Leland Stanford in Ogden

Library ResearchLeland Stanford was in Ogden, Utah, on April 22 and 23, 1869. Who cares? I do, because I intend to feature the former governor of California and president of the Central Pacific Railroad in Golden Spike, The Iron Horse Chronicles—Book Three. I wanted Stanford to interface with Will Braddock and Jenny McNabb in the book; but until last week, I could not confirm that Stanford actually visited Ogden. Fabricating such a visit would have gone against my principle of remaining true to the historical facts. While doing research on June 26 at the library of the California State Railroad Museum, I found the proof that I sought.

Stanford TelegramSecondary sources hinted at Stanford being in Ogden prior to the driving of the Golden Spike, but it required finding primary sources to prove the issue. Katherine Santos, an archivist in the research library, helped me locate documentation in their microfilm files. Stanford sent three telegrams to C. P. Huntington from Ogden, two on April 22 and one on April 23. Collis Huntington was one of the big four owners of the Central Pacific and worked in Washington, DC, orchestrating the political shenanigans that benefited the CP. The signature on the telegram shown here is that of the telegrapher, not Stanford. The telegrams do not prove Stanford was in Ogden, because somebody else could have sent them in his name.

Stanford Letter 1The real proof lies in a two-page, hand-written letter from Stanford to Huntington. The copies of the telegram and the letter that I include with this blog are difficult to read. Many words are washed out as a result of the method of photography used. The internal camera for the microfilm reader was inoperable, so I captured the images by snapping a photo of the screen with my pocket digital camera. With plenty of eye strain, I was able to decipher all but a handful of words. On page one of his letter, Stanford has written “Ogden April 23 1869.” He addresses the letter to “Friend Huntington” and proceeds to discuss the creation of the CP’s own express company.

Stanford Letter 2On page two, Stanford advocates the procurement of better quality passenger cars for use by the CP. It is the final paragraph of this page, as well as the heading on page one, that confirms Stanford was in Ogden. “I write very hurriedly because the train for Promontory starts soon and some three hours earlier than usual.” Then he signs it: “Yours truly, Leland Stanford.” I confirmed this to be Stanford’s signature by viewing various documents on line that contain his authenticated signature.

You, the reader, must now wait until I finish writing the Golden Spike to find out how Will, Jenny, and the other characters of The Iron Horse Chronicles, interface with Leland Stanford.

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