Keli Gwyn
‘Way Back When’sday: The Last Spike and the Lost Spike

As a native Californian, I learned early in life about the Transcontinental Railroad. The enterprise was envisioned and spearheaded by San Francisco businessmen Leland Stanford, Collis P. Huntington, Charles Crocker and Mark Hopkins, known as the Big Four.

The Last Spike

On January 8, 1863, California’s newly elected governor, Leland Stanford, hefted the first shovelful of dirt at the Central Pacific groundbreaking ceremony in Sacramento. Just six years, five months and two days later, Stanford drove the celebrated Last Spike into the final tie when the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads met at Promontory Summit, Utah.

"The Last Spike" by Thomas Hill

“The Last Spike” by Thomas Hill, commissioned by Leland Stanford, was completed in 1881. The oil on canvas painting was on display in the California State Capitol for several years. In 1981 it was moved to the California State Railroad Museum, where visitors can enjoy it today.

After the celebratory joining of the two railroads, the Last Spike, or Golden Spike as some call it, was returned to San Francisco businessman David Hewes, who provided it. He gave it back to Stanford in 1892. From 1936 to 1954 it was displayed in the Wells Fargo Bank in San Francisco. It’s currently on display at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University. Click here to see it.

The Lost Spike

For decades, many wondered about the existence of a second Golden Spike. The engraving receipt shown below, which is on display at the California State Railroad Museum, indicates that two spikes had been engraved.

Last Spike Engraving Receipt

Receipt for the engraving of two spikes: the final Last Spike driven by Leland Stanford at the celebratory joining of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads at Promontory Summit, Utah, and a little-known second “Lost” Spike that didn’t surface until 2005.

As seen in the plaque below, which contains the story of the two spikes, a second spike had indeed been manufactured and engraved. The second spike surfaced in 2005 when descendents of David Hewes put it up for auction.

The Lost Spike Story

The story of the “Lost” Spike ordered at the same time as the well known Last Spike, which was driven into the final tie by Leland Stanford at the celebratory joining of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads.

The museum acquired the Lost Spike and put it on display, so visitors can enjoy this long-hidden piece of history. I spent several minutes in front of the glass case drinking in the site. A trip to the Cantor Arts Center to see the Last Spike is on my Places I Must Visit list for sure.

The Lost Spike

The “Lost” Spike, which was ordered at the same time as the well known Last Spike that was driven by Leland Stanford at the celebratory joining of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads.

“The Lost Spike” painting by Thomas Hill and the Lost Spike itself are but two of the many treasures at the California State Railroad Museum. If you’re ever able to visit Sacramento, I highly recommend including the museum as one of your stops.

California State Railroad Museum

The California State Railroad Museum in Old Town Sacramento.

  Photos taken by Keli Gwyn while visiting the California State Railroad Museum.
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Keli Gwyn
Mailbag Monday: Surprise Your Personal Cheerleader

We all have those wonderful people in our lives who are quick to celebrate our accomplishments with us, give us a word of encouragement and boast about us to others. I have a writer friend who does all that and more for me and for so many others as well.

I wanted to think of a way to show my friend how much I appreciate having her as one of my personal cheerleaders. What better thing to send her than a pair of colorful pom poms?

I found a set at the dollar store, packaged them in clear gift bags (also from the dollar store) and added a note of explanation one side of the package.

Pom Poms1

On the other side of the package, I affixed the necessary items: postage stamps and mailing labels.

Pom Poms2

I hope this little surprise brings my friend a bit of the joy she so often gives me.


Who are some of your personal cheerleaders,
and what could you send to say thanks?

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Keli Gwyn
Fun-filled Friday: Unique Pumpkins

It’s Halloween, and many people will be displaying their jack-o-lanterns.

I went in search of a pumpkin and was amazed at the varieties I found.

Pumpkins 1These Red Worty Things certainly have personality, don’t they?

Pumpkins 2You’ve got to love a pumpkin called Cinderella,
especially when it looks like her coach.

Pumpkins 3

I have no idea how they came up with the name Wolf. I might have chosen Trunk or something else that captured the feel of those massive stems.

Pumpkins 4I couldn’t find a sign for these, so I have no idea what they’re called.

I didn’t end up with any of these pumpkins.
Instead I opted for a cute little fellow about the size of a grapefruit.


What names would you choose for these varieties?

Would you use any of them in your fall decoration scheme?

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Keli Gwyn
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