Letter from Samuel B. Reed to Wife and Family, August 1, 1866

In this letter from August 1, 1866, Samuel Reed writes to his wife and family describing a recent trip to the west. He explored the country south of the Platte River looking for cedar timbers to use as railroad ties for the Union Pacific road. Reed met Jack Morrow, a wealthy rancher, and purchased $4,000 worth of ties from him.

I have just arrived here from the west. When last I wrote I was on the point of starting for Cottonwood and the upper Platte Valley. I went out to the and of the road and there took the stage for Cottonwood, crossed the raging Platte without accident to person or property, stayed at Kearney twelve hours, thence to Cottonwood without delay. There I procured transportation for myself and one man and started to explore the cedar timber in the bluffs south of the Platte. We were gone three days, had hard time tramping over the hills and through gorges in which the cedars are found growing on the steep sides of the canon. Black tailed deer abound there in numerous herds and only require skill in the bold adventurer to supply ample food for the daily returning hunger of the weary traveler.

I was absent three days from the military post. On my return I found General Dodge had arrived and we continued up the Platte Valley, to Jack Marrows, the noted ranchman that eats one hundred dollar bills when he gets on a spree in Omaha. At home he is gentlemanly and has the best house on the road from Omaha to Denver. His white wife is ladylike and accomplished, her house is well furnished and neatly kept which is to the weary traveler of the plains, like a green spot in a desert.

I took dinner at Jack's and bought $4,000.00 worth of cedar timbers and then continued on up the Platte Valley 25 miles. Then crossed the south Platte and explored the country between the two Plattes for fifty miles to determine the place of crossing the North Platte with our road. After deciding the location for the bridge we started down the Platte Valley on the north side. The weather was intensely hot and at night the mosquitoes were very busy drawing from our bodies all the blood that could be spared and maintain life. No sleep for three consecutive nights, short of bacon and bread but with plenty of coffee. Weary and worn we reached the end of the track just in tie to see the train start for Omaha. I pressed the construction engine into service and overtook the regular train in ten miles run. Then reached Omaha at twelve that night. When I learned the commissioners were ready to go over the road, starting at 6:30 AM, I of course was called and started determined to get back early. The length of the road passed over was 163 miles, 326 miles out and back. Returned to Omaha at 6:30 P.M. just twelve hours including stops and delays. Great Road.

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: August 1, 1866