, and as we believe that the General Government (as a landed proprietor) would confer a great benefit upon itself, as well as the entire mass of our citizens, by granting the passage of said bill, therefore,
"Resolved, That our delegation in Congress have truly represented the interests of the state by adhering to the policy adopted by the last Legislature and that they are sustained in their efforts by the true friends of a grant of land to Iowa for railroad purposes.
"Resolved, That we call upon the congressional delegation from Iowa to stand by the sentiments set forth in the memorial, and none other, regardless of outside influence and the misrepresentations of the sentiments of the people of Iowa.
"Resolved, That the entire Iowa delegation in Congress merits the gratitude and thanks of our people for their zeal and labor, manifested in support of this measure.
"Resolved, That we repudiate and denounce the action of certain lobby members (non-residents of Iowa) had at Washington City, in opposition to this measure, and request that they make it convenient to turn their attention to some other purpose than that of opposition to the measure, known as the 'Iowa Land Bill.'
"Resolved, That while we deprecate the course that has been pursued at home and abroad, by some of the friends of the new projects, now attracting the attention of a portion of our citizens, we do not wish, in the least, to detract from the merits of any route; yet we are determined to stand by the policy embraced in the memorial, as the first wishes of our people, without addition or diminution."
In the evening session, James Thompson and Charles Negus were "constituted a committee to report the names of suitable persons for the counties not represented to circulate memorials and obtain signatures praying for the passage of the 'Iowa Land Bill.'" The delegates present made such selections for their respective counties. L. F. Boerstler, W. F. Campbell, Jesse Williams, S. Clinton and W. G. Beck were chosen to perform this duty in Jefferson County.
All this work came to nothing.
On March 6, 1855, the "last rail" having been laid, the road connecting Burlington and Chicago was opened to traffic. This event was a strong incentive to push forward the construction of the road from Burlington west. The Iowa State Gazette sensed the danger of a long delay. "We have competitors who will take every advantage of our neglect, and unless we act promptly, we shall very surely find ourselves forestalled. These are not times to slumber and sleep; future destiny hangs upon the present. We have reached that tide in the affairs of man which taken at the flood leads on to fortune; and if we omit the opportunity the future course of our city may be 'bound in shallows and in miseries.' We have done much -- we have brought the iron horse here -- but much remains to be done -- we must still lead him onward till he slakes his thirst in the turbid waters of the Missouri. It must and can be done."
In the summer some interest in "The Ram's Horn," as the road from Dubuque to Keokuk had been styled in derision, was again manifested. "This road from north to south," an advocate wrote from Salem, "intersecting at two important points -- Fairfield and Iowa City -- the two great railways extending east and west, thus giving a northern and southern as well as an eastern and western communication, should again receive the consideration and support of a large majority of the citizens of our state. It having been surveyed, it requires no elaborate argument to prove the eligibility and utility of this road, as they are self-evident, written by the finger of Nature, as are also the great interests of our country which demand its construction."
The actual building of the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad progressed slowly. At the opening of 1856 it was not quite completed to Skunk River. To accomplish even this much all the available funds that had been raised both by public and private subscriptions in Des Moines and Henry Counties, amounting to about four hundred thousand dollars, had been used. That the amount already raised in a similar way in Jefferson and Wapello Counties, about two hundred and eighty thousand dollars, would not extend it to Ottumwa was certain. It was felt that to stop work only for a short time would be a calamity. The predicament of the company was explained in a published letter addressed by J. C. Hall, its president, to Jesse Williams and Robert McElhinny, its directors resident at Fairfield. In this a belief was expressed that, if each county would take additional stock to the amound of $100,000, ample means would be provided. It looked feasible and easy. Acting upon petitions Thomas McCullough, county judge, on February 21st issued a proclamation submitting to the legal voters at the April election the question of taking this stock, issuing bonds and levying a tax to pay the principal and interest.
Although there was some open opposition to the measure, it caused no alarm to its friends who, conficent of a successful issue, remained inactive. They were surprised and astonished at a majority of 294 votes against it. Possible contingencies frightened them. The election was on Monday, the 7th of April. They hastily called a meeting for Tuesday evening to confer over this untoward happening. There was a large attendance. W. Duane Wilson was selected for chairman and D. Sheward for secretary. After speeches by James Thompson, Berhnart Henn, C. E. Noble, Dr. N. Steel, Dr. Lewis and others, they embodied their views and conclusions in formal resolutions.
