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Organization and first rail[ edit ] Map of NPR Land Grant, c Congress chartered the Northern Pacific Railway Company on July 2, with the goals of connecting the Great Lakes with Puget Sound on the Pacific, opening vast new lands for farming, ranching, lumbering and mining, and linking Washington and Oregon to the rest of the country. Josiah Perham was elected its first president on December 7, The backing and promotions of famed financier Jay Cooke in the summer of brought the first real momentum to the company. Over the course of , the Northern Pacific pushed westward from Minnesota into present-day North Dakota. Surveyors and construction crews had to maneuver through swamps, bogs, and tamarack forests. The difficult terrain and insufficient funding delayed by six months the construction phase in Minnesota. Four small construction engines were purchased, the Minnetonka, Itaska, Ottertail and St. Cloud, the first of which was shipped to Kalama by ship around Cape Horn. It was leased to the Northern Pacific the following year, and was eventually absorbed by the Northern Pacific. The following year, in June , the N. A severe stock market crash and financial collapse after , led by the Credit Mobilier Scandal and the Union Pacific Railroad fraud, stopped further railroad building for twelve years. Cass had been a vice-president and director of the Pennsylvania Railroad , and would lead the Northern Pacific through some of its most difficult times. Attacks on survey parties and construction crews by Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Kiowa warriors in North Dakota and Minnesota became so prevalent that the company received protection from units of the U. The success of the NP was based on the abundant crops of wheat and other grains and the attraction to settlers of the Red River Valley along the Minnesota-North Dakota border between and The climate, although very cold, was suitable for wheat, which was in high demand in the cities of the United States and Europe. Most of the settlers were German and Scandinavian immigrants who bought the land cheaply, and raised large families. They shipped huge quantities of wheat to Minneapolis, while buying all sorts of equipment and home supplies to be shipped in by rail. At first the railroad sold much of its holdings at low prices to land speculators in order to realize quick cash profits, and also to eliminate sizable annual tax bills. By the railroad company's land policies changed, after it was judged a costly mistake to have sold much of the land at wholesale prices. With better railroad service and improved methods of farming the Northern Pacific easily sold what had been heretofore "worthless" land directly to farmers at good prices. By the railroad's holdings in North Dakota had been greatly reduced. Rails from the east reached the Missouri River on June 4. After several years of study, Tacoma, Washington , was selected as the road's western terminus on July However, for the past three years the financial house of Jay Cooke and Company had been throwing money into the construction of the Northern Pacific. As with many western transcontinentals , the staggering costs of building a railroad into a vast wilderness had been drastically underestimated. Cooke had little success in marketing the bonds in Europe and overextended his house in meeting overdrafts of the mounting construction costs. Cooke overestimated his managerial skills and failed to appreciate the limits of a banker's ability to be also a promoter, and the danger of freezing his assets in the bonds of the Northern Pacific. Soon the Panic of engulfed the United States, beginning an economic depression that ruined or nearly paralyzed newer railroads. The Northern Pacific, however, survived bankruptcy that year, due to austerity measures put in place by President Cass. In fact, working with last-minute loans from Director John C. On December 16, the first steam train arrived in Tacoma. By , however, the company was moribund. Northern Pacific slipped into its first bankruptcy on June 30, Cass resigned to become receiver of the company, and Charles Barstow Wright became fourth president of the company. Frederick Billings , namesake of Billings, Montana , formulated a reorganization plan which was put into effect. Throughout , elements of the 7th Cavalry Regiment under the command of Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer [ citation needed ] operating out of Forts Abraham Lincoln and Rice in Dakota Territory conducted expeditions to protect the railroad survey and construction crews in Dakota and Montana Territories. Frederick Billings and first reorganization[ edit ] In , construction resumed in a small way. Northern Pacific pushed a branch line southeast from Tacoma to Puyallup, Washington and on to the coal fields around Wilkeson, Washington. Much of the coal was destined for export through Tacoma to San Francisco, California , where it would be thrown into the fireboxes of Central Pacific Railroad steam engines. This small amount of construction was one of the largest projects the company would undertake in the years between and That same year the company built a large shop complex at Edison, Washington now part of south Tacoma. For many years the shops at Brainerd and Edison would carry out heavy repairs and build equipment for the railroad. On May 24, , Vermont lawyer Frederick Billings became the president of the company. Billings' tenure would be short but ferocious. Reorganization, bond sales, and improvement in the U. The railroad's new-found strength, however, would be seen as a threat in certain quarters. German-born journalist Henry Villard had raised capital for western railroads in Europe in After returning to New York in he invested on behalf of his clients in railroads in Oregon. Through Villard's work, most of