Saturday, February 12, 2005

Swung at the spike and missed

It has been claimed that no first hand accounts support the "fable" that "at Promontory Stanford supposedly swung at the spike and missed" and also claimed that "Stanford participated but Durant did not in 'driving' the golden spike."

However, Alexander Toponce's first hand account written about 1919 in his autobiography states that:

"When they came to drive the last spike. Governor Stanford, president of the Central Pacific, took the sledge and the first time he struck he missed the spike and hit the rail.

What a howl went up! Irish, Chinese, Mexicans, and everybody yelled with delight. Everybody slapped everybody else on the back and yelled 'He missed it. Yee.' The engineers blew the whistles and rang their bells. Then Stanford tried it again and tapped the spike and the telegraph operators had fixed their instruments so that the tap was reported in all the offices, east and west, and set bells to tapping in hundreds of towns and cities. W. N. Shilling was one of the telegraph operators.

Then Vice President T. C. Durant of the Union Pacific took up the sledge and he missed the spike the first time. Then everybody slapped everybody else again and yelled, 'He missed it, [too], yow!' "

Any comments?


Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


It is nice to see verification for some of the traditions that have been passed down by word of mouth. Wendell.

2/12/2005 12:20 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: Don Ball

It looks like somebody swung at some spike, if not the gold one.

2/12/2005 12:56 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


Pretty close verse to the dialogue voice-over audio script that plays overhead in the CA State Railroad Museum gallery dedicated to the Last Spike. Those all in largely Irish voices, though...maybe someone could add some Mandarin Chinese "he missed it" verse in that recording {grins}... Yes, nice to hear/read this particular 1st person confirmation.
--Kevin Bunker

2/12/2005 9:45 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


Nice to have an account from someone who was there, but I wish it had been written closer to the event instead of 50 years later. By that time he could have been influenced by embelishments from later writers.


Note my NEW address of

Kyle K. Wyatt
Curator of History & Technology
California State Railroad Museum

2/13/2005 7:24 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

More recollections from fifty years later.

10/24/2011 10:50 AM  

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