Article: Alpena Meets With the Governor - 1886

Railroad to Alpena by July [1886] Next

Editors Note: Alpena was trying to attract the railroad which was being built for logging purposes north near Harrisville. The railroad was owned by Russell Alger, the sitting Governor of Michigan. 135 years later, this type of discussion, with bonuses paid by residents for Alger's financial gain, would be prohibited.

Last week, George L. Maltz, A. W. Comstock, Albert Pack and F. W. Fletcher had a consultation with Governor Alger in regard to extending the Alger railroad to this city. The Governor expressed himself as follows:

He had contracts for building extensions to his road for various lumber firms, which had guaranteed t give the railroad several hundred million feet of logs to carry from the lumber woods to various points south of this county. These extensions are to be built in Iosco county. Having thus considerable railroad building to do,k the Governor concluded that it would be a good time to extend the road to Alpena city. He said that the citizens of 
Alpena, some two years ago, had subscribed over thirty thousand dollars towards a projected narrow gauge railroad, and he could not see why the same amount of bonus could bot be raised now to have a broad gauge extended to Alpena, the present year. After further conversation on the railroad matter, the Governor stated that he would extend the railroad from Black River to Alpena, this year, for a bonus of $20,000, and the right of way up State street to the Fletcher House.

He submitted figures showing that the proposed road would cost $6,000 per mile making the cost of extending the railroad from Black River to Alpena about $150,000.

He did not propose to lay out that much money unless the citizens of Alprena would do something to aid the enterprise. Other towns along the road already built had contributed bonuses, and can see no reason why Alpena should not. During six months of the year he would have to compete with the steamers in carrying passengers. 

The Governor was shown notes to the amount of $12,000 already pledged as a bonus if the railroad was extended to help Alpena. The question of running the railroad by Hubbard Lake was also discussed, but the governor did not appear favorably disposed toward running the proposed railroad to Alpena by the Hubbard Lake region, as it would cost considerably more money than by the Black River route, and more especially is he could not get pledges from the pine owners to have their longs transported by rail from Hubbard Lake to the Alpena city mills – the claim being made that the logs could be brought to the city sawmills by water much cheaper.

Also if a broad gauge railroad was extended from the Michigan Central to the Hubbard Lake region, that the mill owners of the Saginaw Valley would be apt to get the Hubbard Lake logs and convey them to the Saginaw River mills to be manufactured into lumber and the Saginaw men would pay as much for the logs at Hubbard Lake as they would to bring them to Alpena city.

With that view view we do not agree. We believe the mills can manufacture lumber as cheap as the Saginaw, provided salt blocks were attached to the mills, the same as there are to the Saginaw Mills, and Alpena city is certainly far ahead of the Saginaw River as a convenient shipping easier to access. Expensive docs are not needed. It is distant only about 3 miles from the route of the vessels going from Buffalo to Chicago; it is nearer Detroit by water than Bay City is, and has natural advantages far superior to any place on the Saginaw River. At this place is one of the best harbors on the lakes, and back of the city are hundreds of thousands of acres of first-class farming lands, as yet sparsely settled. You therefore need not fear any opposition from Bay City, East Saginaw or Saginaw city. She is destined to eclipse either of these three places named.

The one thing needed at present is a railroad. If not by Hubbard Lake, which route is most desired, then by some other route. When one railroad is extended to this city, it will not be long before other railroads are extended also. The country back of the city is bound to be opened up, and before many years pass we are of the opinion that the products of the country must eventually travel to the nearest shipping point, and Alpena city, with her magnificent harbor, free from shoals, easy access, and affording safe shelter and anchorage must, in the time soon to come, received the products of the region back of her for a radius of over 50 miles. The city is the natural outlet for the enormous products that will yet be produced on the lands north, west, southward of here, and those products, bringing, logs, cedar, bark, etc., must and will come to Alpena city the future, for shipment. Alpena is only in her infancy yet these back regions can only be thoroughly opened up and developed by railroads. The one now should be encouraged. It will, we believe, create many new industries; it will cause increased business; it furnishes a ready means of access will give employment to hundreds of men.

Already over $16,000 have been pledged towards the road, and if the arrangements now being made do not fail, the railroad will be extended to Alpena by July next.

Reprinted from the Alpena Weekly Argus  newspaper, February 17, 1886.