The marker has been removed, hopefully temporarily and I didn’t get photos of it but the text was:
This commemorative monument, erected at the Last Spike site by the Southern Pacific Railroad Company in 1919, was relocated for more conspicuous display by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1980. The twenty-two years preceeding the coming of the railroad (1847-1869) is remembered for the most spectacular migrations in American history, with 86,000 emigrants leaving their homes in foreign countries and the United States. The majority walked beside their loaded wagons; about 6,000 lost their lives and are buried along the trails. It is these pioneers we are pledged to commemorate.
The Transcontinental Railroad opened a progressive era, with speed and ease of transportation from East to West, and signaled the end of the slow, torturous travel.
“Promontory is nether city nor solitude, neither camp nor settlement. It is bivouac without comfort, it is delay without rest. It is sun that scorches, and alkali dust that blinds. It is vile whiskey, vile cigars, petty gambling, and stale newspapers at twenty-give cents apiece. It would drive a morbid mind to suicide. It is thirty tents upon the Great Sahara, sans trees, sans water, sans comfort, sans everything.” – New York Tribune, Albert Richardson
An unlikely and inconvenient meeting place, Promontory, Utah Territory, eventually developed into a town. The handful of temporary establishments in 1869 gave way to more permanent services in the 1870s. This tour will guide you around the remnants of Promontory.
The next stop is the Golden Spike Hotel! Walk to the Union Pacific Siding and follow the tracks to the northwest (toward the entrance road).
Golden Spike Hotel – Stop 2
The Brown family owned and operated the Golden Spike Hotel in the 1870s and 1880s. They offered travelers a chance to dine at the last spike.
In the early 1900s the hotel became the Houghton General Store. The store sold a variety of goods including tobacco, socks, cured meat, and even wine. The building also served as a depos, post office, and boarding house.
After a roof collapse in the 1950s, the building was finally demolished in 1965. Investigate the brush in front of you to see the remaining foundation of the building. The photograph in the center was taken from the south and includes the hotel and box elder tree that still grows at the site.
Cinders and Ashes – Stop 3
To your immediate right on the north side of the tracks is a dumping area for cinders. Locomotives burned coal or wood to heat their and the fireboxes needed to be emptied of cinders regularly.
If you look a little farther north you’ll see the site of a cemetery. Look for a depression area in the soil. At least 5 graves were reported to be in this location but have vanished since Promontory was abandoned in 1942. The graves were maintained by the Whitaker family for many years.
Last Spike Site – Stop 4
This is the spot! East meets West! The photograph to the left shows the first few temporary structures of Promontory in 1869. Tents served as restaurants, saloons, and even hotels. The next stop is the Round House for the Union Pacific. Follow the road to the next sign.
Union Pacific Round House – Stop 5
Like any vehicle, locomotives need maintenance to function reliability. A round house was constructed here to perform work on locomotives. While nothing exists above ground, archaeologist discovered the brick foundations and drain pipes are just a few inches under your feet.
The 1880s photograph below was taken from the south looking north. Using the round house in the center, where would you expect to find more building foundations?
Floyd/Larson Ranch – Stop 6
Della Owens, daughter of Hans Ethelbert Larson, was born in Brigham City in 1909 and lived in Promontory. Her family raised horses, cattle, and dry-farmed in the valley.
Looking straight ahead you’ll see what is left of the ranch she grew up on, a few metal posts fencing off a cistern for the ranch house. Della was 7 years old in 1916 when the obelisk was installed at the last spike site. She would have seen it every day on her way to school.
As you walk to the last stop you’ll be retracing the steps that Della took every morning on her way to school.
School House – Stop 7
Promontory had enough children to necessitate a school being built shortly after the town was founded. The site in front of you was home to that school. After the area was designated a national monument in 1965 all existing structures were moved or demolished. The school house is currently on private property and visible from the entrance road.
Promontory in Box Elder County, Utah, United States is an area of high ground 32 miles west of Brigham City, Utah and 66 miles northwest of Salt Lake City. Rising to an elevation of 4,902 feet above sea level, it lies to the north of the Promontory Mountains and the Great Salt Lake. It is notable as the location of Promontory Summit, where the First Transcontinental Railroad in the United States was officially completed on May 10, 1869.
By the summer of 1868, the Central Pacific had completed the first rail route through the Sierra Nevada mountains, and was now moving down towards the Interior Plains and the Union Pacific’s line. More than 4,000 workers, of whom two thirds were Chinese, had lain more than 100 miles of track at altitudes above 7,000 feet. In May 1869, the railheads of the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific railroads finally met at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory. A specially-chosen Chinese and Irish crew had taken only 12 hours to lay the final 10 miles of track in time for the ceremony.
“The last rail is laid. The spike is driven. The Pacific Railroad is completed.” Here at Promontory, Utah at 12:47 p.m. on May 10, 1869 the driving of a golden spike completed the first transcontinental railroad climax of a dramatic railroad-building race between the Union Pacific building from the east and the Central Pacific building from the west. This event symbolized attainment of a long sought goal – a direct transportation route to the Pacific Ocean and the China trade and it achieved the great political objective of binding together by iron bonds the extremities of continental United States. A rail link from ocean to ocean.”
In 1954, the National Park Service assumed ownership of the aging monument, which had been damaged by years of weathering and vandalism. The interior had also been severely damaged by ground water that had wicked up into the monument through its buried base. Early restoration attempts unintentionally contributed to the damage by using materials that did now allow for evaporation of water trapped inside the monument. Based on state of the art technology, the National Park Service began a new repair process in 2001.
Removing the concrete monument from the ground to prevent further moisture absorption and allowing it to dry.
Transferring the monument to its present location.
Replacing old stucco, paint, and patches with a new breathable masonry coating.
Protecting the monument through regularly scheduled maintenance.
Significance of the Monument
In 1916, the Southern Pacific Railroad (formerly the Central Pacific Railroad) placed the monument near the site where the nation’s first transcontinental railroad was completed. For decades, it stood there, a lonely reminder of the driving of the last spike on May 10, 1869 at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory. Today, the handsomely restored monument remains an icon of westward expansion, the settlement of northern Utah and commemorates an historic event that transformed America.