Title: Christian Labor Along the Line of the Union Pacific Railroad

Periodical: New York Evangelist

Date: August 20, 1868

Author: F. M. Dimmick

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The Laying of the Track—a Graphic Description.

Editors Evangelist: I think I left you, in my last letter, going into Benton beyond the second crossing of the North Platte, and about 700 miles west of Omaha, on Saturday evening, July 25th, 1868.

Benton, nearly two miles beyond the river, is a city of tents and alkali. We reached it about nine o'clock. Gen. Grant and party had just arrived, and were at supper at the California Restaurant. There was a bonfire in that street, and the street full of people, and "Buffalo Bill," a leader of the "roughs" of that place and an auctioneer, was selling what he termed Gen. Grant's watch; which the latter had been obliged to turn over to him in order to pay the expenses of the party! It was too late for us to hold services that night. Col. Ranson, Mr. Crampton, and others kindly looked after our wants, and gave us the best lodging in their power, and that was in the caboose we came from Laramie in. We were frequently interrupted during the night by some brakemen coming to find their lodgings, who had not, it seems, understood the arrangement. And between their disturbances and the alkali dust the wind sifted through on to us, it was very little rest and sleep we found. I should have stated that Gen. Grant and his party returned immediately after supper to Fort Saunders, near Laramie. It is at this place that Dr. White and Gens. Blair and Buford, the Government Commissioners for the acceptance of the railroad, are now stopping. It appears that they are pushing the railroad so rapidly out through the mountains, that the Commissioners are obliged to stay on the ground, or near by, in order to accept the road as fast as it is completed!

Sunday A.M. we held service on the streets, had a very attentive audience; and in the afternoon we had the largest gambling tent in the city, 40x80 feet (although I should say that there was one put up that day much larger, about 50x100 feet), called the Empire Tent, offered to us to hold service in, as it became very unpleasant on the streets on account of the wind and that terrible dust. They know no Sabbath there, and gambling of all kinds was carried on in the tent in full blast till the services commenced. When the hymn was being read the gambling ceased, and the strictest attention was given to the exercises. The tent was well filled, and many were very much affected. At the close of the services our party was divided, and your correspondent and several others rode over to Rawlin's Springs—sixteen miles west to the end of the track there—in order to reach the track-layers and the soldiers there that night. The others of the party remained in Benton, and held service in the evening. We rode over on the top of a load of ties in about forty minutes, and were invited by Maj. Whittlesey, commander of the post there, to hold our services at his headquarters, but a few rods from the construction cars at the end of the track. Capt. D. B. Clayton, who has charge of the tracklaying treated us with every courtesy. He made us very comfortable, and entertained us very hospitably in the construction cars. They are cars made expressly for this purpose. The dining and cooking cars are eighty feet long, and they feed there three times a day 350 men and over, and probably very soon will have nearly double that number, when they lay their six miles of track a day!

After supper, Sunday evening, escorted by Capt. Clayton, we repaired to the headquarters of Major Whittlesey, and held service there to a large gathering of soldiers and tracklayers. It was a lovely evening in that cool, bracing mountain air, at an altitude of some 6700 feet, and we had a very interesting meeting. Major Robinson showed us the head of a mountain sheep they had just killed—the sheep weighing 309 pounds. The next morning, while waiting for the rest of our party to join us, we went out over the "Mountain peaks" (lofty hills), to look after game and to get a better view of that mountain region. We then gave our attention to the tracklaying. It is wonderful how they have everything systematized, so that it goes forward like clockwork. A large force lay the ties in advance, and then come the rails. The construction cars are run up to the very end of the track, so that the freight cars, with ties and iron and spikes, can come as near as possible, where they throw off enough for half a mile it may be, and then run back their cars, so that their hand cars can load on the rails, spikes, and the fish or bolted joints. The ties are drawn by teams, some forty or more continually at work, out ahead and scattered by the road bed. The hand cars or trucks are drawn by two horses each, and ply between the tracklayers and their supplies. One of these trucks takes on a load of rails and other material and then they are started off by the horses in full gallop for the tracklayers. On each side of these trucks are rollers to facilitate running off the iron. When the rails are within reach, parties of five men stand on either side to run out the rails. And every thirty seconds may be heard the command from the chief of squad "Down, down"! And just as soon as the rails are down the truck is run forward to them, and the process repeated. Then follow the spike men and the bolters. The rails are all bolted fast to each other, making one continuous rail, and two spikes are put in every tie to each rail, thus securing them firmly. When we were far out on the mountain summits, skirting the road, we could hear the martial order, "Down, down"! These were the beatings of the great pendulum of this mighty era, marking the time of the march of this little army stretching out these iron arteries across the continent. And the deep cañons and the mountain fastnesses are continually echoing to their tread.

