The following appeared in The Indiana Progress (20 April, 1882, p. 1):
"Red and white residents of the Indian Territory are said to be alike incensed against Jay Gould for securing all the railroads in that region and when he obtained control of the San Francisco line the Cherokees openly vowed revenge. During March two brakemen were shot at their posts, and their murderers have not been captured. It now develops that on Saturday night, near Vinita, Engineer Emery ran into a pile of railroad ties, and was instantly saluted by several shots from a party in ambush. Six-Killer, chief of the Indian light horse, was on board the train with a squad of his men, and they exchanged shots with the wreckers."
This interests me for a number of reasons. I have strong evidence that by early 1882 my great grandfather, John Joseph Kinney (also known as "Captain Jack") had been hired by the Missouri Pacific as a detective. Vinita was on his "beat," so it would not surprise me at all if he was a member of Sixkiller's squad, though I have no further evidence as to his presence.
The larger question, which I have never fully understood, is exactly why there was so much antagonism against the railroads. In another thread (Christie and the cannon) it was discovered that Ft. Scott, Kansas, was reactivated after the Civil War precisely to protect the railroads as they pushed through Kansas into the IT. But many towns, counties, and even states would beg the railroads to approach them. Often, the difference between a given town prospering or failing was precisely because the railroad went through their location. Why such violent opposition?
John, I partially addressed this very question in my forthcoming book. Here's what I said:
"Another major post war era grievance of the Chickasaw was the ˜iron horse.' Since the removal, the tribes had successfully resisted all corporate intrusion, but their active participation in the war as Confederates left them vulnerable to Washington demands. As a result, a right of way for a railroad was a provision of the Treaty of 1866 signed by all of the Five Tribes. The tribes resented the high handed manner in which the Peace Commissioners demanded this concession and it became the focus of much passive-aggressive resistance.
The first railroad to build through the Territory was the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railroad, commonly called the KATY. It received construction rights in April, 1870, and finished its charter by entering Texas in January, 1873. Although the tribe's belligerence to railroads had softened and many were filled with expectancy regarding the supposed benefits of the innovation, the Indian experience with the new mode of transportation was anything but pleasant.
The first bit of unpleasantness came as the Katy pushed into the Choctaw Nation. As the roadbed stretched across, line camps for workers hop-scotched across the land; always staying just ahead of the end of the track. The camps, supposedly the mobile home of the workers, were in reality home to a cadre of prostitutes, whiskey peddlers, card sharps, and others intent on gathering in the hard earned coins of the laborers. Nor, were these predators averse to fleecing any curious Choctaw who happened on the scene. Soon complaints of Indians losing sizeable sums and in some cases, their lives, began filtering in to the Indian Agent. But, the complaints fell on deaf ears because the railroad officials convinced the Federal government they could not maintain a work crew unless it had diversion.
To make matters worse, the railroad refused to fence the right of way, causing the death of untold numbers of livestock. And, to make sure the Choctaw did not mistake the railroad's intention to remain above regulation, the company refused to pay for the right of way used. Then the KATY board obtained exemption from the payment of Choctaw taxes. The final insult to tribal sovereignty was the purchase of raw materials such as wood, coal, and rock from individuals, in blatant disregard of a tribal law insisting such products were not in private ownership. Smarting from these insults, many of the tribe became staunch foes to accommodation of enterprises with corporate interests.
Things did not get any better as the KATY cut the southeast corner of the Chickasaw Nation. The Chickasaw gained the same grudges against the white corporation. Governor Cyrus Harris, an old friend of the Waite family, and a leading Progressive, complained the line's high differential between rates charged for freight and passengers within the territory was extortion by a monopoly. Washington, because it was in their interest to do so, ignored the complaint.
Soon other railroads were clamoring for grants to build right of ways. But, the Indian Nations resisted the new demands. The opposition was partly because the KATY experience convinced them there was very little benefit for them in the construction of railroads, especially since the railroad was interested only in its own profits. This position was reinforced when the railroads demanded ownership of land along the right of way to pay for the expense of building the track. Additional hostility came when the Indians realized the iron rails were bringing a lot of unwanted whites into the territory. And, for once, the slow wheels of the Washington bureaucracy aided the Indians, for they told the railroads they were powerless to grant lands or new charters unless approved by the tribes. The tribes, of course, just wanted to be purged of the intruding white presence, thus, no approvals were given."
The white experience with railroads was not much better. The railroads charged excessive rates particularly on freight and livestock"”rates that chewed up profits of the little man.
The infamous ˜railroad war' of Oklahoma Territory was caused by the railroads and private town companies competing over which location would become a depot town. It got so bad there the train was setting up depots miles from the located town to force the town to move and the towns started putting obstructions on the railroad, including one building. They also took potshots at the railroad.
Jay Gould, from what I can remember, was even less caring about his rate fixing and dictatorial ways than most moguls.
Very good response and an excellent report!
May I second the comments of Mr. Old West? I, for one, am totally impressed that an historian with the intelligence and knowledge of Mike Tower posts to this board. I do hope that Mike will let us know when his forthcoming book is available, and supply us with the details as to how it may be purchased.
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