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Way. Way. Way. Way. Way. It was predicted to be the biggest event ever to occur in Utah. Leaders proclaimed the world is welcome here. They promised visitors would flow to Utah like what they see and admired the people in place. Utah was told the outsiders would bring money money that would trickle down and touch every household. It was called an opportunity of a lifetime. Perhaps the opportunity of a century. To change yet somehow remained the same. The year was 1869. The isolation of the nation's most
unique territory was about to end. As men raced from east and west to meet at a place called Prom and Torrie. Production of prom and Tori was made possible in part through a grant from the Georgists and Dolores dory Eccles Foundation and a grant from the R. Harold Burton foundation and through the support of the contributing members of KQED. A. Where. In the spring of 1868 invaders ripped through the farmlands of the Utah
Territory viewed by settlers as a plague of near biblical proportions the invaders threaten to cut the very life line of the people dropping like thick blankets from the sky swarms of grasshoppers descended on the croplands of Utah endowed with an almost incredible veracity breeding with astonishing rapidity and keeping together in numerable myriads they form one of the most terrible plagues and where they invade a land in sufficient numbers. Their presence may well be viewed as a national. Calamity in the spring of 1868 the grasshopper invasion was a calamity for the Utah territory. They've had three years of drought they've had at least two summers of either grasshoppers or locusts. They were really strapped for cash they were really strapped for food they had seed stores that they could use for and for more plantings. But it was really a question of how they were going to just make it through.
Twenty years after the first permanent settlements were created by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. The Utah territory of the late 1860s was still living a hand-to-mouth existence. Having sought isolation in the American West because of their strong sense of religious persecution. The people referred to by outsiders as Mormons focused on survival between their members that continue to swell with European converts and building. As the kingdom of God on Earth. The sense of isolation in Utah was profound. Newspapers were few and far between mail was always late and there was that sense of being really despised and hated by the and distrusted by the outside world and all of these things would have just increased that sense of isolation and of not being
understood and not really being wanted. Isolation was a two edged sword for the Utah territory. On one hand it largely left the people to practice their religion on their own terms including the increasingly controversial practice of plural marriage. On the other hand isolation left Utah in the backwater of an economic boom in the American West. There was virtually no cash among the Mormon people who largely lived by bartering through church organization. Any hit to the bartering chain such as grasshoppers destroying crops could stun the fragile Utah economy. Managing the balancing act of isolation for the Mormon people fell to one of the most unique figures in American history. Brigham Young had organized the Mormons when they were on the brink of extermination led them west and directed the settlement of a harsh land.
By the late 1860s nearly 60000 members of his church had followed his call to gather in the Utah Territory and saw the Mormons in Utah and even those who had emigrated from Europe look to Brigham Young as a savior as a as a not a necessarily a religious savior but as a cultural say for someone who had saved their culture from utter destruction. From his office in Salt Lake City Young was the defining force of the Utah territory. He exercised a unique authority dictating civic affairs defining cultural standards planning settlements and economic policies. And for his people he was a living prophet of God. It's incorrect to try to offer one interpretation. Brigham Young and say he was the S he was that he was all of them. He was supreme Lee confident that the Lord had appointed him to do this work.
Damage done to crops all over this valley. Alas today. Damage is very severe. Most of the oats and barley destroyed grasshoppers are still coming by the scores. In the spring of 1868. Brigham Young felt his god was providing an answer to the grasshopper plague and the economic drought attacking his people. From the east and west. He watched the answer race toward the place he called Zion. Two thousand miles of steel linking American East and American West. A transportation marvel of its time. Like most Americans of the year of Brigham Young view the building of a coast to coast railroad as a national turning point. Young was so confident that the railroad would change the face of the West.
But he was one of the first investors in the project. The transcontinental railroad was romantically viewed as binding the nation together after the carnage of the Civil War. More practically it would help a nation tap the natural resources of the West and rush people in to tame the frontier. By 1867 a line started to come to life as a unique partnership between the federal government and to private companies. Under the Pacific Railroad act. The companies were put in direct competition. Every foot of track would mean money made and public land claimed by one company and lost by the other. In the West the Central Pacific Railroad Company had slowly battled its way out of California and through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. By the dawn of 1868. It's largely Chinese work crews were making up for lost time racing across Nevada and eyeing the settlements of the Utah territory.
