THE CONQUEST OF ALASKA
Immediately under the man with the money, who lived in London, there was the President in Chicago; then came the chief engineer in Seattle, the locating engineer in Skagway, the contractor in the grading camp, and Hugh Foy, the “boss” of the builders. Yet in spite of all this overhanging stratification, Foy was a big man. To be sure, none of these men had happened to get their positions by mere chance. They were men of character and fortitude, capable of great sacrifice.
Mr. Close, in London, knew that his partner, Mr. Graves, in Chicago, would be a good man at the head of so cold and hopeless an enterprise as a Klondike Railway; and Mr. Graves knew that Erastus Corning Hawkins, who had put through some of the biggest engineering schemes in the West, was the man to build the road. The latter selected, as locating engineer, John Hislop, the hero, one of the few survivors of that wild and daring expedition that undertook, some twenty years ago, to survey a route for a railroad whose trains were to traverse the Grand Canon of Colorado, where, save for the song of the cataract, there is only shade and silence and perpetual starlight. Heney, a wiry, compact, plucky Canadian contractor, made oral agreement with the chief engineer and, with Hugh Foy as his superintendent of construction, began to grade what they called the White Pass and Yukon Railway. Beginning where the bone-washing Skagway tells her troubles to the tide-waters at the elbow of that beautiful arm of the Pacific Ocean called Lynn Canal, they graded out through the scattered settlement where a city stands to-day, cut through a dense forest of spruce, and began to climb the hill.
When the news of ground-breaking had gone out to Seattle and Chicago, and thence to London, conservative capitalists, who had suspected Close Brothers and Company and all their associates in this wild scheme of temporary insanity, concluded that the sore affliction had come to stay. But the dauntless builders on the busy field where the grading camp was in action kept grubbing and grading, climbing and staking, blasting and building, undiscouraged and undismayed. Under the eaves of a dripping glacier, Hawkins, Hislop, and Heney crept; and, as they measured off the miles and fixed the grade by blue chalk-marks where stakes could not be driven, Foy followed with his army of blasters and builders. When the pathfinders came to a deep side canon, they tumbled down, clambered up on the opposite side, found their bearings, and began again. At one place the main wall was so steep that the engineer was compelled to climb to the top, let a man down by a rope, so that he could mark the face of the cliff for the blasters, and then haul him up again.