"Resolved, That as citizens of Jefferson County, we receive with the utmost profound regret the intelligence of the defeat of the new county subscription to the stock of the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad Company.
"Resolved, That our most sincere and grateful thanks are here presented to the people of Wapello County for their generous and magnanimous vote of an additional $100,000 to the stock of the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad (Company), although our refusal to take the same amount renders her noble gift useless to us and to her.
"Resolved, That we deem it more necessary now than ever, to exert ourselves to secure all the advantages which we may have possessed previous to the submission of the late vote to the suffrages of the people, for further operations in the prosecution of the extension of said road.
"Resolved, That a committee of three -- Dr. J. T. Huey, Alexander Fulton and James Rea -- be appointed to immediately visit and confer with those who are friendly to the extension of this line of road in the county of Wapello, in order to prevent a diversion of their old subscription and influence to any other route.
"Resolved, That a committee of three -- W. D. Wilson, R. McElhinny and Colonel Thompson -- be appointed to go immediately to Burlington, to confer with the president of the board of directors, the contractors, and others interested, in regard to the prospects of securing a new contract for the extension of the road through Fairfield to Ottumwa."
By an affirmative vote of 118, and no negative, it was also
"Resolved, That the county judge of Jefferson County is hereby requested to issue his proclamation, forthwith, authorizing a second vote to be taken on the proposition to take an additional $100,000 stock in the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad at the earliest possible day."
A committee of twenty-two was appointed to wait upon Judge McCullough and convey to him information of this action. In performing this duty the committee also offered to pay all costs of the special election in case the vote was not carried in favor of the load. Judge McCullough took the matter under advisement. On April 10th, he denied the request. It seemed to him that to require the voters "to lose another day at this busy season of the year, would be an outrage, and that it would exhibit not only a factious resistance to the will of the people fairly expressed but be a gross insult to the intelligence and understanding of a large and respectable majority of the people of the county."
In reporting to another meeting and "To the citzens of Jefferson County" the committee took exception to "the spirit" in which Judge McCullough couched his answer. After referring to the "unfair means" employed to defeat the loan, the report continued:
"In Fairfield, where before discussion, a large majority were opposed to the loan, it was found that there was a majority of about 335 at the polls for it, and similar results, it is conceded, would have been eventually shown in other townships, after a full and fair investigation of the subject. It is said that in some townships there was not a supply of tickets for taking the stock and tax; and, in the opinion of your committee, the words designated by the proclamation, to convey the wish of the voters, towit: 'For Taking the Stock and Tax' and 'Against Taking the Stock and Tax' did not truly state the issue." "Under these circumstances," they held the firm and sincere belief "that they would in no way 'outrage' or 'insult' their fellow citizens by asking a further consultation and another vote; but that by such further consultation and discussion, and by a vote separate from the influences attendant on all political elections, a result more decided in its character, and, to their minds, more correct, would be attained." They concluded with a suggestion of the propriety of securing a vote by petition in the manner prescribed by the statutes.
For submission by petition, it was necessary to have the signatures of one-fourth the voters. So difficult a task prevented any serious consideration of the method.
In September the situation and prospects of the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad were set out in a communication from the president of the company, W. F. Coolbaugh, to Judge McCullough as the official representative of the people of Jefferson County. It was apparently a candid statement. About twenty-eight miles of road were in operation. It was expected by the 1st of November to complete eight miles more. This would carry the road across Skunk River. So many conditions attached to the county bonds that they were unsalable except at an undue sacrifice. The private stock subscribed had not been paid up as anticipated. The grant of land would not be available for a long time to come. The suggestion was made that if the county would authorize the issue of $200,000 of bonds bearing 8 per cent interest and payable semi-annually in New York in payment of an equal amount of stock to be subscribed, sufficient funds could be raised on them to extend the road to Fairfield by the first day of July next. In the event this should be done, the previous subscription and previous issue of bonds were to be canceled and returned. Whether this course should be taken, or whether the extension of the road should be deferred for three or four years, was a question left to the judge and the people of the county to decide.
On November 27th, a massmeeting of which Thomas McCullough was chairman and A. M. Scott secretary, instructed the county judge to issue his proclamation submitting to the legal voters an issuance of bonds under conditions agreed upon. Before the election was called, the directors of the railroad company asked that the call be withheld to await further developments.
