Thursday, January 29, 2009

Nelson Bennett and the Fairhaven & Southern Railway

Skagit River Journal of History & Folklore
Subscribers Edition Stories & Photos
The most in-depth, comprehensive site about the Skagit. Covers from British Columbia to Puget sound. Counties covered: Skagit, Whatcom, Island, San Juan. An evolving history dedicated to the principle of committing random acts of historical kindness.
Noel V. Bourasaw, editor 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, Washington, 98284

Over the next few months, we are going to share with you some stories that were written about the Northwest more than a hundred years ago, History of the Pacific Northwest: Oregon and Washington, Volume II, edited by Elwood Evans and published in 1889. As those of you have followed our site over the last year know, we like to feature original sources and quote from them. We have been aided in our quest by Janine M. Bork, who lives in Wallowa county, Oregon. Janine is one of those wonderful volunteers who add so much to the internet history of the Northwest. She has scanned and transcribed many chapters of the 1889 book, which was edited by Elwood Evans, Secretary of State for Washington.
In this work (beginning on page 210), we found the biography of Nelson Bennett, the man who, outside of Mortimer Cook, was the most responsible for opening up the Sedro-Woolley district to settlement and investment. Bennett brought the first railroad and was the first to efficiently extract and ship coal from the area. As we see in almost all of the Northwest boom towns, the map of new Sedro is marked with a street for the most important capitalist. In this case, Bennett must have been twice as important as anyone else because his name is affixed to two streets in the first plat for the town of Sedro. If you go to the high school today, you will see that the streets north and south of the block are named Nelson and Bennett.

Nelson Bennett, 1880s

This is all the more interesting in Sedro's case because the man behind the original plat was Norman R. Kelley and he and Bennett were thorns in each other's side. Kelley even went as far as to try to block the railroad completion with a court suit. But Bennett outfoxed him and sent his engineer, John J. Donovan, on horseback in a driving blizzard in the middle of the winter of 1889 to quash the suit in the county seat of Mount Vernon. The two ego-driven town builders apparently decided it was better to join than to fight because Kelley incorporated his town as Sedro and Bennett incorporated Cook's old river village site as Town of Sedro. In that year, when Sedro was born as a boom town, when Washington became a state, when Seattle burned and when the Fairhaven & Southern Railway chugged into town as a Christmas present for Sedro, this biography of Bennett was written. When you are finished, you might want to read about the Journal's exclusive history of the F&S, to see how he built his railroad line.

Nelson Bennett blasts across the prairies
Though Toronto, Canada, must be accredited as the birthplace of the distinguished personage whose name heads this brief sketch of a most active, useful and busy life, yet were his parentage and ancestry thoroughly American. On the paternal side the Bennetts were natives of Virginia, three generations back; and his mother was of the ancient and time-honored family of the Spragues of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. He was born October 14,1843; and his father died when he was seven years of age, leaving a widow and six children. The family resided upon a farm; and Nelson was afforded the opportunity of acquiring a good rudimentary education in the grammar schools near Toronto. The custom was to work on the farm six months, and go to school the remainder of the year. This was continued until his fourteenth year. In his seventeenth year he left Toronto, and came to Orleans county, New York, the old home of the family, where he attended school for one year. During much of his first year in New York, he was sick from the effects of a singular but severe accident. He was riding horseback through the timber, his horse being on a lope, when he came to a limb extending across the road, which he thought he could avoid by ducking his head. The limb, however, so caught his body, and drew it forward in such manner that the pressure caused extreme internal injuries, from the effects of which he suffered for about a year. His health being recovered in 1863, he was employed by the United States government, in a corps of artisans, whose chief occupation was building barracks for troops. In this service he remained until 1864, when he went to the oil regions of Pennsylvania. Then and there he first displayed the proclivities which have rendered his after-life so prominent, and his name so well-known. He commenced contracting. While there he sank twenty-seven oil wells, with varied success, and made considerable money. In the fall of 1865, he migrated to Pettis county, Missouri, where the town of Sedalia now stands, and invested the money made in oil in large tracts of land. In the spring of 1866 he went to Iowa and secured employment by the North Western Railroad Company, and worked on their roads in Iowa during that year. In 1867 he went out on the Union Pacific, and followed on the line of construction till the track reached Fort Bridge. He abandoned railroad construction when the mining excitement borne out into the Sweetwater country in Dakota, and remained there while the excitement continued. Among the occupations necessitated by his Sweetwater experiences was fighting the Indians for about two years of that period. Mr. Bennett had now become a miner. He left the Sweetwater country for the Little Cottonwood mines in Utah. For the next two years he engaged in mining pursuits in Utah, at which time he entered into a contract with Walker Brothers to transport a quartz mill from Ophir canyon, a district in Utah, to Butte City, Montana. This was the commencement of a freighting and transportation business out of which a train was built up of 150 animals, mostly Kentucky mules. The business was pursued under the old style of freighting — twelve animals constituting a team, each team drawing three wagons. During the time Mr. Bennett pursued the freighting business in the Rocky Mountains, he opened a wagon road from Eagle Gorge on Snake river, by way of Big Lost river, through the Challis and Bonanza mining districts in Idaho Territory. He it was who also sent the first team into the Wood river district with supplies and materials for miners. In one of his expeditions during the year of Howard's campaign against the Nez Perces, his train had just passed Dry creek, in Idaho. The hostile Nez Perces came up and intervened between his train and the head of the train following, that of James Brown. Bennett's train was not delayed; but Brown had to return to Pleasant valley.

The Cokedale Mine in the 1890s, discovered by Lafayette Stevens and developed by Nelson Bennett

