The Pacific Railroad Surveys of 1855

Back to Part 3 – Peter Skene Ogden

The Pacific Railroad sent out a series of exploration of the American West to find routes for the Transcontinental Railroad. These explorations happened between 1853 and 1855 and were considered at the time “the most important single contemporary source of knowledge on Western geography and history.” These books are still in publication and cover significant information on natural history, geology, zoology, botany paleontology and even ethnographic descriptions of the Native peoples encountered.

Towards the end of these surveys, one party made their way along the Williamson River and to what is now Collier Memorial State Park in Oregon. They would have passed by Kirkford as part of their mapping.

Pacific Railroad Surveys

History sign of the Pacific Railroad Surveys at Collier Memorial State Park

“A Pacific Railroad Survey Party searching for a practicable route for a railroad to connect the Sacramento Valley with the Columbia River passed near this point bound north on August 20, 1855. Lieutenant R. S. Williamson headed the party with 2nd Lieutenant Henry L. Abbot second in command. Among the officers in the Army Escort were Lieutenant Phil S. Sheridan, and Lieutenant George Crook. Dr. J.S. Newberry was the chief scientist with the survey party.”

I love this sign because of the plethora of information in it.

Lieutenant Robert Stockton Williamson – the Williamson River, Mount Williamson, and Williamson Mountain are all named after him. After this expedition he was assigned Chief Topographical Engineer for the Army of the Potomac, then returned to California after the American Civil War as the Chief Topographical Engineer of the Department of the Pacific. He then transferred to the Army Corps of Engineers and served as lighthouse engineer for the Pacific Coast.

Lieutenant Henry Larcom Abbot – Mount Abbot in the Sierra Nevadas in named for him. During the Civil war he was promoted multiple times for his service, finally achieving brevet brigadier general of the Regular Army by appointment of President Johnson. His post war work included serving on multiple boards that designed the United States Coastal Defense Systems, and as a consultant on the Panama Canal.

Lieutenant Phil S. Sheridan – “THE” Philip S. Sheridan of American Civil War fame. Sheridan Oregon is named after him as is Sheridan State Park on the Columbia River. He was stationed at Fort Yamhill before the Civil War.

Lieutenant George Crook – distinguished himself during the American Civil War and during the Indian Wars.

Dr. John Strong Newberry – Newberry National Volcanic Monument just south of Bend Oregon is named in his honor. Dr. Newberry was a prominent scientist, contributing over 200 titles in the fields of geology, paleontology, zoology, and botany.

Williamson River

Views of the Williamson River

Williamson River

Williamson River

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