When the end of the war was perceived to be near, those who had suffered to maintain the union of the states and those who had sympathized with its enemies put aside the animosities born of their differences of opinion in that struggle and joined hands to improve conditions. Their mutual spirit of forbearance was witnessed in a large way in a united effort to obtain a competing railroad.
On the opening of the year 1865, the Mississippi and Missouri River Railroad Company was proposing to extend its line westward from Washington. Routes leading to Oskaloosa and to Ottumwa were under consideration. To determine what course to pursue to bring this extension to Fairfield, a number of its citizens, on the evening of February 14th, assembled at the courthouse for consultation. Colonel James Thompson presided over the gathering. A. R. Fulton was secretary. D. P. Stubbs, George Acheson and Charles Negus were chosen to confer with the directory of the railroad company in relation to its plans. W. W. Junkin, M. M. Bleakmore and A. K. Wilson were appointed to solicit funds to provide for necessary expenses. Dr. C. S. Clarke was elected treasurer. A convention of all favoring the enterprise was called to meet on March 1st at Brighton.
What the Fairfield route offered was set out in the papers of Davenport, Muscatine and Washington.
"That region," said the Davenport Daily Democrat, "is now tributary to the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad, which runs through Fairfield, but there being no bridge at Burlington there is a considerable portion of the year when the patrons of that line find it impossible to hold any communication whatever with the Burlington and Quincy roads, thus subjecting them to inconvenience and loss. Besides this, all freight has to be transhipped at all times of the year at Burlington, which greatly increases the expense and trouble."
"It will be open to us," said the Muscatine Daily Journal, "a new and rich country beyond the Skunk river, besides affording access by railroad to all parts of the Des Moines Valley, and eventually to St. Louis."
"Not the least advantage to our citizens, both of town and country," said the Washington Press, "will be the fact that we shall be brought within an hour's run of the inexhaustible coal fields of Jefferson county. Thousands of dollars would be saved to our citizens every year in the item of fuel, besides making coal cheap enough to be used for manufactures."
The local arguments were presented in an article prepared for publication by Charles Negus. "There is now," he wrote, "a railroad through this county, running east and west, and all property holders in the county have realized a benefit from it in the rise in the price of real estate, and by the facility with which they can send their products to market. Corn, which ued to sell for ten cents per bushel, since the railroad was completed has been worth from twenty-five cents to one dollar, and the price of everything else has improved in like manner. * * * The road we have is a monopoly and charges the highest price for its transportation; but if the road was extended from Washington to Fairfield we would then have two roads by which we could send our products to Eastern markets, and this would have a great tendency to reduce the price of freights. At Davenport the Mississippi is bridged; by shipping stock and grain by this way the freight would go direct to Chicago without breaking bulk. * * * By geological surveys the whole of Jefferson county is supposed to be underlaid with coal, and in almost every part of the county thick layers of coal have been discovered with little labor and these mines, with the present limited market, yield great profits. Open up a railroad connection with those sections where they have no coal and the coal fields of this county would become a source of great wealth and afford much business to the railroad."
These excerpts portray clearly the existing conditions.
Owing to impassable roads the Brighton Convention was so poorly attended that an adjournment to April 5th was taken. The second session named James F. Wilson as its president and L. F. Parker as its secretary. Its formal action was the adoption of a resolution offered by D. P. Stubbs "That it is the proper time to organize a company for the construction of a railroad from Washington to Fairfield via Brighton." To give this declaration force and effect, D. P. Stubbs and Dr. C. S. Clarke of Fairfield, J. T. Sales and B. H. Wilder of Brighton, and J. F. McJunkin and James Dawson of Washington were instructed to draw up articles of incorporation. Their report was submitted to a subsequent meeting which assembled on May 24th, but was not acted upon because the citizens of Washington whose cooperation was desired were not represented. This effort made no further progress.
