Railroad History of Washington Co, 1882
Page 1 of 5 -- Next Page
The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company was the first corporation which made any actual movement towards the construction of a railway line through the valley of the Monongahela River or any part of the territory of Washington County. That company having been incorporated by the Legislature of Maryland at their December session in the year 1826, applied to the General Assembly of Pennsylvania for authority to construct their road through this State to or towards a terminus on the Ohio. To this petition the Assembly responded Feb. 27,1828, by the passage of "An act to authorize the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad company to construct a railroad through Pennsylvania, in a direction from Baltimore to the Ohio River." The act recited in its preamble that "it is in accordance with that liberal course of policy which has ever been pursued by this Commonwealth to promote the facility of trade and intercourse between the citizens of Pennsylvania and the citizens of her sister States, and no doubt is entertained but the same motives of policy will govern the State of Maryland should an application at any time hereafter be made by the government of this State for leave to intersect the said railroad in the State of Maryland by the construction of a railroad by the State of Pennsylvania, or any company which may by law be incorporated for such purpose." The company was required to complete its road in Pennsylvania within fifteen years from the passage of the act, otherwise the act to be void and of no effect.
In 1829 the engineers of the company commenced the exploration of routes through Pennsylvania, and this was soon followed by preliminary surveys, extending through several years, a very thorough examination being made of a wide range of country, extending from the mouth of Dunkard Creek northward as far as the northern limits of Washington County. A report on the western part of the proposed route was made by the company's chief engineer, Jonathan Wright, Esq., of Washington County, in 1836, and, being favorable for the construction of the road, it awakened considerable interest and enthusiasm among the people of the Monongahela Valley. In some of the newspapers of November, 1835, is found a report of a "Great Railroad Meeting," held at Brownsville on the 3d of that month, "to promote the immediate construction of a railroad between Cumberland and Brownsville, and thence to Wheeling and Pittsburgh, at which it was announced that the chief engineer of the Baltimore and Ohio Company had made an examination of this section of country, and had made his report to the effect that a railroad could be constructed between the places mentioned "without the use of any inclined plane." The meeting resolved that it was expedient to hold a railroad convention at Brownsville on Thursday, the 25th of the same month, to be composed of delegates from the District of Columbia, and from towns, cities, and counties feeling an interest in the enterprise. No report of such a convention has been found, nor does it appear that any further public action was taken in the premises. It is evident that the Brownsville meeting of November 3d did not convene for the purpose of adopting or considering any definite plan of action, but merely to express in general terms, approval of the project of a railroad line from the Potomac to the Ohio by way of Brownsville and Washington County.
The surveys of the Baltimore and Ohio Company were continued in 1836 to 1838, and a route was decided on as to its principal points. Crossing the Monongahela River at Brownsville, the route was surveyed thence into the valley of Ten-Mile Creek, and up that valley to its head; from that point, crossing the dividing ridge to Templeton Run, it passed down the valleys of that stream and Wheeling Creek to the Ohio at Wheeling. Several other surveys were made, but this the one which was considered the most practicable, and which was adopted by Chief Engineer Knight. Leaving the proposed main line near the crossing of the Monongahela, a branch road was surveyed to Pittsburgh, in accordance with the requirement nf the ninth section of the act of Feb. 27,1828, viz.: "That, as a condition on which this act is granted, it shall be the duty of the said company, in case the railroad aforesaid, made in this Commonwealth in pursuance of this act, shall not terminate at the Ohio River in the vicinity of Pittsburgh, to construct a lateral railroad simultaneously, on the same principles and plans of the main railroad, and which shall connect the city of Pittsburgh with the main railroad."
The preparations of the Baltimore and Ohio Company for the construction of a railroad through Pennsylvania embraced not only the making of elaborate surveys, but also the making of contracts for the right of way, which they did with several hundred land-owners in Washington, Fayette, and Somerset Counties. But at that time the attention of the company was engrossed and their funds absorbed in the construction of their road between Baltimore and Cumberland, and as it had become apparent that they could not complete the Pennsylvania part of the road within the required time of fifteen years from the passage of the act of 1828, they asked an extension, which was granted by the General Assembly of Pennsylvania in a supplemental act approved June 20, 1839, by the provisions of which the time in which the company were required to finish their road or roads in Pennsylvania was extended four years, or to the 27th of February, 1847.
When the company had completed their road westward from Baltimore to Cumberland (in 1844) there remained less than three years in which to construct the part lying in Pennsylvania, under the requirement of the supplemental act of 1839. A further extension of time was necessary, and was applied for to the Pennsylvania Assembly; but in the mean time the Pennsylvania Railroad was being pushed westward to cross the Alleghenies and make Pittsburgh its western terminus, and now the business men, manufacturers, and people of influence in that city, who in 1828 and in 1839 were ready to do all in their power to secure a railroad, even if it were but a branch from a main line, from the seaboard to Wheeling, were now, in view of the prospective direct connection with Philadelphia by the main line of the Pennsylvania Railroad (in which many of them were also stockholders), entirely favorable to that road, and as wholly opposed to the support of a competing line commencing at the Maryland metropolis, and to have its western terminus not at Pittsburgh, but at the rival city of Wheeling.
Besides the opposition of the people of Pittsburgh, the Baltimore and Ohio Company had to encounter the determined hostility of the inhabitants of the country through which their railroad was to pass, This arose principally from the belief that the proposed railway would supersede and ruin the National road, and consequently ruin themselves and the country. This opposition, added to the combined influence of the city of Pittsburgh and of the Pennsylvania Railroad, proved too powerful for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company to overcome in the Assembly of this State; and so that company, after repeated ineffectual attempts to obtain a further extension of time for building their road through the State of Pennsylvania, found themselves compelled to abandon the enterprise and complete their road from Cumberland to Wheeling through the State of Virginia. Years afterwards, however, they accomplished one of the principal objects they then had in view (the extension of their line to the city of Pittsburgh) by leasing roads already built by companies holding charters from Pennsylvania.
Page 1 of 5 -- Next Page
Submit info or inquiry - share some facts or ask a question.
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.