Letter from Samuel B. Reed to Wife and Family, August 15, 1864

In this letter from August 15, 1864, Samuel Reed writes to his wife and family describing his difficulties in surveying the route for the Union Pacific Railroad line, including the high cost of food. He mentions that the party spent four days in country with no drinkable water. Despite these hardships, Reed and his party have finished their first survey and are returning to Salt Lake City.

Since last entry I have made connection with the line as run from the east and am now on my return to Salt Lake City, where I expect to arrive next Tuesday, which will complete one line of survey through the mountains. There is one more line to run, but labor and provisions are so expensive I hope they will give up the second line this season. At Salt Lake wheat is $5.00 in gold, $10.00 to $12.00 in currency. Last evening a part of my party went into Salt Lake and I bought a half bushel of potatoes for which I paid $3.00 and a dozen small onions which cost fifty cents. At such prices for eatables I think the company will abandon further explorations this season.

Our work the past month has been very difficult and laborious. The desert country through which we have passed is destitute of drinkable water for man or beast. One place we were four days without drinkable water except what was carried in kegs from the start or sent for by teams. All water in the creeks is saturated with alkali. I have seen it so black you would think it strong lye.

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 15, 1864