His singular good fortune, luck, or call it what you will, seemed never to desert him. A year later his train was making a second trip into the Challis and Bonanza districts of Idaho. A large train had gone ahead; and they were intercepted by hostile Bannacks, who fought them and held them at bay for two days and two nights, killing one man and stampeding the animals and running off a number. Colonel Green, U.S. Army, came up; and the Indians fled. Bennett's train came up after the arrival of the soldiers and the flight of the Bannacks. The soldiers were entirely out of provisions and really in need. Bennett sold out his whole outfit, consisting of grocery bacon, canned fruits, canned salmon, and a well assorted stock intended for the miners. Script was issued to him, as that was one of the years in which the appropriation had fallen short; and Bennett did not receive his pay for eighteen months. Whilst Mr. Bennett has been carrying on this freighting enterprise west of the Rocky Mountains, Jay Gould had undertaken the extension of the Utah Northern Railroad from Ogden to Butte City. That great financier had sent out, as superintendent of construction, Washington Dunn, with whom, in 1881, Nelson Bennett became intimately acquainted. Through that intimacy Mr. Bennett entered upon the railroad contracting business. It is out of place to follow in detail the contracts he undertook. Since that date, a part of which time doing business under the firm name of Washington, Dunn & company, and in his individual capacity, he has built five hundred and fifty miles of railroad, including the Stampede or Cascade Tunnel of the Northern Pacific Railroad through the Cascade Range of mountains. The latter stupendous and colossal work was completed in May 1888. Mr. Bennett took the contract for its construction January 21, 1886, requiring its completion within twenty-eight months from the date of contract. He gave bonds of $100,000 cash, and ten per cent of the contract price for the fulfillment of the contract. He finished the great work, and had seven days to spare. During all the time that Mr. Bennett was engaged in freighting and railroad constructing, he was steadily occupied in other pursuits — merchandising, the lumber business, dealing in agricultural implements, stock-raising, mining, and dealing in mining properties. He became largely interested in developing mines; and, although almost universally successful in any enterprise in which he enlisted, he has in his hope to develop mines expended some fifty thousand dollars, only realizing out of those ventures a thousand dollars. But indomitable he is still mining and not discouraged as to the future result of those investments. It would not be Nelson Bennett to give up, nor would it be him not to be crowned with a successful result. Since completing the Cascade Tunnel, Tacoma has been his headquarters; and he has contributed largely to the marvelous growth of that city. Early in 1889 he became interested in Fairhaven, Whatcom county, in the extreme northern part of Washington, on Bellingham Bay. The Fairhaven enterprise comprehends the development of the Lower Puget Sound region, the possibilities resulting from which it is premature to predict. They must be estimated in the future, though it is quite proper to add that the success of the short period already passed through promises grand results. Already twenty-five miles of railroad have been constructed, while another section of twenty-five miles is ready for tracklaying. A large force of men are not at work extending the line south of Skagit river, and gradually approaching connection with the Northern Pacific. There is also work being done on the line connecting Skagit river with the Eastern branch, which is heading eastward to pass through one of the Skagit passes of the Cascade Range to enter and open the rich mining region of the Okanogan, and connect it with Puget Sound. Another railroad is being constructed which extends northward from Bellingham Bay to New Westminster, and possibly to Vancouver and other more remote points in British Columbia. Mr. Bennett is the president of the Fairhaven & Southern Railroad Company. He has purchased the entire control of the Westminster & Southern Railroad Company properties. He is the president of the Fairhaven Land Company, a company which is engaged in the development of the city of that name on Bellingham Bay. He is the president of the Skagit Coal Company, which is at present and for the past year has been engaged in developing the vast coal fields of the Skagit river basin. He is largely interested in and principal promoter of the Fairhaven Iron and Steel Company, who are about erecting the necessary furnaces and works for the development and utilization of the rich iron deposits in the valley of the Skagit. He was the pioneer builder of the street railroad system of Tacoma, and is now the principal owner of the street railroad system of Butte City, Montana, which has three miles of cable road and six miles of motor lines. He is president of the Tacoma Chamber of Commerce, as also the Tacoma Hotel Company. With all these manifold engagements, he still finds time to contribute by his presence and council to every enterprise suggested for the benefit of the public. He is ever ready to advise and to assist the needy. In vigorous and hearty manhood, full of intellectual vigor and physical strength, his life of usefulness and benefit to his race promises to be prolonged. No one in a more eminent degree illustrates the pluck and push of the men who have made our western civilization than Nelson Bennett.

More reading and photos: On March 2, 1890, Col. Frank Wilkeson, Skagit county's most esteemed early writer, profiled Nelson Bennett in a New York Times column.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Murray Morgan's essay on Nelson Bennett and the Stampede Pass Tunnel

