The Last Rail

Highland Weekly News/May 20, 1869

Completion Of The Pacific Railroad.

 Rejoicing in Omaha, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, &c.

 Special Telegram to the Cincinnati Commercial.

The long and anxiously looked-for event, the connection of the Atlantic seaboard to the golden shores of the Pacific, was finally accomplished at noon today. The ever memorable ceremony was witnessed by the principal officers of both companies and about two hundred invited guests.  Among them were Generals Connor and Thrie, H.C. Nottingham, Superintendent of the Cleveland and Erie, and Governor Stanford, of Arizona. The entire number of employees and guests did not probably exceed one thousand.

After exchanging congratulations, while the laborers of the Union Pacific and the Chinamen of the Central were employed in arranging the tracks for the last rail, and before proceeding with this ceremony, the Rev. Dr. Todd offered up a prayer, asking the favor of Heaven upon the enterprise.

This was followed by the speech of Dr. Harkness, of California, in presenting Governor Stanford with the spike of gold. This was replied to by Governor Stanford in a few appropriate remarks.

Governor Stanford of Arizona, then presented a similar spike to the officers of the Union Pacific Railroad.

The response was made by General Dodge.

Then the two last rails were laid, opposite each other. Wires were so arranged that the City Hall bell at San Francisco was struck at every stroke of the hammer, and the last stroke discharged a cannon connected at San Francisco in electrical circuit. The lines east were also placed in connection, to report every stroke at Omaha, Chicago, New York and Boston.

About 12 o’clock the work of driving the last spike commenced, amid the deafening shouts of the multitude. In less than two minutes the great continental highway from ocean to ocean was an accomplished fact.

At Washington.

Special Telegram to the Commercial.

The completion of the Pacific Railroad to-day, and the transmission of the proceedings at Promontory Point by telegraph, to the principal offices throughout the country, was the subject of much interest and amusement. At the principal office of the Western Union Telegraph Company in this city, the manager, Mr. Finker, adjusted a bell to the instrument in his private office, and notified the various offices that he was ready. New Orleans, thirteen hundred miles distant, instantly responded “ready.” New York and a hundred other offices repeated the word “ready.” Inquiries from every part of the continent greatly annoyed the Omaha operator, and he shortly responded: “To everybody: Shut up and keep quiet. When the last spike is driven at Promontory Point they will say “Done.” Don’t break the circuit, but watch for the signals of the blows of the hammer.”

After some little trouble in the Chicago office, and the closing of a circuit west of Buffalo, the instrument here was adjusted, and at 2:27 P.M. Promontory Point, 2,400 miles from Washington, said to the people congregated in the various Telegraph offices: “Almost ready: hats off; prayer is being offered.” A silence for the prayer ensued.

At 2:40 the bell tapped again, and the office at the Point said: “We have got done prayer. The spike is about to be presented.” Chicago replies: “We understand: all are ready in the East.”
“Promontory Point.—All ready now; the spike will be driven. The signal will be three dots for the commencement of the blows.”

For a moment the instrument was silent; then the hammer of the magnet tapped the ball one—two—three—the signal. Another pause of a few seconds. The lightning came flashing eastward, vibrating over twenty-four hundred miles to Washington, and the blows of the hammer upon the spike were measured instantly in telegraphic accents of the bell here.

At 2:47 P. M., Promontory Point gave the signal “Done!” and the continent was bound in iron.

 At Omaha.

 Special Telegram to the Commercial.

Although heavy rains fell last night and occasional showers today made pedestrianism uncomfortable, yet the outpouring of the people of this city and vicinity was never before equaled. The morning trains from the West brought fire companies and the Masonic fraternity from Fremont, and a large number of people from the towns and settlements as far west as the North Platte. Before noon the streets were crowded with people, anxiously awaiting the signal from Capital Hill, where a park of artillery were stationed, in the neighborhood of the observatory, to enable them to fire a salute the moment the telegraph signals announced that the last spike had been driven. At 1 o’clock P. M. various organizations, comprising General Augur, staff, and the military stationed at Sherman barracks, the entire fire department of Omaha and Fremont, and Masons, Odd Fellows, Turnverein, Fenian organizations, Overland expresses, Pacific Telegraphic corps, officers and employees of the Union Pacific, State, City and County officials, and a full representation of various trades and professions, formed under the Marshals of the day. About 1:30 P. M., a salute of one hundred guns, the ringing of bells, and the shrieking of whistles of steamers and locomotives, announced that Omaha and Sacramento were forever united by iron bonds. The procession then started, marched through the principal streets to Capitol Square, where General Clinton B. Fisk, General Anderson, and Judge Wakley delivered appropriate addresses. The public and private dwellings, particularly those of the officers of the Union Pacific Railroad, Chicago and Northwestern Railroad, and Council Bluffs and St. Joseph Railroad, were handsomely decorated, many of them with inscriptions suggestive of the great change in overland travel traffic since 1864.

