Northern Pacific Railroad Completion Site, 1883

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Northern Pacific Railroad Completion Site, 1883
Northern Pacific Railroad Completion Site, 1883 is located in Montana
Northern Pacific Railroad Completion Site, 1883
Northern Pacific Railroad Completion Site, 1883 is located in the United States
Northern Pacific Railroad Completion Site, 1883
LocationOff Interstate 90
Independence Creek, Montana
Coordinates46°33′03″N 112°51′36″W / 46.55083°N 112.86000°W / 46.55083; -112.86000Coordinates: 46°33′03″N 112°51′36″W / 46.55083°N 112.86000°W / 46.55083; -112.86000
Area2.5 acres (1.0 ha)
NRHP reference #83001075[1]
Added to NRHPAugust 19, 1983

The Northern Pacific Railroad Completion Site is the location of the golden spike ceremony for the completion of the Northern Pacific Railway in 1883. The site is located near Gold Creek in Powell County, Montana off of Interstate 90,[2] approximately 59 miles (95 km) southeast of Missoula and 40 miles (64 km) west of Helena.[3]

The Northern Pacific Railway which at the time was owned by a consortium of "blind pool" investors devised by Henry Villard,[4] but originally started by Jay Cooke.[5] Cooke began building a transcontinental railroad route across the northern United States from Minnesota to the Pacific Coast in 1870. Crews built from both the eastern and western ends, progressing towards a yet undetermined meeting point somewhere in between. The two crews finally met near Independence Creek in Western Montana on August 22, 1883,[6] which is near Gold Creek where gold was first discovered in Montana.[7] At this point the track was connected, completing the transcontinental line; however, the "golden spike" completion ceremony would not occur until September 8, 1883.[6] Four trains carried 300 guests from the east, including the Northern Pacific's president, Henry Villard, Chairman of the NP's Executive Committee Frederick Billings[8] and visiting dignitaries from the United States, England, and Germany.[6] A fifth train arrived from the west coast.[9] The track which had been laid earlier was temporarily torn up to be relaid ceremoniously during the event. The final "golden spike" driven was not actually made of gold, but was the same spike that was driven to begin the construction of the Northern Pacific in Carlton, Minnesota, thirteen years earlier.[6][9] The spike was driven by Villard, former U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant, and Henry C. Davis, who had helped drive the first spike.[6][10][11]

The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 19, 1983.[1] A wooden sign erected by the Northern Pacific marking the location still exists and can be seen from Interstate 90 near where the Independence Creek runs into the Clark Fork River.[3][12] The 2.5-acre (1.0 ha) site includes the site of the final spike, as well as the location where pavilions were constructed for the 1883 celebrations.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b National Register Information System
  2. ^ Nolan, Waldron, p. 1.
  3. ^ a b Google Maps
  4. ^ De Borchgrave, Alexandra Villard. (2001). Villard : the life and times of an American titan. Cullen, John, 1942- (1st ed. in the United States of America ed.). New York: Nan A. Talese. ISBN 0385486626. OCLC 44774879.
  5. ^ Lubetkin, M. John. (2006). Jay Cooke's gamble : the Northern Pacific Railroad, the Sioux, and the Panic of 1873. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0806137401. OCLC 61027779.
  6. ^ a b c d e Nolan, Waldron, p. 3.
  7. ^ Gold Creek: Historical Context
  8. ^ Winks, Robin W. (1991). Frederick Billings : a life. Oxford University Press. OCLC 610184673.
  9. ^ a b Northern Pacific Railroad Company, p. 266.
  10. ^ Lubetkin 2006, p. 286.
  11. ^ Minnesota Historical Society
  12. ^ a b Nolan, Waldron, p. 2.