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Owen Martinez
Owen Martinez

Hell On Wheels

CheyenneThere was profit to be made for the Union Pacific as well. As surveyors moved ahead of the line, they divided prospective towns into lots, which in turn were sold to emigrants carried west by the railroad. It was in the Union Pacific's best interest to imbue a town with permanence, to take "hell" and "wheels" out of the equation. On July 4, 1867, Grenville Dodge picked a location in Wyoming Territory that would become a division point for the Union Pacific. He named it Cheyenne and envisioned a monumental city someday taking form. By year's end it housed thousands, with a nearby military post for its protection. Soldiers were not allowed in town except to remove claim-jumpers from railroad property. Cheyenne was a grander enterprise than previous Hell on Wheels towns, but it still had a bit of rough and tumble in it. A daily column in the Cheyenne Leader reported on "Last Night's Shootings."

Hell on Wheels

Numerous "hell on wheels" towns proliferated along the Union Pacific construction route from Omaha, Nebraska, to Promontory Summit, Utah. The towns were famous for their rapid growth and infamous for their lawlessness. Many of the Union Pacific railroad workers were young Civil War veterans, many were Irish immigrants, and almost all were single. The close attachment to the railroads meant a constant stream of transient residents and a mixing of ethnic groups under the banner of the Pacific Railroad. The towns were often temporary and made up of tents and cheap board structures that easily could be dismantled and moved to the next location. The towns offered everything from dentistry to hardware supplies to saloons and prostitutes. Although many Hell on Wheels towns disappeared as the railroad moved west, several communities, such as Laramie, Wyoming, endured and thrived in later years as railroad repair facilities and branch line terminals.

I just inherited a uniform with 2nd Division hello wheels shoulder patch on it. It belonged to Jack Howard Cullen AKA Mad Jack. I think he was a Sargent, has 6 stripes on left sleeve and three on right in almost new condition. Thinking of selling it. 041b061a72


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