This evening there was a great display of fire-works and a brilliant illumination of all public and many private dwellings, followed by a grand ball at the Capitol, closing a day which opened a new page in the history of Omaha.

 At Chicago.

 Special Telegram to the Commercial.

To-day has been the occasion of a grand gala in this city. The ceremony of laying the last rail of the great Pacific Railroad was celebrated here in an unusually grand manner. From an early hour in the morning the streets were crowded with “sightseers,” or with those who were preparing to participate in the general jubilee, and about 2 o’clock in the afternoon the telegraph announced the fact that the last spike had been driven into the track, when, amid the firing of cannon, the ringing of an innumerable number of bells, and the blowing of about the same number of steam whistles, the grand inaugural procession was organized and set in motion. The procession included the police and fire department of the city, the employees of the post-office, a large number of railroad attaches, and an immense representation of the several mechanical and mercantile interests of the West. It was over four miles in length. Nearly all the wagons in the long line presented appropriate devices and mottoes, all of greater or less excellence. After the procession had occupied three or four hours in marching through the principal streets of the city, it passed in review at the court-house before Vice President Colfax, Governor Palmer of this State, Mayor Rice of Chicago, and several other distinguished gentlemen.

This evening the city is very generally illuminated, and almost universal rejoicing prevails. Bands of Music are promenading the street, bonfires are burning on every side, while nearly all the large central buildings are in a blaze of glory. Cheer after cheer rends the air, and it is very evident that the people of Chicago at least thoroughly appreciate the advantages of the Pacific Railroad.

A very largely attended meeting is now being held in Library Hall, under the Presidency of Mayor Rice. Mr. Colfax has spoken for about half an hour in a very enthusiastic manner. He briefly recited the history and work of building the road, and alluded at some length to the day of greatness which its completion opens to the nation.

Mr. Colfax was followed by Governor Bross, who only recited his experience on the Plains in the vicinity of the railroad.

Chicago has seldom seen a more interesting and exciting day than this has been. The city seems fairly alive with enthusiasm, and on every hand scenes of rejoicing are manifested. Upon the lake and in the harbor nearly all the vessels have appeared with all their flags flying, and on the land the celebration has extended from the centre of the city far away into the remotest suburban towns and villages.


Western Associated Press Telegram.

The celebration of the completion of the great Continental railroad connection to-day, was the most successful affair of the kind that ever took place in Chicago, and possibly in the West. It was entirely impromptu, and almost every man, woman and child in this city did their part toward making it a success. The procession was unique in appearance and immense in length, the lowest estimate putting it seven miles. Every merchant, every trader, every drayman, every milkman, every express company, and every business wagon was in the line, and generally filled with boxes, (supposed to contain goods,) directed to merchants in every city and town between here and China. Brigham Young seemed to be far the largest consignee, as about every one of the 3,000 or 4,000 business wagons had one or more packages marked to his address. Almost every wagon bore some pleasant motto or device; got up secundum artem. Just before the procession moved, every tug in the river or lake front, over fifty in number, opened their whistles and set up a scream which seemed to awake the echoes from the other side of Lake Michigan; shortly after the Court-house sounded its tintinnabulations, announcing that the last spike in the last rail was being driven home, and then the procession moved and continued to move until six o’clock, when it dispersed. During the moving of the procession Vice President Colfax received the following dispatch:

“Hon. Schuyler Colfax, Vice President: “The rails were connected to-day. The prophecy of Benton to-day is a fact. This is the way to India. “G.M. Dodge, “John Duff, “Sidney Dillon, “T.C. Durant.”

This evening Vice President Colfax, Lieutenant Governor Bross and others, addressed a large audience at Library Hall, in which they spoke eloquently of the great era which this day marks in the history of our country. During the evening there was also a general indulgence in fire-works, bonfires, illuminations, &c.

At New York.

News was received here, to-day, of the completion of the Pacific Railroad. One hundred guns were fired in the City Hall Park, and May or Hall forwarded a congratulatory message to the Mayor of San Francisco. A commemoration celebration had previously been held in Trinity Church, at which a telegram, forwarded by the Chamber of Commerce to a similar body in San Francisco, was read, and an address delivered by the Rev. William Vinton. After prayer and the reading of a portion of the Episcopal service, the organ pealed and the chimes rung as the large congregation left the church. Flags on the City Hall and many public and private buildings were displayed all day in honor of the great event.

Dispatches from Washington, Philadelphia and many other places, report much enthusiasm over the news.

 At Philadelphia.

The bell of Independence Hall was brought into use to commemorate the completion of the Continental Railroad, and the scene there, generally, was more enthusiastic than any since Lee’s surrender.

At St. Louis.

The fire-alarm bells in this city were struck at six minutes to 2 o’clock this afternoon, in response to the blows of the hammer which drove the last spike in the Union Pacific Railroad. Quite a crowd assembled at the telegraph office, and much interest was manifest on the occasion. Everybody is rejoiced at the completion of the grandest enterprise ever accomplished by mortal hands!

(Source: Chronicling America,