Saturday, February 04, 2006

Possible golden spike sighting

From: "Larry Mullaly"

A golden spike "sighting" was recently referred to me by a group in Ashland that is working to establish a small railroad museum in the city's railroad district. The question they ask is: was the Promontory golden spike later used at Ashland, Oregon?

The Ashland Tidings of December 23, 1887 described the ceremony that took place on December 17, 1887 in which Charles Crocker hammered home the final spike at Ashland joining tracks between Oregon and California. It reads:

"Mr. Crocker taking the golden spike and silver hammer which had been used before on a similar eventful occasion spoke as follows:

"I hold in my hand the last spike. (Cries of "Hold it up!") With this golden spike I proposed now to unite the rails between California and Oregon, and I hope it will be the means of cementing the friendship of the two states, and make them as one people. (Applause)."

The Oakland Tribune of December 19, 1887 carried the same account with an extra anecdote: "Speaking later at a celebration in Portland, Crocker produced the gold spike he had driven at Ashland and stated: 'It is dangerous to leave it where it was driven.'"

Questions: Is there any supporting evidence that the Promontory spike was used at Ashland? Were there other "golden spike" ceremonies?

—Larry Mullaly


Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


The Ashland spike was almost certainly not the Promontory spike. There definitely were other golden "Last Spikes" used for other ceremonies on the system (and elsewhere). Crocker ended up with several, and at least one used in Southern California has been given to the California Historical Society.


2/04/2006 11:56 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

Story of the Golden Spike at Lang Station, by Gerald M. Best:

"In 1976 the spike rests in the vaults of the California Historical Society in San Francisco. It weighs 9¼ ounces, is 5-7/16 inches long and is engraved as follows. Side 1 — Last Spike; Side 2 — Connecting Los Angeles; Side 3 — And San Francisco; Side 4 — By Rail. On the head is engraved the date, Sept. 5, 1876."

2/04/2006 11:59 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "John Snyder"

I would think it entirely possible that "Mr. Crocker taking the golden spike and silver hammer which had been used before on a similar eventful occasion spoke as follows ... " could easily refer to the silver hammer, rather than to the spike.

—John Snyder

2/05/2006 8:01 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


I'll buy that about the hammer.  Also, by 1887 there were several SP (as opposed to CP) gold spikes in Crocker's possession.  Although I rather think they would make a new spike for the completion of the Oregon & California.

2/05/2006 8:25 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Larry Mullaly"

Allowing that Crocker had more than one golden spike, what precluded him from using the original Promontory spike at the Ashland event?

—Larry Mullaly

2/05/2006 8:26 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


Crocker had several Southern Pacific spikes. He did not have any Central Pacific spikes. In 1887 David Hewes still had the famous "Last Spike" – he didn't give it to Stanford University until 1892 (it had been returned to Hewes in 1869 after the ceremony at Promontory). The silver spike maul, on the other hand, was in the SP headquarters in San Francisco, so available to Crocker.

As for the other Promontory spikes in 1887, Stanford had the Nevada silver spike. Sidney Dillon (of the UP) had the Arizona spike. Nobody knows what became of the San Francisco News Letter golden spike (unless it really is the one in Maine).


2/05/2006 9:55 PM  
Anonymous Marlene Cline said...

My Name is Marlene Cline and I am the fireman for the CP Jupiter during the summer months at the golden Spike Nationional Historic Site located in Promontory Summit Utah.
As far as the golden Spike goes there were 2 one was lost in the Sanfrancisco fire. The other is in Stanford University.
The gold spike was never struck with the silver hammer it was tapped very lightly as not to damage it. If you acually hit the spike it would become a gold coin. LOL
As far as I know the gold spike was returned to the rightful owners after the ceramony and was never used in another. To much historical and sentimental reasons I would wager.

3/04/2006 8:08 PM  
Anonymous Bruce said...

I have always wondered whether any photographs of the golden spike ceremony at Ashland have survived. Can anyone tell me where they have seen one?

Bruce Davies
Craigarroch Castle
Victoria, B.C.

2/21/2007 4:26 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Recent Messages