This stunning image of landcape on the Criswell Range is typical of views in the Criswell and is © 2007 - 2012
© 2007 - 2012
© 2007 - 2012
© 2007 - 2012


Railroads divided our land but connected the country...

Railroads divided our land but connected the country...

Two and a quarter centuries of government have impacted how this country is divided. The division is mostly political. And that division shifts back and forth to the point that most citizens can’t tell on which side of the dividing line they stand. The difference between democrat and republican is not as clear as black and white. It is more like a light gray fog that voters slide into and out with every election.

Of course there is also the division of religious thought and behavior. And the division of sports enthusiasts is prevalent. But that division is mostly manifested on the weekend and is easily repaired shortly after the game clock reaches zero.

The division, which I would like to bring to your attention, is the division of our public land.

At the beginning of our revolutionary war, the central government held no land. That is to say, we had no public land. All public land was in the hands of the various colonies that were now simply parts of a confederation of states. The Federal government was not to get any public land until the State of New York ceded a large portion of the state to the Federal Government in 1780. In the next ten years other states surrendered large tracts of land; Virginia in 1781; Massachusetts in 1784; Connecticut in 1786; South Carolina in 1787; North Carolina in 1790; and Georgia in 1802. These areas collectively constituted the Public Domain.

Thomas Jefferson took advantage of the special that Napoleon in France was running and bought the Louisiana territory. Then there was the war of 1812 when the English got rid of some property they couldn’t handle on us. Then Spain decided that Florida should be ours. Then Mexico figured that if they gave us the Southwest, including California they would have a place to send their citizens who couldn’t make a living in Mexico in the next few centuries. Then England again, we started yelling 54 40 or fight so they said we could have the Oregon territory.

Now there was nothing more for anyone to give to us. We had it all… from East to West coast. But no…wait there was Alaska, and Russia was holding a sale. So Secretary Seward opened our purse and gave a few shekels away. But that was ok. There was some gold that the Russians left under the rug. And we weren’t even a world power yet. I guess you don’t get to be a world power until you send a couple million guys over seas to get killed or mangled a couple times. The trouble with being a world power is that the other guys don’t like you. Jealous I guess.

You might think that I was getting off the subject. But that’s not so. I simply wanted to remind you how good we have it, how great we are and how our government wants to keep screwing things up. I am sure you have your peeves about that and I would be happy to sit down over a cup with you and listen to your complaints. But right now I just want to bellyache about the railroads getting stuff that they should not have.

Ok. Here it is. With all this land that we have and the country wants to get Easterners out to the West coast where they won’t be so close to Washington, D.C. and somebody in England figured out how to make big powerful steam engines. And somebody else figured out how to make steel that would not wear as fast as iron. And somebody else figured that if he could get Congress to give him the land on which to put these steel tracks, and he would promise to lay the track as far as he promised, he could get rich.

So his friend put his beer down and said “How you going to get rich from just laying a bunch of steel across the country, and how are you going to get the money to buy the steel?”

“I’ll form a stock company, and I’ll give some stock in my company to that guy that’s making those steel tracks that he can’t sell.”

So his friend said as he picked up his beer. “It’ll never work,” he said.

But that is just what he did. And it worked. In fact, it worked so well that other guys were doing the same thing. And the guy that was making the steel tracks got richer than any of them. And the government got their tracks laid. But the government had not yet figured out how to suck a tax from a citizen’s wages or earnings yet, they just got the tracks laid. And even had to pay freight charges for shipping on the tracks they had given land away to build.

After a little thought you might say, “Well it wasn’t much that they gave away if land was being auctioned for $1.00 per acre.”

The answer to that is that $1.00 was only the minimum bid. Some sections were bringing as much as $25.00 per acre. Depending on where they were.

And it wasn’t that the government was just giving up enough land for the laying of the track.

Because of the Land Ordinance of 1784 Surveys of the public domain was to be perpendicular and the line would run north and south and east and west. So, whether the land had actually been surveyed if you ran your track on a determined latitude (if you were headed west) or on a determined longitude if you were running north or south, And the allotted land was either ten or twenty miles wide. The reason for the extended width was to make room for any necessary deviation in the route because of natural obstacles, such as mountainous territory or river too wide to bridge.

Congress did not give away the whole farm so the easement was not fully ten miles wide. The easement was for every other section of land. When the map along side a railroad is viewed it looks like a checkerboard.

At this time in history not many congressmen had seen the west. But they had heard reports of the wide-open range and how wide the rivers were and the herds of buffalo or bison. It is easy to imagine how our representatives were chomping at the bit to get the railroad built. What better way to spend a congressional recess? Anyone who was willing to build the railroad could have whatever he wanted.

At first the laying of track went rather slow. It was a new technology and most builders could find only enough money to get to the next town. But when that line started to show profit from the sale of railroad land that was no longer needed and fares brought in more money, new investors lined up.

The transcontinental railroad was completed in 1868. And the newer and not as well financed Atchison and Topeka reached the Colorado border with Kansas three years later. Because it is the Santa Fe RR that built its tracks through New Mexico and that is where we are, that is the line I want to write about.

And I will. But you’ll have to wait for another time. Stay tuned...

Contact Us | View Site Map | View Guest Book

© 2007 - 2012

© 2007
© 2007