Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

A Golden Spike: The Golden Spike.
Sept. 5, 1976.


Engine 25, decorated with national flags, fruits, flowers and greenery, left the old Los Angeles River Station at 9 a.m. on the morning of September 5, 1876. A roster of guests on the excursion train reads like a "Who's Who of Los Angeles" for everyone of any consequence was on that trip. Reports in Los Angeles newspapers stated that 190 and 250 persons were at the banquet held later that evening so it is safe to say that most or all of them were on the train trip. Leading the Los Angeles contingent were: Mayor Prudent Beaudry, ex-Governor John G. Downey, General Phineas Banning, Don Benito Wilson, Col. Benjamin Peel, I.W. Hellman, ex-Sheriff James Burns, Judge Robert W. Widney and Joseph U. Crawford, engineer of the Los Angeles and Independence Railroad.

From the long list in the Los Angeles Star, other prominent Angelenos included Brig. Gen. Sanford, J.M. Griffith, H.T. Hazard, J.S. Slauson, Louis Wolfskill, Frank Sabitchi, Gen. George Stoneman, L.J. Rose, J. DeBarth Shorb, S.L. Foy, Solomon Lazard, Stephen M. White, Hon. U. Wells, the French Consul, M. Moteuhant, J.J. Warner, Harris Newmark, the Rev. Fathers Duran and Gallegher, the latter from San Francisco and Mooney from New York.

Also on this historic list: J.P. Carrillo, ex-Mayor J.H. Toberman, City Marshal A.W. Hyam, County Assessor Dr. Crawford, Antonio Coronel, Dr. J.J. Widney, the Rt. Rev. Francisco Mora.

A trio from the Central Pacific Railroad Benjamin Welch, master car builder; W.H. Potter, auditor and E.P. Gerald, traveling auditor.

Other parties came from San Diego to San Luis Obispo. Among the towns surrounding the Los Angeles area, representatives came from Downey, El Monte, Wilmington, San Joaquin, Soledad, Anaheim, Tustin and San Bernardino. Reporters from both Los Angeles and San Francisco papers were on hand as well as the Associated Press.

A stop was made by the train at San Fernando to take on Sen. Maclay, T.J. Caystile, Dr. Ellis and others not named in the accounts. Other stops were made at the Tunnel and Newhall. The town of Newhall would be founded a month later, Henry Mayo Newhall having deeded 426.76 acres adjoining the railroad tracks to the Western Development Co. The Southern Pacific began subdividing the town of Newhall on October 18, 1876.

The weather, according to old accounts, "was delightful, the sky vacant, and the temperature refreshing and grateful." It took the train one hour to reach the mouth of the tunnel and here the party entered a region of Stygian darkness. Water trickled down the sides of the tunnel "and every now and then a glimpse of pale and unearthly light caught from flickering candles of a tunnel fiend crowding up to a niche formed by the timbers." The train took 10½ minutes to go through the tunnel and it finally emerged into a region of white sage giving way to the same grass which covers the plains of Nevada. The train had left well-timbered land behind and "emerged into the forbidden regions beyond."

Lyon's Station, where the Atlantic and Pacific Telegraph huts were located where telegraphers waited to rush the great news over the wires, was reached shortly after leaving the tunnel. Then past the site of Newhall and finally into the Soledad region which was indeed well-named for it was described as a "wild, weird, and inhospitable region especially in that part of it which has been subjected to the railroad. The indications of sidetracks, material, cars and gangs of workmen advised that we were near the end of the track." Still another account says: "The spot where track layers occurred is a valley of sand in an amphitheatre of bare mountains. Here and there is a bush of greasewood and a collection of pancake-shaped cactus plants."

Upon arrival at Lang's Station, the train party was met by the entire working force of 5,000 persons, drawn up in battle array. There were 3,000 Chinese at rest parade with their long-handled shovels. Everyone was covered by a large basket hat. One description states that "Swarms of Chinamen in denim pants, jackets and basket hats and scores of teams and drivers formed a working display such as is seldom seen. The secret of rapid railroad building was apparent at a glance. The spot selected for the ceremony was on a broad and beautiful plain surrounded by undulating hills on one side and the rugged peaks and deep gorges of the San Fernando Mountains on the other ... By some strange oversight, no photographer was present and the pictures presented will live only in the memories of those whose good fortune it was to be present."

A young San Fernando man, John T. Wilson, was on the scene at Lang with a team of eight white horses. It was this team which pulled the final rails which were to unite the tracks. Wilson later married into the Lopez family and became one of San Fernando's best-known and loved pioneers.

The Los Angeles contingent arrived at Lang somewhat ahead of the San Francisco party and it was not until 1:00 o'clock that the latter put in an appearance. Their approach was the signal for a general and hearty cheering from the thousands of throats and handshaking and congratulations were indulged in as old acquaintances were recognized.

