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Title: The Wabash Railroad
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At the same time that the legislature of the State of Indiana and the State of Illinois began legislating for the interests of canals and waterways they began legislating for railroads. Among the improvements of 1836 in Indiana was the National Road- a wagon road, running clear across the state which makes the principal street of Richmond, Washington street in Indianapolis, goes thru Greencastle and makes Main street of Terre Haute.

There were several railroads under construction which were, each and all, a part of this general improvement, and several canals, other than the Wabash and Erie canal. The Wabash and Erie canal was only a part of the general improvement in Indiana intended to facilitate transportation. Along its entire length in the state the Wabash and Erie canal was the principal means of transportation and principal thorofare for about ten years, and during that time it was adequate to the needs. But soon after its completion arrangements began to be put in operation for the building of a railroad and the railroad in which Attica and this locality was most interested at this time was the Wabash railroad which paralleled tha canal from the state line east of Ft. Wayne to Attica. And I shall only deal with that portion of it which extended thru Indiana. The Wabash railroad as we know it now was built and for a number of years operated by three roads intstead of one. One corporation operated between Toledo and Ft. Wayne, another between Ft. Wayne and State Line City, and the third across Illinois. The road was built under the name Toledo, Wabash, and Western.

There was some questions as to whether the road would cross the Wabash river at Attica or Covington. The promoters preferred Covington, but asked a donation of $5000 or more from Covington if they crossed there. Covington refused to give them anything and proposed making them pay at least $2000 for going thru the corporation. They tried by argument to show the town officials the value that the railroad would be to them but argued without avail. The citizens of Covington gave them emphatically to understand taht no railroad could enter their sacred precincts from the north without first making peace with them with a substantial donation. Finally the committee from the city of Covington passed beyond the argumentative and reasoning period and grew angry and told the Wabash officials who had met to confer with them that they could go straight to hell.

J.D. McDonald met the railroad officials on their return to Attica; asked them how much they would want to cross the river here, and they told him they would want $1000. He told them he would give them $1,000 to come thru Attica and cross the river where they pleased; that he had some little interest in Williamsport yet and perhaps would be personally benefitted if they passed thru that town. But whether they passed thru Williamsport or Covington he would give $1,000 to the railroad. The residents of both Williamsport and Covington knew that J.D. McDonald was the wildest man who had ever settled in the Wabash Valley and he was very severely criticized for his interest in this railroad by the inhabitants of both these places. On account of the attitude at Williamsport the railroad went north of the town . It crossed the river, however, at Attica, at the most convenient place. J.D. McDonald proposed giving $1000 more to cross a mile further down the river, and tried to get Williamsport to donate toward this proposition. But the people who lived in Williamsport gave Mr. McDonald to distinctly understand that they did not care where the railroad crossed the river, and that if it ran thru their corporation, they would also expect it to pay for such willful intrusion. As a result of this perverseness the next generation was forced to move the town, courthouse and all, to the railroad, thus expending many thousands of dollars which might have been saved had it not been for hte attitude taken when the railroad was built.

The Wabash railroad was completed in 1858, thru the State of Indiana. When the first engine passed Attica a great demonstration was held and thousands of people came to take part in it. That was not the Wabash railroad of today. The engines were small, striped engines; the body of the engine was the color of engines today, but bands of brass ran around the boiler and these brass bands looked like harness on the engines. And this was the style of all the locomotives. These engines burned wood, beech being preferred. The engineers clained that beech made the best fire for steam heat, and for this reason they were very much interested in getting beech wood to fire the engines. The fact taht these engines burned wood gave a new sourse of distress to many persons who feared that these engines would soon use up the timber and that our country would be cursed with drouth and wind. It was several years before they began burning coal in the engines.

The railroad rails were small and fastened together differently form teh way they fasten them now. The ties were all made from large trees and only the very best of the large white oak and burr oak were used, and only ties were split in two, and these ties were placed very far apart sometimes two and three feet. There was no ballast on the road, and the engines ran very slowly as they pulled their train of cars up the grades. There was a steep grade from the "Stone Cut" east and a steep grade at Maysville, east of Riverside. I have seen many trains of cars stall on those grades, and they would have to send for extra engines or cut the train in two, taking half of it at a time when they went east; but they would run very fast down these grades going west.

