Open main menu



CHAPTER XLI

Completion of the Northern Pacific Railway
1880–3

THE negotiations with the Northern Pacific were resumed in September, 1880, by Mr. Villard, assisted by Thomas F. Oakes, whom he had induced to resign as general superintendent of the Kansas Pacific and assume the functions of vice-president and general manager of the Railway & Navigation Company. The Northern Pacific parties were lukewarm and hard to satisfy, but a contract was signed on October 20. Mr. Villard's side secured in it all the essential points it had been striving for except a covenant by the other party not to build down the north bank of the Columbia, which it could, however, hardly make without risking a forfeiture of a large portion of its land grant in Oregon and Washington. The Northern Pacific recognized the other company's right of way on the southern bank and its title to the station grounds, and waived all claims for damages, and, most important of all, agreed to a division of territory, with the Snake and Columbia as the dividing line, except that it consented to the construction of a line into the Palouse country by the Railway & Navigation Company. In consideration of all these concessions, the latter agreed to complete a standard-gauge road within three years from the western end of the Pend d'Oreille division at the mouth of the Snake River to Portland, and to grant the Northern Pacific the right, with out the obligation, to run its own trains over it at a fixed charge per train mile. It also agreed to carry Northern Pacific construction material at reasonable and fixed rates, and to effect the sale at $2.50 an acre of three hundred thousand acres of Northern Pacific land along the Palouse line to the Oregon Improvement Company.

Mr. Villard and his friends were exultant, and the Navigation stock rose considerably on the announcement of the signing of the contract, to which the Northern Pacific would not have assented if the negotiations had been protracted a little longer. Its management had not found it easy to raise money for the resumption of construction east and west, and would not have been able to command the means to build along the Columbia. Moreover, it had shrunk from a contest with a young and vigorous concern like the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company, with apparently unlimited financial resources, under a bold and aggressive leadership. Its defensive position was entirely changed within a month of the execution of the contract by the sale of $40,000,000 of its first-mortgage bonds to a powerful syndicate headed by Drexel, Morgan & Co., Winslow, Lanier & Co., and A. Belmont & Co. The transaction, then unparalleled in its magnitude, assured to the company $36,000,000 of money, which was then generally assumed to be sufficient for the completion and equipment of the entire main line.

Mr. Villard heard of this portentous operation only a few days before its consummation. He now understood why his own offer during the negotiations with President Billings to raise $10,000,000 for the Northern Pacific against its mortgage bonds was at first warmly received but afterwards declined. He perceived at once distinctly what damaging consequences the great financial strength thus secured to the other company might have for the interests represented by him. The fear, indeed, was justified that his company would be struck in its vital part by the continuance of the Northern Pacific main line down the Columbia. He knew that the mere threat of this would greatly affect the market value of his company's securities, and much impede the raising of additional capital for it. In a short time he decided upon the adoption of a radical remedy for these threatening consequences. He formed the boldest resolution of his whole business career. It was nothing less than the acquisition of a sufficient amount of Northern Pacific shares to influence the direction of Northern Pacific affairs, to which stock interest should be permanently joined the large majority of Oregon Railway & Navigation stock held by himself and his followers, so as to insure lasting harmony between the two corporations.

In pursuance of this object, he conceived the plan of forming a new company which should purchase and hold a controlling interest in the Northern Pacific as well as in the Oregon Railway & Navigation. Foreseeing that a regular supply of capital would be needed for years for the development, by branch lines and otherwise, of the enormous stretches of wild country tributary to the two companies, he enlarged the scheme so as to make the new corporation also a financiering company for the two others. He had gained enough experience in Wall Street by this time to know that, if his intention to form such a company for such a purpose became public, he would never be able to secure his main object the purchase at reasonable figures in the open market of the large amount of the two stocks he needed. He therefore determined to begin by buying as secretly as possible all that his private means and credit permitted. Only a few of his most intimate friends were aware of his operations. Having gone as far as he could on his own account, he decided, in February, 1881, to call on his supporters generally for further funds in such a manner as not to disclose the object he sought to accomplish. With his absolute faith in the soundness of his project, he felt justified in taking large responsibilities, and did not hesitate to make the boldest possible appeal to personal confidence by asking his followers to intrust their money to him without being told what use he intended to make of it. Accordingly, he issued a confidential circular to about fifty persons, informing them that they were desired to subscribe towards a fund of $8,000,000, to which he himself would contribute a large part, in order to enable him to lay the foundation of a certain enterprise the exact nature of which he would disclose on or before May 15, 1881. Payments were to be made in three instalments.

