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RR History of Fayette Co, 1882

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The Pittsburgh and Connellsville Railroad Company was the first to open a line of railway within any part of the county of Fayette. This company was incorporated by an act of the General Assembly, approved April 3, 1837, which conferred on the company authority "to construct a railroad of single or double tracks from the city of Pittsburgh, by the course of the Monongahela and Youghiogheny Rivers, to some suitable point at or near Connellsville." By the provisions of the act, a large number of commissioners were appointed to receive subscriptions to the stock of the company, those belonging to Fayette County being the following-named gentlemen, viz.: .John Fuller, James C. Cummings, Samuel Marshall, Joseph Torrance, William L. Miller, Thomas G. Ewing, John Doogan, Thomas Foster, Daniel Rogers, Joseph Rogers, Alexander Johnston, Samuel Evans, William Davidson, Henry Blackston, Henry Gebhart, William Espy, William Andrews, David B. Long, John M. Burney, Robert Smilie, Robert Bleakley, Robert Long, John W. Phillips, John P. Gibson, Jacob Weaver, James Paull, Jr., David A. C. Sherrard, Col. John Bute, John M. Austin, Nathaniel Ewing, Henry W. Beeson, William B. Roberts, John Dawson, Joseph Paull, James Piper, Uriah Springer, Isaac Wood, William Crawford, Andrew. Stewart, James Fuller, Pierson Cope, Daniel Gallantine, Philip Lucas, Joseph H. Cunningham, Joseph Pennock, William Murphy, George McCray, Henry Smith, William Bryson, and Thomas Rankin.

The charter of the company provided and declared that "If the said company shall not commence the construction of the said railroad within the term of five years from the passing of this act, or if after the completion of the said railroad the said corporation shall suffer the same to go to decay and be impassable for the term of two years, then this charter shall become null and void, except so far as compels said company to make reparation for damages."

The company was duly organized, but did not comply with the above named requirement by commencing the construction of the road at the specified time, and their franchises were therefore forfeited; but on the 18th of March, 1843, an act was passed renewing, extending, and continuing in force the charter of 1837 upon the same terms, conditions, and limitations as were embraced in the original act, and also making the additional provision "that the said company shall have power and discretion to select any route from Pittsburgh to Turtle Creek which may be deemed most eligible and advantageous, and may extend said road beyond Connellsville to Smithfield, or any other point on the waters of the Youghiogheny and within the limits of this Commonwealth." The clause authorizing the extension of the road from Connellsville to the Maryland line was repealed the next day after its passage, but was re-enacted on the 3d of April, 1846.

By an act of the Legislature of Maryland, passed April 21, 1853, that State granted to the Pittsburgh and Connellsville Company authority to extend their road from the State line to Cumberland. In 1854 (April 8th) an act was passed authorizing the Uniontown and Waynesburg Railroad Company (chartered April 18, 1853) to transfer all its rights and franchises to this company, and they were accordingly so transferred.

On the 22d of February, 1854, the chief engineer of the road, Oliver W. Barnes, submitted to the president and directors a report on the several proposed routes, whereupon the board "adopted the line occupying the north bank of the Youghiogheny River, from a point at or near the borough of West Newton, in Westmoreland County, to a point at or near the borough of Connellsville, in Fayette County, as the final location for the construction of that portion of the road." Southward from Connellsville the route adopted was on the same side of the Youghiogheny to Turkey Foot, and thence through Somerset County (embracing a tunnel at Sand Patch) to the Maryland line.

The line of road was divided for purposes of construction into five divisions, viz.:

No. 1. -- Pittsburgh to West Newton . . . 32 miles.

No. 2. -- West Newton to Connellsville . . . 25 miles.

No. 3. -- Connellsville to Turkey Foot . . . 30 miles.

No. 4. -- Turkey Foot to Summit . . . 29 miles.

No. 5. -- Summit to Cumberland . . . 31 miles.

From the report of the board of directors to the stockholders for 1854, the following information is gained in reference to the construction of the road. Contracts for construction were first let on division No. 2, West Newton to Connellsville, and on that division the work was begun.

