Page images

gave the subject a wide consideration, and in the course of an elaborate report, expressed the deliberate opinion that canals were preferable to railroads, in these terms:

"From all the lights of which the committee have been able to avail themselves, it would seem that the public judgment, in this State and elsewhere, has settled down in favor of canals in preference to railroads, wherever the country is peculiarly suited to their construction; and there can be no doubt that nature has declared that this is the character of the region of country lying between the navigable waters of the Illinois and Lake Michigan. That railroads are better adapted to the speedy transportation of passengers than canals, seems to be admitted; and whenever that is the main object intended to be effected by their construction, they are, doubtless, entitled to a preference over canals. But such can not be the case in reference to this work.

"If we glance at the institutions and improvements of civilized man, in every portion of the world, we are struck with the fact that, in those countries, and among those people, where the means of promoting the happiness of the social state are most profoundly understood, there canals abound; and there the Government has been most anxious to increase the facilities for internal commerce and inter-communication between different parts of the same country. But we are not left to that brilliant example alone to cheer us to the undertaking-our neighbors, Ohio and Indiana, have profited by the wisdom and experience of other enlightened States, and their citizens are now enjoying an unparalleled prosperity, as the fruit of their sagacity and enterprise. Shall not Illinois do likewise? The probable cost of the canal, to be supplied with water, will be $2,956,260.56."

It will be observed, from these figures, that the committee went into details in calculating the cost of the construction of the canal, as fractions of dollars form a part of the estimated cost. (See Senate Journal of 1835.) At that session William J. Gatewood, a State Senator from Gallatin county, and a man of eminent ability, was one of many who earnestly opposed legislation in favor of railroads, but, nevertheless, the agitation of the question continued, and in 1839, the completion of the first

railroad in the State, known as the Northern Cross Railroad, was celebrated, and George Gregory, now of Springfield, run its first locomotive. The road extended from Jacksonville to Meredosia, a distance of twenty-four miles; it was built by the State, and laid with flat iron. In 1841, it was extended from Jacksonville to Springfield, and in 1845, from Jacksonville to Naples. The State operated the road until 1847, when the Legislature passed an act, February 16, authorizing the sale of the road between the Illinois river and Springfield, fifty-two miles in length, at public vendue. One of the peculiar features of this law was, that it provided for a forty years' lien upon the road, in order to secure the amount for which it might be sold. The sale took place soon after the approval of the act, and Nicholas H. Ridgely, of Springfield, became the purchaser, paying $21,100 in State indebtedness. Mr. Ridgely afterward sold Thomas Mather, of Springfield, and James Dunlap, of Jacksonville, each an interest.

They changed its name to the Sangamon and Morgan Railroad. During the time the State had operated it but two engines had been obtained, and when the new owners took possession they found them so worn as to be unfit for use, and for nine months they were compelled to run their trains with mules. The trains consisted of two cars drawn by two mules. There were two trains daily, one of which left Springfield in the morning for Naples, and the other, Naples for Springfield. Reddick M. Ridgely was one of the conductors.

About the close of the year 1847, the company received three new engines, when the services of the mules were dispensed with. The Legislature passed an act extending the charter of the road to the Indiana line, and in 1857, Mr. Mather visited New York and negotiated a sale of the road to Robert Schuyler, who was then deemed the great railroad manager of the country, for $100,000;

Mather and Ridgely continued stock-holders, and were elected local directors. In the same year Mr. Schuyler became the purchaser of the thirty-three miles of railroad between Meredosia and Camp Point, which had been built through the influence of Gen. James W. Singleton; it was known as the Quincy and Toledo Railroad. In 1859, the name was changed to the Great Western Railway, and the work of extending it eastward was begun in earnest. In 1865, it was consolidated with the Toledo and Wabash Railway; January 6, 1877, the Wabash Railway Company was organized, and acquired the property of the Toledo, Wabash and Western Railway at foreclosure sale, in February, 1877, and in 1879, the name was changed to the Wabash, St. Louis and Pacific Railway.