In the 50-person San Francisco contingent, notables, Southern Pacific officials and members of its board of supervisors were present. Leading the party were Charles Crocker, president of the Southern Pacific (already at Lang as before told), Leland Stanford, president of the Central Pacific, David D. Colton, Southern Pacific; Mayor A. J. Bryant; Darius O. Mills, financier. Others were: Supervisors F.F. Strother and C.B. Edwards; Col. Cunningham, pay director, U.S.A.; A.N. Towne, general superintendent, Southern Pacific; W.T. Coleman, M.H. DeYoung, J.P. Newmark, J.P. Vandenburg, superintendent, Atlantic & Pacific Telegraph; Rev. W.H. Platt, Gen. McDowell, Commander, Department of the Pacific.

The Los Angeles Star gave a graphic description of the ceremonies saying in part: "A space of 1,000 feet had been left on which the rails were to be laid and each party of workmen were stationed by their respective cars and there was a keen rivalry as to which side should lay the last rail. Col. Crocker made a sign, the locomotive whistled and the two groups set to work with a will. While it lasted, it was certainly the busiest sight we ever saw in the course of our life.

"In just 5½ minutes from the start as timed by Vice President Colton, the last rail lay on the ties, the party working northward from the Tunnel being victors by a few seconds."

(Another newspaper account says it took 8½ minutes.)

"After the cheering had subsided and the crowd induced to stand back a short distance, ex-Gov. Downey introduced Mr. L.W. Thatcher to Col. Crocker as the public-spirited jeweler who had manufactured the gold spike and silver hammer to be used in the ceremonies. Col. Crocker thanked him for his appropriate gift and said the company would treasure them in its archives as a souvenir of the great event. The spike is of solid San Gabriel gold the same size as ordinary railroad spikes and was inscribed:


"The hammer is of solid silver with a handle of orange wood.

"'Fall to,' Crocker yelled as he grasped the hammer in one hand and the spike in the other. Placing the spike in the prepared hole, with six raps, he drove it in."

A word here about the spike and hammer donor is not amiss. L.W. Thatcher, according to his display ads in the newspapers of that period, was the keeper of the City and Railroad time, having his shop at 67 Main St., Los Angeles. He was both an importer and dealer in diamonds and jewelry as well as a watchman. In the center of his ads is a picture of a train with "Elgin" prominently displayed.

Both the gold spike and a silver one are now at the California Historical Society's San Francisco headquarters. The whereabouts of the hammer, at this writing, is unknown.

Col. Crocker gave the first short speech of the day saying in part that the "wedding of Los Angeles and San Francisco is not a ceremony contracted by the bands of wedlock but by bands of steel." He prophesized that someday the area in which they stood would be filled with happy and prosperous people enjoying every facility for comfort, happiness and education. "Gentlemen, I am no public speaker but I can drive a spike!" he continued.

His words were followed by Rev. Platt of San Francisco who invoked a prayer.

Gen. D.D. Colton, vice president of the Southern Pacific, was the next speaker and gave the longest talk of any despite the fact that the wind had started up and black dust was blowing into faces and eyes and penetrating throats and lungs. He briefly sketched the career of Charles Crocker, of the work done on the Central Pacific and said that the rails were now within 100 miles of Fort Yuma and the Colorado River.

Both the mayors of Los Angeles and San Francisco gave brief words as did Leland Stanford. The closing words were given by Gen. Phineas Banning who said in part: "The completion of this line of road today gives Los Angeles a market for surplus production such as she never before possessed." He prophesized a great future for the Company thanks to the perseverance of the gentlemen connected with the Southern Pacific Railroad.

Banning's far-seeing thoughts were reiterated in articles appearing in the Los Angeles Daily Evening Express the next day which said the railroad had brought Southern California out of her railroad isolation and united her commercial capital, Los Angeles, with the greatest system of highways in the United States.

Another prophecy had been made by this paper on September 5 when speaking of the grapes and vineyards in the county, it stated: "It would develop possibilities of a county which is destined to rival some of the most famous nations of Europe in extent of her vine interests."

After Gen. Banning's speech everyone embarked or the trains for the trip to Los Angeles and the banquet to follow at Union Hall on Main Street, Union Hall being the once-time headquarters of the now-defunct Union Club. The Club had been founded in Los Angeles during the Civil War, no doubt to combat the secessionist leanings in the pueblo and throughout the southern part of this State.

The great news had already been relayed over the wires to San Francisco, Los Angeles and the East that the rails were now united and cheers of the thousands on the sandy plain of Soledad Canyon added to the great noise of the brass band playing. Pandemonium broke loose. No doubt the wild denizens of the Soledad retreated to their burrows, holes and caves until quiet again settled over their land.

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