Letter from Artemus J. Mathewson to Samuel B. Reed, August 27, 1865

In this letter from August 27, 1865, Artemus J. Mathewson writes to Samuel Reed discussing the advantages and disadvantages of running a railroad line through various areas in the mountains and valleys of Utah. He states that he has been reading the reports of Captain Howard Stansbury, who led an expedition in 1849 to survey and map the valley of the Great Salt Lake, and tells Reed "your operations last year and this will give more of real value - and mayhap twice that amt than Stansbury's whole operations." Mathewson also notes the increase in Indian hostility both on the plains and in the mountains. He tells Reed, "like you, I think you have been lucky to keep your scalp."

S.B. Reed Div. Eng. U.P.R.R. Utah Div.

Dear Sir

Yours of July 21.st from Gr. S. L. City was recd by me last night. Was very glad to hear from you had not recd a line from you in so long a time that I began to fear, you were sick bad sick, over on the desert. I did not know you would go up to the sweet water but I am glad you did, for I had thought they should explore that route at last but I have never thot [sic] they would run a road there, on acct of the deep snows. As you say, a 'better route may be had' over some of the plateaus in the M.ts South of the S. Pass, less objectionable of snows, altho [sic] at the expense of 100. ft grades it would be decidedly preferable, to say nothing of coal & ties, or dist. My friend, I fully appreciate your situation while ranging over the divides and vallies [sic] from Utah valley, South E. and East, up to where you went the physical difficulties as well as mental. The conformation of the country is somewhat fixed in my mind from descriptions of others and from seeing something of these M.ts and 'divides' ourselves. I have been carefully reading Stansbury's 'report,' and find all the while a vacillating of opinion sometimes strongly recommending a particular route and then, in a few pages having heard from some reliable individual of another, and 'better route' would take back all he had said in the former case, and strongly urge the claims of some other being determined to hit a route somewhere. The fact is, his urging the claims of the Silver Cr. route through the stage route by Hardy's is enough to satisfy me that, altho [sic] he was clothed with powers from the Govt to make surveys, and explorations for roads & c he had a devilish poor eye for levels through canons, altho [sic] he could see the fall of the water nearly every mile of ascent, or descent. There is hardly a man in the Ter. except [B.p.] Hardy who will not, after having passed over the route, pronounce that route as impracticable especially within 3. or 4. miles each side of the divide. His survey of the Lake is no doubt correct but anything more than his diary is really of little use to science and we wonder all the more at it, as his outfit was so complete and the country through which he passed was about as well known as it is to day [sic] . As matters of fact, and exploration, your operations last year and this will give more of real value and mayhap twice that amt than Stansbury's whole operations.

I do not think my friendship for you will bias my opinon of men or of things in any manner whatever. When we dissolve a fact or facts, it is an easy matter to find the constituents, and draw conclusions. I had hoped that this year, as we found it last, the Morman influence would impress these misguided and 'erring brethren' of the mountains with a wholesome dread of any hostile intentions against the whites but it seems they have lost the dread of the Mormon and are willing to cut your throat for the sake of a little gain - or for the dominion of the Mountains. On the plains it is as bad or worse than last year and in the M.ts far worse. I am not surprised that you should resort to the strategy of moving from the common night camp, away up into the M.ts to avoid an unpleasant encounter, and, like you, I think you have been lucky to keep your scalp.

The piece of shell agate was recd all right. Many, very many thanks - and now, while on the subject, I will mention one little circustance [sic] which has surprised me not a little, and it may surprise you as much.

While in N.Y. I was showing Col Cook one of the directors of the R.R. from Iowa and Mr. Bunker, the specimen for a pin for Br. Young of this same agate Mr. Bunker asked me to send him a piece that he might have it ground & cut which I agreed to do and did do sending it by mail, together with a bill of my expenses home from N.Y. all receipted & directed them to remit [d.ft] for the amt. Not hearing any thing from it, after a while I wrote Mr. Bunker, (who had agreed to get the agate cut, and send me two specimens [sic] setts [sic] for pins) but I could get no answer - I then wrote Mr. Durant, to whom I had sent your statement of my expense while sick, and asking about this bill which I had sent receipted but I could get no answer from either of them. As they had sent for me to come to N.Y. and as they had paid my expenses down there I had every reason to suppose they would my expense home. If they do not do as hon. men should, I will write to Gen. Dix - and if I fail there I will write to some friends I have in Washington and see what they can do. The sum is not a large one, but it is just. Now, my friend, what think you of this kind of thing is it shuffling and mean or do they fail to get my letters? I shall write by you when you go East again and then if they fail to pay me promptly I will pursue another course.

I have not had time to see your family this summer, not even to visit a brother in law at Kenosha - Wis. since my return.

Have been busy every day preparing the canal work for letting on the 1.st day of Sept. Have got the field work all done and the maps and profiles all set up and contractors a host of them are out looking at the work Williams and Bozer the men I tried to get out there to take work on the U.P.R.R. and who probably would have done so, but were afraid the Govt funds would go to the Devil and I confess that, for a time [?] look bad. Well, they are now going [?] bid and scores of others. We [?] on 1.st. Sept. Have got two parties [?] at work in the field & have [?] 15 [the of June].

There has been a tremendous flood all over this country. 50. or 60. ft of the wall below Hawk and Hyde's mill at upper Dam in Joliet went out two weeks since & the streams of Hickory Cr. & Spring Cr. were pouring down their waters like the Weber and overflowed all of East Joliet the slough, the flat below the upper Dam, and generally. The water ran over our Towpath for 1/2 a mile or so, 1. ft deep & washed garden fences and all that sort of thing out by the roots washed out barnes fences woodsheds and trees R.R. track & c & c Well, you will have to tramp over the desert west of the Lake I would dread that. When you get over ni [sic] the vicinity of Austin Nevada send word to D.W. Welty Esqr. of Austin & they will come out & bring you in and give you something to eat. I have written, and Mrs. W. says you must let them know where you are, and they will send for you. You had better do so.

Who have you with you this summer? I hope some good fellows the right kind of men. Write as often as you can tell me all and take good care of your health this you owe to your wife and little girls God bless them. Mrs. Mathewson sends love to you and the 'little girls' 'babies' would do so if they were at home. They are visiting in Mich. My friend, my prayer has been for thee all summer but had located you on the desert W. of the Lake. Rem. me to all whom it may concern. We often speak of you at our house.

Accept my regards.
A.J. Mathewson.

About this Document

  • Source: Letter from Artemus J. Mathewson to Samuel B. Reed
  • Extent: 3 pages
  • Citation: Special Collections, University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa, Papers of Levi O. Leonard, Box 26, Folder: "Samuel Benedict Reed Correspondence: 1860-1865"
  • Date: August 27, 1865