The delay occasioned anxiety. On January 10, 1857, there was another meeting of citizens. H. B. Mitchell was chairman and W. H. Seward secretary. Ward Lamson offered a resolution, but withdrew it to accept a substitute drawn by C. W. Slagle.
"Whereas, It is represented that if the bonds of the County of Jefferson were in such a shape as to make them more nearly available at their face, the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad Company would immediately proceed with the construction of the road to Fairfield, therefore
"Resolved, That as the send of this meeting, the people of the County of Jefferson ought, and will, if called upon to vote upon the subject, make any reasonable change in the character of said bonds for the purpose of making them more available, and this meeting invites the company to make such proposition to the county judge as, in their opinion, will induce the necessary availability."
This was adopted unanimously. The secretary was instructed to transmit a copy to the president of the company. It was a fine exhibition of good feeling and good will.
Congress, in May, 1856, having granted certain lands for the construction of particular railroads in Iowa, among them one "from Burlington on the Mississippi River to a point on the Missouri River, near the mouth of the Platte River," and the state having accepted the grant and fixed the terms under which the lands would be transferred, the status of the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad Company was so much improved that late in March, 1857, the sale of a large amount of its stock to eastern capitalists was successfully closed. These investors assumed control and prepared to push the work. Contracts were made for the grading of the line between the Skunk and Des Moines Rivers as the previous contracts of 1854 had long been abandoned. Section 52 was taken by Alexander Fulton, who again was the only local contractor. A vigorous activity was displayed. There was great hope of speedy results.
In the survey originally adopted the depot at Fairfield was located between Washington and Jefferson streets, the two which run north from the east and west sides of the square. In view of this adjoining lots were purchased for business purposes. In August, 1857, "A. Citizen" called attention to a change of location. He found cause for grievance in that the new site was without the town limits, while by the terms of the county loan Fairfield was to be a point on the railroad. The condition, as he construed it, meant that a depot should be established in the city, "not out a half mile, a mile or three miles." The news spread and aroused general indignation. It was felt the company had broken faith. The citizens met and took action to ascertain the reasons for the change. On August 31st they met again. George Acheson, the mayor, was chosen chairman and A. R. Fulton secretary. James F. Wilson reported such facts as he had been able to learn. Explanations on the part of the railroad company were made by John G. Reed of Detroit, its vice president, and by H. Thielsen, its chief engineer. These were not convincing. The claims of the community were set forth by a considerable number of persons, among whom were C. W. Slagle, Ward Lamson and Charles Negus. The local feeling was expressed with no dissentient note.
"Resolved, That, if the directors of the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad Company persist in the location of the depot outside of the city limits of Fairfield, the county judge of Jefferson County shall not issue to said party the bonds of the county in the loan of $100,000 and that we will resist the collection of any tax for the payment of said bonds and hold ourselves, as individuals, under no obligation to pay our private subscriptions to the stock of said company."
On motion of Dr. C. S. Clarke, it was ordered that the proceedings of the meeting be sent to the papers at Fairfield and Burlington, with a request to publish them, and that copies be sent to the directors of the railroad company.
To this protest the railroad company, no doubt considering it "a tempest in a teapot," made no response. The silence was understood as a determination "to persist in the infliction of a greivous wrong." On September 23d the citizens again conferred. Their decision was to continue their efforts "by all fair and honorable means;" to correspond, in relation to the conduct of the railroad company, with the various stockholders residing within the state and with the county judges and citizens along the line of road, and to publish a history of the transactions. To this purpose they zealously held.
A stringency in the money market in the fall compelled the railroad company to curtail its operations. In this dilemma a proposal became current in the community that the company issue "scrip" to relieve its financial embarrassment. pay its indebtedness, and continue work (sic). On October 26th, there was a citizens' meeting to discuss this proposition. Dr. C. S. Clarke was chairman and S. H. Mallory secretary. There were several spirited speeches. James Thompson offered a resolution requesting the railroad company to issue sufficient "scrip" to complete the road to Fairfield, "and no more," with the provision that it be properly secured, so that the people might have confidence in it and use it as a circulating medium, and that it be taken "at par for fare, freight, and in payment of stock subscriptions." This was rejected for a substitute submitted by James F. Wilson, which asked the relocation of the depot "as an act of justice," and, in that event, propsed "to used all honorable means and influence to promote the rightful and legitimate interests of the company and to aid them in prosecuting the further extension of the road."
