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Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri:
The Railroads of St. Joseph

The Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri was edited by Howard L. Conard and published by the Southern History Company, of New York, Louisville, and St. Louis, in 1901.

The University of Missouri Library has made avilable the entire contents of the 6 volume set on its website as part of the Virtually Missouri project. The books are in a section called Missouri: Its History, Geology and Culture.

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Railroads of St. Joseph

Railroads of St. Joseph. The location of St. Joseph made it the trade center of a rich country. The Missouri River was closed to navigation during a large part of the year, during which time where was no means of shipping products and obtaining needed supplies. As transportation is paramount, the need of railroad facilities was keenly felt. The some means of reaching the Mississippi at Quincy or Hannibal became a necessity. In 1847 the Legislature of Missouri chartered the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad Company. A railroad convention was held at Chillicothe, Missouri, June 2, 1847. Austin A. King, of Ray County, being chairman. After fixing a basis of representation, a committee reported the subjects upon which the convention should act. It provided (1) that an address should be prepared and circulated setting for the advantages to be derived from a railroad from Hannibal to St. Joseph, and (2) that committees should be appointed to secure legislative and congressional aid. The charter for the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad was obtain\ed mainly through the efforts of Robert M. Stewart, James Craig, and J. B. Gardenshire. In 1852 Willard P. Hall was chairman of the committee on public lands in Congress, and procured a grant of 600,000 acres of land to aid in the construction of the railroad. A preliminary survey was made by Simon Kemper and M. P. Tierman, accompanied by Robert M. Stewart. After ten years of preliminary effort the building of the road was begun from Hannibal westward in 1857. The road was completed so that on February, 1859 Mr. E. Steppy ran the first through passenger train out of St. Joseph. The 22nd of February, 1859 , was celebrated in honor of the event. M Jeff Thompson presiding over the ceremonies and festivities of this brilliant occasion. This was the beginning of a new prosperity for St. Joseph. In 1871 the road was extended southward twenty-one miles to Atchison.

The next railroad built at this point was the St. Joseph & Western Railroad, chartered by the Territorial legislature of Kansas. The incorporators met in St., Joseph, February 26, 1857, and appointed five directors, to-wit: Bela M Hughes, A. M. Mitchell, R. Rose, W. F. Smith, and Silas Woodson, On March 9th the board met and elected A. M. Mitchell president. Stock to the amount of $100,000 was reported as subscribed. In 1858 Mr. Mitchell resigned and F. J. Marshall was elected to fill the vacancy. In July, 1859, anew board of directors was elected, and. Jeff Thompson became president. The locating of the road was begun. In 1860 three miles of it was built. The name of the road was changed in 1862 to the St. Joseph & Denver City Railroad. In 1866 the Legislature of Kansas donated 125,000 acres of land to the enterprise, and T. J. Chew was elected president. The work of construction now progressed rapidly, so that by May, 1869, the road was built as far as Troy, Kansas and located as far as Hiawatha. In 1872 the road Alexandria, Nebraska. By December it was completed to Hastings, Nebraska, a distance of 227 miles. In 1879 the name was changed to the St. Joseph & Western Railroad. An extension was also built a distance of twenty five miles to Grand Island, connecting the road with the Union Pacific Railroad.

The Kansas City, St. Joseph & Council Bluffs Railroad is the outgrowth of several consolidations. In 1853 the Legislature chartered the Platte Country Railroad. In 1857 the Legislature granted $700,000 in aid of the road, and extended its charter to the northern boundary of the State. Under this charter it was built to Savannah in 1860, and graded to Forest City. The Atchison & St. Joseph Railroad Company was chartered in 1855, but the company was not organized until 1858, when subscriptions were made and contracts for grading the road were let, the grading being completed by July 1, 1859. Then the Atchison & Weston Railroad was incorporated and the road located and graded. The Weston & Atchison and the Atchison & St. Joseph Railroad companies now transferred their road beds, franchises and right of way to the Platte Country Railroad Company, so that the railroad was completed and in operation from St. Joseph to Atchison by January, 1860, and trains were running through Weston by April 4, 1861. In 1864 the State seized the roads for non-payment of interest on bonds, but the Legislature in 1867 released them on condition of reorganization under the style of the Missouri valley Railroad and its completed to the Iowa line at Hopkins. The road from Council Bluffs to Hamburg, Iowa, fifty-two miles, was completed in 1867, and a gap of seventy-nine miles remained. The road was called the Council Bluffs & St. Joseph Railroad. In 1870 all these roads were consolidated under the title of the Missouri valley Railroad, the entire line from Council Bluffs to Kansas City being put under one management. After the road was completed to Hopkins, the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company built a connecting branch from Creston, Iowa, and this direct communication with Chicago was opened. In 1871 the Legislature authorized the Missouri valley Railroad Company to change the route from St. Joseph through Jimtown to Savannah, which afforded a more direct route.

