RAILROADS
Transcribe from the Book
"Counties of Cumberland, Jasper and Richland Illinois"
Originally published 1884 by
F.A. Battey & Co. Chicago, Ill.

    Illinois Central Railroad

        With the application of steam to locomotion a new era dawned, and all systems of internal improvement founded upon wagon-ways, or in constant streams, were revolutionized. With the building of the railroads the great advantage of the National road was lost, and the public clamored for this new power that was to revolutionize the age. Situated, as it is, remote from navigable streams, and from large centers of trade, Cumberland County for years seriously felt the need of railroad facilities, and as one part after another of the State felt the invigorating influence of this new agent of civilization, it receded by contrast until what was a leading, enterprising section, became an isolated, non-progressive community. In 1855, the Illinois Central Railroad crossed the northwestern corner. The projection of this great enterprise is a part of the history of the State. Constituting a part of the State internal improvement system of 1837, it was abandoned in the general collapse of the project after some work on the line had actually been done. A part of the line was subsequently revived by legislation, but the enterprise lacked vitality, until congress in 1850 granted to the State a tract of some three millions of acres, through the central part of the State, in aid of its construction. This act granted the right of way for the railroad through the public lands, of the width of 200 feet, from the southern terminus of the Illinois and Michigan Canal, to a point at or near the junction of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, and for branches from the main line to Galena and Chicago. Privilege to take from them earth, stone and timber for its construction, was also granted, but the main grant consisted of alternate sections of land, designated by even numbers, for six sections deep on each side of its main line and branches. Land sold or pre-empted within this twelve— mile area, might be made good by selections of even sections of public land anywhere within fifteen miles of the line of road. The lands in this space were immediately taken out of the market, and when placed on the market two years later, the price of public lands was advanced to $2.50 per acre. The complete plan of the projectors of this bill in congress, was the continuance of this line of railroad direct to Mobile. In 1852 the road was begun and carried through without any great delay. The line through Cumberland was built in 1855, and a station made, called Neoga, which has given its name to the village and township. The effect of this road upon the development of the county was marked principally in the quickening of immigration to this point. A large proportion of the lands in Cumberland County belonged to the general government in 1850. Some lands within the railroad grant had been purchased by settlers, and lands in lieu of these were selected by the railroad fully fifteen miles from it's line in this county. By the time the railroad was actually built, there was scarcely a piece of public land in the county. The railroad lands were unsold until some years later.