The "railroad scrip" were simply orders of H. Thielsen, chief engineer, on the company's treasurer. The plan was to circulate them as money. It failed, because no one would accept them. Charles Negus denounced their issuance in the manner attempted as an open violation of law and intimated that, if persisted in, it would be his duty as prosecuting attorney to bring the matter before the grand jury. He laid all the blame for the trouble between the railroad company and the citizens upon the chief engineer, both in regard to the depot and in regard to the "scrip." He therefore moved that the directors be requested, as a step toward settlement, to discharge Thielsen from his position. The motion carried.
In November, "Terminus" and "Fact" increased the growing bitterness by endeavoring to show that the location of the depot was of little or no consequence; that the substantial prosperity of a town depends less upon this "than upon the energy, public spirit, and unity of its inhabitants," and that in making a change for improvement or economy the railroad company was within its right. The personal phase of the controversy may be passed over. The last assertion drew from the Ledger this editorial comment, which pierced to the marrow of the contention:
"We hold that railroad companies, in their corporate capacities, have no powers except those delegated to them by the people, and such as arise, by necessary implication, from the powers expressly delegated. We hold, further, that, in the exercise of these powers, corporations are bound to consult the rights and interests of those from whom these powers are received, as well as the right and interests of themselves; that corporations are as much bound by the requirements of good faith as individuals are, and that might no more makes right in favor of corporations than it does in case of individuals. From these premises we draw the deduction that, after the agents of the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad Company had given out that the depot was located on the grounds north of the square, our citizens had, for two years or more, acted with a view to such location, the company had no right to change that location, and place their depot entirely beyond the limits of our city, to the injury of our city and the citizens thereof; that the company had no right to perpetrate a fraud themselves nor to aid others in the perpetration of a fraud; that by every moral obligation they were bound to act in good faith, notwithstanding they might act in bad faith without laying themselves liable to a direct remedy at law. A great many things may be done under color of law which men would blush to do and would only skulk behind the law to hide their shame. The exercise of a legal power in violation of a moral obligation is disgraceful in the highest degree. Cowards and rogues act in that manner. True men, honest men, never do so."
There is no evidence anywhere of a conciliatory spirit on the part of the railroad company. Suits against the stockholders for refusal to pay their subscriptions were soon instituted. This was piling fuel on the flame of their discontent. These made of their defense a common cause. The contest was easily begun, but not so easily concluded. As will be seen, it ran over a long period of years.
In spite of these untoward circumstances, on June 21, 1858, the location of the depot was again brought before a public meeting. A. H. Brown was chairman; W. H. Jordan, secretary. C. W. Slagle stated the object of the call. The old opinions were still held. Individual utterances were unequivocal and positive. They "reiterated and reaffirmed" their wishes. Taking a last chance, they appointed D. Young, C. Negus, Dr. C. S. Clarke and James F. Wilson to confer on the subject with the president and directors of the company at their next meeting. This mission was unsuccessful.
The road slowly advanced by intermittent stages. Its completion to Fairfield was finally attained. Seven years of weary waiting and laborious effort had passed since the inception of the undertaking. Wednesday, September 1st, was the date which marked the close of one era and the opening of another. Appreciation of the meaning of the event in advantage and convenience was evinced in an elaborate celebration. A general invitation to participate, signed by fifty-six representative citizens, had been extended to all the people of Jefferson, Des Moines, Henry and Wapello Counties. Daybreak was the signal for firing a cannon, whose noisy discharge was repeated every half hour till 10 o'clock, and then every ten minutes till 11 o'clock, when the "First Train," decorated with flags and banners, steamed in through a great crowd massed along the track and about the depot. There were seventeen cars, bearing the officials of the company, men of note and distinction in the state, and a host of visitors. From Burlington came the "Burlington Blues," "Washington Guards," "Irish Volunteers" and "German Riflemen," "Eagle Fire Company, No. 1," "Des Moines Fire Company, No. 2," and "Burlington Hook and Ladder Company," and from Mt. Pleasant the "Mount Pleasant Greys." There was an enthusiastic confusion of cheers, music by brass and martial bands, the whistle of the locomotive, and the boom of artillery. At 12 o'clock the regular train arrived, adding more celebrants. The guests of honor were conducted to a near-by stand, where A. M. Scott of Fairfield welcomed them. W. F. Coolbaugh of Burlington replied. Under the direction of Chief Marshall and his aids (sic), James Thompson, Alexander Fulton and Daniel McDonald, a procession formed and marched to the public square, where, in the shade of the trees, on a table extending in a circle of a thousand feet, was prepared an ample dinner for all. This was in charge of George W. Honn, a popular Boniface.
