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Title: The "Dolly Varden" Railroad
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Soon after the Civil war some forward looker evolved the dream of a north and south railroad thru the lower Wabash Valley, to Attica and thence north across the prairies to Chicago. The Toledo and Western (now the Wabash Railway) had been in operation only a few years but was prospering and its building had meant a great development along that part of the Wabash Valley lying above Attica. The route as planned for the north and south road began at Newburg, on the Ohio river, in Warrick county, and extended almost straight northward thru the Brazil coal fields, Rockville and Attica. In 1871 and '72 the plans took definited shape, and an organization was effected.

E.B. Thomas, of Cincinnati, an earnest temperance advocate and wealthy man, was the president of the railroad, and James D. McDonald, of Attica, was the vice-president. They started building the road in sections. They began at Newburg and graded fifteen miles southward. This part of the road was never used and neither ties nor rails were ever laid. They then built the grade from Bowling Green in Clay county to within a mile of Rockville, which I think is in use, and also built the road from Attica to Veedersburg

The building of this road from Attica to Veedersburg was a very interesting period for Attica. Atticans thought with the completion of this road that Attica would become the metropolis of Fountain and Warren counties and voted a heavy tax for the construction of the railroad. The railroad did not meet the requirements and the tax was never paid. The promoters succeeded in making the grade and laying the rails from Attica to Veedersburg and had one engine and two trains a day. A man by the name of Dunlap was engineer and Frank Mahan was the conductor on the train and various men from around Attica and Veedersburg served as brakemen and firemen. The people in the center of the county had as much hope of this railroad as did the people of Attica, and the question was where it would cross the Indianapolis, Bloomington and Western railroad (now the Indianapolis-Peoria division of the Big Four system), which had gone into operation that year. Chambersburg was a flourishing little town and Mr. Lucas, a man of considerable means, was a flourishing merchant of that place, owning nearly all the surrounding land. Peter Veeder, a grain merchant of Attica, an uncle of John T. Nixon and one of the leading figures and heavy stockholders in the new road, decided to promote a town at the crossing of the roads to bear his own name. He went to Mr. Lucas and tried to purchase land enough of Mr. Lucas and to secure his assistance in making the town at Chambersburg. But Mr. Lucas felt that the railroad would come there anyway, believing the land too hilly west of Coal creek for a town to be built there, and declined to assist. Mr. Veeder was in every way fair to Mr. Lucas and told him that if he could not arrange to build the town at Chambersburg he would build it across the creek. Mr. Veeder then went to Mr. Keeling, who owned the land across the creek, and as the land was hilly and not valuable for farming, Mr. Keeling was glad of the opportunity to let it go for a town site. Mr. Veeder took over the greater portion of the Keeling holdings, built an elevator and a hotel which he called the Keeling House, and a flour mill. This old hotel still stands and was in the limelight this year as the scene of the Goddard murder. When he selected the site for the town his nephew, John T. Nixon, was with him. The site chosen was a corn field, and Mr. Veeder began operations immediately, giving his town the name of Veedersburg.

Peter Veeder came to Attica on a canal boat about 1850 from Schenectady, N.Y., and engaged in the grain business. Soon after his arrival he built an elevator on the canal for handling grain, this being the old elevator town down a few years ago, where the Waterman lumber yard is located. He was a bachelor and a very successful business man, and it was largely thru the influence of Mr. Veeder and James D. McDonald that the north and south railroad was built.

George P.N. Sadler of this city was the chief engineer in the construction of the railroad from Attica to Veedersburg. One of Sadler's assistants was a young engineer by the name of Myers who was quite popular with the girls in Attica. When he went "sparking" he had a custom of taking a lantern with him to be sure he could find his way home, having some doubt as to the effeciency of the street lights. Doubtless some of the middle aged girls of Attica remember Mr. Myers and his lantern.

The project of the road from Newburg to Chicago failed and afterwards Henry Crawford, a prominent lawyer in Chicago took over the "Dolly Varden." It was thru his efforts and the assistance he received from many persons along the right-of-way that the Chicago and Indiana Coal railroad from the Brazil coal fields ot Chicago was constructed.

Crawford had a good deal of labor trouble. He agreed to build roundhouses at Attica and make Attica a division point, and this appropriation was never paid. THe road was put into operations in 1881 but was heavily handicapped by debt and a few years later was leased to the Chicago and Eastern Illinois railroad which still operates it as the Brazil division of that system. It has never achieved the prominence that some other roads have but is has served this section of the Wabash Valley well and has been of great value in its development, repaying many times over the years of anxiety and effort put forth by our citizens.

Date: 1/1/1916
Origin: Historical Sketches of the Wabash Valley
Author: J. Wesley Whicker
Record ID: 00001100
Type: Book
Source Archive: Williamsport-Washington Township Public Library
Date Entered: 8/10/2001
Entered By: Amber M Knipe

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