Friday, March 26, 2010

The Making of Guns of Ponderosa -- Part IX

Lieutenant Amiel Whipple (died as a general in the Civil War) surveyed a railroad route across northern Arizona to California in 1853. This route was finally used by the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railway, which eventually became the largest railroad company in the United States. In my part of the country, the AT&SF came through in 1881. They received a tremendous amount of land from the government to finance their railroad -- every other section on both sides of the track for something like forty miles (I'm writing this off the top of my head).

Until the railroad came in, the town on the Little Colorado river that eventually became county seat of Navajo County was called Horsehead Crossing. The railroad renamed it Holbrook. The spur line that ran from Holbrook south to Snowflake and on into the White Mountains to terminate in McNary (Ponderosa) was built by the AR&SF. It first hauled beef, sheep, and wool to eastern markets, then massive amounts of rough-cut lumber from Southwest Forest Industries.

The railroad brought the people, true, but it also carried out the produce and brought back the money. Because of that spur line and the stands of mighty Ponderosa pine in the White Mountains, the town of Ponderosa flourished.

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