After the United States Congress passed a bill authorizing the funding of a transcontinental telegraph line on June 30, 1860, my 2nd great-grand uncle Theodore W. Clarke was ready willing and able to help. He left his comfortable home in Oakland County, Michigan the year before and was working for the railroad in the Nebraska Territory until March 1860 when illness forced him to quit. Recovered by summer, he writes home to his sister Mollie on July 15th, 1860...
"as soon as I was able to work I went into the employ of the Western Union
Telegraph Company. We are engaged in the construction of the Pacific
Telegraph running from St. Louis to San Francisco in California. I have been
engaged in building a line from Springfield Mo. to Fort Smith in Arks [Arkansas]
and then came up to St. Joseph and went to work on this line. We're going along
the MO [Missouri] River as far as Omaha City and then across to Fort Kearney
which last place is as far as we shall get before cold weather sets in."
Most accounts of the construction of the telegraph line, have it being built after the Civil War. I was lucky enough to receive from my grandfather, Charles Newton Cone, a series of 43 letters that he had received from his Grandmother Mary Elizabeth "Mollie" Clarke, the sister Mollie to whom Theodore was writing.
Theodore W. Clarke was about 21 when he began his adventures in the Nebraska Territory. His sister Mollie was 9 years his junior. He writes of his travels, encounters with Indians and Buffalo and of visiting a Mormon family at Wood River, Nebraska. I expect the family in Michigan had not made the acquaintance of a Mormon family and Theodore writes home to assure Mom and Sister that they are much like themselves one-hundred and fiftyone years ago, May 19, 1861,
"When I wrote you last time it was in something of a hurry and I now proceed to
make amends for former brevity. I am out here now making preparation to extend
line further west. It has been raining here nearly all the time for two weeks and I
am laying over for a dry time at my friend Mr. Johnson's and I must say that it
seems almost like our own dear home of any place I ever have been in it is indeed
a happy family during my acquaintance with them of nearly a year, I have never
heard a harsh or unkind word spoken in the family. Mr. Johnson is a much valued
friend of mine and I consider him a very estimable man all though he and I don't
agree on politics. His daughter Mary is also a dear good friend of mine, perhaps
you might start an acquaintance with her by writing to her but if you do so be
very careful and not wound her feelings by using my name in connection with
hers as we are not engaged nor likely to be that I know of. She sends lots of love
to you and says she knows you are such a good sister by the letters you write to
me. Mr. J wants you to send along your article and he will be proud to give it a
place in his columns.
Did you see the article in the Echo signed Gingery that was a production of my
If you wish to write to Miss Mary direct to Mary J. Johnson, Wood River Center,
Buffalo County, Nebraska. Direct my mail to Omaha care H. M. Porter Tel Lind.
Big, lots of love to everybody and write soon to
For family members here is the relationship; Cecily daughter of Charles Cone,
son of Charles Cone, son of Helen Newton, daughter of Charles Newton and
Mary E. Clarke sister of Theodore W. Clarke.