The years 1881-87 were the fastest growing period of railroad expansion in history. Richard Overton, in Burlington Route, explained; “At the end of 1880, somewhat over 93,000 miles of railway were in operation in the United States; by the end of 1887 the figure exceeded 149,000 miles.” Revenues in 1881, for C. B. & Q. were the highest in history making further expansion possible, and this was accelerated by competition.
In 1881, when the decision was made to construct the Denver extension, materials were already on hand. Overton continues, “On October 10 the rails reached Culbertson, and by the middle of November the track-layers, putting down a mile and a half per day, reached Benkelman. By 1881 the railroad was across the Colorado line, and grading extended some eighty miles into the state. Fortunately, the winter of 1881-82 was exceptionally mild. The rails from the east reached April 7, Fort Morgan on April 17.” It finally connected with Denver on May 24, 1882.
Many emigrants found work on railroad gangs. Merkel born Henry Kautz worked a scraper and team of horses on the grading party for $3.00/day, in 1881, to build this railroad to Wray, Colorado, per his son Joseph, he slept in his own wagon, even in winter, and often lacked coffee. Grading party was the first step to follow the final survey . “The work of the grading gang was done largely by plows, scrapers, supplemented by shovel and wheelbarrow. Long plank walks were built for runways, and then, like ants on an ant-hill, wheeled great loads of dirt and dumped them. When rocks were encountered, hand drills and black powder, or occasionally nitroglycerin, were used to dislodge the stones. James Ruben Griess tells us; ” After the grading party had completed the grade, the track layers’ camp resembled a city on wheels. Flat cars and frieght cars served as bunk house, kitchen, mess hall, and game room. Flat cars had been loaded with the exact number of rails and spikes required to lay the track. ..” ..”Peddlers and camp followers soon realized the advantage a general store in and around the temporary headquarters of the grading and track laying crews.
Stores housed in tents were soon supplying the laborer with all the necessities in life including tobacco, and in some cases feminine companionship. Division points were set up at Red Nebraska and the brand-new town of McCook, Nebraska. There was a graders strike in Omaha, March of 1882 in which B. & M N. called in guards to protect their property. Grover Cleveland was elected to White House in 1884. This was a year of crop failure in the Volga. A letter submitted to the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia Work Papers in 1970, by Emma Swabenland Haynes, and written by an an immigrant from Dietel, indicated for the year, 1884, corn sold for 13 cents per bushel, wheat, 45 cents/bushel, oats 15 cents/bushel and eggs 8 cents per dozen. A good horse brought up to $200.00, and a cow from $40.00 to $70.00. Most Germans from Russia were poor farmers at this point in 1885.
Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado were just now passing strict laws against driving cattle across borders on their annual drive from Texas to northern range. The Statue of Liberty was dedicated the following year in 1886. In Russia, there was an attempted assassination of Alexander III by Lenin’s brother in 1887. Benjamin Harrison was elected President in 1888.
In Nebraska. the great Blizzard of ’88, known as the “school children’s blizzard’, pushed by 60 mph Canadian winds from the Northwest struck. Thursday, January 12th just as children were leaving school for their homes. This blizzard, famous for its spring temperatures in the morning and the suddenness of its onslaught, prevailed for three days, killing many.
Eighteen-eighty nine was another year of crop failure in the Volga region. By 1890, the Russian Language had become compulsory in the German Volga village schools. Anti-Jewish Legislation was being enforced in Russia. (the Fiddler on the Roof scenario). There was also a great famine in Russia. In the Saratov district, on the Volga, more than half the inhabitants were destitute.
Eleven Million acres of Sioux land in South Dakota was thrown open to settlement The Oklahoma Territory was established and Idaho and Wyoming became States. The immigration receiving station at New York was moved from Castle Garden to Ellis Island in 1892. This was another year of crop failure in the Volga region. McCook, Nebraska began to see Russian-Germans from Frank, Russia, who came from Sutton, Nebraska, and who settled there to work, on the railroad.
The Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad (C. B. & Q.) often hired impoverished farmers for work in railroad shops during winter months until they could put their land on a full-time paying basis. The C. B. & Q. had many colonizing agents in the eastern United States, England. Scotland. Sweden and Germany to stimulate expansion and settlement. From 1870 to 1880 it sold over 2 million land-grants to some 20,000 people.
The Panic of 1893 presented hard times for most farmers and the working class. None-the-less, I marveled at the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Oklahoma was opened for settlement. Nicholas Romanov II, last Tsar of Russia. began a reign in 1894 that would last until 1917. The area of southwest Nebraska had a severe drought followed by grasshopper plagues which devastated the area two years in a row. Many fled this region of Nebraska. Overall, 1890-1896 were very hard times for immigrants. The price of cattle was very low by 1895 at $11.00-25.00. A horse went for $25-50. Hogs were 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 cents per pound. Eggs were 4 to 6 cents per dozen, butter from 10 to fifteen cents per pound. 1837 was just one more year of crop failure in the Volga region. The Social Democratic party was founded in Russia in 1898, representing a changing social climate in Russia. The mayor of Dietel, Russia was a Henry Kautz (c. 1900-06). The Boxer Rebellion against foreign influence was being fought in China. Russian forces occupied Manchuria.
From Hamburg, Germany, many emigrants sailed to a British port such as Gravcsend or Ha1 crossed the country by train, and then sailed overseas from Liverpool. If one were to expound colonists reasons for the massive migration from Russia at this time period it would be best to remember that were crop failures in 1884, 1889, 1892 and 1897 which encouraged further emigration, as well the resulting economic instability, educational oppression, repeal of the freedom from the draft, Russian uprisings against the Germans, and Czar Alexander III’s nationalistic slogan of “Russia for the Russians”, resulted in migrations to Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, United State Canada from 1872-1914. Other developments that encouraged emigration included the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5, the Revolution of 1905, the rumor of a World War in 1913, and the rising tide of Bolschevism.