Saint Louis, Vandalia Terre Haute Railroad

        The location of the “Central” road made it of little advantage to the general business of the county. It developed a thriving village about its depot in this county, but its long distance from the main business points rendered the desire for another railroad none the less keen. The region of the State between lines running east and west through Terre Haute and Vincennes, found its best market at Saint Louis and the East. For these markets the Central furnished no facilities for transportation, but on the contrary its friends were bitterly hostile to the construction of any road from either of the points mentioned to Saint Louis. The agitation for the building of the Ohio and Mississippi began in 1849, and it was not until 1851 that the legislature reluctantly granted it a charter. The Atlantic & Mississippi Railroad was projected at the same time. This proposed to reach Saint Louis via Vandalia, from Terre Haute, and was popularly known as the “Brough road.” This line was considered to be in direct conflict with the interests of Alton, which then posed as a rival of Saint Louis, and in ruinous competition with the Terre Haute & Alton Road, which was then being built. Col. John Brough, a leading public citizen of Indiana, was at the head of the enterprise. Refused a charter in 1851, he proceeded to organize a company under the general law of 1849, but after some $500,000 was subscribed it was found impracticable to proceed under that law, and in 1853 application was again made for a charter and promptly denied. The determination of Col. Brough had brought out the full force of the opposition, and every attempt to charter, by individual links, a line from Terre Haute to Saint Louis was met with defeat. The survey of this line of road passed through Cumberland County considerably north of the National road, and in 1854 the people voted to take $30,000 of stock. The Brough road, however, was relinquished, and a new organization took up the project. On November -25, 1853, the leading men of Cumberland, Clark, Crawford, Jasper and other counties to be traversed by the proposed road, met at Salem. A vigorous address was adopted, and a committee of twenty men appointed to present it to the Governor. An extra session of the legislature was called, and the “Mississippi & Atlantic” road was chartered. Its construction was greatly delayed. One line after another was run, and it was freely charged in many quarters that the engineers were advertising, by their actions, for bids to influence their final location of the line. In 1866, the people of Cumberland County voted to take $50,000 in stock of this company, upon the condition that the company should “locate, construct and equip a railroad” through the county in. an east and west direction, and not south “of the line surveyed and adopted by the Mississippi & Atlantic Railroad Company.” A proposition was made in 1868 by the company, that the county should vote $100,000 in aid of the enterprise, provided that the road should be built within one and a half miles of Prairie City, otherwise to pay only $50,000. This seemed to be an effort to evade the conditions upon. which the former subscription had been made, and when submitted to the people was defeated by an overwhelming majority. The road was finally constructed upon a line south of the one stipulated in the conditions upon. which the subscription was based, and the county has not paid, nor in fact issued any bonds to
this company.
        This road, in 1869, secured an amendment to the original charter giving the company the usual privileges, immunities and benefits for branch lines from the main track to Marshall, Prairie City, and one or two other points in the State. Some agitation was set on foot to secure a branch to the county-seat. The aggregate cost of the proposed branch was placed at $9,000, and on April 5, 1873, a meeting of the citizens interested in the project was held, but the branch never made much progress in a practical way, and the other railroad projects drove it out of the public mind.

Peoria Decatur & Evansville Railroad

        The brilliant success of the “Central” gave rise to a general desire among certain. capitalists to try this sort of speculation, and, in 1855, a road was projected from Mattoon to Grayville on the Wabash River. A charter was finally secured February 6, 1857, but up to 1876 nothing bad been accomplished in the way of grading. A part of the original plan was to find an outlet through Indiana, and the Mount Vernon & Grayville Railroad Company was the name of the Indiana division To the construction of this road the terminal county had voted a large subscription, which was subsequently diverted to the building of a new courthouse. The first spike had been driven on this division in the early part of 1871, and some five miles of the road graded and laid with rail, but the treacherous action of the people at the terminal point discouraged further work in that direction. In March, 1872, the two companies were consolidated under the name of the Chicago & Illinois Southern Railroad Company, and about the same time, this new organization was consolidated with the Decatur, Sullivan & Mat­toon Company, which had been formed under a charter granted in 1871. With all this activity in the transfer of franchises, and the utter absence of any apparent progress in the work, the people began to believe that the bonds voted at various points would be squandered and no railroad secured. In response to some of these complaints, the contractors of the time wrote to an influential friend of the enterprise, at Olney, Ill., as follows:

J. W. BECK, ESQ.,
Olney, Ill                                                                                               
New York July 24, 1871.

