From Telegrapher to Titan: The Life of William C. Van Horne

By Valerie Knowles | Go to book overview

Chapter Three
Rapid Advancement

Van Horne’s dream of becoming general superintendent of a railway came closer to becoming a reality when he was made superintendent of the Chicago and Alton’s entire telegraph system on May 1, 1868.108 As an assistant superintendent of the railway (he was one of two assistant superintendents), he came into frequent contact with the company’s leading officials, who, not surprisingly, were impressed by both his force of character and his bearing. Already aware of Van Horne’s reputation for initiative and efficiency, these Chicago and Alton officials soon offered him a new job with even greater authority, that of superintendent of the newly created southern division of the railway, the appointment to take effect February 9, 1869.109 Van Horne promptly accepted, and in 1869 he moved his entire family to Alton, Illinois. Like the modern-day diplomat’s or serviceman’s family that finds itself on the move every two to three years, the Van Hornes soon learned that they had to be prepared to pack and move on short notice.

It must have been with some reluctance that the family bid farewell to Bloomington. Not only were they taking leave of good friends they had made there, they were also saying goodbye to the birthplace of Van Horne’s and Addie’s first child, daughter Adaline. “Little Addie,” as she came to be called by the family, had been born June 7, 1868, weighing about six pounds.110 As the years rolled by, this devoted daughter would grow to over six feet and would come to resemble her father in girth as well as in her excellent head for business, her love of art, and her interest in collecting things.

Little Addie was a mere infant when the Van Hornes moved to Alton, a hilly river town that sits on limestone bluffs overlooking the meandering Mississippi River, some twenty-five miles north of St. Louis, Missouri. The town, which then boasted a population of over eight thousand, had a

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From Telegrapher to Titan: The Life of William C. Van Horne
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Table of Contents 7
  • Preface 9
  • Acknowledgements 11
  • Prologue 13
  • Chapter One - Growing Up in Frontier Illinois 17
  • Chapter Two - Early Career 37
  • Chapter Three - Rapid Advancement 55
  • Chapter Four - New Challenges and Hobbies 83
  • Chapter Five - New Horizons 95
  • Chapter Six - Toward the Last Spike 117
  • Chapter Seven - Cutting Costs 147
  • Chapter Eight - The Final Push 175
  • Chapter Nine - All That Grant Was to the U.S.a 209
  • Chapter Ten - Van Horne at the Helm 239
  • Chapter Eleven - Art for Art’s Sake 283
  • Chapter Twelve - Family Matters 299
  • Chapter Thirteen - Cuba Beckons 325
  • Chapter Fourteen - Building the Cuba Railroad 339
  • Chapter Fifteen - Chasing the Money 367
  • Chapter Sixteen - Dodging the Grim Reaper 397
  • Afterword 429
  • Bibliography 433
  • Notes 443
  • Index 495
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