Letter from Samuel B. Reed to Wife and Family, January 16, 1869

In this letter from January 16, 1869, Samuel Reed writes to his wife and family giving a detailed description of Thomas Durant's interference with the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad. Reed explains how Durant's decisions, including pulling workers from grading duty before winter came, have "squandered uselessly" an incredible amount of time and money.

The track was laid to this place last Thursday. Quite a large crowd of people have been here daily to see the cars. Thousands of people are living in the valley that have never seen a railway track and it is to them the great event of their lives.

Doctor Durant is still here and of all men to mix accounts and business, he is the chief. My matters are in good shape and if they could be let alone more work would be done for less money and in less time under the present system. To illustrate, I will give you a short history of our work for the past two or three months. In October last I had a large force on grading, enough to have kept the work well out of the way of the track. Davis and his associates had teams enough in the timber to haul ties to the line of the road as fast as they could be laid. The Doctor took all of Davis' and his associates teams down the road to distribute ties and timber. He also took one half all the force of all the graders on the line and put them on the same service. This reducing of the grading and tie hauling teams retarded the work so much that before it could be done the ground was frozen and a large amount of earth excavation, which should and would have been done before frost, had my arrangement not been interfered with, at a cost of not exceeding thirty cents per cubic yard, has now cost as much as any solid rook on the line of the work, as it was done night and day by blasting frozen ground. ties, of course, were all used up in a short time and then all the teams that could he obtained at enormous prices were rushed into the mountains to haul ties to the line of the road. Immense amounts of money was squandered uselessly and not as much work done as would have been done if we had kept steadily moving all branches, seeing that none were behind. Then no confusion would have occurred, each part of the work would have kept pace with the others and today more road would have been built than we now have and money enough saved to nearly complete the road to Ogden, thirty eight miles.

I still hope to visit home before spring and am advising the powers that be to reduce force and do the work at reasonable rates and, if I can succeed, will be with you next month some time. I am sorry I wrote the above, my business is so pressing that it seems almost impossible to get off. The financial world is in commotion and there may be a lack of money to keep moving at our usual rate. I would not be surprised at anytime to hear of heavy failures that would astonish the world.

About this Document

  • Source: Letter from Samuel B. Reed to Wife and Family
  • Citation: Nebraska State Historical Society, Samuel Reed Papers (Union Pacific Railroad Collection), MS 3761, Unit 1, Subgroup 14, Series 1, Box 2, Letters to Wife and Family
  • Date: January 16, 1869