On the precipice of the American Civil War, Utah’s delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives, William Henry Hooper, recognized that “A great band of Union throughout the family of man is a common interest.” Hooper petitioned Congress in his belief that “a Central Road would unite that interest as with a chain of iron, and would effectually hold together our Federal union with an imperishable identity of mutual interest.”
William Henry Hooper’s letter to Congress would take several months to reach Washington, D.C., as any westward travel beyond the Mississippi River required wagon, stagecoach, or horseback.
The United States Congress would, however, approve such an undertaking, and soon a National Central Railroad began to manifest from the worn hands of laborers to execute a vision of national unity – a feat that would propel American power and change the course of our history.
These hands belonged to men of differing national origins and creeds, who labored together under one banner, often fleeing significant hardship in pursuit of economic opportunity in the American West. Roughly 15,000 Chinese immigrants, 10,000 Irish immigrants, and 4,000 Latter-day Saints joined the national effort to complete the most remarkable and ambitious engineering project of the 19th century.
On May 10, 1869, the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads formally met at Promontory Summit, Utah, and the 17.6-carat golden spike officially linked the east and west coasts, marking a watershed moment for American trade, commerce, and population.
A six-month journey across the continent was reduced to one week. Within a decade of the railroad’s completion, Salt Lake City’s population more than doubled, further boosting Utah’s significance in the national economy.
Brigham Young recognized the enormous opportunities that global trade would bring to Utah and the country, and the abundant and yet untapped resources of iron, coal, stone, and timber.
In pursuit of a national railroad project, Brigham Young recognized that “mineral resources of California, and these mountains, will never be fully developed to the benefit of the people of the United States, without the construction of such a road, and upon its completion, the entire trade of China and the East Indies will pass through the heart of the Union; thereby giving our Citizens the almost entire controls of the Asiatic and Pacific trade.”
Indeed, the Transcontinental Railroad would transform the American economy in profound ways. This achievement revolutionized communications, global trade routes, and allowed for the movement of people across the country at an unprecedented scale.
On the sesquicentennial of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad at Promontory Summit, let us remember the sacrifice of those laborers who would not live to see to its conclusion, but whose contributions helped transform the nation and the world.
The 150th Anniversary of the Golden Spike is also a celebration of the limitless American imagination, spirit of ingenuity, and industry that made this incredible project a success.
Let us not forget the example these pioneers set for us as we go forward in a new era of challenges and opportunities.
This text was published by Sen. Romney in the Congressional Record.