By the 1850s the national excitement over railroads had reached Arkansas. There was an increasing clamor in the state for the building of rail systems, and several companies were formed. One of these was the Cairo and Fulton. It was chartered in Arkansas on February 9, 1853, and in Missouri on January 12, 1854. The plan was for it to cross the entire state diagonally from northeast to southwest roughly following the old Southwest Trail to Texas. (Map from the Library of Congress.)
Finances, controversies over routes and politics thwarted the expansion of the railroads. The Cairo and Fulton did not build a single mile of track until well after the Civil War despite the support of influential backers in the state. By 1860, Arkansas had only 38 miles of track in the entire state, and they were in the eastern part of the state only. The state was still dependent on dirt roads and steamboats.
Even with the end of the Civil War, it would be years before the completion of the Cairo and Fulton Railroad. In 1871, construction finally began in Missouri. On June 16, 1871, the Arkansas Gazette reported the survey line from Little Rock to Fulton. Time passed. On November 2, 1871, the Gazette reported the association of Thomas Allen and H. G. Marquand of the Iron Mountain with the Cairo and Fulton and the start of operations within a year. On January 7, 1873, Cairo and Fulton trains reached the White River. A month later the first train from St. Louis reached Little Rock. By August 12, 1873, the Gazette was eagerly reporting freight could be shipped to Emmet and a hundred track-layers were laying a mile of iron a day toward Fulton. By December 21, 1873, the Baring Cross Bridge over the Arkansas at Little Rock was finished. On December 22, the first through train from Little Rock to St. Louis departed On January 15, 1874, the Cairo and Fulton reached Texarkana. Its long-awaited route had been completed. On May 6, 1874, the railroad reorganized as the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway.
Born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, to a family with deep roots in New England, Tom Allen enjoyed success throughout his life. Trained as a lawyer, he had careers as a newspaper publisher, printing and railroad executive, banker and politician. After living in New York and Washington, DC, he went to St. Louis in 1842 and married Ann C. Russell, whose wealthy father William Russell had extensive real estate interests in Arkansas. Allen became an advocate for the railroads in the 1840s. It was he who would finally complete the Cairo and Fulton through Arkansas and head its corporate successor the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway. Allen was president of these two companies from Oct. 27, 1871, to January 22, 1881, when he sold his interest to railroad magnate Jay Gould. He was serving Missouri as a Democratic member of Congress at the time of his death in 1882. (Photo from the D. L. Phillips Collection, Arkansas History Commission.)
Born in Dutchess County, New York, Roswell Beebe went to New Orleans at the age of seventeen. He worked as a bookkeeper, started his own wood-hauling business and eventually made his money in real estate. He came to Little Rock in 1834 and stayed in the home of Chester Ashley. There he met and married Clarissa Elliott, a young cousin of Mrs. Ashley and a relative of Moses and Stephen F. Austin. Beebe acquired title to huge tracts of land in Pulaski, Lafayette and Hempstead counties. He was one of the founders of Fulton on the Red River. An early advocate of railroads in Arkansas, Beebe became the first president of the Cairo and Fulton Railroad on April 13, 1853. There was thought of extending this route to the Pacific via Santa Fe. Beebe remained president until shortly before his death in New York City in September 1856. Beebe, Arkansas, is named for him.
H. G. Marquand was the son and younger brother of silversmiths. Educated in New York and Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Marquand later helped to manage his elder brother's large real estate holdings and developed an interest in architecture. Eventually he went into banking and made his money financing the railroads built by the Vanderbilts and others. In 1868, he bought into the Cairo and Fulton Railroad and in 1874 into the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway where he served as vice-president from 1875 to 1881 and as president from March to October 1881. Though largely retired from business after 1881, he retained an interest in the Iron Mountain and the Missouri Pacific until his death. The renowned artist John Singer Sargent painted this portrait in London in 1897 at the behest of the Board of Trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It still hangs in the Met in New York today. (Photo from an 1897 portrait by John Singer Sargent, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.)
