“The Mexican Railroad,” Pan-American Railroad

Pan-American Railroad  a collection of letters and articles about the building of the railroad

Alfred B Lyon Deposition  – a cautionary tale

Pan-American Railroad, Banco de Chiapas     A scholarly article with a different view of the railroad and  its building.

Photos and Maps for the “Mexican Railway”

Por los rieles de Chiapas – Valente Molina book about the Ferrocarril Panamericano

This section of railroad was built in the very early 1900’s by a group of our Shumway and Everett relatives, an undertaking summarized by Dean Lobaugh (the husband of Clara Everett’s daughter Eleanor Merewether.) thus:

In his “Some of the Everetts” Fremont wrote at some length and most interestingly (he had justifiably some pride in his literary skills) of the Mexican venture and adventure.

A Los Angeles promoter got in touch with Walter Everett about the possibilities in developing a railroad in southern Mexico, in the State of Chiapas, on the Guatemalan border. A European firm had gone bankrupt in such an attempt in the 1880’s, but had left some completed track, and a great deal of machinery. The idea was to buy the concession from the Mexican government (those were the days of Porfirio Diaz, the long-time Mexican dictator, whom Fremont Everett thought one of the greatest men of the century) and complete the road. Included in the deal was the privilege of establishing a bank of issue in Chiapas; for working capital of $250,000 the bank could issue currency worth three times as much.

Although his son Walter was convinced that the deal was a very attractive one, Franklin Everett, though then nearly seventy, insisted on a first hand look, so with one of the men of the Lyon family (from the founding family of Lyons) he made a most difficult journey through Mexico and returned to participate in the venture. Next, in 1901, Fremont Everett and his brother-in-law Herbert Shumway made a similar trip and came home similarly impressed.

So it was that at the end of 1901, when your grandmother Clara was 17, the Lyons entourage set out for Mexico. Although Fremont Everett does not give the exact date when the partially completed railroad was sold to other interests, it was apparently in late 1903 or early 1904, is indicated by the dates of your grandmother’s enrollment at Denver University and her marriage.

The Mexican period of your grandmother’s life became, as difficulties and disappointments marked her unfolding years, the shining highlight of her career. As a young American woman in a remote and backward part of Mexico, the daughter of an American capitalist, admired and almost worshiped by natives, she could never have envisioned that she would come to the end of her days lonely and disoriented in a decaying old farm house in Oregon.

With many difficulties, the Nebraska farmers, as they were referred to by workmen and other employees, managed to build a considerable amount of trackage in the jungles with the prescribed time limits. As the non-resident president of the company Walter Everett frequently had to make arduous trips from the States to settle disputes; Fremont, whose role was that of banker and paymaster, admitted that he wasn’t very successful at the management level. In addition to family members, several men of the Lyons area had money in the venture (men of character and great means, your great-grandfather described them). Several people on the expedition died of tropical diseases, including Uncle Walter’s brother-in-law.

Three years were enough for the Nebraska farmers, and when they were able to sell out to Kansas City firm, and the Mexican government paid them bonuses in cash and bonds for the work already completed, they were glad to return home.

“Mexican bonds” became a by-word in the family, as you know. For twenty years members of the family who held these bonds clipped coupons and received interest. Then about 1924, the Mexican government defaulted on the bonds, so they became virtually worthless. For years after I knew the family Uncle Walter was working on schemes to get something for the bonds. After her grandmother’s death your mother had three $1000 bonds; eventually we sold these, long after Uncle Walter’s death, for 11 cents on the dollar in Eugene [OR]


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