Letter from Samuel B. Reed to Wife and Family, May 3, 1864

In this letter from May 3, 1864, Samuel Reed writes to his wife and family describing his upcoming trip to Salt Lake City via the Overland Stage. He notes that in Atchison he has seen many runaway slaves from Missouri. This letter also includes Reed's instructions from Peter Dey in the Engineer's Office.

I have arrived here last evening and secured our seats in the Overland stage to Salt Lake City and go out next Thursday. Mr. Mathewson from Lockport, Ill. Will go with me as first assistant.

This town is full of negroes that have run away from Missouri. We passed through some of the finest farming country I ever saw, north of St. Joseph. But only about one-half of the land is being cultivated. It don't seem possible that provisions enough can be hauled over the plains to feed so many people. One problem will soon be solved, the settling of all the country between the Missouri river and Nevada mountains susceptible of sustaining a population.

His instructions were as follows:

Samuel B. Reed, Esq.,

Dear Sir:

By order of the Board of Directors you have been assigned to the survey between the great Salt Lake Valley and Green River. President Young has volunteered to furnish your party and transportation for your work. You will take with you Mr. Mathewson as assistant and form the balance of the party there. To accomplish what is necessary you will probably have to run two distinct lines the whole or most of the distance.

The first line should start from the Great Salt Lake City and run up the valley to the point where the Weber breaks through the mountains, thence up the valley to either Echo creek or Morin's fork called on some maps, White Chalk Creek, to the summit then down to Bear River, from there to some branch of Black's fork and probably follow it to a table land to Green River where you will connect with Mr. Evan's line. In case you should reach there before him, place some conspicuous monument that he may be able to find it.

On your return you will follow nearer the Utah Mountains running, if practicable considerably south of Fort Bridger, and in case you are forced to make the Weber valley run up it into Kamas Prairie then down the Timpanogos to Lake Utah and round the foot of lake to the river Jordan. At intermediate points on this survey you must run, I think, quite a number of lines. For instance, you may be able to cross the summit between Echo and Yellow creeks on the Weber line or may make the crossing easier by White Chalk Creek, or you may be able to reach Bear River from the Timpanogos and thence by direct line to Black's Fork near its mouth. Actual examination will alone develop that rugged country and there is not enough known of that region to give you more than a general outline.

From Salt Lake City and the foot of Lake Utah, you will make a reconnaissance west through Ruilla and Spring Valleys and determine as near as you can the most feasible route west from both points, this need not be an instrumental survey and would not advise it unless you have time after exhausting the country between Green River and the valley, but see the country west fifty or sixty miles, as the route west may decide the approach to the valley from the east. The board rely upon your known experience and ability to secure a line within their limit of gradients and within reasonable costs of construction, if formation of the country will admit of it. As a general rule, it will be safe to sacrifice distance and straight lines to cost of construction. The aim of the company being to secure a line they can afford to build.

Respectfully yours,

Peter A. Dey.

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: May 3, 1864