The first railroad in Iowa was commenced in 1854. Previous to this time, the struggle for a railroad had begun in Jones County. May 2, 1852, had been incorporated the Iowa Central Air Line Company, an organization which for a number of years figured quite conspicuously in Central Iowa, and which Jones County people have abundant cause to remember for years to come, and with no grateful remembrance.
This Company was incorporated at the date named, by the following persons, most of whom are Iowa men:
Jonas Clark, John E. Goodenow, J. W. Jenkins, Russel Perham, Alonzo Spaulding, Elisha F. Clark, Daniel Rhodes, David Sears, Ira Minard, Charles Butler, Elisha C. Litchfield, G. S. Hubbard, S. S. Jones, S. M. Hitt, George W. Waite, William Ferdman, L. H. Bowen, O. Emerson, George Greene, A. F. Steadman, D. M. McIntosh, Isaac Whittam, N. B. Brown, S. D. Carpenter, D. W. King, N. W. Isbell, Charles Nye, Thomas J. McKean, L. D. Jordan, E. Vanmeter, Dan Lothian, M. E. McKenny, S. C. Bever, William Haddock, J. H. Fisher, H. C. Metcalf, W. H. Eldridge, Porter Sargeant, E. A. Wood.
The purpose of the corporation, as set forth in the articles, were "the construction, operation and use of a railroad with double or single track, and with all necessary appendages, branches and extensions. The main trunk or continuous line of said road was to commence on the Mississippi River, at or near Sabula, and run thence westerly on or near the Forty-second Parallel of latitude to the Missouri River, and ultimately thence westerly through the South Pass to California.
The stock of the Air Line Company was to be $10,000,000, with the privilege of increasing it. A survey was made through to the Missouri River, passing through Maquoketa, Anamosa, Marion, Cedar Rapids, Marshalltown, and crossing the Missouri River just west of Onawa. Negotiations were opened up for a land grant and not much else was done for several years An act of Congress, of May 15, 1856, granted to the State of Iowa upward of three million acres of Government lands, to be expended in building railroads. The act provided to give a company building a road from Lyons to a point at or near Maquoketa, and thence west on the line of the Air Line road to the Missouri River, every alternate section designated by odd numbers within six miles on either side of the line of road, and where the land within this distance was already sold or pre-empted, the State was to select an equivalent amount of land within fifteen miles on either side of the road.
The grant from the Legislature to the Iowa Central Air Line Company provided that the line should be definitely fixed and located before April 1, 1857, and that if the road did not have seventy-five miles completed prior to December 1, 1859, or did not have the road completed before December 1, 1865, that all unsold lands should revert to the State.
The land grant to this and other roads gave a tremendous impetus to railroad building in Iowa for several years. The land grant to the Air Line Company alone was estimated by its President at 906,480 acres. The report of June 2, 1858, represents $1,210,000 as already expended upon the road, most of which was disbursed in securing the lands of the Company.
The projected line was to cross Jones County, passing through both Wyoming and Anamosa. The county in its corporate capacity was called upon for help, and before the land grant had been secured, in June, 1853, almost immediately after the formation of the Company, a petition was presented to the County Judge, asking for a vote subscribing $80,000 stock in the new Company, to be paid in county bonds drawing 8 per cent interest. These bonds were to be liquidated by an annual tax of 1 per cent. The proposition was carried by a vote of 459 to 240.
The stock, however, was not subscribed nor the bonds issued until June 15, 1856, following the Congressional land grant, nor were the bonds delivered even at that time. December 25, 1856, an agreement was entered into between G. C. Mudgett, County Judge, and S. S. Jones, President of the Air Line Company, providing that the bonds should be issued only so rapidly as the work was carried on in the limits of the county of Jones.
At that time, the stock of the Railroad Company was above par, and it was agreed on the part of the corporation, that if the county would relinquish all right to the divided upon the stock of the Company, that the latter would agree to pay the interest upon the county's bonds. This would simply amount to the county of Jones lending her name as security to the railroad, which, in the roseate hue hanging over railroad prospects, was a very small favor. Stock of the Company, to be held in trust for the county, was immediately delivered to three Trustees-N.G. Sales, of Anamosa; Robert Smythe, of Marion, and Jas. Hazlett, Sr., of Lyons.
Under this agreement, the work of grading was immediately commenced in Jones County, and, in a short time, $54,000 of county bonds had been issued.