    DEAR SIR:—In answer to your favor of the 21st inst., asking information in reference to the construction of the Chicago & Illinois Southern Railroad, we would state that since we undertook the contract to build that road, our efforts have been applied to the work in Posey County, Ind., in order to save the charter of the Mount Vernon & Grayville Railroad Company, now consolidated with, and forming a part of the C. & I. S. Railroad, and also to the work on the Deca­tur, Sullivan & Mattoon Railroad, from Mattoon north to Decatur and Springfield, in order to save some valuable subscriptions necessary to build that road, which, when completed, will be consolidated with and form a part of the C. & I. S. R. R., and give it two important outlets, one to Decatur, another to Springfield.
    For the certainty of success in all great enterprises, it is best until everything is put upon a sure footing, to make haste slowly— and we do not doubt but our friends along the middle of the line of the C. & I. S. Railroad begin to think our progress very slow indeed. But they must be patient, and in good time they will see the road running through their country to their satisfaction. They must realize that to build a railroad, other and sometimes more laborious work has to be done besides shoveling dirt, building bridges and laying track. The work of negotiating the securities, getting the iron, fastenings, and rolling stock has to be done, and to that end all our energies, time and ability are now directed, with excellent prospects, we are happy to say, of early success. When this shall have been accomplished, your good people shall have no cause to complain of longer delay. We shall commence work from Mattoon south to Prairie City, and from Olney both north and south. We expect to have the D., S. & M. road finished to Decatur—40 miles—by the 1st of October. It is now nearly completed to Sullivan—13 miles—with iron laid, and the iron has been purchased for the whole road and is now being rapidly delivered.
    Your people should understand that it is as important to them to have the D., S. & M. road built, as any portion of the C. & I. S. Road, it being really a part of the latter road, extending it to Decatur and Springfield, where it will connect with other roads extending west and to the north. We are now in treaty with those connecting roads, so as to make the C. & I. S. Railroad a grand trunk line, connecting Chicago and the Northwest with the South by an almost air line.
Our engineers are now surveying the road from Mattoon to Prairie City, and as soon as it is finished we shall put it under contract for early completion.
    At Olney we shall commence the work as soon as we have the line definitely located by Col. Andrews, the Chief Engineer of the road. At Mount Vernon we have five miles of iron laid and about five more graded. We propose to contract the balance of the work out to the Wabash River, and are now in treaty with a responsible contractor to do the work and finish it in a rapid manner.
    We have purchased four locomotives. Two we have now in use, one at Mattoon and one at Mount Vernon, and two ready for work upon the road as soon as needed. Indeed, everything on the whole line is progressing as well as we could expect, considering the difficulties we have had to encounter, and if we are slow in reaching your place, we are none the less sure—and surety is what is most desirable in the success of any enterprise.
We have kept this enterprise intact through one of the most disastrous financial storms abroad we have ever known—occasioned by the French and German war, and which swept many other more promising railroad enterprises out of sight. From the effects of that storm, confidence in railway securities is just recovering, and we hope now to place the success of this undertaking on a permanent. foundation.
    As for the McCabe claims we would add—we have assumed their payment and they will be paid. In a short time one of our firm will visit your city and arrange the matter satisfactorily to all parties
concerned.   
Very truly yours,    J. EDWIN CONANT.