This portion of the line was selected for the commencement "as presenting the advantage of a locality which could most economically be brought into earliest profitable use, and when finished greatly promote the convenience of the company in the further prosecution of the work both eastwardly and westwardly. As a starting-point, it was easy of access by river in furnishing men and material, provisions, etc., from this city [Pittsburgh], and when completed it was believed would materially accelerate the extension of the work to its western terminus, thus promising earlier communication between the markets of Pittsburgh and the rich mines and agricultural valleys of the Youghiogheny and Monongahela than could have been accomplished by a commencement at this city. The heavy character of the work on the sections embracing the Sand Patch tunnel demanded that it should be put under contract simultaneously with the first work, as it was the opinion of the chief engineer that its vigorous prosecution would be required contemporaneously with the remainder to secure its completion within the period of his estimate for the entire line."

With reference to the progress which had been made on the road up to the 1st of December, 1854, the date of the directors' report, that document says, "On the division between West Newton and Connellsville the graduation, masonry, and ballasting of about twenty sections [of one mile each] are fully completed, and the remainder will be ready to receive the superstructure in the course of the present winter. The track-laying has been commenced, and will be vigorously pushed forward. The first locomotive, the "George Washington," will be immediately placed upon the road, and will greatly promote the progress of the work on the superstructure in the transportation of the heavy material required."

Contracts had previously been made for 2600 tons of rails, to be paid for in Allegheny County bonds, and to be delivered by boats at West Newton. Some of the iron had arrived at that point, and large quantities of ties were already delivered along the line. A contract had been made, several months before, with Messrs. Baldwin, of Philadelphia, for two first class coal-burning locomotives, one of which had already been received (the "George Washington" above mentioned), and the other would be ready for shipment during the month (December, 1854). Arrangements had been made for a moderate equipment of passenger, freight, and construction cars.

Depot grounds had been secured at West Newton and Connellsville, and thirteen acres of coal lands had been purchased contiguous to the line at the latter borough. Amicable settlements for the right of way had been made in all cases but two within the limits of Fayette County, and land for stations (usually two acres at each place) had been tendered to the company at Port Royal, Smith's Mill, Jacob's Creek, Layton (foot of Big Falls), Old Franklin Iron-Works, Smilie's Run (Dawson), and at Rist's Run, below Connellsville. The total expenditure on division No. 2 (Connellsville to West Newton) up to Dec. 1,1854, had been $318,663.18.

The road was opened to Connellsville in 1855. Beyond that place the amount of work done was small, only $9674.22 having been expended on the division extending from Connellsville to Turkey Foot prior to Dec. 1,1854, and for a number of years after the opening of the road to Connellsville very little was done on the line southward and eastward from that point. A very strong opposition to the road was developed among the people living along that part of the route, their principal argument against it being that the opening of a railroad through that section would ruin the traffic on the old National road, which latter appeared to be regarded by them as paramount in importance to the securing of railroad facilities.

Finally, on the 29th of April, 1864, the General Assembly of Pennsylvania passed an act, which provided and declared "That all the rights, powers, privileges, and franchises of every nature and kind whatsoever authorized or created by the act of Assembly approved April 3, 1837, authorizing the incorporation of the Pittsburgh and Connellsville Railroad Company, and all supplements thereto, so far as the same or any of them authorize the construction of any line or lines of railway southwardly or eastwardly from Connellsville, be and they are hereby revoked and resumed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; and all the rights, powers, franchises, and privileges by the said act and its supplements conferred upon the said corporation, for and in respect to all that portion of the lines southwardly and eastwardly from Connellsville, be and the same are, by all and every authority in the Legislature for that purpose vested, resumed, revoked, repealed, and put an end to;" but it was also provided that all the outlay and expenditure already made by the company on the line south and east of Connellsville should be reimbursed by any other company which might be empowered to complete the construction of that portion of the line.

Among the reasons for this repeal of the charter, as set forth in the preamble of the act by which it was accomplished, were that "The company, by said act [of 1837] and supplements created, have failed to complete the road therein provided for, and have so long delayed the construction of said road that now, after the lapse of years from the granting of full authority by the State, less than one-half of said line of railroad has been constructed, and the line or lines east of Connellsville authorized by the supplements to said act not having bean completed or prepared for public. use," and that "In the opinion of the Legislature said corporation, by the delay referred to and by the embarrassments, financial and otherwise, in which said corporation has come to be involved, have misused and abused the powers by said act conferred," and that "In the opinion of the legislature it is injurious to the citizens of this Commonwealth that the said company should any longer have or enjoy any right, franchise, or privilege to build or construct any railroad, branch, or extension of their existing railroad southwardly or eastwardly from Connellsville."

