PRR Survey Madelin Pass


C. Schumann after Frederick W. Egloffstein. “Madelin Pass.” From John Williams Gunnison & Edward Griffin Beckwith’s Explorations and Surveys for a Railroad Route From the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean…Report of Explorations for a Route…Near the 38th and 39th Parallels of North Latitude…. (Vol II. ) Washington: GPO., 1855. This view was printed in Vol. XI [1859] but intended for Vol. II. Uncolored engraving by Selmar Seibert, S.V. Hunt, or R. Hinshelwood. Panoramic view, ca. 5 x 29 1/2. With folds, as issued. Very good condition.


Citizens of St. Louis, led by Senator Thomas Hart Benton, were quite keen to have the railroad follow a route between the 38th and 39th parallels, as their city would be the natural eastern terminus. An expedition was sent out under Captain John W. Gunnison, assisted by Lt. Edward G. Beckwith and with artist Richard H. Kern, to survey this route through Kansas, Colorado, Nevada and Utah. Gunnison was familiar with the central Rockies as he had been with Howard Stansbury in the Great Salt Lake region in 1849. Leaving Westport Kansas in June 1853, the expedition went up the Arkansas River and using several passes arrived in the Great Basin in the autumn of that year. A devastating skirmish with Ute Indians there, on October 26th, led to the deaths of Gunnison, Kern and seven others. Beckwith took over and continued the expedition, exploring along the 41st parallel. Gunnison and Beckwith had concluded that a route between the 38th and 39th parallels was not realistic, but Beckwith recommend a route along the 41st as practical. Interestingly, though Beckwith’s suggestion had no impact on planning at the time, the ultimately built transcontinental railroad essentially followed Beckwith’s route.