    Notwithstanding this brave talk, the word of promise was spoken to the ear only to be broken. to the heart. The consolidation was effected as noted above; one set of contractors after another failed and the people of Cumberland County began to despair, and, in August, 1874, the Democrat, at Prairie City, declared that “several contractors have been awarded the contract to build the road, only to hold it as a matter of speculation, and allow it to expire by limitation. Such has been the history of the road until it was virtually killed, or thought to be killed, and buried under the act of the directors consolidating the road with the Mattoon & Decatur road under the incorporate name of the Chicago & illinois Southern Railroad Company. This act, so far as it was capable of doing so, assisted by the Cleveland Iron Company, gave the enterprise its quietus, and its enemies confidently congratulated themselves that this time, for a certainty, the road slept quietly, in the Tomb of Capulets, that sleep that knows no waking, and at once commenced administering upon its effects.”
At this juncture, Messrs. Mclntires & Chapin, of Mattoon, began proceedings to have the consolidation set aside or dissolved. A suit was brought in the Jasper County Court, and was finally adjudicated by the United States Court for the Southern District of Illinois, on May 5, 1876, which entered a decree dissolving the combination. Work was at once pushed upon the middle sections, and thirty of the ninety-three miles proposed were graded.
    Cumberland County took by far the greater interest in this road than any other that has touched its limits. All others but touch the outer edges of its territory, and are really a detriment to the growth of the business here; drawing trade out of the county business houses elsewhere. The Board of Supervisors took stock to the amount of $250 for the purpose of making preliminary surveys in 1857. In 1866, a proposition to vote a subscription of $50,000 to the stock of the company was submitted to the people, and affirmed by the election of July 28, of that year. The condition of this subscription to the “Grayville & Mattoon Railroad Company” was, “that said company shall locate, construct and equip a railroad through said county, running on a line as nearly as practicable from Mattoon, in Coles County, to Prairie City, in Cumberland County, and thence to Grayville, in White County.” For this subscription, on this condition, there was a majority of 384 votes, and in September, 1866, the Board ordered “that as soon as either or both of said roads (Van­dalia and P., D. & E.,) shall in all things comply with their part of the obligations or contracts accepted by said Board at the May special term, 1866, then by these presents, the Clerk of this Board is hereby authorized to issue said bonds in strict compliance with the contract entered into by said Board with the railroads aforesaid, as is entered of record in this office.” The county, through its representative, assented to all the consolidations, but stoutly resisted the suggestion that the bonds should be deposited in Terre Haute, in trust with some person, to be turned over to the railroad authorities when the contract was satisfied. There was, however, a difference in judgment upon the subject among the members of the Board, and it is due to the stout resistance of H. B. Russell that the county did not commit this fallacy. In February, 1877, the Clerk was instructed to issue the bonds, but, inasmuch as they needed the signature of the President of the Board, who was at this time H. B. Russell, the whole matter was delayed by his refusal to sign them. He was finally deposed from his position, but the dilemma was only increased. There were just eight men, and they were evenly divided upon the subject; the candidate for the vacancy, too modest to vote for himself, was easily defeated by the deposed faction. Day after day the fight raged, until the Board gave up the struggle, restored Mr. Russell, and left the bonds unsigned. In July, the Board unanimously rescinded the order directing the issue of the bonds.
    In the meanwhile the “railroad came,” and was noticed by the Democrat as follows: “On Saturday, the 23d day of June, 1877, the track-layers on the Grayville & Mattoon Railroad laid the track across the street leading east from the courthouse in our city, and engine No., 8 run up into the street, and blew a long blast from her whistle, which brought a large number of our citizens to the road, accompanied by the band and a wagon-load of refreshments, for the purpose of expressing their thanks to the contractors and laborers of the road for the faithful and diligent manner they have pursued in constructing the road to this place. After the band played a piece, Clinton Woods, from the top of the engine cab, introduced Judge Decius to the crowd, who, in a very appropriate speech, extended the thanks of the citizens of Prairie City to the contractors and laborers of the road, and then invited them to partake of the refreshments prepared for them. Mr. Wyith, the contractor for laying iron, mounted the cab, and in behalf of the laborers expressed thanks for the kindly manner in which our people had received them. Mr. Simmons was then called for, and made his appearance on the cab, and commenced his remarks by saying that speechmaking was his weakest forte, but that he felt like thanking our people for the manner in which they had been received by them, and stated that it was the first demonstration of any kind they had me with, on the whole line. He then tendered the train to the crowd for an excursion to Greenup and back, which was accepted, and a jollier or happier company never boarded a train of cars than the one that went to Greenup on the first train that ever ran into Prairie City.”
    The present name of the company arose from another consolidation, or rather purchase. The Pekin, Lincoln & Decatur Railway Company was organized under a charter granted in 1870, and the road opened from Pekin to Decatur, 67.9 miles, in November, 1871, by its original owners. In the following year it was leased to the Toledo, Wabash & Western, by which it was operated until August, 1876, when it was sold under foreclosure sale. The road was subsequently extended from Pekin to Peoria, a distance of 9.2 miles, and opened for traffic March 1, 1878. This company then purchased the Decatur, Sullivan & Mattoon, and the Grayville & Mattoon roads, and in 1880 reorganized with an Indiana organization, under its present name. The southern terminus was changed to Evansville, Ind., and that division pushed to completion in June of the following year. The road from Mattoon to Grayville was in a very bad condition when sold, and so much poor work was found in its construction that it needed, and gradually received, rebuilding. The road has been of great advantage to the county, and as it cost no money to the county at large, there is but little room for grumbling. Sumpter Township subscribed an additional $25,0O0, and paid the amount though the result of the suit against the county demonstrates that the railroad company could not have compelled the payment on the contract.

