The Ames Monument
Located about 20 miles east of Laramie, Wyo., the Ames Monument was erected at what was once the highest elevation on Union Pacific's line, Sherman Summit, at a height of 8,247 feet. During the construction of the transcontinental railroad, the town of Sherman, Wyo., occupied this site. Completed in 1882 and paid for by Union Pacific, the monument cost more than $64,000.00.
Ames Monument at Sherman Summit, Wyo.
Authorized by a resolution of Union Pacific stockholders at a March 10, 1875 meeting, the monument was erected to honor the contributions of Oakes Ames to the construction of the transcontinental railroad, "Resolved, that in memory of Oakes Ames, and in recognition of his services in the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad to which he devoted his means and his best energies with a courage, fidelity, and integrity unsurpassed in the history of railroad construction, the directors are requested to take measures ...for the erection... of a suitable and permanent monument."
The monument was constructed out of granite quarried from an outcropping of stone captured by Andrew J. Russell in 1869. Famed architect Henry Hobson Richardson, who designed Trinity Church in Boston, designed the pyramid-shaped monument which included bas relief sculptures of the two Ames brothers by renowned artist, Augustus Saint-Gaudens. The on-site construction was completed by the Norcross Brothers from Worcester, Massachusetts.
Oakes Ames came into his fortune from the shovelworks founded by his father and managed by his brother. "Ames and Sons" made its money supplying shovels for the Gold Rush and later from the construction of the transcontinental railroad. One of these "Ames" shovels is currently on display at the Union Pacific Railroad Museum. Taking control of the financing and management of the Union Pacific portion of the railroad at the behest of President Abraham Lincoln, in 1865, Oakes Ames began to buy and sell stock in the now infamous Credit Mobilier construction company, encouraging many of his fellow legislators to also invest. His brother Oliver became one of the early trustees of Credit Mobilier and President of Union Pacific from 1865-1871.
Oakes Ames' actions on behalf of Credit Mobilier were investigated and questioned by the Poland Committee, led by Vermont Congressman Luke Poland in 1872. This investigation resulted in Ames' releasing names of his investors in Congress which alienated him further. Finally he was censured for causing Congress, "contempt and disgrace" and returned home to Massachusetts. Interestingly, none of the other Congressional "investors" in Credit Mobilier were punished, save Democrat James Brooks, nor were any of Ames' associates held accountable. Shortly after returning home, Oakes Ames passed away from a stroke in May of 1873.
In 1901, Union Pacific relocated their tracks and the Ames Monument was left isolated on a point north of the main line. In 1916, the Board of Directors voted to move the monument to a point adjacent to the railroad, but this action never came to pass. The Monument was placed on the National Register in 1972 and, after restoration in 2010-2011, local officials are promoting the site for National Historic Landmark status.
Quarrying the rock for the Ames Monument