“Dedicated to brothers Oakes Ames and Oliver Ames, Jr.”
The Ames Monument doesn't exactly look like much: it's a simple stone pyramid in the middle of nowhere, Wyoming (and I do mean "nowhere"... there isn't even a major road nearby). That makes it all the more surprising to learn that it's actually a memorial to two of the Gilded Age's wealthiest railroad tycoons, Oakes and Oliver Ames. It's even weirder to learn that the monument was built by Union Pacific Railroad, allegedly with the hopes of diffusing one of the country's most notorious fraud scandals. So who were Oakes and Oliver Ames, and why do they deserve a monument in the first place? During a time when the transcontinental railroad was the topic of debate, moreso than a possibility (one historian equated building a rail line across the country as being like a modern day Mars mission), Oliver and Oakes were pretty much the reason it finally got built. Oliver was president of Union Pacific and Oakes was a Congressman who conveniently sat on the Committee on Railroads. Abraham Lincoln was a huge supporter of the transcontinental railroad, and as the story goes, he told Oakes that if he could make it happen, he would be "the most remembered man of the century". He and Union Pacific (with the help of his brother) finally got the railroad built in 1869. But, it wasn't long before news of the Credit Mobilier scandal broke, in 1872-- and Oakes was one of the main men revealed to be involved. In simple terms, major stockholders in Union Pacific formed a company they named Credit Mobilier, awarded it contracts to build the railroad to make it look really rich, and then basically gave away shares to Congressmen that they needed to influence-- in case they needed more money to "build the railroad". Oakes died a few months later, his reputation still ruined. Oliver took over Credit Mobilier after his brother died for a few years before passing on in 1877. Union Pacific decided to build the monument to the brothers in 1875, while memory of the scandal, while fading, was still very much in people's minds-- they hoped to recast the story of Union Pacific and Credit Mobilier as one about the transcontinental railroad, and not about the scandal, and so it was decided that the brothers would be the subjects of a grand memorial in honor of their achievement getting it built. It was built right along a Union Pacific rail line, and apparently trains would stop at it so tourists could get out and walk around to look at it. Famed architect H.H. Richardson, who had done other work for the brothers, designed it, and artist Augustus Saint-Gaudens did the bas-relief portraits of the brothers on the sides. It also used to be a little more interactive than it is today: there was once a tunnel through the monument that tourists could walk through, but it's since been sealed up. Apparently, there also used to be a special rig that could hoist visitors up to the top of the pyamid, which offered a breathtaking view of the surrounding prairie. If that was still an option, I bet the memorial would be a lot more popular! But ultimately, the sad irony is that the Credit Mobilier scandal is taught in high school history classes, while the monument has been pretty much abandoned. The rail line that used to stop at the pyramid was moved further and further South, even causing the closest nearby settlement, Sherman, to turn into a ghost town. Union Pacific unloaded it on the state of Wyoming (but not until 1983) and it's been added to the National Register of Historic Places and is maintained like a Wyoming State Park. Local officials are trying to bring it back, having restored it in 2011 and have launched a campaign to earn it National Historic Landmark status... but it's safe to say that the Ames brothers will always be more well-known for the scandal than the monument. -Roadtrippers The Ames Monument is a large pyramid in Albany County, Wyoming, designed by Henry Hobson Richardson and dedicated to brothers Oakes Ames and Oliver Ames, Jr., Union Pacific Railroad financiers. The brothers garnered credit for connecting the nation by rail upon completion of the United States' First Transcontinental Railroad in 1869. Oakes, a U.S. representative to the United States Congress from Massachusetts, asserted near total control of its construction, whereas Oliver became president of the Union Pacific Railroad (1866 - 1871). In 1873 investigators implicated Oakes in fraud associated with financing of the railroad. Congress subsequently censured Oakes, who resigned in 1873. He died soon thereafter. The Ames Monument marked the highest point on the transcontinental railroad at 8,247 feet (2,514 m) However, Union Pacific Railroad Company twice relocated the tracks further south, causing the town of Sherman that arose near the monument to become a ghost town.
Very cool piece of US railroad history. Check out the old cemetery 100 yards to the south
Cute stop down a dirt road. Our little car took it a little rough. It was very windy but a really neat stop not too far off the highway to get out and stretch
Cool place with historical markers and summaries to read to your kids to understand the background. A diet road drive but was easy and flat.
We had a 32” RV and we were able to park at the street and walk up (3min) for a closer view. Pretty deserted so we also let our dogs off leash to run for a bit.
Easy to get to off the highway and quite the sight for the middle of nowhere (as described). Make sure to read the history to understand the significance and to make the drive more interesting!
A nice drive and neat if you're into history
Agree with Beckihagen -- Waze kept giving the correct distance, then mysteriously, once we would tell it to go there, it suddenly would think it was more than an hour further away.
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