|Transcribed by Norma Knotts Shaffer from
microfilm of the Calhoun Chronicle dated 2/25/1915.
Little Kanawha Investigation
Washington, D.C., Feb. 19 - The story of how $5,000,000 were spent the
Little Kanawha valley in the construction of what was intended to be one
link of a transcontinental railroad; how the failure to obtain funds necessary;
the abandonment of the work, and the diversion of what funds could be obtained
to the construction of a short railroad south from Pittsburg to tap northern
West Virginia and Pennsylvania coal land; and how the coal in the upper
Little Kanawha valley has largely passed into the hands of persons not
interested in the extension of the Little Kanawha Railroad, was told by
witnesses before Chairman Harlan of the interstate commerce commission
The hearing was on Senator Chilton's resolution for an investigation
as to the ownership of the Little Kanawha Railroad and the intention of
its owners regarding its extension.
Joseph Ramsey, organizer of the Little Kanawha syndicate and formerly
right hand man for the Gould; Colonel J.T. Blair, former president
of the Little Kanawha railroad; S.D. Brady, chief engineer of the same
road; H.C. Jackson of New York; Hugh L. Bond, of the Baltimore and Ohio
railroad, and others were before the commission.
Mr. Ramsey testified that he, William E. Guy and George J. Gould composed
the syndicate managers of the syndicate which purchased the road; that
they intended to construct a line from Zanesville, Ohio, by way of Parkersburg,
to a connection with what was then the West Virginia Central, near Belington,
but that they intended to ship coal to the west only.
George J. Gould subscribed $2,000,000 to the syndicate; Davis and Elkins
the same amount, although they did not take all the stock they agreed to
take, while many other persons made up the rest of the $7,500,000 with
which it was intended to build the connecting link in the transcontinental
After about $5,000,000 had been spent it was found the work could not
be completed for what they had, and it was abandoned, all of the available
funds being used then to build the line south from Pittsburg.
Then Colonel J.M. Schoonmaker became interested in the property and
parties represented by him bought the Little Kanawha Syndicate for $8,500,000,
which merely netted the stockholders interest on the amount put in.
He told how he helped Elkins and Davis to get $20,000,000 for the West
Virginia Central, when they had been about to sell for $18,000,000.
W.W. VanWinkle and Joseph Ramsey told of the purchase by R.C. Kerens,
H.G. Davis and S.B. Elkins of thousands of acres of coal lands in the Little
Kanawha valley and of their interest in shipping it eastward over their
own railroad rather than west through the Little Kanawha valley.
Colonel Blair said the has been in his hands for nearly two years, and
that several times in that period he thought the road was sold, once having
been sent for to come to New York to accept an initial payment of $500,000
on the purchase; that it had fallen through.
He said there is now a New York party negotiating for it and that parties
represented by Sam A. Hars, of Parkersburg, are also considering its purchase.
He insisted that there has been no intention of preventing the development
of the Little Kanawha valley, but that the present owners did not feel
that the business of the valley would justify the expenditure of several
million dollars to extend the road.
He did not think the extension to the coal lands could be profitably
constructed and operated without direct connection to the lands, although
he thought there might be a chance to market the coal by making Parkersburg
a shipping point, taking coal there by rail and loading it there for shipment
He said the Little Kanawha road had been operated by its present owners
at $2,000 a month.
He said the property of the Little Kanawha syndicate known as the Buckhannon
and Northern, and the coal holdings in the northern part of the state and
in Pennsylvania, are now for sale and that the purchase of the entire holdings
of the company, including the Little Kanawha road, was mainly to get hold
of his part of the property which is not now desired to sell.
S.D. Brady, chief engineer for the Little Kanawha syndicate since 1901,
testified that he believed not more than 20,000 acres of coal could be
made available for the Little Kanawha road if built along the proposed
He said there are about 125,000 acres in the Little Kanawha coal basin,
but that 45,000 acres is held by owners of the Coal and Coke road and could
be shipped over their road, and that the largest part of the Little Kanawha
holdings lies close to the Baltimore and Ohio, some of it as close as six
miles, and could be shipped by Weston and Clarksburg to better advantage
than on the Little Kanawha valley, where it would take twenty-five miles
of branch road to reach it.
He said the tonnage is not in sight to justify the expenditure necessary
to extend the Little Kanawha road and put it in shape to compete with other
Mr. Brady estimated that it would cost $200,000 to connect the Little
Kanawha with the Baltimore and Ohio at Parkersburg and $350,000 to reconstruct
the road and put it in shape for hauling coal.
He was of the opinion that it would take about $5,000,000 to extend
the Little Kanawha railroad as planned, and put it in good shape for heavy