Three hundred miles in the distance their final stretch would cross the great western desert of Utah an area that had been survived but never truly mastered. In the east. The Union Pacific Railroad had burst out of Omaha survived a fierce Indian attacks and moved quickly across Nebraska and Wyoming. By the start of 1868 the Union Pacific had laid far more track than the central Pacific. And it captured much of the attention generated by the nation's railroad fever. But as they neared the eastern border of the Utah Territory Union Pacific engineers were faced with the looming Wasatch Mountain Range. What Wasatch meant blasting expensive and time consuming tunnels and grading a path for the rail lines through a series of canyons. It was manpower the Union Pacific could not spare time it did not have.
Privately company officers may have been aware it would require money that could not be paid. But neither company would back down from the race to complete the rail line. Too much was at stake. At the dawn of 1868. Each mile meant federal funds and thousands of acres of federal land to be given to the completing railroad company. The railroad would virtually own the towns that were already springing up. It was an untapped motherlode of financial opportunity but only if they kept laying rail. The final push across the Utah territory of the Transcontinental Railroad was shaping up as a desperate race driven on both sides by greed pride. And power. I think they could see that Brigham Young and and all of the the people in Utah because of their ties to the church. It would they were a needed ally. There is no way that they could.
Get the railroad built without the cooperation of the Mormons there. It just would not have happened. Brigham Young and his kingdom of God in the American West found themselves between two competing forces who would do anything to gain one mile at the other's expense. Young's vision for the future of the Utah Territory would turn on his confident ability to outmaneuver the forces of American Progress. That Union Pacific was actively courting the Mormon Church later by telegram powerbroker Thomas Duran's asked Young if he could convince Mormon men to leave their farms and build the railroad line for the Union Pacific through the Wasatch mountains of northern Utah. April 22nd 1868 there will be no difficulty in getting all the hands you want from $1 to $2 and 50 cents a day according to their quality. Regularly.
Without missing a beat. Thomas Duran upped the ante offering to forge a direct contract with Brigham Young. Are you disposed to take a contract for a portion of all of our grading between Echo and Salt Lake. We propose to give you the preference on working near your settlements. Thomas EDA rant vice president. By cutting a deal with the young Duran thought he could monopolize the Mormon workforce. If Brigham Young was the contractor the prophet of the Mormon church would be doing the Union Pacifics bidding and the Mormons would help the Union Pacific Railroad. Not the Central Pacific. A contract would give young the purse strings for thousands of jobs. Extraordinary relief for his people suffering from the grasshopper play and work for hundreds of Mormon immigrants we settling in Utah. Within hours of Durant's telegram Brigham Young was on board with the Union Pacific. With a signature the contract was closed in May of 1868 and
almost immediately Brigham Young used his church position to call a man to do his work on the railroad. To all bishops south of the city. I wish you to send me all the help you possibly can as quick as possible to work on the railroad. The pay will be sure and in money at liberal rates. Brigham Young. It was done through a community and a church organization and all of the farmers who really had absolutely nothing to do back at that point because of the fact that they'd lost all of their crops just poured down from the hillsides to take advantage of the spring in their plows to bring in their teams of horses and ready to show up for the day's work. Young as prophet and leader of the Mormon people would personally guarantee jobs and pay for his followers. It was a guarantee that would haunt him for years to come. But in the summer of 1868 Young had little reason to question his contract with the Union Pacific almost
immediately. Young sought to convince his assembling workforce that high wages were evil men should not look for the wages that were made here in 1864 and 1865. The days for such prices to be paid and long gone and it would be beneficial that they never return such high rates of wages benefit neither their employer nor the employee. Foster extravagant and other bad habits. That isn't news and that's what Brigham Young offered offered cheap labor and he offered it at a price that would discourage the railroad from bringing in a flood of non-Mormon laborers. That was another that was in many ways the worst of his fears. The contract gave young extraordinary power to take care of his people and his family. Giving his sons preferred positions. Notice Mr Joseph a young Brigham Young Jr. and John
W. Young left the city on the 8th instant for the head of Echo Canyon to let contracts for grading on the Union Pacific Railroad. That isn't news. If you were in the Utah Territory would dare publicly question Brigham Young's management of the contract nor his preferential treatment for his sons or ranking church leaders. Wherein his Brigham's power over us in our love and not our fear. We Mormon elders love our chief he is our people's father and we look upon him as such. Edward Teller age. For young. His many hats were held forth as a defense mechanism to protect his people in a hostile world. In 1862 Congress passed the first in a series of anti polygamy laws aimed at the Mormon Church. One key aspect of the eight thousand nine hundred sixty two law sought to strangle the life out of the church by barring it from economic activity.