On the same day on which this repeal was passed, the General Assembly also passed an act incorporating the "Connellsville and Southern Pennsylvania Railway Company," with power and authority "to construct a railroad from Connellsville to the Maryland State line, at such point and by such route as to the directors may seem advisable, and to connect the same with any road or roads authorized by the State of Maryland, and to connect the same with the Pittsburgh and Connellsville Railroad, or any other road at or near Connellsville now constructed or that may hereafter be constructed ;" also to construct a road or roads from any point on the line named to the Susquehanna Valley. In the list of corporation there were named a large number of gentlemen of Pennsylvania, and William B. Ogden, J. D. T. Lanier, L. H. Meyer, and Samuel J. Tilden of New York. The capital stock authorized was ten millions of dollars, and the company was required to perfect its organization within three months from the passage of the act, and to "proceed immediately to locate and construct said road, and to complete their main line within three years."

But the company thus incorporated did not comply with the requirements of the act as to the commencement and completion of the line. Meanwhile, legal measures were taken on behalf of the Pittsburgh and Connellsville Railroad Company to secure a restoration of their charter for the line south and east of Connellsville, and this was finally accomplished by the passage (Jan. 31,1868) of an act repealing the act of April 29,1864, and thus reinstating the company in the possession of their original powers and franchises as to the line between Connellsville and the Maryland boundary, but requiring them to commence the construction of the road within six months, and to complete it within three years from the passage of the act. Another act was passed April 1st in the same year, authorizing the Pittsburgh and Connellsville Railroad Company to construct branch roads, for the development of contiguous regions of country, from any point or points on their main line.

Operations were now resumed, and the construction of the road was pushed vigorously to completion. In February, 1871, the road from Connellsville to Falls City was finished, and trains ran regularly between those points on and after the 20th of that month. As early as the 23d of the same month trains were announced to be running on schedule time from Sand Patch to Cumberland. At about three o'clock in the afternoon of Monday, the 10th of April, 1871, the track was finished between Pittsburgh and Cumberland, by the laying of the last rail, at a point where the track-layers from both directions met, near Forge Bridge, three miles west of Mineral Point. "Immediately upon completion of the track a passenger train from Pittsburgh (the first one passing over the road east of Confluence) took aboard all present, -- Messrs. Latrobe and Blanchard, of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and Messrs. Hughart, Page, Pendleton, Stout, and Turner, of the Pittsburgh and Connellsville road, and others, -- and started directly to Cumberland, which was reached about dusk." (Accounts of the opening, published in the "Genius of Liberty," April 13, 1871.) When this first train left Connellsville to proceed to the point where the track-laying parties were approaching each other to complete the connection, nine car-loads of rails were taken with it, drawn by locomotive No. 7, in charge of Mr. Sampsel. At Confluence these iron-laden cars were detached, and taken thence to a point near Brooke tunnel by locomotive No. 719, of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, while Mr. Sampsel, the engineer of No. 7, who had previously declared he would run the first engine over the completed road, made good his promise on this occasion by taking the excursion train through to Cumberland, passing by a zig-zag track around the Brooke tunnel, which was not then entirely completed. Among the speeches made in the opening ceremonies by men prominent in the affairs of the Pittsburgh and Connellsville and Baltimore and Ohio roads was that of B. H. Latrobe, Esq., who said that the road which he (Latrobe) had commenced in 1837 was now completed by the president, that the road had now allied itself with the Baltimore and Ohio, and that he predicted a brilliant future for the line and the connection, -- a prediction which has been completely verified during the ten years which have succeeded it. The road is now operated as a part of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, having been leased by that company in December, 1875.

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Last modified: 14-Oct-2001

Source document: Ellis, Franklin, 1828-1885. "History of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men" edited by Franklin Ellis. p. 272-278. Philadelphia : L.H. Everts & Co., 1882