Joseph Smith Black – The Railroad

The Railroad

In March 1880 it was contemplated to build a railroad from Denver in through eastern Utah to Salt Lake City. called the Denver and Rio Grande. My brother, William, and I accompanied the chief engineer through to Green River and on our return to Salina in Sevier county, we entered into contract to grade and do all necessary work to complete twenty-five miles of roadbed. We were to have 15 cents a yard for loose dirt to be hauled 110t to exceed 1 00 feet, 40 cents per yard for gravel, 80 cents for loose rock and cement. $1.20 for solid rock and $2.50 per day for dry mason work. We returned to Millard County and engaged about 75 teams. On the 20th of May, we were’ on the ground at the mouth of Price Canyon ready to commence work. I helped Major Heard to locate a road through Price Canyon. It was formerly intended and located around the north end of Castle Valley down Salina Canyon. The work was prosecuted vigorously. and in the fall we moved our camps 40 miles cast of Green River on what is known as” Thompson’s Springs.”  We had completed 15 miles of roadbed on Price River and 10 miles laid before us in this locality. We had our camps all moved and located and about ten thousand dollars supplies on hand when word came from New York to stop all construction at once. I was on my return home and tried to learn particulars, but could not as the chief engineer was then on the line. I started for the camps at once and I met William my brother at the mouth of Price River Canyon on the east side of the Wasatch Mountains, He was very despondent and said we were ruined. All was excitement and panic and all the hands had been discharged and were on  their way home. He had stored considerable of our supplies in tents and had left a man to guard them. Next day Mr., Barger came. He was the chief engineer and was much grieved but said he could do nothing for us. but said he:  “General Dodge will be in Salt Lake City at ten o’clock tomorrow and he is the chief officer of the road and he may possibly do something for you,” “But,” said he, “you can’t get there for it is now 8 o’clock, very dark and it is forty miles to a railroad station over the mountains, then eighty miles to Salt Lake, and the train arrives at Clear Creek from Pleasant Valley at 9 o’clock. Snow on the divide is three to four feet deep and the road only partly broke.” After leaving Barger I said to William, “I can get there in time. You saddle our best horse while I get a cup of coffee.” I set out on my perilous journey after prayer for my safety by my brother. I urged the horse to its capacity. It was bitter cold and in many places the snow had drifted and made it very difficult. At daybreak I had gained the summit, was nine miles from the station. I put the horse to his full test and he appeared to understand that here was something urgent. We flew over ravine rocks and hollows at a rapid rate and the cold morning air almost pierced me to the marrow. When I had gotten within two miles of the station the whistle of the train blew. I patted the horse on the neck and told him to do his best. I arrived at the station just as the train was moving out and the horse was as wet as he could be. I threw the lines to the proprietor of the place and said. “Take good care of Prince.” and I ran and jumped onto the last end of the cars and arrived in Salt Lake in due time.

I sought and obtained an interview with Mr. Dodge. He listened attentively to what I had to say. By this time all the engineers had been discharged and Mr. Goss had been appointed chief engineer of the road. Mr. Dodge turned to Mr. Goss and said, “I leave this matter with you, do what is right with this man. Mr. Goss turned to me and said, “Mr. Black come to my office tomorrow at 10 o’clock and we will talk the matter over,” which was very agreeable to me tor it gave me time for a rest, for which I very much needed. We met according to appointment and Mr. Goss said to state my proposition if I had any. I said, “You understand the company has broken their contract with us and I won’t go back without teams, and also pay us ten thousand dollars damage.” He smiled and said. “Very modest Mr., Black.” He listened very attentively to what I had to Say and he said, “Mr. Black, we do not want the grade for at least one year.” He took a piece of paper and commenced to figure and neither of us said a word for probably half an hour, when he raised up his head and said, “Mr. Black you should not have it.” “Well,” said I smiling, “money is power, what will you do?” He answered, “I will give you $9,994 and you can go back with twenty teams. He had figured our work at an advanced grade bringing the figure which he named. He had raised scraper work from 14 cents to 20 cents per yard and other work in proportion. I said to him, “Well, that will do and now another little kindness and I will  go. I want three thousand dollars for immediate emergency.” He wrote the check and we shook hands. I thanked him cordially. hoping that we would become better acquainted, which we did. I hastened to the telegraph office and telegraphed my brother William V at Price of our good success, This caused him much joy. I returned immediately with some of the teams to Thompson’s Springs and commenced work. This was in December 1880. We continued our labors and accomplished the job in December 1881. We found after our accounts in paying all our liabilities that we had about twenty-five thousand dollars to our credit. Our railroad work had amounted to two hundred and forty thousand dollars. We also lost eight thousand on means advanced to others. We also discovered a coal mine near the Castle Gate in Price Canyon and sold it to the D. & R. G. R. R. Co, for four thousand dollars..