Murray C. Morgan Nelson Bennett and the Stampede Pass Tunnel
Essay Index Northwest Room Home Print-Friendly version
Copyright, 1960, Murray Morgan All Rights Reserved
Nelson Bennett and the Stampede Pass Tunnel
On January 22, 1886, Captain Sidney Bennett, temporarily resident in Yakima, received a telegram from his younger brother Nelson, then visiting in Philadelphia. The wire said the Bennett brothers had won the contract to drive a tunnel 16 feet wide, 22 feet high at the crown, 9,850 feet long through the north shoulder of Mount Rainier. "Get going," said the kid brother, who was boss. Sidney Bennett needed no urging. Haste was imperative. He and Nelson were not only undertaking an assignment of formidable difficulty, but they were betting more than they possessed that they could finish the job in twenty - eight months. Their contract pledged a one - hundred - thousand - dollar performance bond plus 10 percent of the contract price if they failed to have trains rolling under the Cascades by May 22, 1888. Back in Philadelphia where the bids had been opened, the defeated contractors, who numbered a dozen, were predicting that the Bennett brothers' victory would not make them but break them. Their bid had been so low - less than half that by some of their more experienced rivals - that even if they beat the deadline they could still lose a fortune. But if anyone could get the job done on time, it was agreed, the Bennetts were the ones. Nelson Bennett was forty - three years old, five feet nine inches in height and almost as wide: put a mustache and goatee on a bulldozer and you would have a reasonable facsimile. Born in Canada, left fatherless at six, Nelson quit school at fourteen to work on a farm. He came to the United States during the Civil War, helped build Army barracks for a time, then caught on as a brakeman on the Dixon Air Line. Nelson was in Detroit in 1864 when he received a letter from one of his brothers In Pennsylvania: "I have found the Eldorado - Come at once. I am boring for oil and we can slip into a fortune as easy as eating mince pie." Nelson could not draw his railroad pay until the end of the month, so he got himself fired on his next run. He arrived in the oil fields with two dollars, worked four weeks as a day laborer, then passed himself off as a contractor and agreed to bore a six - hundred - foot well (" I hired a competent man to manage then stood round looking wise until I learned something"). He sank twenty - seven wells before the boom tapered off. He took a small fortune west but lost it in land speculation in Missouri and Iowa. Next he taught school in Missouri (he had gone through the sixth grade), fought Indians (twenty personal acquaintances were killed in the race wars of the West), prospected in the Dakotas, organized a mule - train freight service in the Southwest. He was in Salt Lake City, broke again, when the copper rush to Montana began. Bennett contracted to move a quartz mill from Ophir, Utah, to Butte, six hundred miles, on mule back, and did it. He put the profits into building Butte's first street railway and the profits from that into moving a steam sawmill into the Lost River region of Idaho. He was rich again. His Rocky Mountain activities brought Bennett into contact with Washington Dunn, who was building the Utah and Northern for Jay Gould. Bennett teamed up with Dunn, doing the outside work while Dunn hustled contracts. They undertook to dig a thirty - five - mile irrigation ditch in Idaho to carry Snake River water to 270,000 acres. The job required six hundred men, twelve hundred horses, and an arsenal of drilling and blasting equipment. On this project Sidney Bennett, Nelson's leaner and meaner older brother, a cavalry captain in the Civil War, demonstrated what an admirer called "a peculiar genius for slave-driving." Dunn died, and Nelson Bennett went into the negotiating end of the business, leaving Sidney to direct field work. The Bennetts won the contract for the first 134 miles of the Cascade Division, Pasco to Ellensburg, before securing the Stampede assignment. A human bulldozer and a slave - driving genius were needed on the Stampede. just getting men and machines to the work site required prodigious effort. Nelson shipped west five engines, two water wheels, five air compressors, eight seventy - horsepower boilers, four large exhaust fans, two complete electric arc-light plants, two miles of six - inch wrought - iron pipe, two miles of water pipe, two fully equipped machine shops, assorted tools, thirty - six air - drilling machines, several tons of steel drills, two locomotives (named "Sadie" and "Ceta" after his daughters), sixty dump - cars, two sawmills, and a telephone system. On the east side of the Cascades, the rails toward the mountains ended just beyond the village of Yakima; on the west they had been run from Tacoma through Buckley to Eagle Gorge. Beyond the railheads only vague pack - trails twisted through the forests, up to the mountainsides, to the portals. An even sketchier path went up through the pass to connect the east and west work sites. It was so indistinct that the veteran John McAllister and a companion lost their way and their horses in a snowstorm, and survived for a week on nothing but boiled oats. When a search party reached them McAllister was shoveling a path down the mountain through ten feet of snow. "Have you any grub?" McAllister asked his rescuers. "Yes." The old settler sat down and wept. Through such country, in the dead of winter, Sidney Bennett had to move an industry, a work force, and living facilities, against a deadline. The first wagons started from Yakima only eleven days after the contract was signed. In the dry, rocky hills around Yakima the crews chipped away at the road with picks, but as they approached the mountains they came to a stretch of fifteen miles where a warm Chinook wind had melted the snow. The wagons sank above the axles. So they built a moving roadway of planks. Boards were laid end to end across the bog, the rear boards being hand - carried forward as soon as the back wheels of the wagon cleared them. It proved impossible to keep the wheels on the planks with the horses hitched in the normal way. They rigged block and tackle, fastened one end of the rope to the wagon tongue, the team to the other end, and drivers slogged ahead of the wagon shouldering the tongue to guide it. When all went well they could make a mile a day. Things were worse in the mountains. The trail led along gorges five hundred to a thousand feet deep; it crossed creeks and rivers; it threaded through a tangle of forest. Where the grades were steepest and not even double - teaming could move the wagons, the block and tackle was rigged from trees to allow the horses to pull downhill. In some stretches the machinery was put on scows that could be skidded across the frozen snow. The weather was awful, alternating rain and snow. The winds could knock down a horse. An advance party under Master Builder W. H. Buckner reached the east face on February 9. "Before we could get to the portal," he reported, "we had to shovel a road through snow 800 feet long and eight feet deep. At the face of the tunnel there was 200 inches of water falling from the top of the bluff 170 feet, which had to be turned. There was ice eight to ten feet deep across the cliff. We made a cut through snow and ice twenty feet wide, eight to ten deep and 150 feet long just to get at the portal at the east end. In order to reach the west portal it was necessary to shovel a trail through snow four to ten feet deep, four feet wide, and four miles long." Hand - drilling on the approach to the east face began February 13. Entries in Sidney Bennett's work journal are laconic:
Feb. 15. Work on excavation on approach to tunnel will be prosecuted until point of heading is reached.
March 15. 36 inches of snow fell within the last 36 hours.
March 21. Rained for last 24 hours.