The effect of the circular was astonishing. The very novelty and mystery of the proposition proved to be an irresistible attraction. One-third of the persons and firms appealed to signed the full amount asked for before the subscription-paper could reach the other two-thirds. Then a regular rush for the privilege of subscribing ensued, and, within twenty-four hours of the issue of the circular, more than twice the amount offered was applied for. The allotments were made as fairly as possible, but hardly one of the subscribers was satisfied with the amount allowed him. All wanted more, and Mr. Villard's offices were crowded with persons pleading for larger participations, including some of the first bankers of New York, of whom several protested angrily when refused. The subscriptions commanded twenty-five per cent. premium at once, which rose to forty and fifty per cent.; in other words, people were willing to pay fifteen hundred dollars for every thousand they were permitted to contribute. The eight million dollars was promptly paid, notwithstanding the great stringency of the money market at the time.

The subscribers received a personal receipt from Mr. Villard, reading as follows:

Received this day from ……… the sum of ……… dollars, as his contribution to, and which entitles the holder hereof to a proportionate interest in, the transactions of a Purchasing Syndicate to be formed with a capital of $8,000,000, by agreement in writing of the parties in like interest, for the acquisition of properties, real, personal and mixed, for the purpose of the sale thereof to and the consolidation with the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company or the Oregon Improvement Company or both, or to serve as the basis for the formation of a new Company. It is understood and agreed that the undersigned shall account to the holder hereof for the use of the moneys for which this and like receipts are given on or before May 15, 1880, but not sooner, and that the holder hereof shall participate equally in all the profits and benefits of every description with all other persons in like interest in proportion to said contribution. This receipt is not transferable except with the written consent of the undersigned.

The promised accounting was postponed until June 24, when the subscribers met by invitation of Mr. Villard in his offices, and received for the first time full explanations of his plan to form a new company for the double object already explained. The project was so well received that his simultaneous invitation to subscribe $12,000,000 more was generally responded to. The new company was organized immediately in Oregon, under the name of the Oregon & Transcontinental Company, with an authorized capital stock of $50,000,000, of which $30,000,000 was issued and distributed among the subscribers for the $20,000,000 cash paid in.

This unique financial feat, without precedent or parallel, gained for Mr. Villard much of the kind of reputation which he least coveted. Wall Street dubbed it the "blind pool," and the newspaper exaggerations and fictions indulged in throughout the country regarding it gave him a most distasteful notoriety. The new corporation was the first of the companies, now called "proprietary," which have since become numerous. Its conception was considered by eminent bankers as a stroke of genius, and the belief in its practicability by men of the highest standing was evidenced by the composition of the company's board of directors and the list of stockholders. Yet the company was destined to prove a grievous disappointment and the greatest possible trial to its originator. Even before the purchasing syndicate was wound up, unexpected troubles were born with the new company. In forming it, the founder had no intention of ousting the existing management of the Northern Pacific, but only to bring about a close alliance between it and the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company. But President Billings rejected his advances, and would not even listen to his request for a small representation in the Northern Pacific board. Thereupon he offered to purchase the stock holdings of Mr. Billings and his fellow-directors, but this offer was also declined. The Northern Pacific directors, knowing that this would result in their displacement at the next annual election, then tried to fortify themselves by the sudden distribution of the $18,000,000 of common stock still in the treasury. Mr. Villard got wind of this and sued out an injunction against the issue. After some litigation, a compromise was effected. A new board of directors was agreed upon, with a majority of representatives of the Oregon & Transcontinental, and elected at the annual meeting in September, with Henry Villard as president, T. F. Oakes as first vice-president, and Anthony J. Thomas, an officer of the Oregon & Transcontinental Company, as second vice-president. Thus, in a little over two years from the birth of the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company, Mr. Villard had assumed the burden of forging a new rail chain across the continent, twenty-seven hundred miles long, by connecting the existing links.