It is a well-known fact that the Air Line Company failed on account of reckless management and open rascality on the part of the President and other officers. The magnificent land grant of the company was of itself sufficient to have completed the enterprise to the Missouri River, and the Company would also have received cordial help from cities and citizens all along the line. Nothing was done. The affair was a suicide. December 1, 1859, the time when the road should have seventy-five miles of road completed or forfeit the grant, came around, and not a mile of iron had been laid, and the magnificent gift of the Government passed into the hands of the Cedar Rapids & Missouri River Railroad.
Of course, the Air Line Company never paid a cent of interest upon the bonds of the county. Suits were entered in the United States Court by bondholders against the county of Jones in default of the payment of interest. The plaintiff secured judgment.
Forty-six of the fifty-four thousand dollars bonds were held by David J. Lake, of Chicago. In May, 1865, a compromise was effected by the county's paying Lake seventy cents on the dollar due, principal and interest. Six thousand more were redeemed about the same time from other parties at nearly the same rate. One bond, held by G. W. Bettesworth, was settled by the payment of $1,920.70, principal and interest, on the part of the county, while Bettesworth surrendered the bond and conveyed 4,590 acres of land to Jones County, which afterwards sold at such a figure as to prove a good investment. The fifty-fourth bond was canceled some years later.
About 1852, there was projected a road from Dubuque to Keokuk, by way of Anamosa, Marion and Iowa City. This departure from a direct line gave to the enterprise the vulgar name of the "Rams-Horn." An incorporation was formed, with the Langworthys of Dubuque, Lincoln Clark and William T. Shaw among the leaders. This road, as originally laid out, proved a failure, but along part of its line was built the Dubuque Western.
On the occasion of the completion of this road to Anamosa, the following notice of it appeared in the Anamosa Eureka:
"Friday evening, 9th of March, year of grace 1860, was a joyous time in Anamosa.
"The road was commenced in July, 1857. In October following, came the revulsion throughout the country; but the work continued through the winter, and subsequently struggled on, now and then, amid the trying stringency of the money market until last autumn, when, by a money arrangement with C. W. Theo. Krausch, the late Chief Engineer of the New York & Erie Railroad, the entire superintendency was transferred to him, and most nobly has he performed his task, proving his high competency as a railroad builder and manager.
"Prominent among the men to whom we are indebted for this great and glorious work, we are bound to accord all honor to L. H. Langworthy, F. S. Winslow, H. A. Wiltse, E. Stimpson, H. Gelpcke and C. W. Theo. Krausch, of Dubuque, with W. T. Shaw, of Anamosa. Others, too, have aided us most effectively in the trying hours of the past two years. To Mr. Shaw we at this end of the line are largely indebted. His cool and ready clear-sightedness, as a liberal stockholder and Director from the beginning, has contributed, in a great measure, to the success of the project."
At the time of the breaking-out of the war, the road was being pushed westward toward Marion, and W. T. Shaw was superintending the construction. On the day that Mr. Shaw received his commission as Colonel of an Iowa regiment, he dismissed the men he had employed, and, abruptly as Putnam left the plow, proceeded to the field in service of his country. The building of the road was at a standstill for several years, and was not completed to Marion until about 1865. The present terminus of the road is Cedar Rapids.
Ten thousand dollars in bonds of the city of Anamosa were voted to aid the Dubuque Western road in building, but only a fraction of these were ever issued. Farmers and citizens along the line aided liberally by subscriptions.
The road has several times changed hands and names, passing into possession of bondholders, and, in 1878, to the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad Company. It has been known by the names of Dubuque Western, Dubuque, Marion & Western, the Dubuque & South-Western, and, finally, as a part of the Western Union Division of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul.
It should have been stated, in connection with the early history of this road, that on May 9, 1857, the question of taking $100,000 stock, by issuing county bonds to that amount, was submitted to the people and lost by a vote of 567 to 828. A similar proposition was defeated in August of the same year, by a vote of 716 to 368.
Quite a number of railroads projected in Jones County existed only on paper, and, except as companies or paper corporations, had no existence at all. Among the first of these, one was formed to build a road from Cascade to Anamosa, to connect at the former place with the great North-Western Railway projected through that point. A meeting was held December 9, 1856, at which Articles of Incorporation were adopted and the following persons elected a Board of Directors: S. W. McMasters, John Lorain, L. C. McKinney, A. S. Chew, S. S. Merrill, G. W. Trumbull, T. J. Chew, James Hill, William P. Wightman, W. S. Hall, N. G. Sales, Joseph Mann, C. L. D. Crockwell. The road was never begun, and the corporation soon collapsed.
