By Gregory Hasman
July 5, 2017
The Ames Monument: A sight that’s out of sight.
Although the Lincoln Monument outside Laramie is a great tribute to President Lincoln and the men and women who helped create the Lincoln Highway, there is another site east of Laramie of equal importance. It cannot be seen from Interstate 80, which is not a bad thing. It requires getting off of the interstate and traveling down local and dirt roads.
Get off of exit 329 and travel down Monument Road for approximately seven miles at which point a 60-foot granite pyramid will appear, which will make one feel they are approaching the pyramids in Egypt.
The Ames Monument pyramid sits atop Sherman Summit, just outside the ghost town of Sherman, a former Lincoln Highway stop for motorists venturing to Nebraska or continuing through the Cowboy State.
At 8,247 feet it occupies its place atop, what was once, the highest point on the Union Pacific and the Lincoln Highway.
The $64,000 monument project was designed by Henry Hobson Richardson and was completed in 1882. It features two bas-relief sculptures of the Ames brothers, Oakes on the east side and Oliver on the west.
Railroad ruled the roost
Abraham Lincoln was a railroad lawyer before running for political office. After he became the 16th President of the United States he helped the growing railroad industry reach new heights. While dealing with the Civil War he signed the Pacific Railway Act in 1862, which provided the federal government support for the first transcontinental railroad, which was completed on May 10, 1869.
Oakes and Oliver Ames took control of the management and financing of the Union Pacific portion of the railroad at Lincoln’s request. Only 12 miles of track were completed prior to their involvement.
Oliver was the president of the railroad while Oakes was a Massachusetts congressman who served as the railroad’s point man in Washington D.C.
The Ames brothers, who wanted to take advantage of government subsidies, purchased control of Credit Mobilier, a Pennsylvania corporation to build 667 miles of the railroad. The actual cost to Credit Mobilier was $44,000,000, but the contract, using government subsidized funding, was for more than $94,000,000.
In order to prevent a congressional investigation, a large block of Credit Mobilier stock held by Congressman Ames as trustee was "sold" to influential congressmen for one-third of its actual value. However, the "sale" did not require actual money. The sales price was paid from the dividends resulting from the profits on the railroad construction, according to Wyoming Tales and Trails.
Oakes Ames’s career was ruined and the railroad was left in sums of debt.
The monument and the history are quite breathtaking. While the Ames Brothers were involved in the Credit Mobilier scandal under President Ulysses S. Grant’s administration, the monument reflects the work they and the Union Pacific have done for Wyoming.
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