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The New York Times, February 25, 1893, p. 3:|
SEATTLE, Washington, Feb. 24.—The completion of the Great Northern Railway to Puget Sound gives this Northwest coast more transcontinental railroads than California. The Southern Pacific and Central Pacific, both under one management, and the "Santa Fe Road" constitute the southerly lines, and the Union Pacific to Portland and the Northern Pacific, Canadian Pacific, and Great Northern to Puget Sound make up the northern system.
TO CENTRE ON PUGET SOUNDRAILROADS MAKING TERMINALS ON THE INLAND SEA.
THE TREMENDOUS RESOURCES OF WESTERN WASHINGTON—
TRAFFIC DESTINED FOR THE NORTHERN HIGHWAYS—
SEATTLE PROMISING COMMERCIAL SUPREMACY.
Ten years ago Portland was the objective point of the Union Pacific and Northern Pacific. The latter soon abandoned the Columbia River route to Portland for a line to Puget Sound. The Union Pacific is preparing to extend that line to Seattle this season. The Southern Pacific's Shasta line, from San Francisco to Portland, will be continued to Seattle within a year or two. That company is pursuing the same tactics at West Seattle as it has in San Francisco, the buying up of a whole peninsula, only in this case it gives control of a smaller part of the city, and not the key to the whole situation.
This indicates the centring of traffic of the entire Northwest upon the inland sea, which may well be likened to the Adriatic in point of commercial importance. The coastwise traffic of the Pacific is rapidly centring at this point. The Oregon Improvement Company, composed largely of New-York men and having large steamship interests, several years ago transferred its headquarters from Portland to Seattle. Col. S.W. Scott, one of the managers of the company, gives a review of the growth of its shipping business:
"Twelve years ago our company started with three ships; now we have twenty-seven. During some years we have added as many as five or six new vessels to our fleet. We are doing a profitable carrying business from Alaska to San Francisco, Southern California, and Mexican ports. This coastwise trade naturally centres in Puget Sound."
This company handles almost the entire coastwise traffic.
It is well known that this port of Seattle is on the short route to the Orient, being 700 miles nearer the Chinese and Japanese ports than San Francisco. It is not that distance shorter in a direct line, but it is by the courses ships take, as explained by an old Pacific Captain:
"'Frisco is several degrees further southward and eastward than Cape Flattery. The course of a ship to China and return to 'Frisco is almost a complete circle, bending suth'ard going and north'ard coming. to overcome the curvature of the earth and get the shorter miles of longitude. We call this 'sailing round the great circle.' You can see that by looking at a globe. A ship from Puget Sound, starting from off Cape Flattery, goes straight across to Yokohama, and comes back along the Japanese current."
This is an indication of the transpacific commerce of the future. The Canadian Pacific and the Northern Pacific, with their respective lines of fast steamships, are diverting trade to the Puget Sound ports. The Great Northern promises to put on the Pacific another line of still faster ships in a year or two.
On this latter railroad it is only 1,900 miles from the port of Everett, the Pacific tidewater terminus, to Duluth, at the head of the lakes. Then comes the water transit of 1,000 miles to Buffalo. This makes a total rail haul to the Atlantic seaboard of a little over 2,000 miles, as compared with over 3,300 miles on the Southern railroads. This makes New-York 1,000 miles nearer Yokohama than by the San Francisco routes, and over 1,000 miles nearer the Oriental ports than London.
These are the factors that are at work attracting commerce to the northern highway by the natural waterways and drainage system of the continent.
It is an undeniable fact that he Puget Sound region has seen dull times for two years. What prevented the absolute collapse after the preceding boom was the unshaken faith in the future evinced by its citizens and Eastern capitalists. It was the "outlook" that sustained values in real estate and made people "hold on" to whatever interests they had.
One of the most enthusiastic believers in this region's future greatness is President James J. Hill of the Great Northern. Not many seasons ago he put a line of fast freight steamships on the great lakes, from Buffalo to Duluth, in competition with the Vanderbilt and other established lines. He built out across the wild regions of the Northwest, without land grants or Government subsidies, between the two great lines of the Canadian Pacific and the Northern Pacific, and now, when his road is barely completed and before a car of freight has been forwarded over the Washington Division, he stands as the dominating factor in making a new scale of transcontinental rates.