Brigham and his associates in the corm the while assumed that the right way to carry out the. And programs of the Kingdom was to leave some of the properties in his own name. He began mixing the technical accounts of the church with his accounts as trustee and trust and the term was a legal term giving him sole trusteeship over the financial assets of the LDS church. But then he mixed his own accounts as accounts as a trustee of the church personally. In short it was virtually impossible to separate the financial assets of the Mormon Church from the assets of Brigham Young. And it would prove to be a critical part of the story of the Transcontinental Railroad in Utah. Confident in his contract. Brigham Young time and again offered his personal guarantee for the work and the pay as he urged men to leave their
families and head to the work sites in Wieber and Echo canyons. By mid-summer thousands of Mormon men were carving a railroad bed through the canyons of the Wasatch Mountains. The Union Pacific felt it had beaten the Central Pacific to the punch in taking advantage of a Mormon workforce. But in the summer of 1868 the Central Pacific dispatched partner Leland Stanford to the Utah territory to try and wedge a foothold between Brigham Young and the Union Pacific. We have been pretty industrious and it appears we may get help from the president without waiting until he can man the work he has undertaken for the Union Pacific. Brigham has not got his men yet the price he pays is not satisfactory but he will get what he wants and his followers will not work for anyone else. Brigham Young started playing the central Pacific against the Union Pacific
deftly reading the heated competition and the willingness of both companies to strike backroom deals to advance their cause. The leading figures of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific were familiar faces in Washington passing around cash and railroad stock as they competed for an advantage. They spread around a lot of money. It's just the way the government worked. You know they were sort of everyone benefited. The Congressmen themselves but they benefited personally they were sometimes given shares of the company. And you know personal financial benefit is a tremendous motivator for anybody. We've always been on the defensive and have sought no particular legislation more than to sometimes endeavor to obtain the repeal of the obnoxious if legislative bodies had let us alone. We would have been glad to stay out of politics. The interests of the government was pretty much the interest of the railroad and vice versa. The capitalists
pretty much ran the government and that's what made America America. You can have whatever later political thoughts a hundred years later the might want but the reality is that the railroad would not have been built if not for the interest of the capitalists. But the brilliance of what happened with the Union Pacific. And it's a kind of a diabolical brilliance is that Thomas Durant the vice president realized that you don't actually have to finish the railroad in order to make big money. And so basically what you would do would be you would set up a dummy corporation. And you would pay yourselves to build a railroad. So if you got $50000 for a mile for construction and it actually cost thirty five. Then you would you would be pocketing that difference per mile. But scattered warnings of corruption and financial mismanagement were largely brushed aside by the anticipation of the railroad nearing completion.
Central Pacific crews were on the Utah Nevada border ready to make quick work of the flattest stretch of the great basin before them was the great salt lake and a critical decision affecting the people of the Utah territory. From the moment the Transcontinental Railroad had been approved by Congress Brigham Young had lobbied hard for the rail line to pass through Salt Lake City. After he signed his railroad contract Young told a large audience in the Salt Lake tabernacle that going south of the great salt lake was the only route that made sense. If I could direct the route they should take I should have it come down ECO and we were canyons. And from there through the lower part of Salt Lake City it would be the height of folly for the managers of this great enterprise to pass by what has been accomplished in this territory for the past 20 years. Will railroad companies in 1868 decided that
the preferred route would be around the north end of the great salt lake and bypassing Salt Lake City. I think they left Brigham Young out of the loop as long as possible because they knew that that would aggravate him. He and everybody here was dead set for the southern route. How to meet this bothered me a great deal. There does not seem any of them to be aware of the location to the north end of the lake. I have thought it not advisable to enlighten them. Leland Stanford. Secretly Union Pacific and Central Pacific surveyors had agreed that the best and shortest route to complete the railroad would skirt the north end of the great salt lake and completely bypass Salt Lake City. Young had no influence and the decision was kept from him to assure Morman work crews for the railroad and so when it was finally announced to him in August of eighteen sixty eight as a fact that the railroads were not going to go through Salt Lake City as he
had been led to believe for some years. I think it was a shock but it was a shock that he had to hide because of his position. Young said he was insulted by the railroad shine in his capital city and he vowed to build his own rail line to link the Saints to the world. It was one of many downsides that were starting to present themselves to Brigham Young. Nationally the railroad was being championed as a means of breaking apart the Mormon kingdom of God through a mass in migration of the type of nonbeliever that the Mormons called Gentiles. These gentiles will swarm into every part if you Tom by the thousand as actual settlers while thousands of others will constantly pass and repass through the territory of various religious sects will soon wreck church edifices and from these pulpits will go forth mighty influences to destroy Mormonism.
