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Railroad History of Washington Co, 1882

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The Hempfield Railroad Company was incorporated under an act (passed May 16, 1850) conferring authority "to locate and construct a railroad with one or more tracks from Greensburg, in Westmoreland County, to some point or place at or near West Newton; in said county, or to some point or place not more than three miles from West Newton, by the nearest and best route; and the said company shall have authority to extend said road or a branch thereof by the nearest and best route to some point or place on the western boundary line of Donegal township, in Washington County, and to make and erect such warehouses, tollhouses, carriages, cars, and all other works and appendages necessary for the convenience of said company in the use of said road." The company was required by the terms of the act to commence the construction of the road within three years, and to complete it within ten years from the passage of the act under penally of forfeiture of charter. The commissioners appointed by the act to open the subscription-books of the company were S. L. Carpenter, Henry Welty, H. T. Brady, H. D. Foster, J. M. Burrell, John C. Plumer, David Fullwood, Joseph H. Kuhns, John Morrison, A. T. King, William Jack, and H. C. Marchand.

An act passed April 12,1851, authorized the company to construct branches with single or double tracks from any point in Washington or Allegheny County to such point as they deemed expedient, with such rights and franchises as were conferred in the act of May 16, 1850; and it also authorized the company to borrow money an amount not exceeding the capital stock, and to issue therefor bonds hearing interest not exceeding six per cent. An act passed July 24, 1852, authorized the boroughs of Washington and Monongahela City to subscribe for stock of the Hempfield Railroad Company not exceeding $50,000 each, to borrow money for the purpose, and provide for its payment by tax. The commissioners of Washington County were also authorized by the same act to subscribe for four thousand shares (at $50 per share) on behalf of the county, and borrow money and issue bonds for the amount, redeemable in not less than ten years, and payable in not exceeding twenty-five years, at a rate of interest not exceeding six per cent, payable semi-annually. The borough of Greensburg, Westmoreland Co., was authorized by act of May 6, 1852, to subscribe to the company's stock not exceeding five hundred shares.

Application was made by the company to the Legislature of Virginia for incorporation in that State for the purpose of extending the proposed road through its territory from the west line of Washington County, Pa., to the Ohio River. Accordingly, on the 14th of March, 1851, an act was passed incorporating the company in Virginia.

The company organized under the Pennsylvania act in January, 1851, T. M. T. McKennan being its first president. The eminent engineer, Jonathan Knight, of Washington County, was employed to examine the country with a view to selection of the most practicable route. Five different routes were surveyed, and the one selected (from Washington to Wheeling) upon which the road was afterwards built. Charles Ellet, Jr., was appointed chief engineer of the company, Mr. Knight being unable at the time to accept the position.

The resources of the company, as reported Nov. 17, 1851, were: Subscription by Ohio County, Va., $300,000; individual subscriptions in same county, $154,000; subscription by Washington County, $200,000; individual subscriptions in Washington County, $100,000; total, $754,000. The Washington Review of March 25, 1852, mentioned that "the Directors of the Hempfield Railroad Company met in this borough on Tuesday last and agreed to put the heavy portion of the road immediately under contract;" and on the 13th of May following it was announced in the same paper that "the western end of the road has been sold to contractors."

