The Neukirchen Brothers and the Northern Pacific

In 2010, volunteers from the Western Division of the Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association stopped by to talk about a project they were working on. They were in the midst of sorting through the Jim Frederickson collection, some of which dealt with the railroad in Issaquah. They generously offered to loan out the items so that we could scan them for inclusion in our own archives. We are still cataloging the 200+ documents copied from their collection. (For more information on the documents, see the blog post Northern Pacific Railway Documents Come For A Visit).

Letter from John Neukirchen to Superintendent, Northern Pacific Railway Company. January 4, 1910.

Letter from John Neukirchen to Superintendent, Northern Pacific Railway Company. January 4, 1910.

In 1910, while organizing his desk, John Neukirchen, President of Neukirchen Brothers, discovered an application for a side train that he had meant to submit months ago. He anticipates shipping 8-10 cars per week, and begins discussions for a spur track (AFE 233-11: the Mine Loop/Neukirchen Spur) to service the Neukirchen Mill.

After reviewing the application, I.B. Richards, General Superintendent in Tacoma, Washington, responds to his Superintendent, J.E. Craver, that a lumber road and the use of lumber trucks would be a preferred alternative, but Craver determines the distance is too great and recommends the spur track. The Neukirchen Brothers will be tasked with obtaining a signed easement and have agreed to pay labor costs. The rails, switches, and other necessary railway parts will be supplied and paid for by the Northern Pacific Railway Company.

A plot plan for the proposed spur track was drawn on April 3, 1911. The easement was intended to be 16 feet wide by 8 feet to either side of the center in the southwest quarter of Section 34, Township 24, north of Range 6, and east of the Willamette Meridian.

When the Neukirchen Brothers agreed to the terms set by the Northern Pacific Railway Company, they did not consider that obtaining a signed easement would be their greatest hurdle. Signatures from the landowners, Robert and Helen Thompson, were acquired easily. The other signatures necessary to complete the easement paperwork were those of the officers of the Issaquah & Superior Coal Company. These company officers were Germans who were involved overseas with the war effort. A verbal agreement had been received, but that was not enough to satisfy the Northern Pacific Railway Company.

G.H. Worley, an Agent for the Northern Pacific Railway Company, is insistent and direct throughout the correspondence. If an easement were not secured, he suggests that the rails are removed and used on a commercial track project. Richards suggests the idea of a bond to protect the metal rails, an investment of the Northern Pacific Railway Company, while on private property. In response, Neukirchen considers the bond an injustice, indicating that his mill cannot afford the added expense, but he is left with little choice. Richards provides only three options: secure the written easement, pay the bond, or have the rails removed.

The Neukirchen Brothers enter into a bond agreement through the National Surety Company of New York, and are held bound to the Northern Pacific Railway Company in the sum of $860. The bond protects the investment of the Northern Pacific Railway who has agreed to furnish track metal for, and lay and construct a spur tack near Issaquah at the request and convenience of the Neukirchen Brothers.

The spur track is built, but the story of this document collection ends with the cancellation of the bond and the railways’ renewed interest in removing the rails. It is possible the bond was cancelled due to lack of payment. Several letters between railway officers indicate that the balance remains due on the build work completed for the spur track and cannot be collected from the Neukirchen Brothers. The Neukirchen Brothers spent much to refurbish the mill, have experienced a poor market with low prices, and are struggling to collect from their customers. The bond is cancelled on August 11, 1914.

(Click on the images below to view them)

To review more documents from the Jim Frederickson Collection, visit the Digital Archives; the full set of documents are currently being cataloged, and will be made available as cataloging is completed.