The St. Louis & St. Joseph Railroad was completed in 1870, a distance of seventy-three miles, to Lexington Junction, when it went into bankruptcy. It afterward became a branch of the Wabash. In 1870 [sic, 1880] the citizens of St. Joseph offered Jay Gould a bonus of $30,000 if he would extend the Missouri Pacific Railroad from Kansas City to St. Joseph. He accepted the proposition, but brought his trains to St. Joseph over the Atchison branch of the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad, the first train reaching St. Joseph February 23, 1880. The St. Joseph & Des Moines Railroad Company was organized in 1877. It was a narrow gauge railroad and extended to Albany, a distance of fifty miles. In 1880 the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company bought this road and have widened it to standard gauge and have extended it to a connection with the main line at Chariton, Iowa, and made it one of their branches. In 1885 the various railroads running from St. Joseph to Grand Island, Nebraska, were consolidated under the title of the St. Joseph & Grand Island Railroad. In 1888 the St. Louis & St. Joseph Railroad passed to the control of the Santa Fe, and the Santa Fe built a line from Atchison to St. Joseph, via Rushville. In 1889 the St. Joseph Terminal Railroad Company was organized. The Santa Fe and Grand Island Railroads, being jointly interested, built a freight depot in St. Joseph. In 1872 the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad Company built a railroad to Winthrop. In 1885 the citizens of St. Joseph subscribed $50,000 to secure a branch of the Rock Island from Altamont, Missouri. This was built in 1885 by the St. Joseph & Iowa Railroad Company, which had been chartered by the Legislature of Missouri in 1857 and had already constructed a line of railroad through Putnam, Sullivan, and Linn Counties, which is now part of the Chicago, Burlington & Kansas City Railroad. This line was extended from St. Joseph to Atchison, to which point it was completed in the spring of 1886. The Chicago, Kansas & Nebraska Railroad was begun in 1886 as a Rock Island line. The people of St. Joseph aided it by a subscription to its capital stock of $300,000. The line was leased to and operated by the St. Joseph & Iowa Company. Its shops were erected at Horton, Kansas, the junction of its two principal lines - one running to Denver, Colorado and the other into Texas. The first passenger train was run over this line into St. Joseph November 26, 1886. The Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad Company has since become the owner of the St. Joseph & Iowa and the Chicago, Kansas & Nebraska Railroads. The Chicago, St. Paul & Kansas City Railroad was completed to St. Joseph in 1889, and to Kansas City in 1890. In 1892 it was reorganized under the name of Chicago Great Western Railroad, and is popularly called "The Maple Leaf Route." This road has built a modern passenger station in St. Joseph and, instead of asking a bonus from the city, has aided by large expenditures, in building the Blacksnake sewer.

The St. Joseph Bridge Building Company was incorporated in 1870. The bridge cost $716,000, to which St. Joseph subscribed $500,000. The structure was begun July 25, 1871, and by the 20th of May, 1873, the first locomotive was run over it by Edward Steppy, master mechanic of the St. Joseph & Denver City Railroad. The bridge consisted of six piers, to build which caissons were sunk to bed rock. The masonry proceeded upward as the caisson were sunk under pneumatic pressure. To build the caisson required 1,500,000 feet of lumber and 16,000 cubic feet of concrete. The piers contain 172,000 cubic feet of masonry. The superstructure consists of three fixed spans of the quadrangular Pratt truss, each 300 feet long, one fixed span eighty feet long at the east end, and a draw span 3654 feet long, making the entire length of the bridge 1,345 feet. On June 16, 1879 the control of the bridge was transferred to Jay Gould and associates. The bridge is now the property of the St. Joseph & Grand Island Railroad Company.

John B. Carson, general manager of the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad Company, originated the plan for constructing the Union depot at St. Joseph. The St. Joseph Union Depot Company was organized in 1880, with the following railroad companies as incorporators and stockholders, to-wit: The Hannibal & St. Joseph, the Missouri Pacific, the St. Joseph & Western, belonging to the Union Pacific, the Kansas City, St. Joseph & Council Bluffs, belong to the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, the Wabash St. Louis & Pacific Railroads. The capital stock is $150,000, covered by bonds which were sold at par by Mr. Winslow Judson. On February 9, 1895, fire destroyed the depot, but it was rebuilt and reopened for business in January, 1896. The new building has many improvements. Isaac Veitch has been depot master since 1882. In March, 1853, then first telegraph line was completed to St. Joseph, and the inaugural address of Franklin Pierce was the first message received. The two papers, the "Gazette" and the "Adventurer" then published in St. Joseph, published the address in full, the force of both offices being engaged on its composition. In 1860 the Stebbins line was built from St. Louis to St. Joseph, via Atchison, and the Mutual Pacific was built from St. Louis to Sioux City, via St. Joseph, in 1884, by Joseph Corby of the latter city, and is now merged in the Postal Telegraph & Cable Company. The latter company and Western Union are now the only telegraph companies in St. Joseph.

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