Now, that insignificant twenty-four miles of flat railroad is a part of what is known as the "Gould system," which has business connections from the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean, and is esteemed one of the greatest railway combinations in the world. The company owns in fee simple, or operates by lease, 1,598 miles of railway in Illinois alone, and altogether 3,482 miles.

In 1847, the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad, which was chartered January 16, 1836, was put under construction, and the close of 1848 found only ten miles completed. The capital stock of the company was then fixed at $100,000, with power to increase it to $1,000,000. So timid were the projectors of the road that they put a clause in the charter which authorized them to build a turnpike in case they failed with the railroad. It was in these words:

[ocr errors]

That if at any time after the passage of this act it shall be deemed advisable by the directors of the said corporation to make and establish a good, permanent turnpike road upon any portion of the route of the railroad by this act authorized to be constructed, then the said directors are hereby authorized and empowered to construct a turnpike on any portion of the said route."

Passing over the subsequent struggles of the road, we will say that from this modest beginning has grown the great Chicago and Northwestern Railway, with its 3,584 miles of unsurpassed track, traversing the Western States and Territories, and reaching far in the direction of the Pacific coast.

The ninety-nine miles of railroad, connecting Quincy with Galesburg, which was built under a charter granted by the Legislature in 1849, by Nehemiah Bushnell, was bought by the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad Company, under a sale of foreclosure by the bondholders, and it now forms an important link in the great system of roads operated by that rich and progressive company. The total number of miles of main line and branches owned and operated by this company in Illinois is 853. The total number of miles in and out of the State is 1,674.

February 10, 1851, the Illinois Central Railroad, which had been projected during the internal improvement system of 1837, was chartered, and Congress gave the company every alternate section of land along its line in aid of its construction, in consideration of which the State was to receive seven per cent. of the gross earnings. The line of road was from Cairo to Dunleith, now East Dubuque, with a branch to Chicago, embracing 700 milesthe whole of which was completed September 27, 1856. The completion of this great line of railroad at once opened up a market for the products of the State, and brought the lands in active poured in as never before.

demand, and emigration

The United States census of 1850 had given the State a population of but 651,470, while that of 1860 swelled it to 1,711,955.

Thus it will be seen that under the influence of this one railroad the State had gained in less than ten years

1,060,485 inhabitants, as against 651,470 in the thirty-two years previous. No grant of land to a railroad company was ever more judiciously made. It enriched alike the railroad company and the State. The road is one of the very best in the entire country, and is managed with consummate skill. The company now owns, in and out of the State, of main lines and branches, 1,927 miles, which includes a continuous line from Chicago to New Orleans.

From March 24, 1855, to October 31, 1883, this company had paid into the State treasury, of the seven per cent. gross earnings, $9,476,578.99.

Since the completion of the first 24 miles of railway in 1839, there has been built, of main lines and branches, in Illinois, 8,766 miles; and the annual report of the Railroad and Warehouse Commission, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1883, shows that there were fifty-six railroad companies within the State, of which we speak in detail in another chapter.

As to the canal, it has cost the State over $10,000,000, and notwithstanding that enormous expenditure, it is still unfinished, being only 92 miles in length, and has long since ceased to be a source of revenue to the State. The money involved in this enterprise would have built on the prairies of Illinois 666 miles of railway.

The problem suggested by Gov. Duncan has been fully solved. As shown by the report of the Auditor of Public Accounts for 1882, the aggregate tax paid to the State, counties, cities and towns for that year, by the railroads, other than that paid by the Illinois Central, was $1,835,118.


The tenth State Government was inaugurated with Joel A. Matteson, of Will, as Governor; Gustavus Korner, of St. Clair, Lieutenant-Governor; David L. Gregg, of Cook,

« PreviousContinue »