Saturday, August 8, 2009

Wm. Hart Laws' involvement with transcontinental railroad

A.J. Russell view at Promontory Summit, Utah. May 10, 1869.
Photo belongs to National Park Service

The following is an excerpt from A Story of William Hart and Jennie Ann Johnson Laws by Donna Laws Hemingway, a granddaughter. Clink on “Donna Laws Hemingway” in the labels links to read more about Donna and this now out-of-print book.

Upon arriving in Salt Lake City, Benjamin took his family to Centerville, Davis County, Utah to live. William Hart and possibly his father Benjamin went to work on the Railroad. The transcontinental railroad was working hard to get the railroad across the United States connecting the east and west coast by rail. This would greatly help the Saints coming to Utah. They would no longer have to come by ox team.

William Hart Laws liked to tell about being at Promontory Point when the two trains met and the last spike was driven in the rail to connect the east and the west together with an iron rail.

This did not end the making of railroad connections. This was the main line across the United States but Salt Lake was still not connected. The Transcontinental only came to Ogden. There was still work to do to get the trains to Salt Lake so that the Saints could come all the way to Salt Lake. There was much being produced in Salt Lake and other communities that could be shipped to the east and west coasts to help build up the State. In like manner much was needed from the outside to help with the building and settling the new communities.

William H. must have stayed in this business of helping build the railway for some time, at least until 1870 when the tracks were laid all the way to Salt Lake City. We have a copy of an invitation he received to attend the Utah Central Railway Jubilee, and his reply with regrets that he did not get the invitation in time to make the trip. With regards to the celebration that took place at the Jubilee the headlines read:


Saturday January 10, 1920


There is an interesting description of those attending this big celebration. All who had worked on the Utah Central rail getting the train from Ogden to Salt Lake were invited to attend the day, a banquet for some 300 people. After the banquet, there was a meeting held in the tabernacle with President Heber J. Grant and others who spoke. Then a lovely evening of music was presented.


This afternoon at 2 o'clock carne whistles, auto horns resounding shrilly throughout the city heralded the exact minute 50 years ago when President Brigham Young drove the last spike into the Utah Central railroad at Salt Lake. Many local citizens joined heartily in the thrill of the five-minute siren blasted remembering the days when they had done their bit to bring the steel rails to this valley. Edward H. Anderson, editor of the Era, joined the ranks of veterans telling of the time when 11 years of age he carried water for six weeks for the men laying the steel road. "The sage brush near the springs at Hooper was just about as tall as I was,” he declared. "Where now are all the garden farms of Weber, and Davis County was but open prairie stretching uninterrupted to the lake. There were the Sand dunes and the wild flowers and the little groups of men laying rails, placing ties and driving in the spikes which fastened the steel rails together."

The very last spike driven into the road made from iron mined at iron county, Utah, by James Lawson, has been for some time in the L. D. S. Church museum. The chair used by President Young in the private car in which he traveled over the Utah Central has been given to the Daughters of the Pioneers!!

William’s reply to his invitation shows the regrets he had at not being there with the others whom he had worked with 50 years ago.

Engines from the two companies, the Union Pacific (right) and the central Pacific (left), met at Promontory Summit, Utah, on 10 May 1869 to commemorate the completion of the transcontinental railroad with the driving of the golden spike.

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