Memories > Lewis Kingman


EDITOR'S NOTE: The following letter, handwritten and signed by Lewis Kingman, is dated Oct. 15, 1889.  It was an inquiry concerning a possible job opening.  At the time, Kingman was serving as city engineer in Topeka, Kan.  The letter was found in personal items belonging to Kingman's son and was handed down to Richard Kingman, who is Lewis Kingman's grandson and who lives in Topeka.  Due to the difficulty of deciphering Kingman's handwriting, some of the names mentioned may be misspelled here.

Chas.  C. Black
Room 203, Essex Block
Kansas City, Mo.

Dear Sir:

   Your letter of yesterday received.
   I am quite pleasantly situated here.  At the same time, I am occupying a place that I did not much covet at the start, and should the right kind of an offer be made and the company making it have the necessary financial backing and assurance of stability, I might be glad to accept.
   I am too old to want to work for glory.  I wish some of the shackles and don't want to take any chances of working without the shackles or glory either.
   I do not know anything at all about your company.  You have quite a large open country to operate in, and I see no reason why a line as far as the Pecos Valley should not pay.
   I am familiar with the southern part of Colorado, the greater part of New Mexico and Arizona, and have some knowledge of Texas from my own observation.
   My engineering experience is as follows: Am about 45 years old, graduated at an academy at Brockton, Plymouth County, Mass, studied two years in J. Herbert Shedd's office, No. 42 Court St., Boston, commencing Sept. 15,1862.
Left Boston in 1864 - spent one season at Wilkes-Barre, Pa., with Martin Coryell, in 1865.
   I was employed by Hamilton E. Zowle, 48 Cedar St., New York City, and at Oil City, Pa. Continued in the oil regions until March 1868.  Came to St. Louis, was employed by Mr. Coggens three months, then by Thos.  McKissoch for three years, a part of this time under Mr. S.E. Buchanan, now superintendent of Arkansas road at Helena.
   Mr. McKissoch died two or more years ago.  At the time I was employed by him, he was chief engineer of the Atlantic and Pacific.
James May, now chief engineer of the Northern Pacific, was his chief clerk, and James Dean, now chief engineer of the Frisco, was a division engineer on an adjoining division to me.
   I returned a final estimate of 43 miles of what is now the Frisco road in Missouri had a division at Dixon, Humboldt and Marshfield in 1871.
   Jacob Blickensderfer succeeded Mr. McKissoch as chief engineer, and he sent me to Albuquerque, N.M., on a survey across the continent.  At that time I made a survey from Fort Bascom on Red River of New Mexico to Albuquerque, and scouted over the Texas border nearly to Adobe Walls.
   We finished these surveys on Nov. 9, 1871, and was in Las Vegas, N.M., on that day and heard of the Chicago fire.
   On my way to St. Louis I was offered a place under W.R. Morley, a nephew of J.W. Morley of the Iron Mountain Road, recently deceased.  Morley was at that time operating under General Parmer of the Kansas Pacific and the Maxwell Land Grant Co of New Mexico.
   I located a line from Kit Carson on the K.R. Road to Cimarron, N.M., near Springer, N.M., and finished in the fall of 1872.
   Railroad work nearly ceased for a few years at this time, and I obtained government contracts in New Mexico, during the years 1873-1874 and �75, running out over 2,500 miles of lines over some of the most broken parts of the territory.
   The years 1878, 1879 I was employed locating and examining the country from Las Vegas and Santa Fe to Tucson; Ariz., taking in Camp Apache, Prescott, the Gila and nearly all the accessible country in southern Arizona and southwest New Mexico.
   In December 1879 1 was ordered by Mr. Robinson to look at the line of the Atlantic and Pacific road in Arizona from the Little Colorado River to the Colorado River, which I did, then went down to Eherinburg, then to Fort Yuma, then back to Tucson, Silver City and Santa Fe.  Six months with a pack outfit, all for the Santa Fe - a few shackles and a little glory.
   In February 1880 1 was ordered down to Albuquerque to commence the location of the Atlantic and Pacific from there to the Colorado River.  I continued this work until l882, and the whole line from Albuquerque to the Colorado River was witness to my skill as a locating engineer.
   There are places that did not lack for boldness, such as Canyon Diablo and Johnson's Canyon.  The first, 222 feet deep, crossed by an iron bridge 541 feet long.  The great part of the way was located with due regard to economy and ease of operation.
   I was appointed chief engineer of the Atlantic and Pacific Jan. 1, 1882.  My appointment was made through the Santa Fe influence Mr. Thos.  Nickerson, Mr. B. Strong and A.A. Robinson.
   I held this place until the track was within about 45 miles of the Colorado River, when I resigned to accept the position of the Mexican Central Road, Chihuahua Division.  I took that place on the first day of April 1883, and located, graded, tracked and completed that railway from La Cruze, the 315th mile, to the 767th mile at Calera, and connected with the south end on the eighth day of March 1884, building complete 452 miles in 11 months and eight days.
   In 26 days of the month of February, 1884 we laid 73 miles.  I kept my graders out of the way and managed material at the front and kept things going smoothly.  I had a caboose car and kept it at the front most of the time while this push lasted.
  The Mexican Central was completed none too soon, for the company was hard pressed for money to pay off after the road was completed.
  I was retired, and came back to my old friend the Santa Fe in July 1884 and remained with that company until Jan. 1, 1887.
  In 1886, Mr. Robinson made me his assistant, in charge of all construction work in Kansas Indian Territory and Texas.  In 1887 I had charge of and built complete 845 miles in the places named, mostly in Kansas.  I had charge of the line to Purcell in the I Territory and to Panhandle in Texas.
  In a run for Purcell, under pressure from Mr. Strong, I had the Canadian River Bridge built in four days from the time the track reached there, and I reached Purcell on time.
  In Kansas during 1887-88, we were often hard-pushed to reach points to earn the bonds, and we were never left, although on one or two occasions we had to resort to unusual efforts to do so.
  The Atlantic and Pacific Railroad paid me $305 per month while chief engineer.  Mr. Nickerson and D.B. Robinson paid me $500 per month in gold and my expenses while traveling. - 1887 and 1888 - The Santa Fe Co. paid me $375 per month and my expenses when traveling.
  I have given you an outline of my experience and operations.  I do not know what to say until I know more of your plans, finances and prospects.

      Yours truly,       
       Lewis Kingman
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