The new management considered its most important duty the pushing of the construction of the main line of the Northern Pacific with the utmost energy. It found a balance of no less than $34,000,000 from the sale of the $40,000,000 first-mortgage bonds available for this purpose. Yet, in spite of this seeming abundance, serious financial embarrassments arose during the first year of the new administration from two sources. In the first place, large expenditures were incurred for grading, bridging, and tunnelling at points in Montana, a long distance from the two ends of the track; but no money could be drawn from the building fund for outlays not resulting in finished road. Under the terms of the mortgage, the proceeds of the bonds became available only upon the completion and acceptance by the United States Government of the main line in 25-mile sections of road. In the second place, there was serious trouble owing to the lingering illness of President Garfield and the refusal of his successor, President Arthur, to appoint commissioners to inspect completed sections because bills forfeiting the company's land grant were pending in Congress. Although Mr. Villard induced one Republican leader after another to appeal to the Executive on behalf of the company for the appointment of commissioners, President Arthur remained immovable until September, when he yielded to the arguments of Roscoe Conkling. For more than a year, the company had been obliged to meet requirements for construction and equipment at the average rate of over $2,000,000 a month without reimbursement from the proceeds of the bonds. It was a period of most harassing anxiety for Mr. Villard. More than once the situation seemed desperate, and he prevented a breakdown only by the unhesitating use of his personal credit and by assistance from the Oregon & Transcontinental Company, the availability of which fully demonstrated the practical value of its creation. Notwithstanding these financial hindrances, the progress of construction was not delayed an hour.

During the whole of 1882, and up to midsummer of 1883, Mr. Villard devoted himself unceasingly to the double duty of meeting the money requirements for construction and equipment and of accelerating the grading, bridging, tunnelling, and track-laying by the several companies under his presidency. He sought to inspire the engineers in charge and the contractors with determination to do their utmost to complete the main line of the Northern Pacific and the river road of the Oregon Railway & Navigation by the end of the summer of 1883. Construction was also proceeding on the Oregon & California. Moreover, Mr. Villard, through the Oregon & Transcontinental, in accordance with its programme, had taken in hand in 1883 the building of nearly five hundred miles of Northern Pacific branches in Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, and western Washington, including the important Yellowstone Park branch. The forces employed by the several companies formed a total of over twenty-five thousand railroad men, mechanics, and laborers, including fifteen thousand Chinamen, and the total disbursements on all accounts reached fully four millions of dollars a month. He aimed at an achievement the like of which had never before been attempted in the civilized world—nothing less than the completion of not far from two thousand miles of new road in two years, or nearly three miles a day, including scores of miles of tunnels, bridges, and trestles. No man in this country, indeed, had ever before at one time had supreme charge of such gigantic operations, extending from the Upper Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean, and from Puget Sound to the northern boundaries of California.

After protracted negotiations with the Union Pacific officials in the early part of 1883, Mr. Villard finally induced them to agree definitely to construct their Oregon Short Line to the Snake River as fast as possible, in consideration of which he undertook to continue the Baker City branch of the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company to a junction with their extension. The enlargement of the construction programme of the latter company had called for another issue of $6,000,000 stock in 1882, and the agreement with the Union Pacific now led to a third issue of the same amount, so that the total outstanding stock capital was $24,000,000. As the net earnings of the company had risen in the first three years of its existence from less than a million to nearly three millions, the successive issues of stock were readily absorbed. The company was then the only one in the United States that met all its pecuniary requirements without putting out a single additional bond after the first issue, of which fact its president was justly proud.

