Page:Incidents of travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan.djvu/16

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
vi
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTICE.

The results of our researches were published in 1841. In the autumn of that year, we resumed our travels, and explored the Peninsula of Yucatan, and in 1843 a second work was brought out. After our last visit to Yucatan, we were urged to pursue the researches so successfully carried on in Central America by a journey to Peru, and Mr. Prescott, the admirable historian of that country, was of opinion that much useful information would thereby have been elicited. Mr. Stephens was, however, disinclined to undertake so distant an expedition, and was confirmed in this resolve by my being obliged to absent myself for several years on a professional engagement in the West Indies; he therefore remained in New York, and undertook the formation of the first American Ocean Steam Navigation Company, which in the end has proved highly successful. He next visited the Isthmus of Panama, with the view of forming a Railway across the narrow but difficult neck of land that separates the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

A Company was formed, of which he subsequently became the President, and a concession for the line was obtained from the Government of New Grenada. The necessary surveys were made, and the works began in 1850.[1] Having completed my engagement in the West Indies, I rejoined Mr. Stephens to assist in his great enterprise of spanning the Isthmus with a road of iron, and took charge of the works while he made a second journey to Santa Fé de Bogotá, the capital of New Grenada. We expected to meet in a few months, but Mr. Stephens's health, already much shattered by exposure in tropical regions, and mine still more so by a seven months' residence in one of the most unhealthy climates in the world, separated us for nearly two years; Mr. Stephens going to New York to recruit his strength, and I to California for the same object. Subsequently Mr. Stephens returned to the Isthmus, and by long and incautious exposure in that deadly climate in forwarding the interests of the Railway Company, brought on a disease which terminated fatally in the autumn of 1852.

As his fellow-traveller and intimate friend, I may be permitted to bear testimony to his kindly disposition, and the many excellent qualities of head and heart which endeared him to a large circle of friends and connexions.

F. Catherwood.

  1. It is confidently expected that the Panama railway will be completed by the end of 1855, and will become the favourite route to Australia, as well as to California.