Late in the year, the building of the North Missouri Railroad through Fairfield, Washington and Iowa City to Cedar Rapids was bruited. As D. P. Stubbs, who was a member of a committee from the counties of Johnson, Washington and Jefferson to investigate the prospect, had reported the outlook promising, a public meeting was held on December 5th in the courthouse at Fairfield to devise encouragement for the scheme. C. W. Slagle, David Switzer, Abram Rodebaugh, A. R. Fulton, H. R. Skinner, Colonel James Thompson, Dr. J. C. Ware, S. M. Bickford, W. G. Coop, W. L. Hamilton, Dr. Charles Lewis, James Harvey and James Parshall were appointed to assist the engineer of the road in selecting a route and making a preliminary survey. Other persons were selected to carry on correspondence and to raise means to defray all incidental expenses in promoting the work.
On January 17, 1866, a convention met in Washington to consider the location of a railroad to run through the counties of Davis, Jefferson, Washington, Johnson and Linn from the southern line of the State to Cedar Rapids. Representatives from all of these counties were present. A delegation of fifty-four measured the interest of Jefferson county in the proceedings. A. R. Fulton served as one of the secretaries. The belief that the route contemplated was "the best in every particular that could be found between the terminus of the North Missouri Railroad and Cedar Rapids" was asserted. A pledge to contribute as much to its construction as would be contributed to take it elsewhere was voted. In conclusion the people in the different counties were requested to demonstrate their earnestness by "holding railroad meetings in the several townships for the purpose of raising funds to pay for a survey and agitate the importance of securing an outlet to the Southern market and destroy our present railroad monopoly."
In harmony with this action, the Board of Supervisors of Jefferson County, on the 23d, passed a contingent appropriation to meet one-half the cost of surveying across the county, provided the whole did not exceed one thousand dollars.
At Keosauqua, on February 26th, the people of Van Buren County called "the attention of the business men of Macon City, Edina, Memphis, Keosauqua, Birmingham, Fairfield and Washington to the importance of having railroad connections" with St. Louis and Chicago "by way of the Rock Island Bridge," stating it was "the most direct and feasable route yet offered on the Missouri and Iowa side of the Mississippi for winter communication," and asking for "their cooperation in pushing forward this enterprise."
Following an examination by Peter A. Dey of the country to be traversed by the proposed continuation of the North Missouri Railroad to Cedar Rapids, a second convention was held on May 15th at Washington. This was organized by delegations from the counties of Linn, Johnson, Washington, Jefferson and Van Buren. Subsequently, delegations arrived from the counties of Henry and Lee. These were seated, but the one from Lee County was denied the privilege of voting. A pending motion by Charles Negus providing for the preparation of articles of incorporation for a line of railroad from Cedar Rapids to Bloomfield by way of Iowa City, Washington and Fairfield, was then rejected. It received the support only of a few of the delegates of Washington County and of all of the delegates of the counties of Jefferson and Van Buren. A resolution by D. P. Stubbs that "we are in favor of building the St. Louis and Cedar Rapids Railroad by way of Iowa City, Washington, Brighton and Fairfield," was defeated in like fashion. In resentment at these decisions, the representatives of Jefferson County then withdrew.
A call for a convention at Fairfield on June 6th was promptly issued. It was signed by Charles Negus, Charles David, Ward Lamson, Anson Moore, C. L. Moss, Edwin Manning and Charles Baldwin, and was addressed to the citizens of Van Buren, Jefferson and Washington counties interested in a north and south railroad running from a practical point on the Muscatine branch of the Mississippi and Missouri River Railroad via Brighton, Fairfield, Birmingham and Keosauqua, and connecting with the North Missouri Railroad. Citizens of Davis County, and of Scotland and adjoining counties in Missouri, were invited to attend.
Responding to this invitation, delegates appeared from the counties of Washington, Jefferson and Van Buren, and from Scotland County, Missouri. They selected for president A. H. McCrary of Van Buren County, for vice president Joseph Smith of Washington County, and for secretaries A. R. Fulton of Jefferson County and C. S. Baker of Scotland County, Missouri. The intention which brought them together was carried out. They decided "to organize a company to construct a railroad from some point east of Washington on the Mississippi and Missouri River Railroad, thence in a southerly direction through Brighton, Fairfield, Birmingham and Keosauqua to the Missouri line," whence as planned it was to be continued to St. Louis by a "company to be formed in the State if Missouri." Articles of incorporation of the "Iowa and Missouri Railroad Company" were at once submitted and adopted. Charles Negus, Joseph Ball and Charles David, all of Jefferson County, C. L. Moss, Charles Baldwin and Edwin Manning, all of Van Buren County, Anson Moore and J. T. Sales, both of Washington County, and Levi J. Wagner of Scotland County, Missouri, were chosen the directors. The directors named Charles Negus president, Charles Baldwin vice president, A. R. Fulton secretary and Ward Lamson treasurer.
