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The Rail-Roads, History and Commerce of Chicago

Excerpt from The Rail-Roads, History and Commerce of Chicago The whole country between the two rivers is not only all susceptible of cultivation, but a large portion of it is too rich to grow wheat successfully. Corn, hemp and tobacco are the principal staples. Mr. McAlpine says it is one of the best timbered portions of the Mississippi Valley. At no place is the road more than four miles from fine groves, which, with the fertile lands and delightful climate, make it peculiarly inviting to settlers. The soil is a rich loam, resting on a substratum of clay. The prevailing rock is limestone. The road is all under contract, and is to be finished by two years from the first of May. Messrs. Duff & Larned are the contractors. They are gentlemen of large experience, and are in all respects able to fill their contracts by the time specified. Twenty-five miles at each end of the road is to be completed and in operation during the present season; and the entire line is to be completed by the first of July, 1865. Chicago has a large interest in the construction of this road. We shall have two lines connecting with it either at Hannibal or Quincy, and perhaps at both of these points. The Aurora and Central Military Tract, and the Peoria and Hannibal Railroads will both be finished by the tune the Hannibal and St. Joseph's road is in operation. We shall receive a large trade from Northern Missouri as soon as we have a direct railroad connection with that fertile region. Although this road lies at a considerable distance south of this city, the result will show that it may justly be regarded as a part of that great system which has its centre here. No better example can be given of the rapidity and energy with which great enterprises are pushed forward to completion at the West, than the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad. Its progress seems more like the wonders of magic than a plain matter of fact reality. It was commenced on the 10th of April, 1852, and opened to Joliet forty miles, on the 18th of October, in the same year; to Morris, sixty-one miles, Jan. 5th, 1853 to Ottawa, eighty-three miles, Feb. 14th; to La Salle, ninety-eight miles, March 10th; to Peru ninety-nine miles, March 21st; to Tiskilwa, one hundred and twenty-two miles, Sept. 12th; to Sheffield, one hundred and thirty-six miles, Oct. 12th; to Geneseo, one hundred and fifty-eight miles, Dec. 19th - all during the last year. It was completed and opened to Rock Island, one hundred and eighty-one miles, on the 22d of February, 1854; being the first continuous line of railroad to reach the Mississippi from Lake Michigan. The city of Alton was reached about the first of October last; but three different roads had to be passed over in order that the iron horse might renew his strength from the great artery of the Western Continent. Think of this, ye ancient worthies, who, some fifteen years ago, would have required as many years to build the same number of miles of railroad! One hundred miles of the line was built, stocked, and in running order in less than a year; and the whole distance to the Mississippi, one hundred and eighty-one miles, was finished, and the road was in operation, in twenty-two and a half months! This simple statement speaks volumes for the intelligence, energy and business capacity of the contractors, Messrs. Sheffield & Farnam. It is one of the proudest monuments they could possibly have to their memory; and it will confer blessings innumerable upon the people of this city and those whose fertile fields lie along the line of the road for all time to come. We almost envy them the satisfaction which the accomplishment of so great a work in so short a period must afford them. The location of the road is peculiarly favorable for business. For the first hundred miles, it follows down the valley of the Illinois and its tributaries, through the flourishing towns and cities of Joliet, Morris and Ottawa, drawing the trade of
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