Samuel W. Fordyce


1886-1898

SW Fordyce After the consolidated company received the approval of the legislatures of Arkansas and Missouri, Paramore began to look for someone capable of locating the line through Arkansas. Fortunately, during the war he had become acquainted with a young cavalry officer, Captain Samuel W. Fordyce, whose judgment and foresight had immediately won the esteem of his fellow officers. This, plus his previous railroad experience, persuaded Paramore to seek his assistance in this undertaking. Fordyce was residing in Hot Springs, Arkansas, recuperating from an illness caused by wounds received during the war. He had moved there from Huntsville, Alabama, where he had settled after the war and married the daughter of Colonel W. A. Chadwick, former commander of the 26th Alabama Regiment.

John Fordyce, grandfather of Samuel, was one of the pioneers who immigrated to Pennsylvania shortly after the expulsion of the Indians, and from there his father, also named John, had moved to Senecaville, Ohio, where on February 17, 1840, Samuel was born. At the early age of thirteen, he became interested in railroad construction when his father and associates built the Central Ohio Railroad, an extension of the Baltimore and Ohio. It was the custom in those days for the merchants to own and operate their own freight and passenger depots, and John Fordyce was the proprietor at a place called Campbell's Station. Samuel grew up in this atmosphere of railroads and business. When the Civil War commenced, he organized a troop of men which became Troop B of the First Ohio Volunteer Cavalry. He came out of the war with the rank of Captain and acting Inspector General of the of the Second Cavalry Division of the Army of the Cumberland.

Due to his personal friendship with Paramore, Fordyce accepted the offer of locating the line through Arkansas. It had been previously decided to build a narrow gauge instead of the standard gauge, as Colonel Paramore was quite firm in his belief that the narrow gauge could be built and equipped at about one-third the cost of a standard gauge road. His reasoning was based on investigations that proved the bonded indebtedness of standard gauge was about twice that of the narrow-gauge lines. One strong argument for the "small" gauge in the South and Southwest was that the bulk of the Traffic was cotton which could be compressed, and large quantities transported without the necessity of large cars. During an interview, Colonel Paramore was asked if he thought that roads hereafter built in the South would be narrow gauge, and he replied: "I think that the prevailing system of roads in the South will be the three-foot gauge, and that those that are now four feet eight and one-half inches will be altered to the narrow gauge." Of course, this has been proven to be untrue, but at that particular time he was justified in this statement, as the South had little to offer a transportation company in the form of population and industry. Paramore estimated that it would take about $9,000 pet mile to build and equip the road, but it eventually took about $12,000.

There were three necessary aims that would govern the selection of a route through Arkansas. First, it was very essential to build as far away from the Iron Mountain as possible, and develop a new trade territory. As transporting cotton was the primary object, the road should cross the rich alluvial plains near the rivers that were best suited for cotton production. The last governing object was a route where cheapness of construction and economy in future operations would prevail.

Keeping these ideas well in mind, Fordyce decided to ride over the entire route in order to gain first-hand information about the country. The experiences that he encountered proved to be very interesting and illustrate conclusively the reactions of the people toward the early railroads. On one occasion when the engineers were attempting to locate a crossing of the Arkansas River, a prominent planter urged Fordyce not to run the railroad through his plantation, as he thought it would be ruined and worthless thereafter. When it was decided to run the line across the river at another place, this same man begged that the location be changed, and was even willing to give $10,000 if it could be arranged.



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