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Sussex Register - December 16, 1854 issue

Opening of the Sussex Railroad

At noon on Monday last, an impromptu gathering of our citizens, numbering some 400 or 500, took place at the Depot, to welcome the arrival of the first passenger train. Soon the whistle of the advancing locomotive was heard, which was answered by the discharge of cannon. When the train reached the Depot, three hearty cheers were given. Gen. Lyman Edwards then called the assemblage to order, and proposed that, in the brief interval which would ensue before the departure of the train, the citizens should organize and give an expression of sentiment suitable to the occasion. This met with the instant concurrence of the people present. Col. Robert Hamilton, being unanimously called upon to preside, mounted the rostrum, and congratulated the meeting upon the completion of the Road; he regarded it as an event full of promise to all the industrial interests of our County, and he felt individually unfeigned happiness to be able to hail the introduction of Railroad facilities in our midst, as "an accomplished fact."

When he concluded, calls were made for Benjamin B. Edsall, who soon appeared upon the stand, and spoke substantially as follows:

"Mr. President and Gentlemen -The event which has called the present large assemblage together is one of great importance to the progress and prosperity of our county. Since our soil was first pressed by the foot of civilized man, no circumstance of equal consequence in its bearing upon the general welfare of our citizens has occurred. I may venture to pronounce it the great epoch in our local history; for so posterity I am confident will concur in regarding it.

"For twenty years, more or less, Railroads have been in operation in portions of our state, conveying in their iron arteries the life-blood of enterprise, and liberally distributing it to the various communities within the range of their wealth-creating influence. We, however, have remained comparatively in the background. True the iron horse has approached our south eastern extremity, and he has also whizzed along a few miles from our northern boundary, in his ceaseless journeyings between the Atlantic and the Lakes--but these distant approaches to our confines availed us very little in the race of prosperity with surrounding neighborhoods. In reality, we have, during the period mentioned, been only remotely benefited by that effective agent of modern business and civilization, whose

"Unconquer'd arm afar Drives the fleet barge and wheels the rapid car."

"Under this state of deprivation, we have plodded along as best we might--carting our bulky commodities over rough roads into Morris, and into Orange counties--seeking always the nearest outlet--yet losing yearly in the time, labor, and expense applied to transportation by horse power, a very large per centage upon the fruits of our toil. Those perishable products which require so handsomely the labor of the husbandman, when rapid and convenient access to the city market is practicable, we have not dared to cultivate, except in so far as they were required for home consumption--while our vast, exhaustless mineral treasures, by reason of their ponderous nature, have remained to a great extent undeveloped--merely filling the fissures in our rocks, or increasing by their bulk the magnitude of those hills and mountains which every where swell majestically from our fertile vales. But we are now entering upon a more prosperous era. The rock-ribbed hills, which "clip us 'round about," and which have long hemmed us in, depriving us of even-handed participation in the struggles of the busy world, have been cloven asunder by the united force of science and labor; and the steam-impelled train, with a speed outrivalling the antelope, and exerting a power far exceeding the fabled prowess of Herculean sinews, now courses through the divided barriers of adamant as smoothly as "the swallow skims the air."

"The Sussex Rail Road, though limited in extent, presented numerous obstructions to its execution, which required a high degree of skill, as well as steady, persistent labor to overcome. These have been met and vanquished. The men, therefore, who projected this enterprise, and whose money, time and toil have been devoted to its successful completion, deserve to be held forever in grateful remembrance by the citizens of Sussex.

[Here three cheers were given for Messrs. Cooper & Hewitt.]

"They have provided for us a link which unites us with the greatest mart of business upon the American continent--which brings to our very doors as it were a market for every thing which our county can produce. More than this, they have done their work well. Notwithstanding the pressure of the times, they have adhered with honorable fidelity to their original determination, to provide for public use, at what-ever cost or sacrifice, a road bed of the most solid construction, and a track of interlaced iron without flaw or blemish in any of its component parts. The reproach that has been cast upon some railroad companies that they have overlaid beds of American ore with rails of English iron, does not apply to this road. It is American in all its parts--the offspring of American enterprise--built by American capital--and rounded off and riveted with sound substantial American iron.

"We have all watched the progress of this work with anxious solicitude. We are all aware that in the course of its construction difficulties occurred on consequence of careless engineering and violation of obligation by reckless contractors, which involved a large extra expenditure and retarded the progress of the work. Some of us a few months ago, began to despond--murmurs of dissatisfaction were heard, and the completion of the work, it was feared, would be thrown far forward into the indefinite future. At this juncture, Thomas Hewitt, Esq., the President of the Company, came forward, and taking upon himself the responsibility of superintending all the departments of labor essential to its completion, pledged himself to bring the work to a speedy issue; and by his untiring activity and iron-nerved resolution he has abundantly fulfilled all the expectations that had been raised by his promises. To him, then, special praise is due.

[Here three hearty cheers were given for Thomas Hewitt.]

"Gentlemen (continued Mr. E.) I will not weary you by extending my desultory remarks. This is the age of action, and prosy slang-whanging is altogether out of order. I will, therefore, conclude by offering for the consideration of this assembly a couple of resolutions, which I am confident will not only be unanimously but heartily adopted--viz:

"Resolved, That the completion of the Sussex Railroad to Newton is a subject of congratulation, not only to the Officers and Stockholders of the Company, but especially to the citizens of the county of Sussex, as an event tending more than any other to develope the rich and extensive agricultural, mineral and manufacturing resources of our county.

"Resolved, that we tender our congratulations to the officers and engineers of the Sussex Railroad Company upon the final accomplishment of their arduous undertaking, and that the thanks of this community are particularly due to the President, and the Secretary, of the Company (Thomas and Abram S. Hewitt, Esqrs.) for their enterprise, and the indomitable perseverance with which they have urged on the work to a successful termination under difficulties of no ordinary character. "

The President put the question, and the resolutions were cordially adopted. Cheers were then given for the laborers on the road and for others, and the meeting adjourned. The locomotive, being fired up, the train immediately moved off, carrying a number of our citizens on an excursion to Waterloo.