On January 24, 1867, the directors of the Iowa and Missouri Railroad Company met in Fairfield at the office of Negus and Culbertson. They were in depsondent mood. The ready response expected to their canvass for subscriptions for stock had failed them. While they retained their faith in the need and utility of their road, they deemed the time inexpedient to attempt to build it unless the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad Company would aid in extending its Muscatine branch. They were of the opinion that if such an arrangement could be brought about the work could go forward. As the time for that was not ripe, the whole matter was left in abeyance.
In December, 1868, Charles Negus learned that a company styled the Chicago and Southwestern had been formed to build a railroad from Washington, Iowa, to Cameron, Missouri; that the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad Company was interested in the project, and that it was designed to run it through Ottumwa. In consequence, on the 29th, he called together at his office a number of influential citizens and imparted this information. A committee was thereupon made up to devise means to divert this road to Fairfield. For this purpose, January 26, 1869, the Iowa Railroad Company was organized. Its directors were Charles Negus, William H. Jordan, Anson Moore, Edw. Campbell, Jr., David Mendenhall, D. P. Stubbs, William Bickford, Robert C. Risk and James Jordan. Its officers were Charles Negus, president; Anson Moore, vice president; J. J. Cummings, secretary, and William H. Jordan, treasurer.
At an enthusiastic meeting in Fairfield on March 27th subscriptions for stock of this company exceeded sixty thousand dollars. For the willingness to invest in it, there is no occasion to express surprise. That freight was costing $20 more per car when shipped from Fairfield to Chicago than when shipped from Ottumwa to the same destination, and that passenger fares were more direct from Fairfield to Chicago than they were by way of Ottumwa to that city, were convincing arguments for the establishment of competition.
In May the Chicago and Southwestern Railroad Company ran a preliminary survey through Fairfield. Its authorities, however, were in no haste to determine the location of the road. The interests of Ottumwa were played against the interests of Fairfield. The pride of one was pitted against the pride of the other. Both communities were afforded full opportunity to show how much they would pay to help themselves. Summer, fall and early winter passed before this merry game was ended. On January 11, 1870, a definite assurance was given that Fairfield should be a point on the road for the contribution of $125,000. On the 22d, the amount was obtained. On the 26th, the stockholders of the Iowa Railroad Company authorized the transfer of its assets under proper conditions to the Chicago and Southwestern Railroad Company, its object having been accomplished.
On March 31st, the successful issue of the long struggle was duly celebrated. Over this event James F. Wilson presided. Gifts from citizens of Fairfield, a gold-mounted ebony cane and a handsome gold watch were respectively presented through George Acheson to Charles Negus and through W. B. Culbertson to H. M. Aller, the secretary of the Chicago and Southwestern Railroad Company. In accepting these tokens of appreciation of their services, the recipients responded in happy vein. There were also congratulatory addresses by Isaac D. Jones and D. P. Stubbs.
The actual work of construction was pushed with vigor. On September 29th, the first cars ran to Fairfield. On October 10th, regular trains were put on, completing the connection with Chicago.
It is cause for regret that the hopeful anticipations were not all realized in the aftermath. The record would be incomplete without the statement that pay day, as not usually happens, brought complaints, some litigation, much ill feeling, and in a few cases loss of personal popularity.
In September, 1869, it was suggested that from Fort Madison through Salem and Glasgow to Fairfield was a desirable location for a railroad. In lieu of this the Keokuk and Minnesota Railroad Company sought encouragement and material aid as an inducement to come to these places. At a conference in Fairfield, on January 26, 1870, when planning for a public presentation at night of the advantages to follow the carrying out of the undertaking, it was stated that the colored people had engaged the hall for a ball. "That is always the way," exclaimed Edw. Campbell, Jr. "The nigger never fails to turn up at the wrong time. He so turned up before the war, during the war, and now, when a railroad meeting is to be held, he is again in the road." While all present were still in a state of perplexity, Jo. Dancey, a negro, came in and announced that the colored people had consulted and would give up the hall, and that, though a poor man, he would himself take a half share of $50 to bring the road to Fairfield. Campbell, quite equal to the demands of the new situation, shook Dancey's hand, said that he owed the colored people an apology, that he would join him in a share and he should have the whole of it. This little scene received a hearty applause. The incident shows the attitude of all classes toward such enterprises.