March 27. Began work on the "bench" inside east portal.
March 31. Commenced timbering; put 12 sets in - the first used.
April 1. Sixty men worked in east end. Completed excavation of the approaches to the heading at west end.
April 2. Commenced running the heading of the west end. The extent of the day's work was 51/2 feet by hand drills. The excavators at the east end have made to this date 200 feet.
April 6. Harder rock - blue trappite in the west end.
May 1. Snow retarding the work in the east end.
May 5. The first man injured. It was by falling rock.
On the trail, organization replaced improvisation. A hundred wagons were moving men and machinery up the roads. Stations had been built every twelve miles. These were "rag shows" - tent camps - where teamsters could get food and sleep. It had been found that sleds that worked on the slanted snow fields could be hauled across mud as the freezing line rose with the temperature. At the portals the men lived in real houses, though on the east side workers had to shovel away fifty feet of snow to reach solid ground for the foundation of what was called Tunnel City. The first compressor boiler left Yakima on February 22. It was eight weeks reaching the portal but on June 19 the equipment was assembled. Sidney's notes say triumphantly, "Two Ingersoll drills started in the east end - the first machinery that started." If the Bennetts were to beat the deadline, it would be with the help of technology. They planned to attack the rock with six Ingersoll Eclipse drills at each end of the tunnel, the power to be generated on the east side where six large boilers were installed to supply four 480 - horsepower compressors. A pipe 12,500 feet long was run over the pass to carry air to the drills at the west face. Captain Sidney hoped to drill 400 feet of rock a month when under full steam. More than 122,000 cubic yards of rock were to be chipped out of the mountain. Just finding a place to put the debris was a problem. On the west end the rock was run down a spur for a quarter of a mile, then dumped into a ravine that was eventually filled and used as roadbed for the track. A visitor who rode one of the dump trucks reported that it went downhill "with a speed that made a person's hair rise like the quills of a fretful porcupine." Reporters trooped "to the front." Those from Tacoma tended to be enthusiastic, those from Seattle and Portland dubious. A favorite rumor was that there had been an engineering miscalculation and when the east side and west side meet in the middle they'll be a mile apart." Tilton Sheets, a civil engineer and surveyor, visited the digs in July to assure readers of the Tacoma Ledger that all was well. His tone was that of a recruiting sergeant: Any man who will work can find employment and command from two dollars all the way to three per day according to how he can work. If he is worth three he can get it. How do the men live - their board and all that? Very well - as cheaply and well as they could live in Tacoma. The contractors have built camps and the men are well fed - plenty of beef and good food otherwise, for all of which they pay $4.50 a week. Of course it's roughing it a little - that's understood. Every man provides his own blankets. Good meals can be obtained at points along the road towards Ellensburg at two - bits, but up towards the summit they come higher, naturally enough - say four - bits. For parties visiting the scene on a flying excursion it is advisable to take provisions along. Saloons? Oh, yes - too many of them. That's one trouble. Many of the men get caught by them every pay day and don't work till they have to. Another Ledger reporter met a professional gambler coming down from the west portal. He was in complete agreement with Surveyor Tilton about the opportunities for diversion on the mountainside: His smile was contagious even across a hundred feet of space. He carried only a little hand satchel such as ladies affect. Shaking this and smiling over the clash of ivory and what - not within, he asked: "Poker? Roulette? Chuckluck? Try your hand. Anything you wish." Pleased at the reception of this sally, he continued. "What's your racket? I can tell you, it's no good up there. I've been all through it, from Ellensburg to the Gorge, all through. It's worked out. "There's saloons and restaurants every fifty feet. You can get a good meal for two - bits - as good as you can at Tacoma. There's nothing left in it for us. What's your game? Whiskey?" Such prosperity and luxury proved more than some men could stand. The week that Tilton Sheets' effusion appeared in the Ledger, Captain Sidney penned an unusually long entry in his daily journal: About 150 men in east end struck for nine hours as a day's work. [They were working twelve - hour shifts, seven days a week.] It lasted two days but did not prevail. In this matter the sheriff of [Yakima] county was called upon the ground to prevent disorder and injury to persons or property. One man was shot by him in his attempt to escape arrest on a criminal charge. In a letter to Nelson, who was at company headquarters in Tacoma, Sidney remarked that they were using three crews at all times, "one coming, one drilling, one quitting." But the work went on.
August 9. Electric lights were extended in the west end, having previously been placed in the east end. The rock in the east end is getting so hard it has to be blasted with No. I Giant Powder.
August 18. One man killed and another injured by blasting.
Sept. 1. Three Ingersoll drills started for the first time in the west end.
At this point Sidney added up progress and estimated what remained to be done to meet the deadline. They would have to average 13.58 feet a day through May 21, 1888. The crews had yet to make as much as 13 feet on any day.
Sept. 5. Work was advanced so far that the smoke and gas incident from blasting had to be remedied, and the steam fans were applied, which helped clean the tunnel thereof.
Sept. 25. Drilling delayed because of the breaking of rock above the face of the tunnel caused by blasting shots. Five days to remedy.
Oct. 1. The end of this month found us 33 feet short of the daily average required.
Oct. 15. Air boxes were extended 265 feet in the west end.
Oct. 29. The tunnel is in bad shape. The roof is cracking and rock is falling, which causes delay.
Oct. 31. This month showed a gain of 17 feet over the daily average required.
Nov. 1. A Foreman and five men have quit because of some grievance and left camp.
Nov. 18. Snow sheds over the dump track to be built.
Nov. 29. A land slide into the crib became so extensive we had to stop work in the east end for a week, which delays progress.
Nov. 30. This month work fell behind 231/2 feet.
Dec. 1. Work delayed by rain which caused east end of tunnel to be flooded.
Dec. 31. There was a loss of the required average in December of 9 feet. Five months of machine work in tunnel during year. 48 feet behind schedule.
