If not for the enterprise of the people of Rockport, there might never have been a train coming here. In 1847, the Eastern Railroad Corporation open a railroad line for travel to Gloucester. The people of Rockport implored the company to extend the line here, but without success. In response, a group of Rockport citizens incorporated the Rockport Railroad Company. In 1855, the Rockport Railroad issued a proposal to Eastern Railroad by which it would construct the track to Rockport and all necessary facilities and assume all ancillary operating costs for five years if Eastern would run its trains here.
Eastern was interested but the Rockport company was unable to raise sufficient capital to carry out the plan. Five years later, in 1860, the company received authorization from the state legislature to issue $50,000 in stock. At a special town meeting, Rockport citizens voted 326-31 to purchase the stock and issued bonds to finance the purchase. Money in hand, the Eastern and Rockport rail companies completed their agreement and the work of building the railroad commenced on Aug. 23, 1860.
The rail line to Rockport opened for travel on Nov. 4, 1861. On that day, free rides were given to anyone who wanted to try the new line. Throughout the day, the cars were crowded to full capacity. In the afternoon, there was a celebratory dinner for invited guests and dignitaries at the Rockport Hotel. After dinner came a series of speeches by railroad executives and town leaders.
By one account, the most rousing speech of the day was delivered by Moses Kimball, who was raised in Rockport and went on to become a prominent Bostonian and associate of circus founder P.T. Barnum. In his speech, Kimball recounted how the spirit of enterprise of the people of Rockport had propelled it to grow from a little cluster of hamlets to a town that could soon outstrip Gloucester in importance. He concluded with these words:
Glory, Glory, Hallelujah,
Rockport is marching on.
This view of the railroad depot has no date or postmark. It was published by The Robbins Bros. Co. and distributed through the Metropolitan News Company. As I noted in another post here recently, Robbins was in business only from 1907 to 1912. Thus, the date of this scene would be within that range — I’ll call it 1910.