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An entrepreneur from Dayton, Ohio, at one time envisioned building a railroad line that would have extended from Ghent, Ky., to Savannah, Ga.
Albert E. Boone, an indirect relative of Kentucky explorer Daniel Boone, was born Nov. 18, 1845, in Dayton, where he was educated and, at 16, enlisted in Co. I, 84th Ohio Volunteer Infantry at the start of the Civil War.
According to “West Virginia and its People,” published in 1913, Boone eventually rose to the rank of colonel during his Army career.
By 1863, at age 18, he had been appointed superintendent of transportation at Nashville, Tenn., the base of supplies for the Union Army of the Cumberland. When the war ended, Boone continued in the shipping industry, setting up at Will’s Point near Johnsonville, Tenn., buying cotton and shipping it to New York and New Orleans, according to the “West Virginia” biography.
Later, during violent uprisings in Tennessee in 1867, Boone was appointed quartermaster by Gov. William G. Brownlow. By 1869, after Brownlow was elected to the U.S. Senate, Boone rose to adjutant general of Tennessee.
A few years later, Boone was chief of the pay division for the post office department of the U.S. Treasury. He was responsible for paying all contractors carrying U.S. mail by ocean steamer, steamboat, railroad, stage and horse, with annual disbursements amounting to $30 million.
In 1875, he left to procure his own government contracts for carrying the mail, according to the biographical sketchbook, which brushes over a period when Boone was caught up in a national scandal.
The Star Route scandal involved a scheme in which U.S. postal officials accepted bribes in exchange for awarding postal delivery contracts in southern and western states, according to a well-sourced article on Wikipedia.com.
An article in the March 26, 1882, New York Times, reported that Boone faced a grand jury regarding accusations that he had dealt illegally in an effort to secure Star Route contracts. Boone had already been indicted on similar charges at the time, according to the article.
“In reply to the advertisement of star routes west of the Mississippi Boone put in nearly 2,000 bids just as he was arrested. He has been awarded more than 200 routes,” the article states. “It was said that for these bids he had secured two new bondsmen, living in one of the Southern States, and that they were wealthy and abundantly able to satisfy any demand which might be made up them because of their obligation. ... The Government has decided these bonds, like the old ones, are worthless.”
At this point, I’ve been unable to find out how Boone fared in the courts following the indictments. If he was punished, it wasn’t for very long.
As he watched railway lines take over postal routes from his own stage lines, Boone entered into the business of railroad promotion.
According the Maysville (Kentucky) Evening Bulletin published Dec. 19, 1898, Boone had “obtained articles of incorporation from the Secretary of State ... for the Ghent-Vevay Bridge and Terminal Railway Co. It is capitalized at $35,000, and is to operate between Ghent, Carroll County, Ky., and Vevay, Ind.”
By now referring to himself as “The Railway Pathfinder,” Boone was attempting to complete a route similar to one envisioned in the 1830s by then-South Carolina Sen. John C. Calhoun to connect Charleston and Cincinnati. Only a portion of what later was named the Blue Ridge Railroad was built in the 1850s, a line between Anderson and Walhalla, S.C.; further progress was impeded when the state seceded from the Union during the Civil War, according to RailGa.com, a website devoted to Georgia railroad history.
A Jan. 13, 1899, article in the Bedford (Ind.) Democrat indicates this local proposed portion of the Black Diamond Co. was known as the Ohio River and South Atlantic railroad. The article reported that line’s directors had “decided to change the name of the road to Vincennes, Vevay and South Atlantic. The lines are to extend from Vincennes to Vevay, with a branch from Fredericksburg to Jeffersonville.”
A week later, “The Railway Age” reported that the contract for constructing the 204-mile double-track line through Indiana was let to Boone for $10 million. Work was set to begin May 1 of that year. Boone’s contracts for building the lines through Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio totaled $50.7 million, according to the report, which also stated that James M. Scott, then-president of the Vevay Bank, had been elected third vice president of the railroad company.
Though the bridge connecting Vevay to Ghent – and the subsequent railway line that would have transported goods from here to the Atlantic coast – never made it to fruition, Boone apparently did have success in Ohio and West Virginia.
“While not all the enterprises which [Boone] has undertaken have become realities, the lines at Zanesville [Ohio] have been very successful, the road to Marietta [Ohio] being now one of the best feeders of the Baltimore & Ohio, and a double track line from Norfolk, Virginia, to Deep Water, West Virginia, over four hundred miles, is an excellent property,” according to his biography in “West Virginia and its People.”
Clearly, Boone was an ambitious man, envisioning street rail lines throughout the region, along with a belt line in Columbus, Ohio, and railway routes that would have enabled coal companies in West Virginia to transport coal to the Ohio River and on to markets in New Orleans and beyond to the Panama Canal.
According to a memorial posted on FindAGrave.com, Boone died May 3, 1916, in Zanesville at the age of 71 and is buried in the Greenwood Cemetery in that city.
Phyllis McLaughlin is a professional genealogy researcher and a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists.