Event Marks 125th Anniversary of Golden Spike
By Amber Joy Blair
Signal Staff Writer
Thursday, September 6, 2001
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ormer Secretary of State March Fong Eu joined a host of historians and government officials Wednesday in Canyon Country to commemorate the quasquicentennial of the "joining of the rails" linking Northern and Southern California.
Exactly 125 years ago, on Sept. 5, 1876, Southern Pacific Railroad President Charles Crocker drove a golden spike at Lang Station, off today's state Route 14 near Shadow Pines. The spike completed Southern Pacific's San Joaquin line and connected Los Angeles to San Francisco and the transcontinental railroad.
"It is important to not forget the railroad heritage here in the Santa Clarita Valley," said Francisco Oaxaca, communications manager for Metrolink the current owner the rail line and the organizing agency for Wednesday's event.
Just outside the modern city limits of Santa Clarita adjacent to the property where Transit Mixed Concrete Co. proposes to mine 78 million tons of sand and gravel over 20 years the Los Angeles area became part of the rest of the United States, with a swing of Crocker's silver hammer.
But the ones who worked long, hard hours to lay down the tracks were thousands of Chinese immigrant laborers who built most of the early rail lines in California.
During the ceremony Wednesday, Eu paid special recognition to the important role the Chinese played in completing the transcontinental railroad.
"This land is consecrated by the blood, sweat, and tears of 3,000 Chinese laborers 125 years ago," Eu said at the Lang Station site. "It is very significant and emotional knowing our forefathers contributed so much to the start of California."
Eu served as California Secretary of State from 1975 to 1994, retiring to accept an appointment as the U.S. ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia. The first Asian American to hold statewide office, she is seeking reelection to her former position on the Democratic ticket in 2002.
In her remarks, Eu remembered the thousands of Chinese workers who helped construct the San Fernando Tunnel between Newhall and the San Fernando Valley. An untold number of Chinese laborers died during construction of the tunnel, which measures nearly 7,000 feet and was dug almost entirely by hand in 1875 and 1876.
"They were devoted, hard-working and dedicated to the job," said Irvin Lai, president of the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California. "We can learn from their experience for a better America."
Eu performed a reenactment of the driving of the original "golden spike" along with Leon Worden, president of the SCV Historical Society. Both attended the centennial celebration 25 years ago.
"Our valley is unusually rich in history of statewide importance," said Worden. "We had the first gold and the first successful oil operations, and in 1876 California was united by twin ribbons of steel right here in Canyon Country."
Mayor Laurene Weste was among the dozens of people who turned out for the special event. "Without the thousands of Chinese workers we wouldn't have Santa Clarita," she said. "We have them to thank for our local economy. It's amazing all their work is still serving us 125 years later, and I'm sure it will still be here for the next 125 years."
For a first-hand learning experience in California history, two fourth-grade classes from Pinecrest Elementary School attended the ceremonies and took swings at the ceremonial spike.
"This year we'll be studying about this in class and it's a great way to start," said fourth-grade teacher Cynthia Harris. "The children are excited to be here and help drive the spike. It's something they'll tell their children and grandchildren."
Thomas C. Buckley, retired Southern Pacific railroader and board member of the California State Railroad Museum Foundation, was pleased with the tribute to the Chinese community and the turnout at the Lang Station site.
"It was a wonderful response having elected officials represented and the Metrolink showing their support," said Buckley, who also commented on the school children who came. "It's important for the younger generation to understand the significance of early history."
Lang Station was dedicated as a California Historic Landmark in 1957. It was torn down in 1971 after Southern Pacific ended commuter rail service.
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