Mr. Villard spent many months, both in 1882 and in 1883, on the road in personal visits to the principal construction columns. In April, 1883, occasion arose for him to be in Portland by a certain date, which he could only do by making an accelerated trip across the continent. Owing to the courtesy of the lines between Chicago and San Francisco, he was able to arrange for a special train running through without stopping anywhere except for a change of locomotives about every two hundred miles. The run was watched by the whole Western public, and the newspapers reported regularly the progress of his train. Everywhere along the route, people turned out to see it fly past and cheer its occupants. It went through in less than half the time of the regular passenger trains, being the fastest trip hitherto made.

Mr. Villard's sojourns in Portland had always been times of hard work, but the one following the flying journey overland was an extraordinarily busy one. He worked out the details of a lease of the Oregon & California lines by the Oregon & Transcontinental Company on what seemed advantageous terms to the latter; the lease was subsequently submitted to and approved by the stock holders of the two companies. The construction of the extension from Roseburg had far exceeded the estimates, and the proceeds of the new bonds were exhausted before the very costly lower end, crossing the Siskiyou Mountains, was reached. The lease therefore provided for the completion of the line by the lessee for the remainder of the authorized Oregon & California first-mortgage and all of the second-mortgage bonds. Mr. Villard also closed a lease of the narrow-gauge system built with Scotch capital in the Willamette Valley. Next, he perfected the organization of a separate Terminal Company, which was to create the terminal facilities, including a large passenger station, a bridge over the Willamette, machine-shops, freight-houses, round-houses, docks, etc., required for the three railroad systems, the Oregon & Transcontinental Company, Oregon Railway & Navigation, and Northern Pacific, which would terminate at Portland. The estimated outlay of the Terminal Company was nearly $3,000,000, which was provided for by the issue of bonds to be guaranteed by the three railroad companies. As Portland did not have a single decent hotel at the time, Mr. Villard also purchased a suitable site for a large modern one, and gave a leading firm of New York architects charge of its erection. Its completion was delayed for some years, but "The Portland" stands to-day, as planned by him, the finest establishment of the kind on the Pacific coast north of San Francisco.

Oregon had an institution which went by the name of University, of which it represented, however, but a very small beginning. It had received little support either from the State or from the public, and was so embarrassed by indebtedness that it would probably have been obliged to close its doors, had not Mr. Villard come to its relief by paying its floating debt in response to an appeal from the Board of Regents. He also presented it with the nucleus of a library. In May, 1883, he offered to donate fifty thousand dollars to it on condition that the State would levy a tax sufficient for its maintenance on a moderate scale. This being done, he paid over the promised sum, in recognition of which gift a hall was named after him. About the same time, he intervened to save the Territorial University of Washington from suspension by the failure of the Territorial Legislature to make an appropriation for it.[1] He also helped various local charities on the North Pacific coast.

Before leaving for an overland trip to St. Paul along the finished and unfinished parts of the Northern Pacific main line, he delivered a speech to a large audience at Portland. Referring to the fact that construction on the Oregon Railway & Navigation lines had progressed more rapidly than had been expected, as shown by the completion of the Columbia River line the previous November, three months ahead of time, and in view also of the advanced state of the work on the Northern Pacific, he said he hoped the announcement he was about to make without hesitation would find credence that he would come to Portland again early in the fall, and be the first passenger to alight from the first through-train from St. Paul to that city. He further announced the terms of the understanding he had reached with the Union Pacific regarding the coming junction of the Baker City branch of the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company with the Oregon Short Line. Thus he could promise them not only one but two railroad connections with the East within a short time. In response to this, the enthusiastic audience gave him a great ovation. He was able fully to redeem his promise regarding the time and manner of his next arrival in Portland.

