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The Atlantic to the Pacific: What to See and How to See it (1873), by John Erastus Lester


THE PACIFIC RAILROADS AND THE LAND GRANTS.

For the better protection of settlers over the ‘West’—a word used to designate all the territory between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean—Government had for many years been establishing a system of Military Posts and Forts. The trouble, expense and delay in transporting the troops to these various stations, first impressed upon the officers of the Government the necessity for a railroad, and time only increasing this need, it became absolute. The precipitation upon the country of the civil war only augmented, indeed made conclusive, the arguments which had been advanced in favor of a highway which should connect the States upon the Atlantic with those upon the Pacific. With the doubts which existed in the minds of eminent engineers as to the possibility of crossing the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada, with the vast wastes of plain and desert, with hostile Indians on every hand, it is no wonder that even energetic people should hesitate. No wonder that grave senators and eloquent representatives should oppose a bill which should sanction by law so hazardous an undertaking. Urgent, absolute necessity alone overcame the objections which were offered.

In 1862 and the 37th Congress, an Act was passed entitled ‘An Act to aid in the Construction of a Railroad and Telegraah Line from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean, and to secure to the Government the use of the same for postal, military and other purposes.’ This Act was approved by President Lincoln July 1, 1862—an Act which, although the dark clouds of war hung thick over the country, was hailed with delight by the people.

After several amendments a Bill was at last passed making land grants of every alternate section of land for twenty miles on each side of the line. This would give 20 sections of 640 acres each, or 12,800 acres for each mile.

The length of the road from Omaha to Sacramento is 1776.18 miles, making the whole land grant in number of acres 22,735,104, of which the Union Pacific have 13,295,104 and the Central Pacific 9,440,000.

The United States gave the Companies the right of way though all the public lands besides, and in aid of the work issued 30-year 6 per cent. bonds, for which the Government took a lien upon the road-bed and property. The bonds were divided and apportioned as follows:—

Union Pacific,525.78miles,bonds at$16,000per mile.
Central,  7.18
Union,363.602$32,000
Central,580.32
Union,150.$48,000
Central,150.
Total, amount of bonds $53,121,632: Union Pacific, $27,236,512; Central Pacific, $25,885,120.

Government also guaranteed the interest on a like amount of first mortgage bonds issued by the Companies.

The total cost of the two roads was in gross $190,000,000, or 38,000,000l.

Note.—I refer those who would like to investigate this subject further to—

Reports upon Railroad Routes to the Pacific, 13 vols. 4to. issued by the Secretary of War U.S. Washington, D.C.

Volumes of the Congressional Globe, 37th Congress, 1862, et seq.

The Reports of the Congressional Committees on the Pacific Railroads in the same, from 1862 to the present.

New Tracks in North America. Bell, London, 1869, pp. 237-281.



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