Danville Olney Ohio River Railroad

    This was a narrow-gauge railroad, the projectors of which were organized into a company, under a charter granted March 10, 1869. The route proposed for the road started from the north bank of the Ohio River in Mas­sac County, Illinois, “thence northwardly to the city of Chicago or such place from which an entrance may be effected by construction or connection, and the line of railway to be located on such survey as may come within the range and purview of the charter of the company, about 340 miles.” Work was begun on the northern end of the road and pushed southward from Kansas, in Edgar County. The work met with a good deal of delay. In 1876, there was but eight miles of road, from Westfield to Kansas, and in 1878 this section of the road was put in operation. The further construction of the road made slow progress, reaching only some thirteen miles in the following year. In 1881, there was a revival of the work and some fifty-seven miles completed. In the following year the gauge was changed to standard width and the road completed to Olney, thus forming a link between the Ohio & Mississippi road on the south and the Indianapolis & Saint Louis on the north. This line of road passes through the eastern portion of Crooked Creek Township, in Cumberland County, and has a station at Hazel Dell. The township voted a subscription of $18,000 to the road, but has never issued the bonds. The railroad company has instituted legal proceedings to secure an order from the court compelling the township to issue the necessary bonds, but the question is yet at issue. The township resists upon several technical grounds, as well as a failure on the part of the company to perform its obligations under the contract. The result is likely to be in favor of the township, as some of the points have been adjudicated in other courts in the case of other counties against this company.