The delays in construction and the increasing stridency of the campaign in Congress for forfeiture of the unearned land grants caused NP President Harris early in 1887 to decide to lay a temporary switchback track through the pass. That way train service could begin before the tunnel was complete. A thousand more men were hired in March to shovel snow off the mountain above the tunnel so that rails could be zig - zagged over the summit. With the realization that they would have a direct connection with the east a year ahead of schedule, Tacomans were caught on a rising tide of enthusiasm. Tourist excursions were organized to visit the end of the line and applaud the workers as they marched off to the front, shovels on their shoulders. "Beyond the end of the track," wrote the Ledger's front line correspondent, a clearing very like a new country road extends along the edge of the river and fringes the hill and is soon lost at the turn. A few men may be seen lifting and letting fall their shovels here and there where the road leads over into full view. Columns of blue smoke rise above the trees at irregular intervals. A few workmen are building a footbridge across the river back of the station. The large tents are in the midst of a partial clearing and about 30 horses and mules stamp and whinny under the trees while pack men are binding to their backs bales of hay, barrels and bundles of every description, while for every switch of the tail or misstep of the burdened animal his heart is sent to perdition forty times in the loud prayers of the drivers. They are leaving now, as late as 11 A.M., starting away by the trail, which, a mere pathway, begins at once a precipitate ascent of the mountain. They go in single file, the drivers or pack men more noisy than before, keeping the horses in line. A few laborers have just come in and are directed on toward the picks and the new dirt and the smoke in the shadowy gap further along. A sound, as of distant cannonading, seems to shake the earth as it rolls down from out of the mysterious shadows of the gulch and beyond. Every few moments a thunder and crash through the woods tells of the blasting rocks and the fall of giant trees. And this is the front. By March 28, 1877, the shovel brigade had cleared enough roadbed for the start of track - laying above the tunnel. The rails sashayed up the slope in a series of three switches on each side of the mountain. At each switchback the train would run up to a dead end and back onto the track climbing to the next switch. This Z - route reduced the grade to 297 feet per mile. The last spike on the switchback was driven at two minutes past six on the afternoon of June 1. Assistant General Manager J. M. Buckley (for whom the Northern Pacific named the town of Buckley) served as master of ceremonies. Mrs. H. S. Huson, wife of the assistant project engineer, made the final tap on the spike with a bottle of champagne. An experimental first train - two locomotives, a baggage car, caboose, and a wooden - seated coach - was sent from Yakima to Tacoma on June 6. The route having been tested, Charles Wright was carried over it in triumph the next day in his private parlor car. Scheduled traffic over the Stampede began July 3. The first regular overland train to the east - four coaches, with twenty passengers - left Tacoma at 1:45 P.m. The first westbound passenger train arrived at 7:15 - seven hours late. On the Fourth of July Tacoma for the second time celebrated the completion of the transcontinental. President Cleveland was invited to speak but the celebrants had to settle for lank, scruffy Eugene Semple, the governor. A grandstand was built at the present site of Stadium High School. The papers claimed that eighteen thousand visitors came to town, which would have been more than the combined populations of Seattle and Olympia. Festivities lasted three days, marred only by a dispute in the hose - laying contest between the Seattle and Tacoma fire departments. Somebody recognized one of the Seattle volunteers as a professional sprinter who specialized in running at carnivals with the handicap of a fifty - pound flour sack on his shoulders. The switchback served more as a symbol of the Northern Pacific's intention to complete the route than as a serviceable means of transportation. The track had been laid so hastily on frozen ground that much of it had to be replaced after the first thaw. The grade was too steep to permit heavy freight. Crews drew hazard pay for running the huge decapod lokeys that were hooked fore and aft to trains of five passenger coaches or five light - loaded freight cars for the eight miles between Martin on the east side and Stampede on the west. There was a brakeman for every two cars. Notwithstanding the precautions there were accidents. Engineer Harvey Reed was taking a decapod over the pass with a load of heavy bridge timbers. The engine broke down. Reed tried to jockey the load over the top with a little Baldwin, Engine 457. He pushed the freight car up the first leg of the switchback but, as he backed up the second leg, snow jammed into the sand pipes. When he called for sand, none spilled onto the track. The wheels of the Baldwin began to spin on slick steel. Engine and car slowed, halted, and, after a desperate wheel - spinning pause, slipped backwards, slowly at first, then faster and faster. Reed and his firemen jumped, landing safely in snowdrifts. Engine and car sped down the slope, rocking around curves until they came to a curving trestle where two men were working. The engine struck one man killing him instantly. His companion dropped face down on the ties. Just as it reached him the engine lumped the track, hurtled over the side without touching him, and plunged into the ravine. Engine 457 was restored to service, as was Engineer Reed. He was at the throttle of the little Baldwin three months later when it was overtaken and rammed from behind in a tunnel. The coal tender was knocked loose but there was enough water left in the boiler for Reed to get back to Marlin. For years old - timers yarned about the arrival of the bob - tail lokey. While the trains ran the slalom course over the summit, Captain Sidney's work gangs moled below, none too expeditiously. There were slides, strikes, cave - ins, deaths from blasting, and some mayhem at management level. Sidney persuaded Nelson to persuade President Harris to remove the project engineer, with whom Sidney did not see eye to eye. And somebody, somewhere along the line of authority, decided to furnish slave - driver Sidney with a carrot as well as a club. A bonus was offered. Each month, for every foot gained over the necessary average of 13.58 feet a day, laborers doing continuous duty were paid twenty - five cents extra, drill men and expert workmen, fifty cents. The pace increased phenomenally. On September 1, 1887, a year after the Ingersolls were put at both faces, work was 410 feet behind schedule. In the next eight and a half months they made up 4541/2 feet - 1321/2 in April alone. It cost the Bennetts thirty - three dollars extra for every man who had worked steadily that thirty days - and it saved the performance bond. Moving into May, when each blast might mean open space ahead, the Bennetts offered a thousand dollars to the first man through the bore with the fringe benefit of a steak dinner and whiskey for the side he represented. Each team picked a tough little powder - monkey who could wiggle and struggle. Foremen had problems keeping the chosen men out of the area of flying rock when shots were touched off. Shortly after noon on May 3, 1888, the men who rushed into the smoke and rock dust after a blast felt a draft. The west side representative wriggled into the hole and collided, head - on, with the eastern representative. As the delegates butted each other, their constituents pushed in behind, heaving and struggling, until at last the man from the west was shoved through - skinned, bleeding, triumphant. For the west this offset the statistic that through the long campaign the east had moved more rock. Captain Sidney's wife had long insisted she would be the first person to walk under the Cascade range. She at least was the first of her sex. On her first crawl, Mrs. Bennett, a lady of heroic proportions, became stuck. The eastern team managed to pull her back by her ankles. Chagrined but determined she went down the tunnel, shed some undergarments, and, according to legend, sent out for a bucket of lard to coat her shoulders and hips. This time the men of the west gallantly pulled her through. She arose, her dark hair powdered with blasted basalt, and uttered the immortal words, "The drinks, gentlemen, are on my husband." In Tacoma, along Cliff Avenue, the cannons thundered again. For the third time the Northern Pacific had been completed, this time for real.
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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Map of Bennett farm: Belhaven