these lines became properties of the European creditors' holding company, the Oregon and Transcontinental Company. Within a decade of his return, Villard was head of a transportation empire in the Pacific Northwest that had but one real competitor, the Northern Pacific. The Northern Pacific's completion threatened the holdings of Villard in the Northwest, and especially in Portland. Portland would become a second-class city if the Puget Sound ports at Tacoma and Seattle, Washington , were connected to the East by rail. Villard, who had been building a monopoly of river and rail transportation in Oregon for several years, now launched a daring raid. This was his famous "Blind Pool," Villard's associates were not told what the money would be used for. In this case, the funds were used to purchase control of the Northern Pacific. Despite a tough fight, Billings and his backers were forced to capitulate; he resigned the presidency June 9, Barney served briefly as interim caretaker of the railroad from June 19 to September 15, when Villard was elected president by the stockholders. For the next two years, Villard and the Northern Pacific rode the whirlwind. The Missouri River was bridged with a million-dollar span on October 21, Until then, crossing of the Missouri had had to be managed with a ferry service for most of the year; in winter, when ice was thick enough, rails were laid across the river itself. A forerunner of the modern health maintenance organization , the NPBA ultimately established a series of four hospitals across the system in Saint Paul, Minnesota ; Glendive, Montana ; Missoula, Montana ; and Tacoma, Washington , to care for employees, retirees, and their families. On January 15, , the first train reached Livingston, Montana , at the eastern foot of Bozeman Pass. Livingston, like Brainerd and South Tacoma before it, would grow to encompass a large backshop handling heavy repairs for the railroad. It would also mark the east-west dividing line on the Northern Pacific system. Villard pushed hard for the completion of the Northern Pacific in His crews laid an average of a mile and half 2. In early September, the line neared completion. To celebrate, and to gain national publicity for investment opportunities in his region, Villard chartered four trains to carry guests from the East to Gold Creek in western Montana. No expense was spared and the list of dignitaries included Frederick Billings, Ulysses S. Grant, and Villard's in-laws, the family of abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. Like Jay Cooke, he was now consumed by the enormous costs of constructing the railroad. Wall Street bears attacked the stock shortly after the Golden Spike, after the realization that the Northern Pacific was a very long road with very little business. Villard himself suffered a nervous breakdown in the days after the driving of the Golden Spike, and he left the presidency of the Northern Pacific in January Again, the presidency of the Northern Pacific was handed to a professional railroader, Robert Harris , former head of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad. For the next four years, until the return of the Villard group, Harris worked at improving the property and ending its tangled relationship with the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company. Throughout the mids, the Northern Pacific pushed to reach Puget Sound directly, rather than by means of a roundabout route that followed the Columbia River. Surveys of the Cascade Mountains , carried out intermittently since the s, began anew. Virgil Bogue , a veteran civil engineer , was sent to explore the Cascades again. On March 19, , he discovered Stampede Pass. In , John W. Sprague , the head of the new Pacific Division, drove the Golden Spike to mark the beginning of the railroad from what would become Kalama, Washington. However, due to impaired health, he was forced to resign a few months later. In , after the departure of Villard, the Northern Pacific began building toward Stampede Pass from Wallula in the east and the area of Wilkeson in the west. By the end of the year, rails had reached Yakima, Washington in the east. In January of that year, Nelson Bennett was given a contract to construct a 9,foot 1. The contract specified a short amount of time for completion, and a large penalty if the deadline were missed. While crews worked on the tunnel, the railroad built a temporary switchback route across the pass. On May 3, , crews holed through the tunnel, and on May 27 the first train passed through directly to Puget Sound. From until , Henry Villard returned to the board of directors. Though offered the presidency, he refused. However, an associate of Villard dating back to his time on the Kansas Pacific, Thomas Fletcher Oakes , assumed the presidency on September 20, In an effort to garner business, Oakes pursued an aggressive policy of branch line expansion. To combat the Great Northern, in a few instances Villard built branch line mileage simply to occupy a territory, regardless of whether the territory offered the railroad any business. Mismanagement, sparse traffic, and the Panic of sounded the death knell for the Northern Pacific and Villard's interest in railroading. The company slipped into its second bankruptcy on October 20, From Villard to Morganization[ edit ] For the next three years, the Villard-Oakes interests and the Ives interest feuded for control of the Northern Pacific. Oakes was eventually forced out as receiver, but not before three separate courts were claiming jurisdiction over the Northern Pacific's bankruptcy. Things came to a head in , when first Edward Dean Adams was appointed president, then less than two months later, Edwin Winter. Ultimately, the task of straightening out the muddle of the Northern Pacific was turned over to J.
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