The Chicago Republican may 1868. We want the railroad. We are not afraid of its results. We know the better the truth is known the more it will be loved by the good the virtuous and the noble. And when this road is finished our friends can come and see us and witness the peace the ardor the freedom from crime that possesses a citizen our Zion and they will compare them with the central dupré of cities of our neighbors and we shall lose nothing with that comparison. But Young's optimism was tempered by the wild side of life that was following just behind the railroad construction camp's portable saloon dance halls and gambling tents and lean to houses of prostitution. We're always one small step behind the army of workers converging on the Utah Territory the enterprises earn the nickname hell on wheels as
the railroad track moved on. All of the purveyors the saloon owners and the gambling den owners the whiskey ranches as they were called will just pack up and it be put on flat cars and sent off to the end of track again. And that's where the notion of hell on wheels came from. The first place that we visited was a dance house where fresh importation of strumpets had just been received. The hall was crowded with bad men and women such profanity Vogue Garrity and indecency as was heard and seen there were discussed a more hardened person than I. And they were tough places they were probably as tough as any of the seamy parts of the great American cities. Murder was not unknown robbery was fairly common. I verily believe that there are men here who would murder a fellow creature for five dollars. Nay there are men here who have already done it. The St. Louis Missouri
Democrat. By January of 1869 the hell on wheels caravan had camped for the winter in the Utah Territory at the newly created rail town of Wasatch during its lively existence of three months. It established a grave yard with forty three occupants of whom not one died of disease. Two were killed by an accident. Three got drunk and froze to death. Three were hanged and many were killed in roused or murdered JHP told the Salt Lake reporters. It is a capital idea for citizens to have loaded firearms in the dwellings where there is the least reason to expect the visits of such characters. That is written. For Brigham Young the wild life of hell on wheels was only the most obvious symptom of a greater disease left unchecked. The railroad carried the corrupting viruses of money and culture into the
Utah territory. Brigham Young recognized that you could not separate the economic life of Utah from the social and political life that they were all linked and so that if you welcomed in with open arms the economic power of the national culture you would also be welcomed and welcoming in its social structures and its political power. And Brigham Young was unwilling to do that. And he said no we will not we will resist to every degree that we can. The influences of Babylon and switches how they typically refer to the states east of the Mississippi. The only thing for me and you to fear is whether we will build up the kingdom of God whether our souls are in the kingdom or not. That doctrine we preach is pure and holy. And if we will abide by it it will make a pure and holy.
The first stage was to announce a boycott of all first of all hostile merchants and then in 1867 that became Mormon merchants became the subject of a boycott. This truth drove many of them out of business and merchants there. The remaining inventories then left Utah which is exactly what premium wanted. In 1868 Brigham Young extended his economic defense plan even further when he assembled business leaders and directed formation of the Zion's Co-operative mercantile institution. And it was a device for assuring that the merchandising the importing and sale products from these than from San Francisco would be done by the saints not by outside and apprise or who my where against the goals of the kingdom.
And this move beyond simply boycotting non-Mormons to requiring Mormon merchants to either join and turn over all of their inventories to see samurai in exchange for my stock or if they didn't they would be publicly identified as the enemy and they would be subject to a boycott. The ol C9 more holiness through than to the Lord was the recognition that this was a member institution in this CMI operation. That meant that if you went inside that door then you were a loyal member of the church who is supporting the church business. And if you went in a different business next door that didn't have that kind of logo over the door than you were when you were essentially a trader. Were not those who sustain such characters virtually traitors to the cause and the God they covenanted to obey. The conference unanimously voted that they would no longer fellowship those who would persist in trading with such characters.
