Magraw and the Survey of Fort Kearny, South Pass, and Honey Lake Wagon Road

“[In] 1857 Congress passed the Pacific Wagon Road Act. The act appropriated three hundred thousand dollars to survey and construct the ‘Fort Kearney, South Pass, and Honey Lake Wagon Road.’ Having bitterly alienated the people of Utah while mismanaging the federal mail contract for the territory, William M.F. Magraw [sometimes spelled ‘McGraw’] used his immaculate political connections [i.e., his friendship with President Buchanan] to win appointment as the project’s superintendent.. . .

A notorious alcoholic, Magraw managed to squander much of the appropriation before leaving the frontier. With Tim Goodale, the expedition’s guide and interpreter, he smuggled more than three tons of liquor to Fort Laramie in government wagons. As a disgusted military officer wrote the survey’s officers concluded Magraw was ‘an ignorant blackguard, totally unfit for the head of such an expedition, while the chief engineer [William Lander] is.”

[N.B. “Goodale and Magraw could not come to terms [regarding the alcohol] at jouney’s end. Although the guide pulled the superintendent’s beard and tromped on his feet to invoke a fight as a means of settling the matter in true mountain style, the dispute had to be adjudicated by the officers at Fort Laramie. Five days were lost as a result of the altercation.” W. Turrentine Jackson, Wagon Roads West, p. 197]