Washington, September 21, 1917
My dear Mr. President,—It will interest you to know that the Commission which I sent up this year to Alaska to look into the Alaskan Railroad matters has just returned. The engineer on this Commission was Mr. Wendt, who was formerly Chief Engineer of the Pittsburg and Lake Erie Railroad, and who is now in charge of the appraisal of eastern roads under the Interstate Commerce Commission. He tells me that our Alaskan road could not have been built for less money if handled by a private concern; that he has never seen any railroad camps where the men were provided with as good food and where there was such care taken of their health. They have had no smallpox and but one case of typhoid fever. No liquor is allowed on the line of the road. The road in his judgment has followed the best possible location. Our hospitals are well run. The compensation plan adopted for injuries is satisfactory to the men.
I have directed that all possible speed be made in connecting the Matanuska coal fields with Seward. This involves the heaviest construction that we will have to undertake, which is along Turnagain Ann, but by the middle of next year, no strikes intervening, and transportation for supplies being available, this part of the work should be done. Faithfully and cordially yours,
In Lane’s Annual report of the secretary of the Interior, dated November 20, 1919, he writes of the Alaskan railroad enterprise:— “One of the first recommendations made by me in my report of seven years ago was that the Government build a railroad from Seward to Fairbanks in Alaska. Five years ago you intrusted to me the direction of this work. The road is now more than two-thirds built and Congress at this session after exhaustively examining into the work has authorized an additional appropriation sufficient for its completion. The showing made before Congress was that the road had been built without graft; every dollar has gone into actual work or material. It has been built without giving profits to any large contractors, for it has been constructed entirely by small contractors or by day’s labor. It has been built without touch of politics; every man on the road has been chosen exclusively for ability and experience.”
This memorandum touching the early history of Alaska was found in Lane’s files.
Washington, December 29, 1911
Last night I dined with Charles Henry Butler, reporter for the Supreme Court and a son of William Alien Butler, for so long a leader of the New York bar.