In the following summer, two prospective railroads were discussed: one to run from Fort Madison to Oskaloosa and one to run from Memphis, Missouri, through Keosauqua and Birmingham to Fairfield.
On April 30, 1872, a convention was held at Fort Madison to promote the Fort Madison, Oskaloosa and North Western Railroad Company. Delegations were present from Fairfield, Batavia and Libertyville. James F. Wilson was chosen to preside over its deliberations. C. W. Slagle acted as one of the secretaries.
An immediate result of this gathering was the organization at Fairfield, on May 6th, of the Mississippi, Fairfield and North Western Railroad Company to build a road from some practicable point on the Mississippi in Lee County by way of Fairfield in a northwesterly direction. The directors were Charles Negus, C. W. Slagle, George Stever, Edw. Campbell, Jr., Charles David, W. W. Junkin and James F. Wilson. The officers were Charles Negus, president; C. W. Slagle, vice president; J. J. Cummings, secretary, and George Stever, treasurer.
As the burden of private aid to railroads had been found to fall with heavy inequality upon generous and progressive citizens, legislation had been brought about in 1870 to permit cities, towns and townships to vote a tax for such purpose. Under the provisions of the law, the question of a tax was submitted on July 1st in the rival townships of Liberty and Fairfield. It was defeated in Liberty Township and carried in Fairfield Township.
At Keosauqua, on March 26, 1873, was organized the Keosauqua North and South Railroad Company. On the north, its objective point was in Vinton in Benton County. Alternative routes, one by Fairfield, one by Mount Pleasant, were proposed. Despite a financial panic and a general business depression, it was announced in October that the point of contracting for the construction and equipment of a portion of the line had been reached. This was soon verified by "breaking ground" and grading the section between Keosauqua and The Summit.
The larger plan, known as the St. Louis, Keosauqua and St. Paul Railroad, of which this was part, was presented at Fairfield in January, 1874, to learn what financial assistance would be rendered it by the people of Jefferson County. It met with much criticism. The fear was freely expressed that it would not reach a southern market. To connect with St. Louis would be a desideratum, but to connect merely with Keosauqua would be of little moment. The assurances in respect to this objection were not sufficiently definite and positive to remove the doubt. Notwithstanding this feeling, the Legislature then in session was petitioned to pass a special act to authorize the transfer of the tax voted in Fairfield Township to the Mississippi, Fairfield and North Western Railroad Company to the St. Louis, Keosauqua and St. Paul Railroad Company. The request was too much at variance with public sentiment to be complied with. M. A. McCoid, state senator at the time, refused to give it his support.
In April, 1875, the St. Louis, Keosauqua and St. Paul Railroad Company, through its president, Charles H. Fletcher, again became active. His overtures, based upon the local purchase of its bonds to the amount of thirty-five thousand dollars, were favorably received. To improve the opening opportunity, the stockholders at their annual meeting in December selected R. H. Hufford, James F. Crawford, George H. Case, David B. Wilson and George D. Temple to be five of the nine directors. George H. Case was made secretary, George D. Temple was made treasurer. Twelve futile months slipped by. At the next annual meeting of the stockholders in December, 1876, L. Hurst, W. B. Culbertson and W. W. Junkin were substituted for nonresident directors. Not much heart now remained in the venture. That it was vain was becoming painfully manifest. That it would or could affect the monopoly of transportation was not credited. It was accordingly suffered to leave the stage. That combination finally had eliminated competition was an accepted fact.
One reflection here claims a place. When shipment from either or west destined to points beyond the Mississippi River, in order to effect a crossing, had to be unloaded, ferried and reloaded, it was natural and proper that, as the termination of one haul and the commencement of another, it also should mark the closing of one freight charge and the beginning of another. This was the origin of the use of the Mississippi River as a basing point for rates. The practice continued and became the source of unjust discriminiations after the cause for it was overcome and removed.
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