Adirondack Journal — The Transcontinental Railroad's Adirondack Connections


Like many marriages, the connection of the Union Pacific Railroad to the Central Pacific Railroad was commemorated with golden rings. To celebrate the completion of the Nation's first transcontinental railroad in May 1869, San Francisco financier David Hewes made five gold rings out of a gold nugget that had been attached to the "Golden Spike" a commemorative piece used in the dedication ceremony.

The "Golden Spike" or "The Last Spike" symbolized the end of the railroad's construction and the beginning of coast-to-coast rail service in the United States. Along with President Ulysses S. Grant and Secretary of State William H. Seward, Rev. Dr. John Todd, who conducted the invocation at the May 10, 1869 dedication ceremony, received this historic token. Dr. Todd was a friend of railroad tycoon Thomas Durant (father of Great Camp builder William West Durant) and a lover of the Adirondacks. Dr. Todd wrote Long Lake in 1845, a book about his adventures in the North Country wilderness from 1841-1844.

A new AMC series called "Hell on Wheels" depicts the energy, excitement and danger associated with the building of the transcontinental railroad and features a character based on Thomas Durant. Durant Senior was the Vice President of the Union Pacific Railroad before he and his family set their entrepreneurial sights on the Adirondacks. The ring owned by Dr. Todd is now in the Adirondack Museum collection.