Jack Casement and his brother Dan won the track laying contract for the Union Pacific Railroad from Omaha, Nebraska to Promontory Point, Utah.
Dan handled payroll and Jack handled the construction. Jack hired the workers, gathered materials, and went into the field.
Jack wrote many letters to his wife Francis. His accounts provide insights into the railroad business and life at the end-of-track towns.
At the tent town of Benton, Jack wrote in August 1868: “This is an awful place. Alkali dust knee deep and certainly the meanest place I have ever been in.” Benton was about 11 miles east of present-day Rawlins.
Later he wrote, “The weather is nice but the country is awful. We carry water about fifty miles on the car. We are losing a great many mules. Six nice fat ones died in less than an hour today.”
Despite the hardships, Jack managed railroad construction until it met the Central Pacific tracks in Utah in May 1869.
You can read Jack Casement’s letters and other materials about the building of the Union Pacific at UW’s American Heritage Center.