H. Gurdon Marquand had married Elizabeth Love Allen, a sister of Thomas Allen, in 1851. He and his wife used their great wealth to indulge their interests in art, architecture, society and philanthropy. They built a lavish home derived from a French Renaissance chateau in New York City. Marquand was a driving force behind the establishment of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and served as its treasurer and second president. He and his wife had magnificent collections of Van Dycks, Roman bronzes and Chinese porcelains. Marquand gave generously to Princeton University and Bellevue Hospital in New York. He also founded a free library in Little Rock, Arkansas, and endowed it. This portrait of Mrs. Marquand was painted by John Singer Sargent at Newport, Rhode Island, the Marquand summer home, in 1887. This commission began Sargent's career as a society portrait painter in the United States. The portrait is in The Art Museum at Princeton. (photo from an 1887 portrait by John Singer Sargent, The Art Museum, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey.)
James Loughborough was born near Shelbyville, Kentucky, on November 2, 1833. His father served as the land-agent for Illinois and Missouri. Loughborough gained experience in land work by leaving college at the age of nineteen and becoming a clerk in his father's office. During the Civil War, he joined the Confederate forces and served as a colonel on the staff of General Sterling Price. He was also a prisoner of war for a time. After the war, he practiced law in St. Louis and superintended the land sales for both the Cairo and Fulton and the Iron Mountain railway. His work took him to Little Rock, so he moved his family there. He served in the Arkansas legislature from 1874 to 1875 where his work on the state debt helped improve the financial credit of the state. He died suddenly on July 31, 1876, at the age of forty-three. The city of Hope, Arkansas, was named for his young daughter. (Photo from the D. L. Phillips Collection, Arkansas History Commission.)
Handwritten power of attorney dated May 6, 1874, giving James M. Loughborough complete power to buy, sell or contract for all the real estate owned by the Iron Mountain Railroad. When Loughborough died unexpectedly on July 31, 1876, the railroad and its owners had to sue his estate. (This document is in the Deed Records, Office of the Circuit Clerk, Nevada County Courthouse, Prescott, Arkansas.)
Gould was born in Delaware County, New York. He started his working career as a country-store clerk and surveyor's assistant. At the age of 21, he used $5,000 in savings to start speculating, especially in small railroads. He soon amassed a fortune. His attempt with James Fisk to corner the gold market in 1869 caused the Black Friday panic that ruined thousands of investors and raised a national howl of protest. He began buying into the western railroads in the 1870s and bought into the Iron Mountain in 1880. Gould served as its president from October 11, 1881, until his death in New York City on December 3, 1892. Gould's son George Jay Gould retained control of the Iron Mountain until March 9, 1915, when it went into receivership. The Iron Mountain merged with the Missouri Pacific on May 12, 1917. Gould and Paragould, Arkansas, are named for Jay Gould. (Photo ???.)
A native of Missouri, R. F. Elgin worked for the Cairo and Fulton Railroad in the summer of 1873. Elgin surveyed the town sites of Boughton, Prescott and Emmet. Prescott's survey was completed on August 8. Others involved in the survey were Dan Cunningham who became the first depot agent at Prescott and Jim Kearn, a railroad engineer. W. H. Prescott, the county surveyor, assisted them. Elgin spent the remainder of his life at Emmet serving as the first depot agent and as postmaster there. He died at Emmet on Christmas morning, 1937. (Photo ???.)
Railroads did bring a measure of prosperity. Towns on rail lines tended to thrive; those that were bypassed declined. As with every change in society, some developments were unexpected and unwelcome. They included crime, wrecks and fatalities. On September 23, 1881, the Arkansas Gazette reported a train robbery near Prescott. On September 27, the Gazette claimed the crime had been planned in Dallas and might have connections to the Jesse James gang. An attempt to wreck a train near Fulton on October 4 of that same year seems to have been an act of malicious mischief although accidents were common enough. Stories of horrible accidents killing or maiming members of train crews, passengers, and the general public were all too common in the newspapers of the day. This account of the terrible death of a young Prescott business man on New Year's Eve, 1890, appeared in the Gazette the next day . (Photo from ???.)