Brigham Young Brigham Young's determination to hold off outside influences was evident when a handful of Mormons resisted centralized church control of their businesses. William Godby and others argued for a free market economy and open doors to outside investment and ideas. They urged other Mormons to challenge Brigham's grip on Utah society and Brigham Young made them a test of faith he said if you continue advocating what you're advocating and maybe God being his associates began I advocating this publicly. Brigham Young said we cannot tolerate this when God be refused to drop back in line. Brigham Young excommunicated him from the ranks of the Latter day Saints branding Godby and his followers traitors to the cause. They have failed and yet they have added another proof of the truth of the saying of Jesus that those who are not for us are against
us. But fuel was being added daily to the fire of challenge facing Brigham Young. The Union Pacific Railroad was slow in pain for the Mormon work being done in Wieber and eco canyons. Brigham Young's personal guarantee to his people of getting paid well and in cash was in jeopardy of falling apart missing paydays with regularity. Workers were sometimes paid in food from church storage workers started to walk off the job. October 11th 1868. Dear Brother Musser. People are leaving their work on the railroad and are complaining of not getting their payment in cash. This is not agreeable to the progress of the work on President Young's contract. See they met some. Young was soon receiving a steady flow of complaining letters in his office. October 8th 1868.
There is much dissatisfaction among the man. The monthly payments have only been one third or one half of the value of the work. Very many of the men are unpaid and numbers are compelled to leave the work to provide for their families. By the time we get to eight hundred sixty eight and nine hundred sixty nine is the real road is about to enter into Utah territory. The Union Pacific is basically completely cash strapped banks were ready to foreclose loans were taken out to pay other loans I mean the whole thing could have collapsed under the right circumstances. By the end of November 1868 Brigham Young as primary contractor owed his fellow Mormons well over $100000 for work already completed. He attacked personal and church cash accounts believing repayment community sickness. When it did not arrive Young said a personal plea to Thomas Duran's of the Union
Pacific. I have expended all my available funds in forwarding the work. If I had the means to continue it I would not now ask for assistance. Very truly yours. Brigham Young knowing that Mormon labor would be critical for a final push out of the canyons Duran convinced young to keep workers on the job. Building a railroad bed through the town of Ogden to the north of the great salt lake in the direction of the Nevada border Young told associates that Duran had promised to pay any cost at the same time Leland Stanford appeared in Salt Lake City representing the Central Pacific Railroad. Stanford wanted the same number of Mormons to aid his railroads drive from Nevada to the Wasatch Front. Again Young would confide that Stanford had agreed to pay any price. There's a moment where they accept the contract of course and sub contracts from the Union Pacific to grade up past
toward the mountains and then the Central Pacific people come in and I say what can you give us a contract and is presented with the delightful idea of playing off against the other and collecting money from both sides. November 8 1868. This is our policy. We can't keep the Union Pacific from grading their line but through youn we can have our own graded to light track on when we can reach it. Leland Stanford. Already deep in debt Young decided to wager the economic future of thousands on the cutthroat competition between the central and Union Pacific. Young believe the demand for labor was certain to ensure that he and the men would be paid. And at first it seemed to pay off. Soon Mormon crews were simultaneously working for the central and Union Pacific grading rail lines east and west in northern Utah. The
contractors soon got into a bidding war for local workers as manpower was in short supply in the face of a head to head battle. Competition for men and teens became so great that the companies began to bid off each other's men by increasing wages and the construction costs became an enormously heavy Joseph a West Brigham's contractor's ratcheted up wages. Confident that their cost would be met by the railroads and Brigham Young urged the work forward confident in his agreements with both companies that any price would be paid to keep the workers on the job. Your brother. It is my wish and counsel to all the brother I'm working on my contract. Push the work ahead with all possible dispatch. Therefore brother and work at it until the job is completed. Completion seemed to be at hand. But if the nation had expected the two railroad companies to gently stop when they reached each other most observers were
stunned when the two companies kept right on going. Soon the railroads were passing each other's work crews crossing each other's survey stakes building competing bridges to cross the same gully. The whole idea seems to be in their minds that. Who ever got the final OK for the trackage would get the money and so therefore it didn't matter if they graded extraneous Lee if their survey stakes were within inches of one another even if they laid their railroad track over the top of the tracks of the other company. At one point they are probably within 200 feet of us from Bear River to the prom and Tory. We are so close that the UPC cross us twice in other areas. Their line occasionally runs within a few feet of us Leland Stanford. The nation that had struggled to get the railroad started now realized it had not created a mechanism to make the railroad companies stop.