North Gwillimbury File.

Where the name Willard Bennett is on the property near Belhaven is where his father and mother Nicholas and Diamia (Diana) Sprague Bennett originally farmed. Just across the sideroad on the south west corner is the original lot Frederick Sprague received from the Crown in 1805. In the northwest close to the lake is the lot owned by Joel Draper which Joel bought from Fred in 1805. David and Deiadamia Draper Sprague lived there on the other half of the lot right after they were married in Keswick, Ontario.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Fairhaven pictures

Nelson Bennett and Belhaven

Deleting old emails, and ran across this. Perhaps “Belhaven” is the root of “Fairhaven”. (As far as I can tell, Jean sent the same image in two emails – not the top half & bottom half, as she says below.)

From: Jean [Name Withheld]   Sent: Wednesday, January 23, 2008 4:06 AMTo: [Name Withheld]: scan00010[2].pdf - Adobe Reader

Nelson Bennett was born at Belhaven, North Gwillimbury Township, York County, Ontario, Canada. Belhaven is just south of Sutton in Georgina Township.
Note on the map property listed as belonging to Willard Bennett. Nelson Bennett and Diamia or Diana Sprague owned this property. It is said that David Sprague (Diana's father) gave each of his children a 100 acre lot on which to live.
Belhaven is still an active village.
I'll send the top half of the map in another e-mail.

You are from Isaac-Aquilla-Nicholas-Nelson Bennett.
Aquilla had a son Isaac, but Nicholas b. abt. 1719 (re tombstone) m. Diamia
(Diana) Sprague and was father to Nelson. And, yes, I've been there though there seems to be little of the original homestead left. They lived close to Belhaven in North Gwillimbury, York Co., Ontario, Canada. The microfiche at the Archives isn't complete in exactly that place so I'm not positive if Nicholas ever owned the exact corner lot or not, but he had land just north of the corner and just west. The Belhaven post office was close to the corner.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Ten years ago he was a teamster -- now he is a millionaire


Figuring on Big Things and Carrying Them Through Successfully.

Nelson Bennett, one of the most noted of Western railroad builders, arrived from Tacoma yesterday and is at the Palace. He is accompanied by his family and George F. Orchard, a Tacoma Pioneer.

Mr. Bennett did the grading and rock work on a large tract of the lining of the Oregon Capitol Railway and Navigation Company, and on the Montana division of the Northern Pacific. He also did a good deal of work on different roads in Utah. He built the Cascade division of the Northern Pacific from Pasco, at the mouth of the Snake river, to Puget Sound, including the big Cascade tunnel, the heaviest piece of work done on any road for years.


This was a Herculean work, but Mr. Bennett rushed it through in a hurry, completing it in two years, when thousands of people said it was impossible to be done short of ten years, if indeed it could be finished at all. Many people predicted that it would bankrupt the road. On this tunnel Mr. Bennett made a great deal of money -- how much is not definitely known. He had also made large sums on his other contracts, and he is looked upon as one of the wealthiest contractors in the country. Every contract he has touched made money for him, and his wealth is now variously estimated at from $5,000,000 to $7,000,000.

A year or so ago he secured for fifty years, and for a small sum, the entire franchise for streetcars in Tacoma. This he sold only a month ago to Henry Villard and others for $187,000.

Mr. Bennett has been scarcely ten years in coming to the front as a millionaire. Not that long ago he was a poor man.

He began as a simple laborer with a team on a Utah road. He made some money for a time, but made a miscalculation as to the hardness of some work in a cut, and went bankrupt.


Washington Dunn had the principal contract on the Utah and Northern road, the one in question, where Mr. Bennett had sub-contract. When Bennett summed up his work he found he was $100,000 behind. He went to Mr. Dunn and offered to convert over to him 700 or 800 mules and his grading outfit, but Mr. Dunn told him to go ahead and he would wait.

Many stories are told of the hard times he had at that time, of his struggles and efforts to get up again. Mr. Bennett himself, it is said, now laughs about them and looks back upon the time as one of the happiest periods in his life. But while he felt certain he would rise, he did not then expect to amass more than $100,000 or so. He changed his base and moved to Bear Lodge, M. T., with his family and established a home there. While pushing railroad work too, he and his brothers, under the name of Bennett Brothers, established a small agricultural implement and hardware store. It grew and stores were also established at Butte, Missoula, and Stevensville. Contracts were taken on Oregon and Montana roads.

About this time Washington Dunn, the chief contractor on the Northern Pacific, died suddenly of heart disease in a sleeping car at Missoula. Mr. Bennett, who had contracts under him, soon took the position vacated. Then he got along faster. Four years ago he removed to Portland and made that the headquarters of his operations.

When he took the big contract for the Cascade tunnel he moved to Puget sound. He is now and for some time past has been heavily invested in Washington Territory property. Everything has gone his way, and among all the builders of railways in the Northwest and none are so prominent or more talked about than Mr. Bennett. People have got to thinking that whatever he has taken hold of, no matter how difficult, will go through.

Mr. Bennett is a thick-set, dark-eyed man with a jet black hair, and is altogether one of the most unassuming of men.


His success has not changed him, and going about, as he does, careless in dress, he would scarcely be taken for one of the shrewdest figures in Western railway building. He has always figured for big things. It has been his delight to put his brain against others on the heaviest contracts going.

Mr. Bennett is about forty-five years of age. He and his family are in California for a brief change of climate. They will visit Monterey and probably Los Angeles and San Diego before returning to their home in Washington Territory.

[San Francisco Examiner, January 26, 1888]


A story of Puget Sound as told by Will Visscher in Chicago Times-Herald.

A pen picture of the enterprising men and the bustling men days of the 1889-90.

How a well known city arose out of a howling wilderness, as if by magic, until it numbered 10,000 people--the way its promising future was blasted.

It came and it went, as does as does a vivid dream.

One night in 1890 I was at work at my desk in a Puget Sound city. [Tacoma, Washington] ‘Twas 11 o'clock, and a brusque stocky man [Nelson Bennett], reputed to be four times a millionaire, came into the little den and said:

“Do you want to get rich?”


“Then put on your hat and coat and come with me."

“How long will it take?"

“Get you back here tomorrow evening in time to do your work."

The night was perfect, clear and moonlit. A cab stood at the curb. The stocky man followed me into that.

“Drive to the Ocean dock," he said.

Soon we were on board a trim little steamer, and we drank champagne and played whist for hours; then turned in.

At nine o'clock next morning I was on deck. The vessel lay at anchor near a small horse-shoe shaped cove, and about us lay the grandest bay I have ever seen, and I have seen Naples.

The glorious body of water was framed in a great margin of primeval forest rising to the timberline in many places of snow-capped mountains. The trees were great firs and cedars, from 200 to 400 feet tall, beneath them small deciduous trees and a tangled undergrowth of brush and vines that seemed as if it would hinder the progress of a cinnamon bear.

At the south point of the cove was a slim attempt at a wharf, and that the shore end of that stood a rickety log cabin and a few tumble-down outhouses. There was a sort of a clearing, of perhaps an acre and these were the only signs of human habitation. My stocky friend joined me on deck and remarked:

“Lots of land in this country.”

“Yes, seems as if there might be."

“I own 300 acres out there."

“Yes? Who owned it before you did?

“The squatter down there."

“What are you going to do with it?"

“Build a city."

“Oh! Build a city?"

“That's what I said. And you are going to help me."

“I am a going to help you?"

“You told me once that some great man had told you that a great newspaper, a great hotel and a great theater would rally a city about them in the wilderness. Here's a chance to put that proposition to a test. I will build the hotel and theater, and you can build the newspaper. I'll furnish the capital for all. What do you say?"

“It's a go. But what else have you got here?"

“Twenty-two years ago the reports of the United States Coast survey said that this bay had a greater natural advantages than any other harbor on the Pacific coast; the largest area of holding ground; safest from storms, and the resources of its shores are the most opulent. Up to that (pointing to the left) are eighty miles square of as fertile land as there is on earth, particularly adapted to the raising of grain, hops, fruit and edible vegetables. Those mountains are full of coal, iron, building stone, asbestos, copper, gold and silver. Here's the finest timber on earth, and these waters are full of the best kinds of fish."