    Toledo, Cincinnati Saint Louis Railroad

    This is a link in the system of narrow-gauge railroads, which is destined to reach across the country from the Rio Grande to the. Ohio. The starting point of this road was at Dayton, Ohio, to reach the southeastern coal fields of that State. It subsequently was extended to Toledo, Ohio, and then from Delphos, Ohio, extended toward Saint Louis. Subsequently, a road known as the Cincinnati Northern was built northward from Cincinnati to Lebanon, and united with the Dayton road; hence the name. The line from Paris to Saint Louis was known as the Paris, Neoga & Saint Louis, and was surveyed in October, 1872. Neoga and vicinity raised by subscription some $60,000 to aid its construction, but it was not until 1883 that the road was in running order to East Saint Louis. This road, it is thought, will prove a boon to Neoga, as it has been powerless in the grasping administration of the Central Railroad.
    With five railroads crossing the territory of Cumberland County, it would seem that its citizens ought to be reasonably satisfied with its achievement in this direction, but while they have cost the county but little, they help the county but little. About 1871 and 1872, the Danville & Charleston Railroad was projected, to run to Flora, in Clay County, and the citizens of Cumberland were more interested in its success than in all the other projects. The Democrat voices the public feeling, in 1871, as follows: “From present indications it looks very much like the Charleston & Danville Railroad will be built, the City of Charleston itself having subscribed $200,000 towards the enterprise, which is two-thirds of the estimated amount necessary to complete the road ready for the iron. The proposed terminus of the road is Flora, in Clay County, at which place the road will connect with the Paducah & Cairo road. If you will take a map and examine it, you will perceive that Charleston, Prairie City and Flora are on an air line, and if this road is built, and runs straight, it cannot miss us. Encouraging as this may seem, we cannot expect this road to be built through our county without laying our hands to the work, and using our means to bring about its completion. It is estimated that $6,000 per mile will prepare the road for the iron, and as it is about sixteen miles across the county north and south, it would cost the Townships of Cottonwood, Sump­ter and Woodbury, in the aggregate, $96,000. This amount may appear formidable and look like a difficult sum to raise, yet it can be done; where there is a will there is always a way, and thousands of dollars could be obtained in the way of labor, ties, teams, etc., in the construction of the road where people were not able to pay a cash subscription, and which would answer every purpose. And when we look at the importance of this road and the great benefit it would be to our farmers, and, in fact, to the entire county, the amount is insignificant in comparison. By this road we at once secure a direct and shorter route by seven miles by the way of Dan­ville to Chicago than we have over the Central by the way of Mat­toon, and at the same time force the Illinois Central into competition with this new road.
    “While we do not wish to disparage the importance of the Mount Vernon and Mattoon road, and acknowledge the benefits it will confer, and hope to see its early completion,—we regard the Chicago, Danville & Flora road much the more important road of the two to Cumberland County. From this fact, that it makes competing lines east and west, of the T. H. & V. & Saint Louis, the Terre Haute & Alton, and the Great Western roads, and north and south of the Illinois Central, giving us a direct communication with all the great markets of the country, and will enable us to reach Chicago without being robbed and plundered by the Illinois Central monopoly. This cannot be said of the Mount Vernon & Mattoon road, from the fact that every car-load of grain shipped over that line will be subject to the control and tariff rates of that grasping corporation, and they will virtually control our road and dictate its policy, as Vanderbilt and Fisk dictate the policy of the Eastern roads, and so far as its benefits in a commercial point of view are concerned, they will never amount to anything. What our farmers and business men want is a cheap and direct communication with Chicago and the Eastern markets, and this we secure by the construction of the Danville & Charleston road, and without it we are at the mercy of the Illinois Central monopoly. Some persons may argue that the Fuller Bill, passed by the present legislature, regulates the tariff rates of the various roads of the State. It is, however, the opinion of sonic of our ablest lawyers that the provisions of this bill can never be enforced against the Central road, from the fact that it is a violation of vested rights and an infringement of the provisions of the charter under which the Central Company was incorporated, and not a matter within the reach of a State legislature. If this view of the matter should be entertained by the Supreme Court, then even with the Mount Vernon & Mattoon road completed, our farmers will be but very little better off than at present, from the fact that in its completion we gain access to no important commercial points. No merchant wishes to buy his stock of goods at Mattoon, Decatur, or Pekin, the points made by the Mount Vernon road, neither do these places furnish a market for grain or stock. Then we ask, aside from the matter of convenience, what do we gain? Commercially, we gain nothing. We are still in the iron grasp of the blood suckers of the Illinois Central, who, every farmer too well knows, have for years levied their unholy tribute upon every bushel of grain, and every hoof of stock raised in this country and shipped over their road. And that they have set like an incubus upon the industries of our people, and weighed down their energies with their unjust and outrageous exactions. We must by some means rid the people of Cumberland County of this oppressive burthen, and the only way to do so, since this Company is beyond legislative reach, is to build competing lines, and by the force of competition compel them to reduce their rates to a fair standard. This opportunity is offered us in the Chicago, Danville & Charleston road, and it only requires a proper effort upon the part of the people in the townships through which this road will pass to immediately secure its construction, and when completed it will be one of the most profitable and important roads in the State, and will be the means of developing the country to a greater extent than any of the roads that have yet been built We hope our citizens will give this subject due consideration and act with energy and promptness in the matter.”
    This is the feeling in regard to the necessities of the county today, and the Grand Continental Railroad projected from Cincinnati and Louisville to Omaha has attracted a great interest throughout the county, and $300 has been raised by private subscription to survey the line through this section. The line, as projected, rims directly from its western terminus to Quincy, Ill.; from thence via Winchester, Taylorville and Toledo, Ill., to Sullivan, Ind. At this point, the projected line has two branches, the one direct to Cincin­nati and the other to Louisville. The prospects of this road, with reference to Cumberland County are yet very indefinite, but are the topic of considerable discussion and newspaper sensation.
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