I have "wondered" a lot recently about---
1. How did six of the best iron bridges in the world get built in Philadelphia and installed in Indian Territory in record time? and
2. Who was the Wanderer? And what else did he do?? The joint answers should make all Okies proud. We may think that our little wagon road project in the middle of nowhere was nothing. But some very politically ambitious and talented people back East believed that This Federal Project was "The United States Last Chance to Put a Man on the Moon in this This Decade (1850's)" and Philadelphia wanted to be the MAGA-Houston of its day. Soon Baldwin locomotives would be running down the same road to California!
Recall that the “Wanderer” was sent out West to Indian Territory in July 1859 by the new Philadelphia, PA newspaper, The Press, to report on the progress of Lt. E. F. Beale’s new national wagon road building to California. In addition to Beale having roots in nearby Chester, PA, a Philadelphia-based crew was constructing six iron bridges on the road Beale had previously identified less than a year previous. The six bridges had the latest Murphy-Whipple bridge technology, were designed by the A. & P. Roberts & Co of Philadelphia, prefabricated by the Pencoyd Iron Works in suburban Philadelphia, and shipped to Indian Territory, over a thousand miles away, for the federal government in Washington, D.C. (for the U.S. Army) without delay. The First Interstate Road to the Pacific was rolling!
Now, how did this remarkable feat happen during the winter and spring of 1858-9 given the tumultuous political times in Washington just prior to the Civil War?? How and why did Philadelphia and The Press get so involved, and why did it matter to/in Washington?
We have already noted in prior posts the very important “Philadelphia Connection” and that Lt. Beale had sent his brother-in-law Henry B. Edwards of Chester, PA back from Beale’s road location and survey party to Washington, D.C. with the six iron bridge’s design requirements. Edwards arrived back in Washington, D. C. on Friday, December 3, 1858 with the number of bridges needed. The Army saluted, took the order and went to work! Are you kidding, nothing but a national emergency moves that fast in Washington; but it did and here is why: President James Buchanan wanted it, Secretary of War John B. Floyd wanted it, and so did John Weiss Forney. Who??
John Weiss Forney (30 September 1817 – 9 December 1881)
From 1851 to 1855 John Forney was Clerk of the United States House of Representatives, and, while continuing to write for his first Philadelphia newspaper, Pennsylvanian, he edited the Union, the organ of the Northern Democrats. While Clerk of the House, it became Forney's duty to preside during a protracted struggle for the speakership in 1855, which resulted in the election of Nathaniel P. Banks. His tact as presiding officer won the applause of all parties. In 1855 he headed the Pennsylvania delegation to the Democratic National Convention at Cincinnati, and was instrumental in securing the nomination of Pennsylvania's presidential candidate, James Buchanan, then serving as U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain. Forney conducted Buchanan's successful campaign for the presidency. In January 1857, Buchanan's waning influence was not strong enough to win Forney a seat in the United States Senate, which went instead to Simon Cameron. On August 1, 1857, after selling the Pennsylvanian, Forney consequently established The Philadelphia Press, an independent Democratic newspaper.
At first a Douglas Democrat and a supporter of President Buchanan, upon the adoption of the Lecompton Constitution in the latter days of the Buchanan Administration, Forney declined to support the Buchanan administration's effort to secure the admission of Kansas into the Union on that basis, and so he joined the Republican Party. He contributed to the organization of the Republican Party and its early successes. From 1859 to 1861, he would become for the second time Clerk of the House, and in 1861, Secretary of the United States Senate. He would begin publishing the Sunday Morning Chronicle in Washington, which in 1862 changed to a daily, and would be throughout the Civil War looked upon as the organ of the Lincoln Administration.
John Forney had become a Big Dog in D.C. and now (in 1859) what The Press published mattered in Philadelphia and Washington! (and for years thereafter, as you may see).
The Philadelphia Press (August 1, 1857 - October 1, 1920)
See The Philadelphia Press at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Philadelphia_Press
The Philadelphia Press (or The Press) became a leading Pennsylvania newspaper that was published from August 1, 1857, to October 1, 1920. It was established by John Weiss Forney who served as its publisher and initial editor.