With greater pretensions was organized, March 19, 1857, the Wapsipinicon & St. Peters Valley Railroad Company, whose purpose was to build a continuous line of road, to commence at Anamosa and run thence northwest through Quasqueton, Independence and Fairbanks, and thence northwesterly to the north line of the State. The capital stock was fixed at $5,000,000.
This was intended as a feeder to the Air Line route, and was looked upon as a very probable enterprise in the palmy days of the Air Line bubble. The people of Jones County were given an opportunity, in May, 1857, to decide whether the county, in its corporate capacity, should take $100,000 stock in the Wapsipinicon & St. Peters Valley Railroad. The voters said nay, the scheme being defeated by a vote of 1,067 to 375.
The first officers of this Company were: D. S. Davis, President; Wm H. Gibbs, Vice President; E. C Bidwell, Secretary; H. P. Henshaw, Treasurer; D. S. Lee, Attorney; Directors-F. C. Patterson, Rufus Connable, P. A. Brooks, L. W. Hart, S. V. Thompson, N. G. Sales, G. H. Ford, J. S. Dimmett.
January 12, 1859, were adopted Articles of Association of what was called the "Anamosa Branch of the Tipton Railway," for the purpose of building a branch to Tipton. The five Directors elected were Wm T. Shaw, David Graham and H. C. Metcalf, of Anamosa, O. Cronkhite and D. A. Carpenter, of Rome.
The partly graded road-bed, between Lyons and Maquoketa, of the exploded Air Line road, found its way into the Mississippi, Maquoketa & Western Company. In March, 1870, the Midland Company was organized at Des Moines, to build a road from Clinton to Maquoketa, with the probability that it would go farther west. The Mississippi, Maquoketa & Western sold the road-bed and franchise to the Midland for $18,000. The cars were running into Maquoketa in December, 1870. A fortunate rivalry springing up between the Chicago & North-Western, the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy and the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul, entitled the cordial support of the first-named road to the Midland. William T. Shaw was President until March, 1871, at which time the road passed under complete control of the Chicago & North-Western Company, though a separate organization is still maintained. The road was immediately pushed on from Maquoketa to Anamosa, being completed to the latter place in October, 1871. The citizens of the latter place subscribed about $35,000 in stock, though little was paid, and Fairview Township voted to its aid a 3 per cent tax, amounting to nearly $15,000.
At present writing, the Midland is building further west, through with what objective point it is not known. It ceases to be a Jones County enterprise.
The Sabula, Ackley & Dakota Railroad was projected especially by the citizens of Ackley and Sabula, and was designed as a western branch to connect with the Western Union road at Savanna, Ill. The building of the road commenced in 1870. The Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul, jealous of the progress of the Midland road, lent its aid to the building of the Sabula, Ackley & Dakota. A bitter rivalry sprang up between the two enterprises, and each did what they could to injure the progress of the other. The North-Western came out first in the race, at least so far as the building of the road was concerned. When the cars were running into Anamosa over the Midland, the western terminus of the Sabula road was at Preston, only about twenty miles from its starting-point. In the summer of 1872, the road was completed to Rome, in Jones County. The western terminus of the road, which now belongs to the Western Union Division of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Company, is Cedar Rapids. The road traverses the southern tier of townships of Jones County, passing through a most excellent piece of country.
The Davenport & St. Paul Railroad was a Davenport enterprise, whose chief spirit was its President, Hon. Hiram Price. This road passes through Wyoming and Monticello. Cascade made a determined effort to secure the road from Wyoming to that point, but in vain. The cars over this line were running into Wyoming December 22, 1871. The road is gradually nearing the northern line of the State, and will, doubtless, in time, bring Jones County in direct connection with its proposed northern terminus, St. Paul. The line has been recently purchased by the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Company. The corporation, therefore, own and operate three lines of road traversing Jones County, viz., the Sabula, Ackley & Dakota, Davenport & North-Western, and the Dubuque & South-Western, or, in all, a total of seventy miles of road.
In April, 1868, a company was organized under the name of the Anamosa & North-Western Railroad Company, whose object was to build a road from Anamosa northwest, along the Wapsipinicon Valley, to the northern boundary of the State. The incorporators were James Jamison, James Ironside, R. N. Soper, F. Braun, William T. Shaw, J. S. Stacy, D. S. Lee, C. R. Scott, Charles E. Kent, J. H. Fairchild, E. C. Downs, A. Hunsicker, C. W. Hastings, H. J. White, M. McGlathery.
The interest which might otherwise have been enlisted in this enterprise was directed into other channels by new and unexpected developments in railroad building, about this time. The project was, therefore, unsuccessful.
The assessment returns of Jones County show the number of miles of railroad within its limits to be as follows:
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