Hewes cast a gold spike to help link East, West

by Juanita Lovret
Reprinted courtesy of the Tustin News

David Hewes, who became a Tustin resident in 1881, provided one of the two gold spikes used in the May 10, 1869, ceremonies marking the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad at Promontory Point, Utah Territory

When the country celebrated the linking of East and West by Transcontinental Railroad 138 years ago today, May 10, 1869, Tustin citizens had no idea that David Hewes, who contributed The Last Spike used by Central Pacific Railroad President Leland Sanford in the ceremony, would become a Tustin resident some years later.

Hewes, a wealthy San Francisco contractor, and his wife, Matilda, came to Tustin in 1881. Hewes was the first president of the Santa Ana, Orange and Tustin Street Railroad and a generous contributor to the Tustin Presbyterian Church building fund in 1884.

He also acquired a large ranch near El Modena which he named Anapama. After Mrs. Hewes passed away in 1887, he lived at the ranch until his death in 1915.

When Hewes learned that no commemorative was planned for the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, he had a 5 5/8-inch long, 14.03 ounce, 17.6 carat gold spike cast and engraved with “May God continue the unity of our Country as the Railroad Unites the two great Oceans of the World,” names of Central Pacific officials and “The Last Spike.”

Not to be outdone, San Francisco News Letter newspaper owner Frederik Marriott commissioned a second gold spike. A San Francisco billiard table manufacturer made a special tie of polished California laurel, with four holes drilled in it and a silver plaque engraved “The last tie laid on completion of the Pacific Railroad, May, 1869.”

Traveling to the ceremony at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory, by private rail coach, Stanford, a former governor of California and founder of Stanford University, carried both spikes and the tie. During the ceremony he placed California’s spikes in the first and fourth holes of the tie. Union Pacific vice president Thomas Durant added spikes provided by Arizona and Nevada. All were tapped in with a silver maul. The spikes were removed after the ceremony and returned to their donors.

Hewes donated The Last Spike to Stanford University in 1892, where it is still displayed in the university museum. For many years The Last Spike was thought to be one of a kind, but in the fall of 2005 a twin spike was offered for sale by a dealer representing descendants of the Hewes family.
The brother and sister, who live in Ojai, explained that the second spike, which is identical to The Last Spike, except for slightly different engraving and a bit of excess gold metal called a sprue, had been a Hewes family heirloom for five generations.

The California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento purchased the spike, which is authenticated by a jeweler’s bill for engraving two spikes at 4 cents a letter, and providing one velvet box for a total of $15.25.

There is no indication that the duplicate spike was ever displayed at the Hewes House here in Tustin, but Stephen and Linda Jennings, present owners of the Victorian mansion, have a replica of The Last Spike, as does the Tustin Area Museum and the Golden Spike National Historic Site, Promontory Summit, Utah, where the railroad completion ceremony is reenacted each May 10.


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