Submitted by scott on Mon, 10/17/2016 - 09:34

Possible Routes West, 1860:

As all the world knows, there are three main lines proposed for a "Pacific Railroad," between the Mississippi and the Western Ocean, the Northern, Central, and Southern.

The first, or British, was in my case not to be thought of; it involves semi-starvation, possibly a thorough plundering by the Bedouins, and what was far worse five or six months of slow travel. The third, or Southern, known as the Butterfield or American Express, offered to start me in an ambulance from St Louis, and to pass me through Arkansas, El Paso, Fort Yuma on the Gila River, in fact through the vilest and most desolate portion of the West. Twenty-four mortal days and nights - twenty-five being schedule time - must be spent in that ambulance; passengers becoming crazy by whisky, mixed with want of sleep, are often obliged to be strapped to their seats; their meals, dispatched during the ten minute halts, are simply abominable, the heats are excessive, the climate malarious; lamps may not be used at night for fear of un-existing Indians; briefly, there is no end to this Via Mala's miseries. The line received from the United States government upward of half a million of dollars per annum for carrying the mails, and its contract had still nearly two years to run.

There remained therefore the central route, which has two branches. You may start by stage to the gold regions about Denver City or Pike's Peak, and thence, if not accidentally or purposely shot, you may proceed by an uncertain ox-train to Great Salt Lake City, which latter part can not take less than thirty-five days.  On the other hand there is "the great emigration route from Missouri to California and Oregon, over which so many thousands have traveled within the past few years."  I quote from a useful little volume, "The Prairie Traveler," by Randolph B Marcy, Captain US Army. "The track is broad, well worn, and can not be mistaken. It has received the major part of the Mormon emigration, and was traversed by the army in its march to Utah in 1857."

The mail coach on this line was established in 1850, by Colonel Samuel H Woodson, an eminent lawyer, afterward an M.C., and right unpopular with Mormondom, because he sacrilegiously owned part of Temple Block, in Independence Mo, which is the old original New Zion.

Thus it will be seen that in 1856 the transit was in the hands of the Latter Day Saints: they managed it well, but they lost the contracts during their troubles with the federal government in 1857, when it again fell into Gentile possession.  In those early days it had but three changes of mules, at Forts Bridger, Laramie, and Kearney. In May 1859 it was taken up by the present firm, which expects, by securing the monopoly of the whole line between the Missouri River and San Francisco, and by canvassing at head quarters for a bi-weekly - which they have now obtained - and even a daily transit, which shall constitutionally extinguish the Mormon community, to insert the fine edge of that wedge which is to open an aperture for the Pacific Railroad about to be.  At Saint Joseph (Mo), better known by the somewhat irreverent abbreviation of St Jo, I was introduced to Mr Alexander Majors, formerly one of the contractors for supplying the army in Utah - a veteran mountaineer, familiar with life on the prairies. His meritorious efforts to reform the morals of the land have not yet put forth even the bud of promise. He forbade his drivers and employes to drink, gamble, curse, and travel on Sundays; he desired them to peruse Bibles distributed to them gratis; and though he refrained from a lengthy proclamation commanding his lieges to be good boys and girls, he did not the less expect it of them.  Results: I scarcely ever saw a sober driver; as for profanity - the Western equivalent for hard swearing - they would make the blush of shame crimson the cheek of the old Isis bargee;  and, rare exceptions to the rule of the United States, they are not to be deterred from evil talking even by the dread presence of a "lady." The conductors and road agents are of a class superior to the drivers; they do their harm by an inordinate ambition to distinguish themselves. I met one gentleman who owned to three murders, and another individual who lately attempted to ration the mules with wild sage.  The company was by no means rich; already the papers had prognosticated a failure, in consequence of the government withdrawing its supplies, and it seemed to have hit upon the happy expedient of badly entreating travelers that good may come to it of our evils.  The hours and halting places were equally vilely selected: for instance, at Forts Kearney, Laramie, and Bridger, the only points where supplies, comfort, society, are procurable, a few minutes of grumbling delay were granted as a favor, and the passengers were hurried on to some distant wretched ranch, apparently for the sole purpose of putting a few dollars into the station-master's pockets.  The travel was unjustifiably slow, even in this land, where progress is mostly on paper. From St Jo to Great Salt Lake City, the mails might easily be landed during the fine weather, without inconvenience to man or beast, in ten days; indeed, the agents have offered to place them at Placerville in fifteen. Yet the schedule time being twenty-one days, passengers seldom reached their destination before the nineteenth - the sole reason given was, that snow makes the road difficult in its season, and that if people were accustomed to fast travel and if letters were received under schedule time, they would look upon the boon as a right .

 

Citations

Burton, Richard. 1861. The City Of The Saints. London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts.

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