Accompanied by a party of railroad officials, he set out for the eastward land journey. At that time there was still a gap of four hundred miles between the eastern track end on the Upper Missouri near Gallatin and the western on Clark's Fork of the Columbia, which he traversed by vehicle and on horseback. At one time he drove in a buggy over a grass-covered height, rising in less than half a mile about three hundred feet, which divides the source of the Columbia from that of the Missouri. His observations impressed him greatly with the agricultural richness of the company's lands in eastern Washington and the timber value of those in Idaho and Montana. The immense unexplored region he traversed gave rise in his mind to a desire to start a thorough scientific exploration of the entire unknown portion of the Northern Pacific land grant; this was subsequently carried out by the organization of a transcontinental survey under Professor Raphael Pumpelly. The hearty welcome which Mr. Villard received in all the towns and settlements cheered him, but cause for depression also arose on this journey. His conferences with the superintendents of construction and contractors, and what he himself saw of the local difficulties that had already arisen and that had still to be grappled with, led for the first time to apprehension on his part that there would be a large excess of actual outlay over the estimates of the chief engineer. On arriving at St. Paul, after having spent nearly three weeks on the way, having also inspected the work on the new branch lines in Dakota and Minnesota, he immediately ordered the chief engineer to make a special report to him as to the money requirements for the completion of the main line that summer, of the possibility of which his tour had satisfied him.

In St. Paul he was occupied chiefly with the formation of a terminal company in the interest of the Northern Pacific. The company had insufficient grounds in St. Paul, and as good as none in the sister city of Minneapolis, yet there was urgent need of ample facilities in both places in view of the approaching change of the Northern Pacific from a local into a transcontinental line. The reason was that its line connecting the main line at Brainerd with the Twin Cities was only partially owned by the Northern Pacific. He conceived and carried out the project of acquiring the connecting line entirely, through a reorganization of it under the name of St. Paul & Northern Pacific Company; a new bond issue providing for the necessary acquisition of real estate and other improvements. He concealed his plan until the large grounds needed had been quietly bought up by third parties for his private account without attracting attention, as publicity would at once have resulted in such a rise in prices that the purchase at reasonable figures would have been impossible. When he had secured all that was needed, he turned the whole over to the St. Paul & Northern Pacific Company at cost and interest. The properties acquired cost about $300,000, but became worth several millions, and without them the Northern Pacific would have been simply strangled in the two cities. This disinterested action was especially recognized and commended by resolution of the Northern Pacific board. The St. Paul & Northern Pacific Company was very successfully financiered by the same syndicate that had taken the Northern Pacific first-mortgage bonds. Mr. Villard also received at St. Paul a deputation of officials of the Canadian province of Manitoba, with whose Government he had been in communication for some time regarding the breaking up of the Canadian Pacific's statutory monopoly of the through east-and-west business from the province. As, under Dominion law, in order to prevent American lines from being extended into the province, no railroad competing with the Canadian Pacific could be built within fifteen miles of the international boundary, a plan was adopted to build a Northern Pacific branch from the main line to the boundary and another from Winnipeg, the capital of the province, down to the forbidden belt, and to carry passengers and goods across the interval by ordinary vehicles. It proved an impracticable scheme, and had to be abandoned after the construction of the line to the boundary from the south had been commenced, and Mr. Villard regretted the mistake he had made in entering into it. The enterprise was sold to the St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba Railroad Company, which was allied to the Canadian Pacific at that time.

The report of the chief engineer on the cost of the new part of the main line reached Mr. Villard soon after his return to New York late in June. It contained the startling admission that the actual requirements for the completion of the main line would exceed the estimates by more than fourteen millions of dollars. This revelation was a doubly staggering blow to him, because it discredited all his confident statements to his associates and followers based on the original estimates and confirmed time and again to him as true by the engineering department, that the cash resources in hand were ample for all wants, and because it imposed new financiering burdens on him. It was certain, too, to affect unfavorably the securities of his several companies. At this time, there became perceptible, indeed, the first signs of a reaction from the great rise in prices which had continued almost uninterruptedly, especially in railroad shares, since the resumption of specie payments. The shares of his companies had followed the general upward tendency and more than led the market. The Northern Pacific preferred stock rose above par and the shares of the Oregon & Transcontinental almost to par in September, 1882, with enormous transactions in both, aggregating some days seventy thousand shares for the one and thirty thousand for the other.[2] Both stocks were believed, even by cautious bankers, to hold out promise of much greater appreciation. They assumed that the gigantic land grant would yield a great deal more in money than the principal of the first-mortgage bonds, that upon the completion of the line the preferred stock would receive a full eight per cent. dividend, and therefore rise far above par and be quickly retired out of the lands especially pledged for its redemption. Assertions that this assured extinction of the prior securities made the common shares more certain of a greater rise than any others on the list, were frequently heard, and the most sanguine prophesied that it would double and triple their nominal value.