“How do you know all this?”

“I have had cruisers at work for seven years spying out the best locality on Washington shores for the building of the city. The thing has simmered down to this point."

At this juncture a canoe, containing two men, put out from the shore. The man paddling was the squatter. The passenger was my millionaire's agent. The squatter was coming for his first payment of $25,000 for his land, the tract having been sold by him for the round the sum of $100,000.

These matters were quickly adjusted on board, and I discovered in the agent the most brilliant specimen of the genus “boomer” that I have ever come in contact with. He actually tried to sell me lots, then and there, in the new city, and indeed succeeded in selling back to the squatter several corner lots on what had been a few minutes before his wild domain and figures a thousand percent. above what it had just been sold for. Moreover, it was the best purchase the squatter had ever made. The land in his hands was worth nothing as compared to its ownership by a multi-millionaire, and he afterwards sold his lots for another fortune.

We sailed away, back to our own city, and I was at my desk on time that evening.

At Christmas I went back there on business bent. The change was wonderful. Half a dozen sawmills were fairly slicing out lumber, that was borne away as rapidly as it came from the saws, slabs and all, to build houses, shanties, sheds. The townsite was already checkered with streets. Some quite respectable houses had gone up. Real estate offices were thick, saloons were thicker, and there was a dancehouse and a variety theater. Some respectable women were there, living upstairs over their husbands’ places of business.

The city was growing fast, and the noise of saws and hammers was heard all day and far into the night, with detonations of dynamite and giant powder, at intervals, blowing out the great stumps of trees. Men, horse scrapers, wagons and teams were grading streets, plank sidewalks were being constructed, and it was altogether a busy season.

The spot was selected for the printing office. He two-story for that purpose was erected, with the sawed-off stumps of huge trees for foundations. Less than a year afterwards those stumps were taken out and a stone and brick foundation was put in, giving the establishment another floor. In less than three months the Daily Herald was issued, a handsome quarto. There were four presses, that were kept running day and night, with electric dynamo at night and steam in the day time. In three months more the newspaper had to be enlarged to sixteen pages, to carry the advertisements.

The streets of the city were lighted by electric arc lights; the incandescent lights were used in business houses and homes, and the gaslight system was added. There were excellent police, fire, water and sewer systems, and trolley streetcar lines. Handsome business blocks of stone, brick, iron and plate glass were erected. Pretty cottages of Queen Anne, Eastlake, Westlake and Salt lake architecture dotted the hillsides, and there were flowering lawns and springing fountains

In forteen months there stood upon what before had been a howling wilderness, a superb a city of 10,000 people, with all the adjuncts and accessories of the great metropolis. At the immense docks lay vessels of all maritime nations, and a railroad connected the place with the Canadian Pacific on the north at New Westminster, B. C., and with the Northern Pacific on the south at Seattle. It was a great proposition and a good one.

Then there came a big railroad magnet who bought the little railroad, much to the indignation of my multimillionaire friend. He opposed the sale, but men whom he had given stock in his big scheme went back on him in the vote of the shareholders. The railroad magnate had promised great things for the new city with his new transcontinental road. My multimillionaire didn't believe in him. The magnate won, and my multimillionaire sold out his other interests there and left.

This appalled many people who believed in my multimillionaire.

Some people left.

The magnate sent the repair shops to Seattle. Then he moved to the headquarters of the little road to Seattle.

More people left.

Then he ran his transcontinental road into Seattle and the new city became a way station, shortly a byword, and it is only seen on a few maps today. The late panic finished it.

There are probably not a thousand people in the place. There are entire squares of huge houses, where once business was rife, that are now tenanted only by rats. It is pathetic.

The city went down about as rapidly as it went up. Now and then I meet one who was there in the boom times, and we say:

“Oh, but wasn't that a rattler!"

And we do something in the way of reminiscesense.

The most painful part of the story is that it is true. Oh, so painfully true.

Will Visscher.
Nelson Bennett
Oil Painting by Horace Wolfe Duesbury (Californian 1851-1904), 1890
in possession of a grandson of Nelson Bennett

How the Far West GrowsSome of the Latest Booms on Puget Sound
The Skirmish Line of CivilizationFifty Years Ago and Now —Nelson Bennett and His Lively Town

By Frank Wilkeson, New York Times, March 2, 1890

Nelson Bennett

During the period of building the empire of the Mississippi Valley and of the highland Commonwealths that were originally founded on beds of golden gravel the locations of cities and towns was determined by chance. Many men now living can remember when Indiana town sites were slowly and laboriously chopped out of first-growth forests. The opening of farms fully occupied the agricultural settler for years. Pioneers lived hard in those days. Towns grew very slowly. They were merely shabby collections of log huts. The forest town was never in advance of the surrounding and supporting country. During this time, when the pioneers carried axes, there were no railroads, no steamboats, no telegraph lines, and a weekly, or maybe a monthly, mail was the only means of communication between the frontier settlements and the Atlantic seaboard. A more dreary and dispiriting place than an Indiana town of fifty years ago cannot be imagined. The people were narrow-minded and egotistical, as all woodsmen who live apart from the world are, it matters not at what period.
Frank Wilkeson has been our favorite early Northwest columnist since we discovered his role in Skagit and Whatcom counties while we conducted our original research in 1893. We owe this column to Patricia McAndrew, a Pennsylvania researcher who is writing a book on Wilkeson and his famous family. You can read a bio of Wilkeson and 11 more of his columns in various sections of the website.
When steamboats began to ply on Western rivers and railroads stretched their commerce-stimulating arms toward the Mississippi River, a heavy skirmish line of men emerged from the forests, and, rifle in hand, pushed westward to the great plains and to the pine-clad and snow-capped mountains whose rills and creeks flowed over golden gravel. On these rolling hills war-like Sioux were defeated in pitched battle. There, on the beautiful meadows that border the sluggish Platte, Cheyenne braves, peerless warriors, first met the hardy foresters from Indiana, Missouri, and Kentucky, and have ever remembered the meeting. Westward the skirmish line advanced, here driving Utes into mountain recesses, there, on the Smoky Hill River, whipping Pawnees and coward Kaws, and holding their own against the fierce attack of Southern Cheyennes, and yonder on the Arkansas and Cimarron, whipping Comanches, and in the north driving Chippewas to forest cover and the Sioux into the desert. Rifles cracked, long war arrows whizzed, Indian's war whoop, fiercely answered by Anglo-Saxon's battle cry, ever resounded along this long, waving, and bloody line, as it slowly advanced to the desert and toward the delightful highlands far beyond. At points along the navigable rivers trading posts of logs were built. The sites of these towns were chosen because there was a mud bank on which a steamboat could safely run its bow preparatory to unloading freight or because loaded wagons could be easily hauled from the river bank to the plains that stretched from the Missouri's muddy water to the Rocky Mountains. A spring of cool water, a grove of shade-casting trees, an eddy in which catfish lurked, a saloon in which good whisky was sold, or the presence of a handsome and agreeable woman were sufficient to cause the restless pioneers to linger and to build a town of huts, which was quickly transformed into a trading or forwarding point.
The early West and gold
One day, late in the "fifties," a man, long-haired and belted and lean, rode up out of the western horizon that bounded the plains where the short brown grass rustled in Autumn winds. He hitched his horse in front of a saloon that stood on the banks of the Missouri River and strode in to drink of fiery waters. He paid his score with gold dust, and then told the story of the finding of gold in Colorado's highlands. Up and down the Missouri River, up the eastern branches of that mighty stream the news spread that gold had been discovered in Colorado. The border was astir. The ox-train era on the plains set in. An army composed of the flower of the Western youth marched across the plains the following Spring. They had to be fed and clothed and supplied with tools and alcohol. Then the old river towns, the sites of which had been selected without thought of any possible development of the far West, were stimulated into life. Their landings were crowded with steamboats. Their warehouses were packed with goods. Long trains of wagons hauled by oxen moved slowly through the streets or stood in rank around the warehouses. Troops were marched into the Western desert, and forts were built on streams the names of which were unknown to Eastern people. Vice was rampant in these river towns. Drinking and gambling saloons were ever open, and the musical clinking of drinking glasses and the sharp rattle of faro and poker checks was heard throughout the night. Armed men, wild-eyed and soaked with alcohol, sat at gambling tables and staked their Summer's wages on the turn of a card. Rows, bloody and often fatal, were frequent. Gaunt, blonde giants, Pikes from Missouri these, strode through the dusty streets and made their short-handled black-snake whips crack as revolvers. A train of white-hooded wagons rolled heavily out of town. The weary oxen bore strongly into the yokes as they slowly ascended to the plains, and blear-eyed drunkards, who sat on drift logs to rest their alcoholic-soaked bodies, murmured, one to the other, "There goes the Fort Luma train," or, pointing with outstretched arm toward a low-lying dust cloud, in which patches of active red flannel could be seen, they would say, "Yonder goes the train for California Gulch." Heavily-loaded trains of wagons rolled out of the river towns; empty wagons rolled in, with bullet holes in their wagon boxes and their white hoods slit into canvas sieves, each slit marking the line of flight of a long, grooved war arrow, and the bottom of many of these wagon boxes were stained brown in irregular spots---Pikes' blood, that. Around the saloons and gambling tables and dance halls the town slowly grew as trade increased, and the line of agriculture advanced westward. Then came railroads and telegraph lines, and one day, usually directly after an atrocious murder had been committed at the gambling tables, the reputable citizens gathered in mass meeting and were called to order by a stern-tempered merchant or lawyer, and after a few savage "whereases" and a few resolutions that were indicative of bloodshedding, the red-handed gamblers and saloon keepers were expelled from town or hanged to limbs of trees, and the rule of the whisky men was thrown off forever. Then the town grew rapidly, agriculture pressed close to its borders, manufacturing industries were established; and not one town out of twenty so built stands on a commerce commanding or on a natural manufacturing site, though many of them are noted for the excellence of their manufactured products. They thrive to-day because transportation corporations discriminate in their favor, and because the high protective tariff shelters them from competition with other and wisely located cities. Torn from under the shelter of transportation corporations and the war tariff these unwisely located towns would languish, and other towns, built on commerce-commanding and manufacturing sites, would quickly surpass them in importance. The old towns were built by chance. Annually the people pay heavily to keep them in existence. They represent the survival of the unfittest, because their commercial and manufacturing life is unwisely prolonged by predatory tariff laws.
How Bennett helped build Fairhaven