When they realize that if they didn't come up with a meeting point themselves the government was going to pass really quick and dirty legislation and make the decision for them and they finally decided that they would meet in the promissory mountains of promissory cement. But even with the final meeting place set at Crom and Tory summit there was one final act of competitive pride in Utah but the central Pacific Railroad considered unfinished business. The Union Pacific had said what it claimed was a world record for laying track when it spiked eight miles of rail into place on one day. Union Pacific executives claim the record demonstrated their superior planning and skill. They dangled a $10000 bet before the Central Pacific claiming the record could not be beaten. On April 28 1869 Charlie Crocker of the Central Pacific dramatically called their bluff.
Indeed in fact it's interesting that central Pacific waited to set this record when Union Pacific was bogged down on the east slope of the promissory mountains and would never have a chance to answer back. And it took an army of men hundreds and hundreds of men were part of that track laying to lay out the Ta'izz and ballast the track and everything in pound the spikes but it was actually a crew of about half a dozen Irishman that physically laid that ten miles of wire in that one day. Thirty five hundred rails were laid in place twenty eight thousand spikes were driven by hand. The Irish track players lifted the equivalent of one hundred and twenty five tons of steel during the twelve hour day. Charlie Crocker and the Central Pacific had their record. We got our forces together and made a 10 mile. Run hundred ninety five feet one day. That did not leave them in a room to beat us. They could not have
done it. By the first week of May 1869 the rail lines of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific were face to face on the windswept rolling hills of Tory summit in Utah. May was set as the date to link the two lines and then disaster struck. It does not happen because they were building bridges down through Weaver Canyon so quickly that they didn't really pay attention to the fact that this was spring time. The bridges and leave a canyon. On the ramp. The past few days sun has sent the liquidised and snows in torrents. Gathering force. Saying most. Of us. Know. The bridge of Devil's gate. Man. If. This meant. Not only were they having trouble with the bridge down in lower Weaver Canyon but then the vice president of the Union Pacific Thomas Duret the grand puppet here behind everything is
kidnapped by his own men because they are two months without any pay and so in the town of Piedmont Wyoming has his train when it was all of a sudden put onto a siding and masked man got onto the train and hustled him off. Eventually the ransom of eighty thousand dollars which was just a down payment on what was owed came and Duran wasn't turned loose and so Saturday May 8th. The short lived kidnapping gave crews enough time to jerry rig passage of the washed out bridge of Devil's gate in Utah. The problem in Tori's so was reset for Monday May 10. One of the most anticipated events in the nation had received virtually no preplanning problem until. In fact there was almost no planning at all. This was a media event stage for the rest of the country and the people it promised Tory got short shrift. On the morning of May 10th an estimated fifteen hundred people assembled on prom and Tory summit.
The vast majority were rail workers but some local citizens made their way to the site joining a military detachment bound for San Francisco. All gathered under a flag that featured 36 stars. At this moment of moments leading citizen and primary railroad contractor was nowhere to be found. Brigham Young had to be thinking about the amount of money that was owed to his people at that point when they were doing so because there were still a lot of bills that hadn't been paid. I think the reason that he didn't go was a smart one because this celebration was not in any local control. And if Young had gone up there and been snubbed the way that he'd been stopped by many many of the Union Pacific people over the past months it would have been very embarrassing to him. Brigham Young turned his back on the ceremony and traveled to settlements in southern Utah.
By his reckoning the railroad companies owed him over one million dollars as they gathered at prom and Tori. The ceremony moved to its final stage and a rail spike of pure gold was presented but counter to folklore it was never hammered as the final spike. Instead it was slipped into a pre-drilled hole for show and then was quickly pulled out. Officials from the Central Pacific and Union Pacific one heavy hammers at a final iron spike. And they missed. But it was enough to trigger a one word message from the telegraph operators. Done. D o n. And that brought great celebration all across the country. And then simultaneously a cannon looking over the Pacific in a Cannon looking over the Atlantic. Boom out. The notice to the world. Tens of thousands of people in Chicago and San Francisco in Sacramento in
Washington D.C. in New York and all the major towns and small towns erupt into a wild tumble. Of celebration. To his axis of Gen. U.S. Grant president of the United States. Sir. We have the honor to report the Pacific Railroad is finished. Leland Stanford. Souvenir hunters dropped on to the track prying up dozens of spikes and splintering the last wooden rail tie into pieces until it disappeared into 100 different hands. The race was over. Symbolically a new race was beginning. As many were left scrambling for a piece of the moment. Well it's almost like waking up with a hangover after a great party because the problems of railroad construction started coming home to roost after the great party of completion. In April before the line was completed.