While made anxious by the construction deficit and the premonitions of the approach of a period of decline, Mr. Villard kept up his courage, and tried to infuse it into the minds of the doubters beginning to appear among his followers. He strengthened himself and others with the seemingly indisputable proposition that the Northern Pacific could certainly be expected to earn much more as a through transcontinental line than as one operated in disconnected sections, and he looked forward to the completion of the main line as the end of all his present troubles and the dawn of halcyon days. Buoyed up also by the renewed affirmation in the report of the chief engineer that the two ends of the track would be united before the end of September, he overcame the remaining difficulties with his usual resoluteness and fertility of resource. With a view to attracting European attention to his enterprises, he thought it well to make the opening of the Northern Pacific as a new transcontinental route the occasion for an international celebration. At his instance, the company extended invitations to the members of the United States Government and the governments of the seven States traversed by the road, to leading members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives, to over a hundred representative men from all parts of the country, and to the leading newspapers, to be present at the driving of the last spike. The whole diplomatic corps was also invited, as well as several score of prominent Englishmen and Germans. As nearly all those invited accepted, it was necessary to arrange for four special trains from the East and one from the Pacific coast. For the benefit of the Company's guests, he had had printed a history of the Northern Pacific Company, forming a large volume,[3] together with a guidebook descriptive of the cities, towns, and the country along the line, as well as a small pamphlet with special instructions for the trip. The preparations for the excursion across the continent added much to his labors, but they were all completed, so that it got under way from the East on August 28.

Mr. Villard led it himself, accompanied by his whole family, including his baby boy, Henry Hilgard, who was only three months old. Two special trains started from the Atlantic; one was added at Chicago, and another at the Twin Cities. The Ministers of Great Britain, Germany, and Austria were of the party. From England, Lord Justice Bowen, Charles Russell (the late Lord Chief-Justice), James Bryce, Judge (afterwards Lord) Hannen, Horace (now Lord) Davey, Lord (now Earl) Carrington, Albert H. G. Grey (now Earl Grey), Earl and Countess of Onslow, Sir W. Brampton Gurdon, Hon. St. John Brodrick, and a dozen others had come over to join the party. The German guests were Professor Dr. Gneist, Professor Dr. A. W. Hofmann, the great chemist, Professor Zittel, the famous geologist, Georg von Bunsen, Dr. Paul Lindau, the novelist, official representatives of the cities of Hamburg, Bremen, Berlin, Stettin, and Frankfort-on-the-Main, General Robert von Xylander, his wife (only surviving sister of Mr. Villard), Colonel (now Lieutenant-General ) Emil von Xylander, several well-known financiers, including Dr. Georg Siemens of the Deutsche Bank and Otto Braunfels of the Jacob S. H. Stern firm of Frankfort-on-the-Main, several correspondents of leading newspapers, and some old personal friends of the host. Among the Americans were General U. S. Grant, several members of President Arthur's Cabinet, several ex-secretaries, seven governors, distinguished judges, United States Senators and Representatives, mayors of Western cities, and over a score of journalists.

The movement of the special trains over the continent formed a leading daily topic in the American and foreign press. The first formal reception given to Mr. Villard and his guests took place at Chicago, and was arranged by the municipal authorities and the Board of Trade. From there on they had a triumphal procession, the people all along the route turning out in vast numbers to give them an enthusiastic welcome. These popular tributes far exceeded Mr. Villard's expectations, and often embarrassed and burdened him as the central figure in the demonstrations. With their traditional rivalry, St. Paul and Minneapolis had striven to outdo each other with decorations, triumphal arches, salutes, parades, and entertainments. Military and civic associations more than twenty thousand strong passed in review before Mr. Villard and his guests in the morning in St. Paul, and over thirty thousand in the afternoon in Minneapolis. President Arthur, who was travelling in the West, and General Grant were also present.