Alf Boots, a blind man, lived on my father's place, near the railroad tracks in a log cabin. He raised tobacco and made cigars, raised broom corn and made brooms on about two acres of land that the railroad cut off from the rest of the farm. I have known the trains to stop, and the trainmen go to his place and buy cigars and brooms from Mr. Boots as they went east. In fact they were his best customers and there was just enough of them that they took just about all the cigars and brooms that he could make. There was no stop at this place but the front brakeman could get off, run over to his cabin, get his supply of cigars and brooms, pay for them and made the caboose as the train passed if the train was loaded. So the train crew would chip in at Attica with their funds, buy stock Mr. Boots had on hands and make the train easily.

The passenger trains ran much faster. They run fast enough that they soon put the Wabash and Erie canal out of commission and let the packets stand idle and decay. But the freight traffic on the canal continued for several years in a desultory way. But as the grades were cut down and road ballasted the Wabash fast become a much more convenient and rapid means of transportation than the canal. Many of the Irishmen who had helped to construct the canal were yet living when the Wabash railroad came thru and the Irish at old Maysville worked as industriously to construct the Wabash Railroad, to dig its fills as they had worked in the years before on the construction of the Wabash & Erie Canal. And many of their descendents are still with us.

Uncle Neddie Harty helped construct the Wabash railroad, to dig the cuts and make the fills, and continued in the employ of the Wabash Railroad Co. here in Attica fromt he time the first shovel full of dirt was thrown in the state for the construction of this road until he was too old to work. He was a very interesting man and a good citizen. Among the pleasant memories of my early life is my association with the old section man from Emerald Isle, Ned Harty, of Lafayette, Steve Harty, and the indomitable Mike who plays the keys at the C. & E.I. depot, are his sons. Mike Layton's children of Tippecanoe county are his grand-children. The story of the Wabash railroad could not be written well with Ned Harty out.

When they were putting the railroad thru and after it was finished there was a young Irish boy who began his labors on this road; first he carried water to the section hands. Then he wielded the shovel with the grace of an older hand, and one did not have to look at his face for a map to tell what country he had come from if they watched him ply the pick and bar. He may have grown tired for a while of the Wabash railroad but he never grew tired of work. He sold cigars for a while, driving a wagon for Dick Bros. and then in the early sixties, out in Central Illinois, he raised a company of soldiers and served our country well. When the war was over, with the wellearned title of general, he returned back to Bloomington, Ill., and read and practiced law, and a few years later, when the Wabash railroad needed an attorney there, he was given the appointment and they found him as capable in this capacity as they had found him with the water bucket in Attica. And when financial troubles came for the railroad the Irish laddie who had been a water boy on the section at Attica was made the receiver of the Wabash system. There was hardly any one who lived in this vicinity twenty years ago who did not known Gen. McNulty, of Bloomington, Ill., well enough to call him John, and a few citizens of Attica yet living have many pleasant recollections of the industrious, witty, Irish boy who carried water and worked on the section of the Wabash railroad in ante bellum days.

The terminus of this division of the Wabash railroad was at the state line and as this ended the holdings of two companies, plans were made to build a city at State Line. Not only was it the division point of both the railroads but their roundhouses were places there. It looked for a while like State Line would become a city, but Danville was the countyseat of a splendid county and coal was discovered near that city in paying quantities. In spite of all that both companies could do Danville showed a tendency to grow beyond the most sanguine hopes of its friends. In spite of the railroads and not with their help Danville was able to gather to itself the glory and fame that was intended for State Line City.

In Davis township there was a switch called Nebraska right neat Grindstone Creek. This station was put in for the purpose of an elevator and with the intent of making a town, and all the horses, hogs, and cattle shipped from the West were stopped at Nebraska and watered and fed. But in spite of all the railroad company's efforts to build a town Nebraska refused to grow, and when Jesse Marvin, who lived near Nebraska, got thru the legislature an act to compel them to pay for the stock that they killed, to fence their right of way and to put in cattle guards, they pulled up the switch and abandoned the last vain hope of a town there.

It is useless to say that the coming of the Wabash Wabash railroad marked a new era in transportation for this portion of the Valeey; this it is now and always has been of great value to us. Poorly managed perhaps a good deal of the time; its profits have been taken to maintain in luxury some European prince and sill girl, born of wealthy parents. If the company can succeed in ridding itself of these leeches, of these European barnacles, it can easilty become one of the best and most useful railroads in the country.

Date: 1/1/1916
Origin: Historical Sketches of the Wabash Valley
Author: J. Wesley Whicker
Record ID: 00001111
Type: Book
Source Archive: Williamsport-Washington Township Public Library
Date Entered: 8/10/2001
Entered By: Amber M Knipe

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