Tuesday, March 2, 2010

"The Inauguration of a Great Enterprise"

This account of the groundbreaking for the Greenport and Hudson Railroad, which devolved into what is now known as the "causeway," appeared in The Evening Register on May 5, 1874.

Breaking Ground on the Greenport and Hudson Railroad--The long contemplated railroad of the New York Coral and Shell Marble Company, from their quarry in Greenport to their docks in this city, was inaugurated yesterday afternoon, in presence of a large concourse of people, including representatives of the road from New York, several prominent citizens of this city and Greenport, and an army of workmen. The spot selected for breaking ground was a knoll a short distance south-west of the residence of Samuel T. B. Heermance, Esq., and on the line of the adjoining farm of Gen. James A. Farrell. The spot was selected by the engineer as the most feasible for commencing an accurate grade of the road, as it overlooks the entire line, and by excavating some twenty feet there will be no obstruction from the river to the base of the quarry.

At 1 o'clock, the invited spectators being previously on the ground, about one hundred sturdy workmen, with wheel-barrows, shovels, and picks, were drawn up in line, and Colonel Mapes, Engineer of the Company, approached Senator Benjamin Ray and handing him the same spade, we believe, which inaugurated the Northern Pacific railroad, invited him to break the first ground for this enterprise, which, although of less general interest than the great Pacific artery, he regarded of much more local importance. The Senator was momentarily surprised, but he soon recovered his self-possession, and taking the spade with one of the most graceful bows, approached the stake indicating the point of attack, placed the blade firmly in the soil, rested his right foot upon the cap, and turning to the audience, said:--

Gentlemen:-- This honor is as unexpected as it is gratifying. I have long contended that these hills conceal a wealth which cannot be surpassed by the gold mines of California, and that all that was required to develop their value was such an enterprise as you inaugurate to-day. The opening of this road will be of vast benefit in placing in the market the stone for which there is a wide-spread demand, but no community will be more benefitted by this traffic than our own city of Hudson. I hail this occasion as an auspicious omen of the future, and thus [driving his spade to the hilt and throwing out its burden of earth] I christen, gentlemen, the "Greenport and Hudson Railroad." May it receive the encouragement and be crowned with the success it is worthy of.

The spade was next handed to M. P. Williams, editor of the Register, who, upon placing it firmly in the sod, said:--

Officers of the New York Coral and Shell Marble Company:-- When invited here I little expected speech making, but my friend, the Senator, has set an example which is worthy of following, and it is with no ordinary feelings of pleasure that I perform the duty you have assigned me, in assisting to break ground for the "Greenport and Hudson Railroad"--an enterprise which I regard as one of the most important to Hudson that has ever been inaugurated. As the Senator has suggested, I believe these rugged hills contain a mine of wealth, which it is no exaggeration to say is not inferior to the gold mines of Nevada, the silver mines of Superior, or even the coal fields of Pennsylvania. You, gentlemen of the New York Coral and Shell Marble Company, have undertaken the arduous task of developing this hidden wealth, and distributing it through the various channels of commerce. A large share of the benefits accruing from this traffic will flow into the city of Hudson. The masses may not realize this fact now, but I feel certain the result will justify the assertion. God speed your enterprise--and may you more than realize your highest anticipations in the success that will reward you.

F. W. Jones, President of the Company, then took the spade, and following the movements of the others, said:--

Gentlemen:--On behalf of the Company I represent, I heartily thank you for your expressions of encouragement and good will. The work we have undertaken, as you have well remarked, is an arduous one, but we commence it with a full appreciation of its magnitude, and believe we do not over-estimate the advantages that will flow from it. I thank you, gentlemen, for your presence here to-day, and I give you assurance that you shall not be disappointed in our ability to carry out the enterprise we have commenced, or in our efforts to retain the confidence and support of the citizens of Hudson.

Gen. James A. Farrell was next called upon, and taking the spade in his hand, like one accustomed to holding such an instrument, said:

Gentlemen:--This is an occasion I have anticipated almost from my boyhood. Nearly twenty years ago I stood upon this elevation with the lamented Joseph D. Monell, when, in surveying the broad and beautiful expanse before him, and casting his eye from the river below to the rocky hills above, he remarked: "there is more wealth in that hill of rocks, than in any gold mine in California, and you will live to see the day when a railroad will pass through this tract, bearing its freight of wealth from the mountain to the river, to be distributed to all quarters." I have not forgotten those remarks of my venerable friend, and today they seem almost like the words of prophecy. Greenport wishes success to your enterprise, and you may rely on my assistance to any extent required.

Samuel T. B. Heermance, Esq., was next called upon, and seizing the spade in his brawny hand, like one innured to work, and in earnest in whatever he undertakes, he said:

Gentlemen:-- Spades appear to be "trumps" to-day, and as I have been invited, I cannot refuse to "take a hand." The officers of the New York Coral and Shell Marble Company, I think, will bear out my assertion that I have aided them all in my power to further their enterprise. I have not only parted with my land that they might run their railroad track through it, but I sacrifice my quiet repose to the resounding of the steam whistle and the rattling of railroad cars through these solitudes. But as I have been guaranteed a "free pass" over the road, I am reconciled to all the threatened discomfitures.

Col. Mapes, the Engineer, then stepped to the front, and thrusting the spade into the ground with a determined air, he said:

Gentlemen:-- It would not seem becoming in me to extoll my own work or to speak in flattering terms of the prospects of our Company. I can only say to you now, that I have promised to construct a perfect, substantial railroad from the quarry to the river, within a specified time. I shall make my word good in this respect, and leave my work to commend itself after it is completed.

When Col. Mapes closed, one hundred shovels struck the ground, and work on the Greenport and Hudson Railroad commenced in good earnest. The gang is under charge of Mr. R. V. Berrian, Assistant Foreman, who has large experience in this class of work, and will carry it through with the utmost dispatch.

After the ceremonies of inauguration had closed, the invited guests and officers of the Company repaired to the residence of General Farrell, where they were handsomely entertained; and from thence to the residence of Mr. Samuel T. B. Heermance, where a bountiful repast was served, presided over by Mrs. Heermance with queenly grace.

We believe the importance of the enterprise thus inaugurated has not been over-estimated by the gentlemen who made the impromptu speeches on the occasion, and that the completion of the road will verify their highest anticipations. The distance from the quarry to the dock, by the route selected, is two and three-quarter miles, and the elevation three hundred and sixteen feet. The track will strike the city line 150 feet north of the "Bay Road" bridge, crossing the bay on piles, running 200 feet south of the Clapp & Jones works, and cross the track of the Hudson River Railroad at grade.

The contractors, Messrs. Sanford & Co., of Jersey City, guarantee to have the Road constructed, fully equipped with locomotives and cars, and in perfect running order by the 15th of July. They will require a large force to accomplish this, and desire it distinctly understood that they shall give preference to Hudson laborers. They are generously disposed to leave all the money required for labor in the community where the work is constructed, which will certainly be appreciated by our citizens, and by none more than laborers who are seeking employment. It is but reasonable to believe that the Company will receive the hearty encouragement and best wishes of our whole community for the success of their enterprise.

Samuel T. B. Heermance lived in the stone house on Route 9 that stands not far from where the remnant of the abandoned conveyor crosses Route 9. The house is now owned by Holcim. If I'm correct in believing that the conveyor followed the path of the railroad, one can imagine how "discomfited" the Heermances must have been by the new railroad.

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