There were other noteworthy incidents on the journey to the coast, One was the laying of the cornerstone of the State Capitol of Dakota at Bismarck by Mr. Villard in the presence of a great multitude. His address was followed by remarks made by the famous Indian chief, Sitting Bull, who had been brought there for the occasion from his place of captivity. Another was the gathering, by permission of the Secretary of the Interior, in eastern Montana, right on the line of the railroad, of a tribe of Crow Indians numbering two thousand warriors, squaws, and pappooses, with wigwams and fifteen hundred ponies. The men appeared in full war array, and performed war dances for the benefit of the excursionists. So weird a spectacle, the like of which will never be seen again in the United States, naturally appealed very strongly to all the European guests. The act of driving the last spike (not a golden one, as the press had it, but the very first one driven in 1872 on the Minnesota Division) was performed in the waning light of September 3 in western Montana, at the point where the train with guests from the Pacific coast was met. It was preceded by addresses by Mr. Villard and Mr. Frederick Billings, his predecessor as president, an oration by William M. Evarts, and short speeches by the seven governors and United States Senator Nesmith of Oregon. A thousand feet of track had been left unfinished in order to give the guests a demonstration of the rapidity with which the rails were put down. This having been done, amidst the roar of artillery, the strains of military music, and wild cheering Mr. Villard hammered down the "last spike." He had his family next to him, as also the head chief of the Crows, who formally ceded their hunting-grounds to the railroad after the baby Hilgard had touched the spike with his little hands. Mr. Villard's emotions at that moment may be imagined. Speedy relief from the load of anxiety which the gigantic task had imposed upon him seemed to be promised. What wonder that he felt indescribably elated at this consummation of his peaceful conquest of the West?

During the passage of the trains over the new track in Montana, Idaho, and Washington, Mr. Villard realized to the full the serious responsibilities he had assumed in providing for the comfort and safety of his guests. There were as yet no stations on hundreds of miles of the line, which rendered the direction of the movement of the trains most difficult. This devolved upon him. There were no supplies to be had for half the distance, and the different trains had to be stocked daily from a special provision-train. Mr. Villard was in constant trepidation, too, lest accidents should upset the schedule of the trains. Several minor ones did occur, indeed, east of the Rocky Mountains, but they caused no injury to persons, and but little delay. In descending the western slope, after passing over the switchback road above the Mullen tunnel, not then completed, he was much alarmed by the breaking into two parts of his own train, owing to a defective coupling. A collision ensued, the end of the car occupied by the British Minister and six other prominent guests being smashed, without, however, doing injury to any of the inmates.

The closing receptions at Portland, Tacoma, and Seattle were not surpassed by those at the eastern end of the Northern Pacific in lavishness of hospitality and in enthusiastic popular participation. In Tacoma, Mr. Villard put himself at the head of his guests, and, preceded by a military band, marched them from the station to Commencement Bay, where they first saw the waters of the Pacific Ocean, and where they embarked for Seattle. The magnificent giant of the Cascades, Mount Tacoma, rose right before them, covered with an alpine glow wonderful to behold, for the sun was setting just as they reached the shore. Seattle was reached with an escort of more than a score of steam vessels. The last scene of the transcontinental celebration was fittingly enacted in the grounds of the University of Washington, which Mr. Villard had relieved from distress. An address to him, the most eloquent and most moving of all, was delivered by the daughter of the president.

  1. This "intervention" meant the support of the institution for two years. Mr. Villard was never reimbursed for this outlay by the Legislature.
  2. On December 17, 1883, the day of Mr. Villard's resignation from the O. T. presidency, there were sold 113,800 shares of O. T. stock.
  3. 'History of the Northern Pacific Railroad. By Eugene V. Smalley, New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. 1883.' The chapter relating to Mr. Villard's presidency was dictated by him to the compiler. It has been partly drawn upon in the foregoing narrative.