John Russell Young (November 20, 1840 – January 17, 1899)
Young was born on Nov. 20, 1840, in County Tyrone, Ireland, the son of George and Eliza Rankin Young. Brought to the United States when he was less than a year old, he began his formal schooling in Philadelphia, then became a ward of an uncle in New Orleans, where he continued his public schooling. He returned to Philadelphia at age 15, apprenticed himself to another relative who was a printer. In August 1857, Young secured a position as copyboy on The Philadelphia Press, beginning a long and fruitful association with its editor, John W. Forney. As a reporter for The Press, he distinguished himself with his coverage of the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861. By 1862 he was managing editor of The Press.
In 1865 Young moved to New York, where he became a close friend of Henry George and helped to distribute Progress and Poverty. He began writing for Horace Greeley's New York Tribune and became managing editor of that paper. He also began working for the government, undertaking missions to Europe for the US Department of State and the US Department of the Treasury. In 1872, he joined the New York Herald and reported for them from Europe.
John Russell Young was invited to accompany President Ulysses S. Grant on Grant's famous 1877-1879 world tour, chronicled in Young's book “Around the World with General Grant.”
See at Amazon Books:
or, see at Google Books:
Young impressed Grant, especially in China where Young struck up a friendship with Li Hongzhang. Grant persuaded President Chester A. Arthur to appoint Young minister to China in 1882. In this position he distinguished himself by mediating and settling disputes between the US and China and France and China. In 1885 he resumed working for the Herald in Europe. In 1890 he returned to Philadelphia. In 1897 President William McKinley appointed him Librarian of Congress, the first Librarian confirmed by Congress. Young held the post of Librarian until his death.
Wanderer vs. John Russell Young, Who’s Who?
Compare the Wanderer, judged to have been a young, observant, skillful correspondent for The Press in October 1859 vs. John Russell Young, who in 1859 was a young (nearly 19 year old) correspondent for The Press, who wrote for The Press the most widely read Civil War article on the First Battle of Bull Run of July 1861. He would soon after become the editor of The Press. His professional star was rapidly rising.
I have analyzed seven other documented and recognized staff of The Press, in addition to John Russell Young, and I found no other viable candidate for being the Wanderer. Young was nearly 19, talented, single (for the moment) and seen in later jobs to be a progressive wanderer. He liked people, his literary work had been recognized by President Grant, and he liked to travel, even around the world with U.S. Grant. He retained his prolific writing skills as his large biography on Grant’s World Tour depicts. So why didn't John Russell Young say he had been the Wanderer?? By the time he had gotten married, the Civil War had started with a big bang!!
The Murphy-Whipple Iron Bridge Company had been established on April 1, 1861 at 333 Walnut Street in downtown Philadelphia with great plans for having a successful bridge building future for the new company. Henry B. Edwards was going on to law school with plans to work with his father soon in Chester, PA. But on April 12, 1861, everything changed in the blink of the eye. CIVIL WAR. By April 27, 1861, the Murphy-Whipple Iron Bridge across the Poteau River near Fort Smith, the largest of the six, had already been destroyed. See “Lieutenant Averell’s Ride at the Outbreak of the Civil War.” Muriel H. Wright, Chronicles of Oklahoma, Vol. 39, No. 1, 1961, pp. 2-7-14. The First Federal Interstate Road to the Pacific—the best wagon road to California in 1860—would die quietly during the War in Indian Territory as iron bridge after iron bridge was demolished. Thus, when the war was over, The Beale Wagon Road in Indian Territory was too. Compared to the ongoing Civil War, little else mattered in the Northern press.
Thanks to the Wanderer (a.k.a. John Russell Young) we still have a vivid description of those six iron bridges. His eight letters written in the field about his travels in 1859 thru Indian Territory, when Beale’s iron bridges bridges were being built, should be found in The Library of Congress, but aren’t. It is a story that has never been told. But if you believe, as I do, that the Wanderer was John Russell Young, then President Grant's highly acclaimed World Tour two-volume biography, written by Young, wasn’t the only great literary work that Young ever wrote. Just ask admirers of The Wanderer!