Brigham Young had dispatched his son to Boston to confront the Union Pacific board of directors and demand payment of close to one million dollars. April 3rd 1869. The affairs of the Union Pacific are in a muddle. Credit is weak and there is a general apprehension they will not meet their obligations. If the money is ever collected from them it will be in the next world. Joseph H. From his earliest pronouncements from the pulpit Brigham Young had staked a personal claim to the railroad work that he said was divinely inspired. Contract his negotiating skills that would secure the best deal for Mormon workers. It was his plan to keep out the evil influences and extract the good. He hoped it would bring cash revenue and the Union Pacific was notoriously corrupt. And recall resulting in correctional investigations. And so the result was that virtually no cash came in terms of what had been
promised and contracted. This was this was just a tremendous shock to Utah. And we find we find by the summer of 1869 we find the territory just thrown out on to the barter system because there was no no cash Mormon railroad workers had signed IOUs to local businesses for food and clothing. Businesses had borrowed money to stay in business. The territorial economy was failing because of the unpaid railroad work. Brigham Young attempted to remind the Union Pacific of T.C. Duran's promises. When you were president you were pleased to make a promise to my sons Brigham and John W. that if we would keep on a large work force you would pay what it is worth. Rand would not respond. Instead the letters Young received were from destitute fellow church members who begged for their pay. One Bernard snow had served as a subcontractor hiring hundreds of men to
work on the rail line for up to one year. July 26 1869. May God bless them for they have suffered severely. I must ask you what will be done to satisfy their claims. They have not been paid one cent Bernard snow. But for others the losses were measured in more than money. You have the firm of Benson foreign West who agreed to grade between Humboldt wells in Nevada all the way up into the prominent Tory mountains and basically chancy West was the youngest man he was in his early 40s at that point and he really took the brunt of the work the supervision and got himself into some real hot water financially. When people were asking to be paid and he still had not been paid by the Central Pacific he advanced his own money and so he he was virtually
ruined by by this. This this whole thing with the railroad. Brigham Young tried to intervene in West behalf with Leland Stanford reminding Stanford of the promises that had been made during the fierce final stage of competition. You promise me that if I telegraph Bishop West to take charge of the work and crowd it through you would see that he was made whole or indemnified to the full extent. It was no matter what the work cost. The object was to have the work done. Chauncey West polygamist has been to several wives fathered to more than two dozen children. Pursued Leland Stanford in California. In a San Francisco hotel room. He dropped dead of a stroke at the age of 43. His partner LDS Church apostle Ezra Taft Benson. Died the same week. In Boston Brigham son Joseph made one final headstrong push on the Union Pacific board of
directors recounting his confrontation in a letter home to his father. I wish to know whether it is the intention of this company to keep President Young out of three quarters of a million dollars. If so the Union Pacific will swindle the very men who built the railroad. Remember the road is out in our country and I think we can pull hard enough so you can feel it on the other end. And at one point one of the board members threatened young that he was going to have the army descend upon Utah and and take out the LDS command. And the young replied that he would go to the courts and he said if it's necessary then this will be a fight to the knife. Brigham Young viewed the threat of military intervention as an excuse for anti-Mormon forces to destroy the kingdom of God in the American West. He put John Sharp a lawyer Mormon church leader and railroad contractor
in charge of negotiations with the Union Pacific Brigham also worked to quell the fears of financial panic in the Utah territory. He suspended church tithing payments use church food store houses to feed the hungry and urged his followers to put co-operation above profit and debt. The embarrassment caused by the failure of the company to pay me as per contract means the whole business of our territory is suffering greatly and our merchants are severely cramped having advanced mange to the graders of the road who are unable to pay because the company has not kept their engagement with me. It soon became clear that a handful of well-connected deal makers had made millions in building the Transcontinental Railroad by being on the inside skinny. And walking away when they could. Despite being one of the earliest investors in the Union Pacific Brigham Young had been one of the many
left on the outside. So obvious was the economic sleight that another unpaid contractor actually took pity on Brigham Young. In the distribution of immense gains certain stock holders have been excluded. Among them. Brigham Young. It is clear there is an attempt to defraud Brigham Young. In Boston John Sharp was making little progress in getting money out of the Union Pacific. Presented a bill for one hundred ninety eight thousand dollars. Which was met with a grand laugh. Several European leaders grumbled the Brigham Young was actually trying to gouge the Company them for money. He did not deserve. But a deal was cut to allow more immigrants to ride the rails West. With the fare being credited against the debt. Brigham Young was also interested in using the Union Pacific as a primary supplier for his plan to build a railroad