Mr. Hill is an interesting man. He is a native of Canada, fifty-six years of age. His black hair is tinged with gray. He is short and thick set, and has a broad face and large head. He is as full of "go" as one of his locomotives. Upon coming to the United States, about the age of twenty-one, he was employed in the Upper Mississippi boat service. At the time of Riel's rebellion in Manitoba in the early seventies, he made an exploring expedition through that region to ascertain its commercial opportunites. Winnipeg was just rising, and a few pioneer farmers along the Red River had demonstrated the remarkable wheat-bearing qualities of that peculiar soil.
Mr. Hill engaged in the steamboat business on the Red River and followed it for several years while the river traffic was at its height. He then became convinced that on the Red River, as on the Mississippi, steamboats must be replaced by railroads to handle the trade and develop that new and growing country. He undertook railroading, and acted in a managing capacity on the St. Paul and Pacific, a nine-mile line from St. Paul to Minneapolis. He next organized a railroad company of his own, the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba, and in 1880 constructed the road to the Canadian line. The unparalled prosperity of his Manitoba road, owing to its development of the rich Red River Valley, formed the basis of the subsequent expansion of his local lines into a transcontinental system, from the head of the great lakes to Puget Sound.
Mr. Hill lately said to the writer:
"What induced me to build my road here is the wealth of natural resources that will make tonnage for transportation. If I were going to name the counties of the United States which are the richest in natural resources, I should say, Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, and King—all lying on Puget Sound—considering what is on the ground, in the soil, and under ground. Timber is the greatest immediate source of wealth. It will yield more tonnage per acre than grain would produce in a hundred years. Then there are the minerals, gold, silver, iron, lead, perhaps copper, and great coal fields. Timber and minerals of less value along the great lakes have built up a lake marine during the past ten years that is greater than the entire ocean shipping of the United States.
"The Great Northern is tapping a new region of the Puget Sound country, from Seattle to the British line. Three years ago there was scarcely a town along this northern shore line, that abounds in good harbors. When we began to push the Seattle and Montana Division northward along the coast, towns sprang up at every available point, as Fairhaven, Anacortes, Whatcom, and Everett. Now the mouths of all the rivers, valuable for catching and holding the logs floated down stream, are controlled by sawmill companies and land companies. We have built our road near the shore line so as to control this river traffic and logging trade. It seems strange that the people out here could overlook for so many years the value of this shore-line trade and wait for people from the East to come out and get control of it. With the facilities that we shall offer to all kinds of industries there is bound to be a great development from now on."
What Mr. Hill has accomplished is expressed by Mr. John G. Moore, stock broker of New-York:
"I have been over all the Pacific railroads. From almost every point of view the Great Northern is the most interesting. There is no question that Mr. Hill's road can transport freight cheaper than any other line, and that means it will be the greatest factor in transcontinental traffic." On this point Mr. Hill himself said:
"We shall begin by making a reduction of 37 per cent. on fir lumber and 10 per cent. on shingles. This will open up new markets in the East. Buffalo, for instance, as the extreme eastern lake port will become a point of distribution by rail and canal to New-York and other Atlantic seaboard cities. Buffalo has long been a distribution point for Michigan lumber, and consequently has the men and facilities for taking hold of this new product. All that is necessary is for Eastern lumber merchants and builders properly to be informed as to the superiority of this timber, which is the best in the world. There is the equally good market of the Mississippi Valley States still nearer at hand. The reason this region has been so slow in developing has been its remoteness from the markets of the world and its consequent inability to turn the natural resources to account. It is our business to help it do that."
One hears so much about these "natural resources" that a curiousity is aroused as to their real extent and variety. Col. P.P. Shelby of Seattle has figured out the timber resources of Washington in the illustration that if it were all sawed into lumber and loaded on cars the train would extend ten times around the equator. His figures for surface feet of lumber are 400,000,000,000. But these estimates are incomprehensible. They simply mean that these forests of fir and cedar are practically inexhaustible.
The most interesting feature of the lumber industry is the use to which cedar is put. A few years ago cedar logs were regarded as almost useless. Loggers would throw them out of the "booms" to float unused down into the Sound... Then it occurred to some ingenious fellow that these cedar logs could be used for shingles. The suggestion was doubtless given by the crude hand-split shingles made of the straight-grained cedar by the early settlers. On old buildings these were known to last for a remarkable period. On old Fort Stillacoom the cedar roofing has remained in perfect condition for forty-eight years. Six years ago the industry started by supplying to home trade 10,000,000 cedar shingles. It increased 50 per cent. the next year, leaped to 35,000.000 in 1889 and to 50,000,000 in 1890.