At a meeting of stockholders held at Washington, on Monday, Nov. 19, 1855, James C. Clarke, of Westmoreland County, C. M. Reed, A. W. Acheson, and William McKennan, of Washington, and Thomas Sweeney, J. C. Acheson, and Sobieski Brady, of Wheeling, were elected directors of the company, and the report of George Smith, chief engineer, was submitted, showing as follows: The first nine miles east of Wheeling was ready for laying the rails; the first rail on the line had been laid on the 23d of the preceding month. In the grading of the road-bed a maximum grade of sixty-six feet to the mile had been preserved. A locomotive had been purchased of the Norristown Railroad Company, and was in use in the construction of the road. The cost of work done up to the 1st of November, 1855, was as follows: Total expended on graduation, masonry, bridges, and railway supplies between Wheeling and Greensburg, $1,247,200. This amount included fencing, land damages, etc., but not engineers' salaries and expenses, which amounted to $58,600. The estimated cost of road between Wheeling and Washington, including stations and equipment, was placed at $1,434,000, of which the amount then expended was $983,500 Finally the chief engineer gave it as his opinion that the road between Wheeling and Washington would be completed and in running order within six months from the date of his report. The prediction, however, was not verified; the road was not completed ready for business until the spring of 1857, when freight trains commenced running between Washington and Wheeling. The first passenger trains ran over the entire length of the road between these termini on the 30th of September in the same year.

A considerable amount of work had been done on the eastern end of the route (between Washington and Greensburg), but this was abandoned or suspended about 1854. In 1855 the company issued bonds and mortgaged the road. In 1861 proceedings were commenced in foreclosure, and the road placed in charge of trustees. In the spring of 1871 the Supreme Court decreed the sale of the road, and in June of that year it was sold with all the franchises of the company to John King, Jr., of Baltimore (vice-president of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad), for $131,000. The purchaser (or the persons whom he represented) held bonds of the road to the amount of about $30,000, many of which had been purchased below fifteen per cent. of their face. The trustees of the road, Joseph H. Seal, William Workman, and William O. Hughart, transferred the entire property to the purchaser, John King, Jr., and he to the Wheeling, Pittsburgh and Baltimore Railroad Company, which was the name and style adopted under the reorganization, though the road was then and still is under the control of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company.

It was the intention of the new management to make the road between Wheeling and Washington a part of a new through line from the Ohio to Baltimore and Washington, and under this plan to connect it with the Pittsburgh Division of the Baltimore and Ohio Road, instead of extending it from Washington to Greensburg as had been projected by the original company, and on which route a large amount had been done. This made it necessary to locate a new route for the road east of Washington, and the change of route required a new act of incorporation, which was obtained, and under it the "Ohio and Baltimore Short Line Railway Company" was organized in February, 1872. A new route for the eastern extension was adopted, leaving the original route (from Washington to Greensburg) at a point about four miles east of Washington; thence crossing the Monongahela at Belle Vernon, Fayette Co. (instead of at Monongahela City as by the original route of the Hempfield Road); thence to the Youghiogheny, crossing that stream at Dawson Station, where the connection was to be made with the Pittsburgh and Connellsville (or Pittsburgh Division of the Baltimore and Ohio) Road. Work on the extension was commenced by the company in 1878, and prosecuted with vigor until the commencement of the great financial panic of that year, when it was suspended. The suspension continued for so great a length of time that it was thought best to permit the charter to lapse and reorganize under the same title. Accordingly, new articles of association were executed May 6, 1881, by the following-named corporators: William H. Smith, Andrew H. Happer, William Workman, William S. Bryson, John M. Stockdale, A. Todd Baird, Henry M. Dougan, and William C. King, all of Washington, Pa., and James B. Washington, of Allegheny, Pa. The capital stock is $1,000,000; company to continue five hundred years. The object of the new "Ohio and Baltimore Short Line Railway Company" is nearly the same as that of the earlier company of the same name, except that the crossing of the Monongahela is proposed to be made at Greenfield, and instead of connecting with the Pittsburgh Division of the Baltimore and Ohio Road at Dawson's Station, the connection is to be made further up the line, at a point between Dawson and Connellsville. Immediately after the organization of the new company in 1881, operations were commenced on the extension, and were pushed with energy during the season, and for some time in the spring of 1882; but as they have since been suspended, the early completion of the road does not seem to be yet assured.

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Last modified: 31-Dec-2002

Source document: Crumrine, Boyd, 1838-1916. "History of Washington County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men" edited by Boyd Crumrine ; Illustrated. Philadelphia: L.H. Everts and Co., 1882.