The feast was followed by a program of toasts and occasional responses which illustrate as nothing else can the current thought. The sentiments were read by A. R. Fulton:
"1. Iron--The metal which transcencs in value the finest gold; its magic tissues make distant nations neighbors." Senator James Harlan responded.
"2. Steam and Electricity--The great ideas of the age; the annihilators of time and distance, and the agents which are destined ultimately to fraternize all nations and united them in the bonds of peace and unity." Prof. J. T. Robert of Burlington responded.
"3. The Iron Horse--May the time speedily come when he shall stop to take a drink at the Missouri and anon quench his thirst in the waters of the Pacific." J. L. Corse of Burlington responded.
"4. The B. & M. R. R. Company--With untiring energy and zeal, in a time of great financial embarrassment and depression of railroad securities, and during the most unfavorable of seasons, they have prosecuted their work and extended their road further west than any other Iowa road. May the company be rewarded for their enterprise." W. M. Wallbridge of Burlington responded.
"5. Agriculture--The basis of all real prosperity. Without it, the Iron Horse would starve." Dr. Sumner Stebbins of Mount Pleasant responded.
"6. Governor Lowe--Our worthy executive, beloved for his private virtues and noted for his intelligent support of the railroad system of Iowa." A letter from the governor was read, explaining his inability to be present.
"7. Our Invited Guests--We welcome them to the hospitalities of Fairfield and hope that the friendly greetings of today may often be renewed." W. M. Wallbridge responded.
"8. Burlington, Mount Pleasant, and Fairfield--Fair sisters three; their interests are one and inseparable; may they continue to abide in unity." R. L. B. Clarke of Mount Pleasant responded in humerous vein.
"9. The Military--The soldier is his country's defense in the hour of danger; let us honor him." W. M. Wallbridge responded.
"10. The Fire and Hook and Ladder Companies--Ever ready and ever willing to protect and save the homes and property of their fellow citizens from the ravages of the destructive element. Let us honor the brave, true-hearted fireman."
"11. The Music--As the locomotive has awakened new echoes in our valleys, so has the music of today awakened new echoes in our hearts."
"12. Burlington--The City of the Flint Hills. The enterprise and energy of her citizens, whom no difficulties have appalled, have placed her in the van of the cities of Iowa."
"13. Mt. Pleasant--The Athens of Iowa."
"14. Ottumwa--Her rapid growth shows the pre-eminent perseverance of her citizens." J. W. Norris of Ottumwa, editor of the Courier, responded.
"15. September 1st, A. D. 1858--The date of the beginning of a new era in the history of Fairfield."
Volunteer toasts further show the spirit of the occasion:
By A. R. Fulton: "The Press--Potent for good or evil. We have reason to rejoice that it is generally found battling for the success of every enterprise for the public good." D. S. Elliott of Mt. Pleasant, editor of the Home Journal, responded.
By W. D. Wilson: "The Two New Wonders of the World--The ocean telegraph and the completion of a railroad connecting Fairfield with the rest of mankind."
By E. S. Gage: "The B. & M. R. R.--To the citizens of Burlington we are greatly indebted for this great and noble enterprise thus far. May their efforts meet with success hereafter." W. M. Wallbridge responded.
By a Citizen: A Bondage We All Endorse--That which one woman holds over one man, in which the victim is so infatuated that he not only hugs his chains, but the dear little tyrant who binds them. The first man obeyed the first woman, and 'the very last man shall the very last woman obey.'"
By W. M. Wallbridge: "Cannon in the hands of civilized freemen announces in a thundering voice the success of uniting the adventurous pioneers of the great West with the refined arts of the East."
By Alexander Fulton: "H. Thielsen, Chief Engineer of the B. & M. R. R.--A gentleman and a first-rate officer; a man of untiring energy and industry, and one who has done more for the road than any other man living."
By A. M. Scott: "Fair-FIELD and Cyrus W. Field--On this day shall be written the brightest chapter in the history of either."
