Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad

The first train made a run entirely across Missouri in 1859.

During the 1840's and 1850's a railroad craze swept the nation. Everyone could recognize the economic potential. Town companies in every real Kansas town and most paper towns imagined railroads running from their site to a distant point on the Gulf of Mexico or the Pacific Ocean. Some rail promoters were genuinely interested in the growth of their communities. Others, perhaps a majority, acquired legislative charters in the hope that if they failed to finance a rail venture themselves, they could sell their franchises to companies able to actually build and operate a line. [Glick, Railroad Convention, 468]

The Bogus Legislature chartered five railroad companies: the Kansas Central, the Southern Kansas, the Leavenworth, Pawnee & Western, the Leavenworth & Lecompton, and the Kansas Valley.

Of the chartered lines, only the Leavenworth, Pawnee & Western saw any construction. To run between the two principal western military posts, Forts Leavenworth and Riley, the line was clearly economically feasible, W. H. Russell, J. M. Alexander, S. D. Lecompte, E. H. Dennis and C. H. Grover were the incorporators, all men with strong pro-slavery views. The authorized capital stock of the company was $5,000,000, and the road was to run "from the west bank of the Missouri river in Leavenworth to the town of Pawnee, or to some point feasible and next to the government reservation for Fort Riley, with the privilege of extending the same to the western boundary of the territory." [Blackmar, History, 535 ff.]

In May 1857 grading was started. No rail was laid, however, until Congress in 1862 granted government aid to the construction of a Pacific railroad and telegraph line. [Hull, Railroads in Kansas, 38] One clause of the act authorized the Leavenworth, Pawnee & Western to build a line from Wyandotte to some point on the one hundredth meridian. In the following year the Union Pacific Railway Company, Eastern Division, was organized, and it purchased the franchise and all rights to the line. [Douglas, History of Manufactures, 99]

On the Kansas Valley company's board were legislators Thomas Johnson, H. J. Strickler and Andrew McDonald. Attorney General A. J. Isaacs and Supreme Court Justice Rush Elmore were also on the board. Another important member was Johnston Lykins, former Baptist missionary and first chairman of the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. Capital stock was fixed at $5,000,000 and the charter provided for the construction of a line of railroad "from the western boundary line of the State of Missouri, on the south side of the Kansas or Kaw river, commencing at the western terminus of the Pacific railroad, near the mouth of the Kansas river, running up the valley of said river on the south bank thereof, by way of Lawrence, Benicia, Douglas, Lecompton, Tecumseh, and terminating at or near the town of Pawnee."

During the winter of 1855-56 Johnston Lykins presented his plan for a regional system of railroads all centering on Kansas City in a series of letters to Colonel Robert Van Horn's Kansas City newspaper, the Enterprise. The Kansas Valley line figured prominently:

"Commerce, like the star of empire, wends its way to the West; and commerce creates at great distances commercial centers. The location of all great American cities--New York, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago, and St. Louis--provide evidence that the laws of progress always create major emporiums three to four hundred miles apart.... the Kansas Valley railroad will be a vital part of the Kansas City system. It will provide the natural extension of the Pacific Railroad of Missouri and will reach one of the most fertile regions of the West, capable of sustaining a dense population. It will bring to Kansas City, salt, minerals, and an enormous surplus of grain to be sent to foreign markets." [Glaab, Kansas City and its Railroads, 31]

Legislator H. D. McMeekin, Chief Clerk John A. Halderman, Territorial Secretary Daniel Woodson, Chief Justice S. D. Lecompte , and Clerk C. H. Grover were incorporators of the Leavenworth & Lecompton road, which was to run between the two towns. Capital stock was $3,000,000 and the company was authorized to take stock in the Lecompton Bridge company in order to assure an entrance to the territorial capital. [Blackmar, History, 535 ff.]

The capital stock of the Southern Kansas was $3,000,000, and the company was given a franchise to build a road "from the Missouri state line due west of Springfield to the west line of Kansas Territory." A. J. Dorn, William J. Godfroy, James M. Linn and Legislator Joseph C. Anderson were named as the incorporators, and the act stipulated that work was to begin on the road within nine years. [Blackmar, History, 535 ff.]

The second session of the Bogus Legislature chartered sixteen more railroads and the later free-state legislatures chartered many more. Governor Geary, in his message to the 1857 Legislature, caught railroad fever and urged a rail route to the Gulf of Mexico:

"...One great obstacle to our prosperity is the immense distance we occupy from all the maritime depots of the country by any of the routes now traveled. This can be removed by the construction of a railway, commencing at an appropriate place in the Territory, and running southwardly through the Indian Territory and Texas, to the most eligible point on the Gulf of Mexico. .... It would pass through a country remarkable for beauty of scenery, fertility of soil, and salubrity of climate, and which has properly been styled "the Eden of the world," ...and furnish (Kansas) a sure, easy, and profitable market for her products, as well as a safe, expeditious and economical means of obtaining all her needed supplies at every season of the year..." [KHC 4: 682]

When the Bogus Legislature met in 1855 there was no rail west of St. Louis. Jefferson City was reached in 1857 and in 1859, the Hannibal & St. Joseph reached St Joseph, across the river from Kansas. Agitation for continuing west from St. Joseph led to the first iron actually laid in Kansas on March 20, 1860 on the Elwood & Marysville road. The venerable engine "Albany" which had run the Missouri route to St. Joseph and several flat cars were ferried across the river to Elwood. A huge crowd rode the flat cars the few short miles to the temporary end of the line at Wathena, In a bout of championship drinking, Governor Stewart of Missouri passed out. One writer in attendance said:

"It was indeed a merry mob of high rollers that followed the venerable old scrap-heap Albany west from Elwood to the terminus of the new-laid tracks on the opening day. Of the many hundreds of railroad celebrations which have since been held in Kansas, this first one seems to have been the most remarkable." [Gleed, First Kansas Railway,358]

Charles Clark