That was only the beginning, confined mostly to the home trade. Then the shingle manufacturers made a united effort to advertise and place their product throughout the East, and in 1891 disposed of 550,000,000, an 1,100 per cent. increase over the previous year. The red cedar commanded the market, and had become an article of continental commerce. Last year the sales amounted ot 1,883,000,000, over 300 per cent. increase. This year the output will be still larger, and it is estimated that $10,000,000 will be brought into the country from this one industry...
"This country would have been in a bad way during the past years," remarked Mr. W.A. MacDonald, "if it had not been for the shingles. It was the only product we could ship east, fir lumber being too heavy. That all has to go by water... We now have to ship around the Horn. We are looking to the Nicaraguan Canal to help us out. That will mean everything to this country, for all our products are cheap and bulky and won't stand much freight."
The coal industry of Washington is a matter of history. In 1854 the Cornwall Mining Company of San Francisco discovered and opened the first mine on the Pacific coast on Bellingham Bay, along the north shore of Puget Sound. From 1855 to 1871 the mine did an enormous business, supplying all the coal for steamships and for general use to all the towns and cities on the coast. A fire then broke out in the mine, and has been burning ever since, frequently bursting out through the slate-ribbed ground in volumes of steam and smoke. The British Columbia mines were found somewhat later. Then the coal veins of Seattle were discovered. For ten years the mines of this vicinity have been shipping coal to San Francisco, the present rate being over 1,000 tons a day, and a still larger home trade supplied. the Newcastle has the greatest depth—1,400 feet. The Franklin is down 1,200 feet and the Gilman 800 feet.
Mr. Wesley Wilson of the Seattle Coal and Iron Company, a recognized authority, said:
"There are sixteen coal mines in operation in this state, producing from 50 to 1,500 tons a day. The total product for 1892 was 1,000,000 tons. It sold at from $2 to $5 a ton, according to grade. Most of the coal mines of Washington have been discovered by accident. It is a hard country to prospect, owing to the thick covering of forest. Specimens of anthracite coal have been found, but not of a quality nor with sufficient indications of quantity to induce any development work. There are surface showings of petroleum which have not as yet been thoroughly tested. This State has better lignite than I ever saw anywhere else. The bitumen makes a coke equal to that of Connellsville, Penn. our coal and coking industry is in its infancy."
Much has been said about the iron mines of Washington, but not one of these has been developed, the only producing mine of this region being the Texada on Vancouver's Island, in British Columbia. It has supplied the Port Townshend blast furnaces, which have made pig iron for the car-wheel works at Edison.
In the Cascade mountains, east of Seattle, are large deposits of iron ore, notably the Guy claim and the Denny claim...
On the Skagit River, further north, are more recent iron discoveries. The O'Tool Mine is a remarkable ledge of iron ore, 20 to 140 feet through and 800 feet high, jutting out from the mountain side. Thirty million tons are in sight; assays run 59 per cent. metallic iron and .7 per cent. phosphorus. It is intended to work this mine by quarrying in the ledge and shipping on by boats down the river forty miles to Puget Sound. The O'Connor Mine, in this vicinity, shows a large body of similar grade. The Skagit ores will make foundry iron, but not steel.
An Eastern visitor may marvel at the backwardness in developing such and important industry, but he is reminded that the United States had 13,000,000 population before pig iron was produced in any quantity, while this region has not a million. Ten years ago England produced three times the pig iron of America, while in 1892 the United States made more than England.
A much-discussed question in the East is which is going to be the large city on Puget Sound. One need only make a tour of the Sound region and the question is settled. There is only one city that has grown up naturally unassisted by Eastern speculators and town-site promoters. It is Seattle, with a history of forty years. Its present population is 60,000. Of the many towns that have risen within the last ten years Tacoma is the only one that has attained any size or relative importance, and even that cannot be considered a rival of Seattle for the supremacy. The towns along the north shore are all very dull. Everett, where the Great Northern reaches tidewater, the seat of large manufactories, is the only place where there is any commercial activity...