After the rails are spiked and bolted, then comes the little army of ballusters, who make the ties firm and secure with shovel and spade. The whole enterprise was a constant wonder to us. There at Rawlin's Springs, God seems to have broken through the solid rocky ridge with his own mighty hand, in order to prepare the way for the grader and the tracklayer. And as we looked back down the Platte Valley, and saw for nearly 600 miles a natural grade of only about ten feet to the mile, and then up that gradual ascent of the Black Hills and over the Laramie Plains, along the slopes of the Rattlesnake Hills, and then, in imagination, pushed ourselves again down through the cañons between the Elk Mountain and the Rattlesnake range, our hearts went out in thanksgiving and praise to the great God who, with his mighty hand, had pushed up those mountain ranges so near to the clouds and the sky, and covered their lofty summits with eternal snows; and yet with that same hand had laid here so favorable and so grand a bed for this great national highway.

The tracklayers were averaging about three miles a day. But Capt. Clayton informed us that Mr. Casement had just gone down to Cheyenne to sign papers binding himself to lay six miles of track a day. They expect to reach Green river early in October. At the end of the track, Monday evening, we were about 165 miles from Green river and 30 from Dodge's Pass, which is 7108 feet high, and the great water-shed of the continent. If we had pushed out thirty miles farther, we should have reached the head waters of the streams flowing into the Pacific Ocean.

There is, however, very little water in this whole alkali region. At Benton they have no water at all. All they get is brought from the Platte, nearly two miles distant. Sixteen miles west there are two very fine springs, one sulphur and one tinctured strongly with lime and iron. I presume that the city of Benton—that magic city and city of tents, that Golgotha of morality and Sodom of wickedness and ashes—will very soon become extinct, and Rawlin's Springs will be the new born wonder of the West and of vice and crime. All the way out the line of this road I did not get beyond the reach of my congregation, or at least those who had been members of it at some time. I found them, if not at every railroad station, yet nearly, and especially in every place of any size, and even at the end of the track; there was the construction engineer, Shannon, and Geo. W. Miles, superintendent of the construction trains, and still farther out I heard of Engineers Seymour and Bissell, and they are doing a good work. The road is well built. It is far superior to most of the Eastern roads.

Monday, towards evening, our party returned to Benton, and held outdoor evening service, and then at 10 P.M. took the passenger train, which had just been put on, for Laramie and Omaha. Some of our party tarried at Laramie and Cheyenne, the rest of us came directly into this city, and with us Rev. Mr. Sutphen, who, not feeling at all well, thought it best to hasten back to his family, that had gone up from your city to find a cooler retreat in the mountains of New Jersey.

From all I know of the places and all I can gather, Laramie and Cheyenne I think are to become prominent and important places on the line of this road; and we as a denomination ought to take possession of them immediately. All along the road they received us with open arms, and felt encouraged, and said they were glad we had visited them. Last night our Young Men's Christian Association called a meeting in the Academy of Music, and the house was crowded. Those of the delegation in the city were called upon to render their account and to make their report. We had a very interesting meeting, and it was resolved by the aid of other associations to send out a missionary on the road. We were informed that New York pledges $1000 to the enterprise. We have a young man here who offers himself for the work, and one whom we trust is well fitted for it. And I trust and pray that arrangements very soon may be effected to carry forward this very important enterprise, so that this great thoroughfare may not only be a high way of nations but also of holiness and righteousness--that it may not only be a great channel of commerce and trade but also of Christianity and Gospel truth, and a way where the redeemed of the Lord may go up, and where they may dwell securely. The trip was an exceedingly interesting one, though very tiresome and wearing; and I trust that members of the delegation were greatly blessed in their labors, and that those visited will not soon forget our words of comfort and exhortation. Yours most truly and fraternally,

F. M. Dimmick.

Omaha, Aug.8, 1868.

Title: Christian Labor Along the Line of the Union Pacific Railroad

Periodical: New York Evangelist

Date: August 20, 1868

Author: Dimmick, F. M.

Keywords: Christians Church services Gambling North Platte River Railroad construction workers Union Pacific Railroad Company Young Men's Christian associations

People: Dimmick, Francis Marion, 1827- Grant, Ulysses S. (Ulysses Simpson), 1822-1885

Places: Benton (Wyo.) Cheyenne (Wyo.) Fort Sanders (Wyo.) Laramie (Wyo.) Omaha (Neb.)

Sponsor: This project is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Geraldine W. & Robert J. Dellenback Foundation.

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