Friday, May 28, 2010
Ceremonial silver spike missed getting hammered
Angelo Donghia is credited with the idea that “Assumption is the mother of the screw-up.”
Maybe so, but intoxication is often the other responsible parent.
And so it was, in the case of the missing silver spike intended to mark the completion of the Denver Pacific Railroad on June 24, 1870.
Most of Denver’s nearly 5,000 residents at the time, marked the occasion by lining the streets from 15th Street and Larimer to 19th Street and Wazee, helping to usher in the first Colorado railroad.
“Late in the fall of 1869 the road had been completed from Cheyenne to Evans, a distance of fifty-eight miles, and was being operated with three locomotives, two passenger cars, and a dozen freight cars,” wrote a reporter for Denver Republican in a story 25 years later in which Colorado Governor John Evans, the former president of the railroad, recalled the festivities.
“The Denver Pacific was formally accepted at June 24, 1870, though the first Locomotive, named the D.H. Moffat, arrived with the construction train on the 15th. The driving of the last spike was deferred until St. John’s Day, June 24, and made a great public event, all the Masonic bodies participating,” according to the Denver Republican.
“We had a great time that day,” said Evans. “The terminus of the road was about four blocks north of the present Union Station. We had built a neat, two-story brick station, which stands there today, and it was in front of this that the ceremonies took place. The miners from Georgetown sent down a big spike of pure silver, 6 inches in length, which was presented to me, on behalf of the people of Georgetown,” reported the Republican in 1895.
Or was it.
The mines of the Georgetown area had previously agreed to provide a spike made pure silver for the celebration, wrote Ken Jesson in his 1994 book “Bizarre Colorado: a Legacy of Unusual Events & People.”
“Billy Barton, proprietor of the Barton House in Georgetown, was given the responsibility of safely delivering the silver spike. When the day of the celebration approached, Barton and his friends left Georgetown for Denver. On their way through Golden, they stopped to quench their thirst. In the process, they got royally drunk. To keep their party alive, the needed to purchase more booze and pawned the spike. They then slept off their binge and the next day failed to rise in time to reach Denver for the ceremony,” Jesson wrote.
According to the story, Evans was able to retrieve the spike later and kept it as a souvenir.
The former governor admitted that the silver spike had never been driven that day, according to Denver Republican story 25 year later.
“Here the venerable ex-Governor produced the same silver spike from the drawer in his desk, explaining the spike that was driven that day was a common one of iron wrapped in paper, so that the crowd thought it was a sliver one.”
The ex-Governor fondly recalled that day when talking to the Republican’s reporter.
“I didn’t make much of a speech,” he said. “I just drove the last spike and we had lots of music and cheering. All the prominent men were there — Moffat, the Claytons, Eicholtz, and others whose names I can’t remember. It was a great day and it was the beginning of an era of prosperity which I had predicted, and which has been gloriously fulfilled.”
It was certainly a watershed for Denver.
“Till this first railroad connection with the outside world was consummated, it was a question of whether Denver would ever make a town, and had the road not been built, through the strenuous efforts of such men as Evans, Moffat, the Claytons, and others, the population would have left the place to the coyotes,” according to the Republican story."