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Numerous "hell on wheels" towns proliferated along the Union Pacific construction route from Omaha, Nebraska, to Promontory Summit, Utah.
Artist dramatization of Union Pacific construction crews guarding the rail line against hostile Plains Indians.
The Union Pacific's progress through the upper plains also put construction workers in the path of the Plains Indians. Despite their confrontations with several Native American nations, the Union Pacific found an ally in the Pawnees, a tribe friendly to the U.S. Mormon leaders, though supportive of the transcontinental railroad's advance through Utah, worried that the railroad would encroach on the character of their society. In May 1868, Young signed a $2,125,000 million contract with the Union Pacific to build the railroad line from Echo to the shores of the Great Salt Lake, a distance of 150 miles. In February 1865, Crocker and his subordinate James Strobridge employed 50 Chinese workers as an experiment to verify their capabilities of performing the arduous labor of laying tracks.
In July 1868, Secretary of State William Seward concluded the Treaty of Trade, Consuls, and Emigration with China. The Central Pacific released Chinese workers in April 1869 with the completion of the railroad at Promontory, Utah.
The remarkable story of greed, innovation and gritty determination to build a railroad connecting California to the East. The transcontinental railroad's construction touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright built a flying machine that made its first flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in 1903. John Wesley Powell's epic journey into the unknown Grand Canyon was filled with adventure as his team mapped the Colorado River for the first time.
Engineer James Eads tamed the mighty Mississippi, turning New Orleans into the second largest port in the nation. The boy behind the myth, who in just a few short years transformed himself from a skinny orphan to the most feared man in the West and an enduring icon.
The story of the polio crusade pays tribute to a time when Americans banded together to conquer a terrible disease. The Alaskan Highway stands today as one of the boldest homeland security initiatives ever undertaken.
The Pennsylvania Railroad Company accomplished an enormous engineering feat, but destroyed a great architectural monument. Located 11 miles east of the present-day town of Rawlins, Benton only existed for three months from July to September, 1868. Survey crews and construction workers battled Sioux, Arapahoe, and Cheyenne tribes as the railroad advanced through Native American homelands and hunting grounds.
Civil War veteran General Grenville Dodge led the Army's forces against the Indians following the Civil War.
Indeed, sermons of the day focused on three changes, both good and bad, coming with the railroad: increased immigration of Mormons to Utah, economic help in the territory, and a proliferation of undesirable people moving to the Kingdom.

Hart 1869 photograph of Central Pacific crews at Camp Victory, west of Promontory Summit, Utah.
In the fall of the same year, Young contracted with Central Pacific officials to build the railroad from Humboldt Wells, Nevada, to Ogden, Utah, a distance of 200 miles. Hart photograph of Chinese Central Pacific construction crews along the Humboldt Plains in Nevada.
Known as the Burlingame Treaty, named after consul Anson Burlingame, the treaty gave China favored nation status and was meant to increase trade between the U.S. Racial tensions increased in the West as the workers returned to California in search of employment.
Peopled by the ingenious entrepreneurs whose unscrupulous financing got the line laid, the brilliant engineers who charted the railroad's course and hurdled the geological obstacles in its way, the armies of workers who labored relentlessly on the enterprise, and the Native Americans whose lives were destroyed in its wake, The Transcontinental Railroad reveals both why the railroad was built and how it would shape the nation, while shedding light on the politics and culture of mid-19th century America. The tent city boasted a population of 3,000 people, and included 25 saloons, and five dance halls.
Many of the Union Pacific railroad workers were young Civil War veterans, many were Irish immigrants, and almost all were single.
Under his command, army troops battled Sioux, Arapahoe, and Cheyenne in Wyoming, Colorado, and western Nebraska. Dodge recruited Pawnees to serve as a protection force against the Sioux as the railroad made its way through the plains. To mitigate the unsavory elements of the railroad, Brigham Young established a School of the Prophets composed of church leaders to direct an economic plan of action.
Charles Crocker named the camp "Victory" after his crews laid 10 miles of track in one day, winning a bet with Union Pacific officials.
Hart served as official photographer of the Central Pacific Railroad from 1864 to 1869, documenting construction from Sacramento, California, to Promontory Summit, Utah. Within a few months, the Central Pacific's Chinese workforce began their assault on the Sierra Nevada range, the workers blasting through the most difficult terrain of the entire railroad line. In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act that barred future Chinese immigration and denied naturalization for those already in the U.S. Image courtesy of the Denver Public Library, Western History & Genealogy Digital Collections. The close attachment to the railroads meant a constant stream of transient residents and a mixing of ethnic groups under the banner of the Pacific Railroad. To show his support for the transcontinental railroad, Brigham Young purchased fives shares of stock of the Union Pacific Railroad valued at $1,000 per share.
During the 1850s and early 1860s, the state legislature and numerous local governments passed anti-Chinese laws and imposed taxes to discourage Chinese immigration and to deny civil rights to those working in the U.S. Receiving only $1 a day in salary and working 12 hour shifts six days a week, the Chinese lived in makeshift camps, sometimes in the tunnels they were blasting, and were often called upon to perform the most life-threatening construction duties. A corollary component of the treaty increased the number of Chinese immigrants and provided civil rights protection for Chinese living and working in the U.S. The Act stood in place for 60 years until President Franklin Roosevelt repealed it in 1943 during World War II.

Army forces raided and killed 150 Cheyenne Indian villagers, and the Cheyenne retribution at Julesburg, Colorado, a few weeks later were commonplace along the future route of the railroad. In a macabre demonstration, Thomas Durant recruited Pawnees to stage a mock raid on trains as entertainment for dignitaries riding as part of the Union Pacific's 100th meridian celebration in October 1866. But when the Central Pacific began laying tracks in 1865, white labor was scarce and unreliable. Immigration increased soon after the treaty was signed: 11,085 Chinese immigrants in 1868, and 14,994 Chinese immigrants in 1869. The majority of the remaining states agreed to a northern route beginning in Omaha, Nebraska and terminating in Sacramento, California.
The towns offered everything from dentistry to hardware supplies to saloons and prostitutes.
Dodge became chief engineer of the Union Pacific in 1865 and the railroad's encroachment on Native American land led to continued conflicts during the construction of the westward line. At the height of the transcontinental construction period, the Central Pacific employed over 12,000 Chinese workers, which was more than 90 percent of the company's workforce. Construction did not begin until the Civil War ended, but the tracks which had been built from both directions were joined on May 10, 1869.The Pacific Railway Act provided incentives for construction companies. Although many Hell on Wheels towns disappeared as the railroad moved west, several communities, such as Laramie, Wyoming, endured and thrived in later years as railroad repair facilities and branch line terminals. By the  and the eventual loss of Native American homelands as they were forced onto reservations.
For each mile of track laid, the railroad company received 20 sections of land and low interest loans. The railroad company could sell the land, build towns on it, or keep it for other purposes.The Union Pacific Railroad, the first to be built under this law, did not pass through Dakota Territory. However, a few years later, a similar law supported the building of the Northern Pacific Railroad (NPRR) which laid its track through the northern part of Dakota Territory.
The railroad gave towns like Fargo, Bismarck, and Dickinson an economic importance that helped them grow. Farmers had locations to ship their products to market, and residents could get on a train and be in Minneapolis or Billings in a few hours. With a transcontinental railroad line, it made sense for the territory to move the capital from Yankton to Bismarck in 1883.Many settlers in northern Dakota Territory preferred to buy railroad land rather than make a Homestead claim. Some of the NPRR land was near the tracks and the railroad towns where the farmers marketed their crops.

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