View of Bellingham Baynorth from Fairhaven 1889Click on photo for larger version
How is a city built to-day? I have just returned from a visit to three new towns---at least the people who live in them hope to see them grow into prosperous towns---Fairhaven, Anacortes, and Grey's Harbor. I tell the story of Fairhaven to illustrate how a town is built to-day. Anacortes or Grey's Harbor would serve my purpose as well, but I desire to use the former town to show the readers of the Times the wildest real estate excitement I have ever seen, and I am not as familiar with Grey's Harbor as I am with the Bellingham Bay territory, so I use Fairhaven. Nelson Bennett, who founded Fairhaven when he was much younger than he now is, was engaged in transportation on the great plains---that is the way his admirers state the case, but really he was an ox or mule driver who, blacksnake whip in hand, walked in dust clouds from Missouri River steamboat landings to the Rocky Mountains. Bennett was plucky; he was energetic; he hated idleness. He is highly intelligent. He does not lie, and he has never been known to desert a friend. When he was young in the business of driving oxen across the plains he saw the enormous profits derived from the overland trade, and presently he was driving his own teams and selling his own goods.
This promotional map for Fairhaven was distributed all over the world in the early 1890s
Then, as railroads were extended into desert and highlands, and wagons were pushed from the trails, Bennett began to contract to build railroads. He built railroads in the Rocky Mountains, on the Great Plains, in the arid basin that is between the Rocky and Cascade Mountains, and in the latter range. He blasted the long tunnel through the Cascade Mountains, through which the Northern Pacific's cars roll when on their way to and from Puget Sound. Every contract he undertook he fulfilled and made money in blocks at the work. He became thoroughly familiar with the whole country west of the Missouri River. He knows its freight producing capacity. He knows the probable output of all the great mining camps. He built street car lines and established electric plants in towns in whose future he had confidence. His investments are scattered over half a continent, and every night he knows precisely how he stands financially with the world. He makes no pretense to knowledge. What he knows he knows as thoroughly as an Indian knows the physical configuration of the land in which he lives. If he knows nothing of the subject under discussion he says so, and listens attentively to other men who possess the sought-for knowledge. His knowledge of men is absolute. He has never selected a subordinate who did not fill the bill. As I have written, Nelson Bennett became wealthy. All Western men are gamblers, and, gambler-like, he keeps his money on the cards. He has no store of bonds. He resolutely refused to become a coupon clipper. He saw Spokane Falls, Butte, Seattle, Tacoma, Denver, and Salt Lake City grow from collections of log shanties to rich and prosperous cities, and he did not lose his head in any of the real estate excitements that raged so wildly at those towns. He knew that on the shores of Puget Sound there would surely rise a city that would be the commercial and manufacturing metropolis of the Pacific coast.
Fairhaven next project after the NP Stampede Pass tunnel
When the Cascade Tunnel was completed, Nelson Bennett thought his time had come. Familiar with the building of Tacoma and Seattle, and with the undeveloped resources of the country tributary to those important towns---resources which the inhabitants of those towns have resolutely refused to develop---he, after much consideration, concluded that they did not occupy commerce-commanding sites and that, if a manufacturing city could be established on a good harbor and close to the sea, it would speedily overshadow the towns that stand at the head of Puget Sound. This conclusion arrived at, he acted at once. His subordinates, snappy, brainy young men, were summoned. They came. Engineers from the plains and highlands, railroad builders from the forests, managers of stores, real estate experts, miners, and timber-land examiners. A council was held, and a decision was arrived at speedily. Then the men were dispatched, some into the highlands to search for coal and iron ore and veins of gold and silver ore, others with barometers strapped on their backs were sent to search for routes for a railroad, others to examine the forests to estimate the amount of marketable timber it contained, others to watch and measure the sweep of the tide through narrow passages adjacent to rival sites and to examine harbors. Presently gaunt men, toilworn and haggard and bowed under heavy burdens, emerged from the dense forests that stand on the western flanks of the Cascade Range. This man bore silver ore, that one iron ore, and in the third man's sack was coking coal. That group of worn, tired-eyed men were from the Skagit Pass, below them on a floating dock stood a group of leg-weary men, the pockets of whose tattered coats bulged with note books that were stuffed with information relative to the quality of the timber and the character of the soil of half a State. Out of forests, off of sweeping tide waters, out of mountain passes, from the plains east of the Cascade Mountains, from probable rival town sites, men hurried to Tacoma and to Nelson Bennett's office. The information which was to determine the site of a city was gathered. It was carefully studied and laboriously compared and weighed. Slowly the evidence was sifted. A map was made, and the resources of the country that had been examined was marked on it. This point was rejected because of its harbor, that because the tributary land was not arable when cleared, and another because it was too far from coal and iron deposits. Finally it was decided that the new city should be built on the shore of Bellingham Bay. When this conclusion was arrived at, to act followed instantly.
Early promotion of the bay towns from Fairhaven to Whatcom was based on trains, this one the BBBC in 1891
For the building of a town in 1889 land was bought for a very large sum of money, hundreds of men were employed to chop and burn the trees that stood on the town site, the town was laid out, a wharf was built, a steamboat was built to ply between Tacoma and Fairhaven, which is the ill-chosen name of the new town; a railroad was projected and engineers located it, and hundreds of men began to build the grade. Locomotives and cars and steel rails were bought and delivered at Fairhaven, and presently trains of loaded cars departed at short intervals from Fairhaven's wharf. I will here say that Nelson Bennett's railroad, the Fairhaven and Southern, is the best-equipped railroad in the land. All cars are equipped with air brakes and automatic couplings. No brakeman's hand will ever be smashed on this road. An electric light and power company was incorporated and began work at once. A water company was formed, and in April the water mains will be filled with water from a mountain lake. Forty men are driving gangways and turning rooms on two immense seams of coal that are twenty-five miles from town, preparatory to supplying the Pacific coast with cheap fuel. Other men work at the silver mines in the Skagit Pass. The States of Washington, Montana, California, and Idaho are filled with men who believe in the future of Washington, and who are gamblers. Hundreds of these men know Nelson Bennett and believe in him. These men purchased lots in Fairhaven. The money so received was expended in railroad building. Southward through an almost unbroken forest the railroad was built to the Skagit River. Southward from New-Westminster, in British Columbia, the northern extension of the Fairhaven and Southern was graded to Blaine, a town that stands directly south of the boundary line, and to-day the grade is being extended northward from Fairhaven to Blaine. The town was laid out and lots first offered for sale in May 1889. To-day there are 1,200 people there. The town resounds with blows struck in creative industry. Where a dense forest stood eight months ago are streets that are lined with houses. Men who carry tools swarm up and down the sidewalks. Saloons are open, and in almost every one of them are gambling tables, around which "suckers" swarm to stake their money. The scent of alcohol is heavy in the air. At short intervals the dull whistles of steamboats arriving or departing, or of sawmills, cause the air to tremble. Every few minutes the loud report of a giant cartridge causes the windows to rattle and announces that another cedar or fir stump has been blown to flinders.
Frank first visits booming Fairhaven
On my arrival in the town from the forest, where I had been for a time, I sat on a chair in a friend's office and, as we smoked and talked, I gazed through eyes that were snow-dazzled in the highlands at the streets and by passers, and my friend commented: "That chap," he said, as a squat German who had evidently been toying with beer when it was foamy went by, "that chap came here last May with $1,000 in his pocket. To-day he is worth $10,000. He invests his winnings in real estate." "That man," he said, as a typical gambler and saloon keeper passed, swaggering offensively and hitching his shoulders in imitation of a local prize fighter who walked beside him, "has made $15,000 in real estate speculations. He puts every dollar he earns or wins into town lots. He hungers for real estate." A group of well-dressed, clean-shaven, Eastern men passed, walking briskly. "A Saginaw outfit. Been buying Skagit River timber land. They arrived here from Cedro [another common spelling for Sedro in the early days] the other day and dropped $35,000 into corner lots," my comrade said in reply to my look of inquiry. Sons of Israel pass, chattering men with accented tongues and with bad cigars thrust into their mouths. There was a twirling of hands, palm uppermost, around shrugged shoulders, and they disappeared up the street. "Clothing dealers from 'Frisco, Chicago, Baltimore, and New-York, who are looking for a site for a clothing house. They have invested heavily in real estate." A tall, gaunt man, with white beard and water-laden eyes and trembling hands, walked with the infirm step of age past the open door, he looked in, smiled rather sorrowfully, and in broken voice bade my friend "good-morning," and walked slowly on. "New-York Yankee," my friend said. "He bought two Harris-street lots the other day for $2,000, and because he cannot now sell them for $3,000 he is frightened, and haunts real estate offices." Drunken men staggered by at long intervals, and occasionally one wanted to fight, and when he entered a saloon in which other drunken men were congregated he was promptly accommodated. "A man can get anything he longs for in Fairhaven," my friend murmured as a man with a fresh blackened eye hurried by the door. "We may be young," he said proudly, "but no visitor can truthfully say that he could not get what he asked for in our town," and he left me to learn the particulars of the "scrap."
Fairhaven was Tacoma's child vs. the rest of the sound
Has Fairhaven an assured future? I believe so, but there are other towns on Puget Sound, and new ones, too, that men of intelligence and large capital are supporting, and supporting with projected railroad and steamboat lines and large expenditure of money. There is Anacortes, on Fidalgo Island, that the Oregon Improvement Company is booming; there is Grey's Harbor, that the able men who own the stock of the Ontario Land Company support and thoroughly believe in, and there are many small towns, the advantages of which are daily displayed in the advertising columns of many newspapers that are published on the Sound. The bitter feeling that exists between the inhabitants of Tacoma and Seattle extends to the new towns that are being built at the mouth of the Sound. Seattle men will not invest at Fairhaven because it is, they say, the child of Tacoma, and no good can come out of Tacoma. No Tacoma man who has a particle of self-respect or the least public spirit would buy a lot at Anacortes. They savagely damn Anacortes, and say that it is Seattle's child, and necessarily a fraud, and that any man who buys a lot there should be declared incompetent to manage his affairs, and should properly be declared a lunatic and be confined in an asylum. Tacoma men further say that Seattle men are guileful and their schemes fraudulent, and they lift their voices against Elijah Smith [an early railroad boomer affiliated with both Northern Pacific and Union Pacific] and attribute certain highly discreditable remarks relative to the proper preparatory methods to be employed to entice tenderfeet to enter corporation real estate offices where their pockets would be emptied artistically to that honest gentleman; and Thomas F. Oakes would gaze through grief-stricken eyes at the word-picture Seattle men paint of him. The picture of that gentleman that was dangled before me at Seattle when I talked in a group of real estate men was ornamented with horns and a long flexible tail, and was wholly unlike the gentleman it was alleged to be a photograph of. Sufficient of town sites.
Frank's view of Bellingham Bay
As I write Bellingham Bay lies as a sheet of silvered glass before me. To the north, far beyond the line of dark-green firs that stand close to the shimmering water, and beyond the Frazer River, is a lofty range of snow-clad mountains with saw-toothed crest marked against a blue background. To the east more mountains, distant about sixty miles. To the west islands, fir-clad and rugged, and beyond them the white peaks of the Olympic range. Tugboats steam to and fro whistling shrilly. Sternwheel steamboats, crowded with passengers and heavily loaded with freight, their loud-sounding whistles blowing hoarsely, steam into the harbor and presently disappear, apparently steaming into solid land. Fish leap from the water at short intervals. Flocks of wild ducks float lightly on the calm water. On the exposed tide land thousands of crows walk to and fro voicing their discontent with life and greedily eating such food as they may discover. And gulls, beautiful, peaceful, low voiced and delightful, fairly swarm along the shore. They sit on the water close to the [Fairhaven] hotel and patiently wait for scraps from the table. They gather in flocks close to the streets and gaze through black eyes at the people who hurry past. Gray gulls, white gulls, blue gulls, large and small gulls, all graceful, all peaceful, hover along the water [illegible type] of the town and swarm around the houses that overhang the water.