Friday, November 16, 2007

W.L. Pritchard, Freighter Associated With Building CPRR

Begin forwarded message: From: "Duane Bartholemew"

... I am looking for information on W.L. 'Nick of the Woods' Pritchard who is mentioned on one page of the website (see below).

What we know

Comments attributed to [J].H. Strobridge state that track material, three locomotives etc. were hauled to Donner Lake. In an interview of R.L. Fulton with Mr. Strobridge, W.L. Pritchard is mentioned as the freighter who hauled the locomotives and perhaps also the other materials referred to in the above web page. Some similar comments about hauling locomotives and track on sleds was found at the Nevada Historical Society but the freighter's name was not mentioned.

Its Possible Relevance

W.L. Pritchard is my wife's great grandfather and we are trying to find more information about his freighting activities as well as to use his business to put a face on wagon freighting in California and Nevada. Much information is available on railroads but we have found, subsequently confirmed with people at the Nevada Historical Society, that little has been written about organized freighting activities or stage coach operations during the development of California and Nevada.

What We Want to Know

Are there any accounting records in the CP RR collection(s) that would allow the names of the freighters and their contribution to the building of the railroad to be identified/determined? J.M. Graham states that R.H. Pratt was in charge of obtaining all the wagons and teams from Cisco to ? (location marked out). Are there any records of the transactions of R.H. Pratt and, if so, do they perhaps include information on who provided the teams and wagons?

My wife and I will be in the Sacramento area to attend a family funeral. We would be interested in meeting anyone who might help with our search for information on Monday or Tuesday (Nov. 26 and 27) if any information is available. —Duane Bartholomew


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eureka & Palisade Railroad, 1873-1879
The first spike was driven on Monday, February 2, 1874. By this time William L. Pritchard, the freighter, had also obtained an interest in the E. & P.

11/16/2007 12:50 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

Nevada County Assessor's Records, 1868
Pritchard, William L.
3 horses, 50 mules, 15 wagons.

11/16/2007 12:50 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


WL Pritchard was a freighter who also founded the Eureka & Palisade RR in Nevada in 1874, soon being edged out by DO Mills and his associates.  Check in Railroads of Nevada, vol. 1 by David Myrick.  Also Bonanza Railroads by Gilbert Kneiss.  E&P records are at the University of Nevada Library Special Collections in Reno.

—Kyle Wyatt

11/16/2007 1:09 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Duane Bartholomew"

Thank you for your reply. I have seen the books you mentioned and knew about the role of W.L. Pritchard in the Eureka & Palisade RR. I also have seen the original records for that RR in the UNR Special Collections section in Reno. I also have seen all issues of White Pine News and Eureka Sentinal that make mention of Pritchard during his freighting days in Nevada. Other newspapers I want to review are any from the Carson and Virginia City areas (Comstock mining), Pioche Daily Record and Tonopah. I plant to go through at least some of the old Sacramento newspapers when my wife and I are in California the last days of November.

While your comment about Pritchard being "edged out" of the E&R RR by D.O. Mills is consistent with what others have written, I am beginning to think it was a sound business decision. I have just finished reading the book Treasure Hill about mining in the Hamilton area of Nevada. At the time Pritchard sold out to D.O. Mills, mining activity had declined in Pioche and activity in the Hamilton area (Treasure Hill, Shermantown, etc.) had been very slow for at least a few years. If I recall correctly, by 1875, only the Eberhart mine continued to put money into tunneling to seek more silver ore, mostly with no success. While mining did continue for a time in Eureka, I am beginning to believe that Pritchard saw the handwriting on the wall, i.e. that opportunities for his freighting business in Nevada were declining and he was selling near the top of the market, or at least certainly not at the bottom. Of course that theory doesn't explain why Pritchard put a lot of effort into developing Alpha as a business and freighting center, but if the coming of the railroad to Palisade was inevitable, that plus the decline in mining activity might cause an astute business man, which Pritchard surely was, to sell his holdings while they still had considerable value. Another factor in Pritchard's that supports my growing belief was his extensive and intimate knowledge of of what was happening in the areas where he was running his freight lines. Pritchard and his associates had almost daily contact with the mining areas in the area while Mills likely did not have the interest or the opportunity to assess business opportunities or the lack thereof to the extent that Pritchard did.

Many thanks ... for the information about Pritchard in the Nevada Country Assessors Records ... That was information I did not have and could also be another source of information on Pritchard's California freighting business. However, that information for Nevada was in 1868, which could be nearly a year later than the reported transport by Pritchard of three locomotives from for the CP RR from Cisco to the Truckee area.

Since you did not mention the existence of any financial records related to the hiring of teamsters by the CP RR, e.g. by R.H. Pratt, can I assume that such records are not known to exist?

Thank you again very much for your reply. If I do discover more information about Pritchard's role in freighting for the CP RR, I will share it with you. ...

Duane P. Bartholomew, Agronomist emeritus
Dept. of Tropical Plant and Soil Science, University of Hawaii at Manoa
1910 East-West Road, Honolulu, HI 96822

11/16/2007 10:48 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


I just recalled that the Central Pacific vouchers are at the California State Railroad Museum and are available for research.  They are organized chronologically – by voucher number.  Unfortunately there is no master index, so research requires a person to physically go through them – this is not something that Museum staff is able to do for someone.  However, it is very likely that Pritchard will show up in the vouchers.  I don't know, but I suspect that Pritchard was doing other freighting in support of the Central Pacific construction.  There are also summary ledger books, but not having used them myself I don't know how much they may provide a quicker access to the vouchers.  Again, that would require someone to do the digging, as it is beyond the "nickel's worth of research" that staff can provide.

On the E&P, you raise some good points about why Pritchard may have sold out.  Another factor may also have been that Pritchard did not have the financial resources to carry through the construction of the railroad to completion, while the Mills group did have the resources (being flush with Virginia & Truckee revenues during the Big Bonanza at that time).

It appears to still be an open question whether Pritchard intended just to build the E&P to Alpha and thereby capture the freighting business, or whether he did indeed intend to build all the way through to Eureka, using Alpha only as a pause to replenish the bank account.


11/16/2007 10:54 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


In addition to his involvement with the E&P, Pritchard was famous for his Pritchard Fast Freight Line which used horse teams and brought merchandise from Palisade to Pioche in less than a week. He also hauled freight at a slower pace with mules and oxen and thus less expensive. His advertisements appear in almost every issue of the Pioche Record.

Pritchard, Gilmer & Salisbury, and Woodruff & Ennor were all operators of freight hauling and/or passenger hauling lines who tried to get involved with the building of the narrow-gauge railroads which would eventually put them out of the teaming business.

—Charlie Siebenthal

11/16/2007 11:14 AM  

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