By Daniel Krebs: "The B. & M. R. R. (Company)--The citizens of Fairfield and of Jefferson County hail with pleasure the appearance of their locomotives and fully appreciate the energy and perseverance of their officers. May they continue the good work of penetrating through the bowels of these western prairies until they have connected Council Bluffs and Burlington within a day's travel."
By a Citizen: "John G. Reed, Vice President B. & M. R. R. (Company)--An efficient officer and deserving of the gratitude and esteem of all the friends of the road." W. M. Wallbridge responded.
By a Citizen: "Woman--May her virtues be as large as her hopes, and her imperfections as small as her bonnet."
By Samuel Jacobs: "The City of Keokuk--Her energetic and talented mayor, a former citizen of Fairfield, is a fair sample of her busy and successful people." The reference was to Hugh W. Sample. D. W. Kilbourn responded.
In a unique ceremony, two mammoth pyramidal cakes, "ornamented with wreaths of flowers and iced with snow-white sugar," were presented by the ladies of Jefferson County to the ladies of Des Moines and Henry Counties. A. M. Scott represented the donors; Rev. G. J. Johnson of Burlington and Alvin Saunders of Mount Pleasant the recipients. A third cake had been baked and built for the ladies of Wapello County, but this had been devoured by the hungry multitude. "The military and fire companies," using the words of a spectator, "gave an exhibition of firing salutes and saluting fires." In the latter case, the water was thrown by their "mersheen" from one of the public wells. A ball at night, in Well's Hall, ended the festivities this glorious day.
The problem of transportation was largely solved; the way to market was open. There remained an aftermath of trouble and expense yet to be harvested.
The county judges of both Jefferson and Wapello Counties had paid six assessments of 5 per cent each on their subscriptions for stock. Later assessments they refused to honor. In March, 1859, the railroad company applied to the District Court of Wapello County for a writ of mandamus to compel its county judge to issue bonds to the amount of $70,000 in payment of the residue of the subscription. On the single ground that there was no tender at the time of an equal amount in certificates of stock, the writ was denied.
In October, on appeal, the Supreme Court reversed this judgment.
In a retrial, the power of a county to take stock in a railroad company was questioned. Was such power conferred by statute? Was the Legislature competent to bestow the authority? These queries involved a construction of constitutional limitations as well as legislative intent. Both were answered in the negative by the Supreme Court in June, 1862, in a lengthy opinion written by Judge Ralph P. Lowe. The consequences of the decision were recognized and deprecated. No blame attached to any one. An honest mistake, for which there was no legal remedy, had led to unfortunate results. "We know, however," was the concluding comment, "that there is such a thing as a moral sense and a public faith which may be successfully appealed to when the law is impotent to enforce relief. These sentiments, we cannot but believe, still reside in the hearts and consciences of our people and may be invoked to save themselves and their state from seeming bad faith."
After this decision, the railroad company was enjoined from negotiating any bonds of Jefferson County which it had on hand. Bonds for $15,000 were thus cancelled. Bonds for a like amount had been disposed of to "innocent purchasers" and could not be reached. Having been held valid by the Supreme Court of the United States when so endorsed, these were ultimately redeemed. In 1877, suit was instituted against the railway company to recover this money, with interest. The action failed because barred by the statute of limitations.
The contention with private subscribers for stock also dragged its slow length along. More substantial reasons were needed to justify their refusal to pay than the removal of the depot to a site without the city limits. In fact, this original cause of complaint was struck from the records as of no importance. Issue was really joined on conditions as to "time of letting contract and time of building." There was a stubborn contest in the lower court, which ruled adversely to the railroad company. The Supreme Court, in June, 1864, in the case against L. F. Boerstler, declared these were "conditions precedent;" that they had not been complied with, and that there was no right to recover.
In tracing these cases, one is reminded of the dire happenings that followed "the loss of a horseshoe nail." Looking backward through the mists of the intervening years, there is observed a certain fatuity in the attitude of the officials of the railroad company. In what was of minor concern, deliberately to scorn the desires of James F. Wilson, C. W. Slagle, Charles Negus, and other influential persons who had been instrumental in securing a favorable vote and in obtaining private subscriptions for their cause was a performance to make the judicious grieve. Apart from the monetary loss, the whirligig of time brought its revenge. After a lapse of fifty-four years, the railroad company, of its own volition and at its own expense, has erected a passenger station on the site originally selected.
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