from Salt Lake City to the trans continental. Why. Somewhere it was proposed that the Union Pacific transfer 700000 dollars worth of rail cars and supplies to Brigham Young to close out the debt. We know we owe you one point two million dollars but go back to young and ask him if he'll take seven hundred thousand dollars and we'll just call it quits. And sharp goes and he does that and he comes back all the way back to Boston and says. Young says that this will work. The deal would be good for the Utah territory but Brigham Young new railroad supplies would not pay the man and would not settle the IOUs with local merchants. January 28 1870. Dear Brother I wish to have a meeting of all those of the brother to whom I am indebted for work on the Union Pacific Railroad to talk the matter over relative to the indebtedness Young called the meeting for the Salt
Lake tabernacle closed to the public. The content of the meeting never made the newspapers. Years later a rail worker said Brigham confirmed the merely obvious. The railroad money was not coming to Utah. It was a loss they would all have to endure another test of faith. He invoked images of earlier Mormon suffering and said this too would be overcome. The scandal of an unpaid Utah debt was lost in a sea of Union Pacific reading and congressional investigations into political corruption surrounding the railroad of more lasting consequence. Within months of its completion the Transcontinental Railroad was changing the face of the American West. Nowhere was the change more profound than in Utah.
The population of the territory more than doubled between eight hundred sixty and eight hundred seventy Mormon immigrants could now travel across the plains to their new American Zion in a matter of days. But in the first year of the rail line an equal number of non-Mormons flowed to the Utah territory. They encouraged a mining boom in the area and started new businesses and populated new rail towns like Korea in an attempt to have Korean and the Transcontinental Railroad seceded from Utah and grafted on to Idaho was approved by a congressional committee. But ultimately. Missionary started appearing in the Territory Methodists Catholics Presbyterians school and medical missions in an effort to convert members of the Mormon Church. Little success political parties appeared in the territory. Liberal Party's platform was simple and direct. It was the
Mormon party Mormons responded with their own People's Party and the Utah Territory took on a unique brand of two party politics. In 1870 the politics became even more unique from the time when the Territorial Legislature granted women the right to vote. Some hailed it an act of enlightened suffrage. Others labeled it a cynical maneuver by Brigham Young to assure his political control. As the Utah population became more diverse both Mormon and non-Mormon would debate if all this represented progress in one version. Brigham Young would be portrayed as politically blind and intransigent steamrolled by shrewder man leading his people down a path of economic ruin. In the other version had done all he could. Protected local control of the economy and secure the future of Utah by working to bring the railroad.
To live. In 1868. Brigham Young had forecast that the railroad would need prosperity and a golden era of appreciation for his vision of the kingdom of God. And when this road is finished. Our friends can come and see us and witness the peace the harder the freedom from crime the position of the cities our design. Instead of Young's desired confirmation. The most anticipated event in Utah's short history would bring change. The isolation that was both shield and challenge would evaporate in stronger complicated ties to a nation marching westward. Expectations were replaced by realities in 1869. The ceremony a prominent Tory head appeared to be and common Tory would prove to be. A beginning. Production of prominent Tory was made possible in part through a grant from the George
S. and Dolores dory Eccles Foundation and a grant from the R. Harold Burton foundation and through the support of the contributing members of.
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PBS Utah (Salt Lake City, Utah)
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Program chronicles the history leading up to, and the event of, the railheads of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads connecting at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory in May of 1869. Also explored is the controversy surrounding this history. The event would mark the first freight and commuter connection between the East and West coasts of the United States. Dub from beta master, CC
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Moving Image
Producer: Verdoia, Ken
Producing Organization: KUED
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Identifier: 1486 (KUED)
Format: DVCPRO: 25
Generation: Master
Duration: 00:57:00:00
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Chicago: “Promontory,” PBS Utah, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 12, 2024,
MLA: “Promontory.” PBS Utah, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 12, 2024. <>.
APA: Promontory. Boston, MA: PBS Utah, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from