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Moffat was one of Denver's most important financiers and industrialists in late 19th and early 20th century Colorado, and he was responsible for the development of the Middle Park area. He served as president, treasurer and as a board member of railroads, banks and city government posts. Over the years he had claims to over one hundred Colorado mines and nine railroads. Moffat died on March 18, 1911 in New York City at the age of seventy three. Some had said[who?] that he had vainly spent fourteen million dollars on the dream of a railroad directly west from Denver. The Denver and Salt Lake Railway had cost him $75,000 a mile, and Rollins Pass had cost him the rest of his fortune. He was in New York city trying to raise more money, and was stopped by what would later be learned was the doing of E. H. Harriman and George Jay Gould I. He was one of the greatest threats they had faced in years. Although Moffat was looked at[who?] the time as a vain dreamer, he would later be viewed by many as ahead of his time. His legacy would leave Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad and later Union Pacific Railroad with a railroad that would outlast most other rail lines in Colorado. He would have Moffat Tunnel and Moffat County, Colorado named after him.
Moffat was born in Washingtonville, New York. In 1851, when he was twelve years old, he moved to New York City, where he began work as a messenger boy in the New York Exchange Bank, now the Irving Exchange National Bank. His starting position was minor, but he was eager to learn the banking business. Moffat was noted by the president, and advanced to the position of assistant teller. In 1855 he made his way to Des Moines, Iowa and became teller in the bank of A. J. Stevens & Company. Moffat then became cashier of the Bank of Nebraska, owned by B. F. Alien, of Des Moines Iowa. He moved to Denver, Colorado in 1860 where he opened a bookstore on 15th and Larimer. The book and stationery store was not highly profitable, so after a few years he went back to banking. On April 17, 1865 the First National Bank of Denver, was organized. It had little success until 1867, when Moffat was elected cashier. He remained the controlling mind in the institution until his death, being elected to the presidency in 1880. He instituted polices and methods which led to the growth and success of the bank for years to come.
The construction of the Denver Pacific Railway linking Cheyenne and Denver was widely credited at the time for reviving the city of Denver, which had been founded less than a decade before during the Colorado Gold Rush. The decision to build the transcontinental railroad to the north had left the Denver stranded from the major transportation routes. As a result, Thomas Durant, vice president of the Union Pacific, pronounced Denver "too dead to bury." Colorado Territorial Governor John Evans declared that "Colorado without railroads is comparatively worthless." As a result, Evans, together with other local business leaders, including David Moffat, William Byers (founder of the Rocky Mountain News), and others partnered with East Coast investors to form a railroad company that would link Denver and the Colorado Territory with the national rail network. The company was incorporated on November 19, 1867 as the "Denver Pacific Railway and Telegraph Company". The company broke ground on its Cheyenne line on May 18, 1868, at a spot near where the Denver Coliseum now stands. The line took approximately two years to complete. It followed the South Platte River through present-day Greeley.
The Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad got its start in 1872 when a group of Denver businessmen headed by Colorado Governor John Evans, David Moffat, other local business leaders to form a railroad company that would link Denver and South Park and the mining country. It was a historic narrow gauge railway that operated in Colorado in the western United States in the late 19th century. The railroad opened up the first rail routes to a large section of the central Colorado mining district in the decades of the mineral boom. The railroad took its name from the fact that its main line from Denver ascended the Platte Canyon and traversed South Park. The company operated as an independent railroad from its founding in 1872 until it was sold in foreclosure proceedings in 1889. Its lines later became part of the Colorado and Southern Railway.
The Denver and New Orleans Railroad, later to be known as the Denver and Fort Worth Railroad and would become part of part of the Colorado and Southern Railway, was started by Colorado Governor John Evans, David Moffat and other associates in 1881 to give Denver an outlet to the Gulf. They built from Denver to Pueblo, when the work was taken over by General Dodge and others and completed to Fort Worth.
Denver Tramway was started by Colorado Governor John Evans, David Moffat and other associates in 1886. Denver Tramway was the first trolley line in Denver.
The Manitou and Pike's Peak Railway is an Abt system rack railway in Colorado (United States), climbing the well-known mountain Pikes Peak. The base station is in Manitou Springs, Colorado near Colorado Springs. The railway is the highest in North America by a considerable margin. It was built and is operated solely for the tourist trade. The railway was started by Zalmon G. Simmons, inventor and founder of the Simmons Beautyrest Mattress Company and David Moffat. The company was founded in 1889 and limited service to the Halfway House Hotel was started in 1890. The summit was reached the following year.
In 1885 David Moffat was elected to Denver & Rio Grande board. Then in 1887 Moffat was elected president of the Denver & Rio Grande. Moffat built the Glenwood to Grand Junction, standard gauging Pueblo to Grand Junction, and the Tennessee pass tunnel. David H. Moffat resigned as president of D&RG in 1891 due to foreign bondholder's displeasure with Denver management of company. Moffat had wanted to build directly west from Denver to Salt Lake City and had spent $200,000 of the D&RG's money on surveys in the James Peak neighborhood. He would later go on to build the Denver, Northwestern and Pacific Railway in the same place.
1892 David Moffat next developed a railroad to Creede from Wagon Wheel Gap, Colorado. Along the banks of the Rio Grande River to Creede, which was then a booming silver camp, which he owned mining clams at. The Denver & Rio Grande Railroad wanted nothing to do with it, so Moffat built the road entirely at his own expense, forming the Rio Grande Gunnison Railway Company. Then when it began to make a profit he sold it at a heavy profit to the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad.
David H. Moffat and his business associates established the Denver, Northwestern and Pacific Railway. It originated in Denver and was planned to terminate in Salt Lake City, Utah, though it went bankrupt before reaching that city. Moffat built his own depot for his railroad at Fifteeth and Bassett, which was three blocks west of Denver's Union Station. By 1913 it reached Craig in Moffat County, Colorado, along the Colorado-Utah border.
David Moffat envisioned a tunnel through the continental divide west of Denver. Construction of the Moffat Tunnel took place from 1922 to 1927. The Moffat Tunnel is 6.2 miles long and is the 6th largest tunnel on earth.
Moffat partnered with Jerome B. Chaffee and H.A.W. Tabor in many mines. He had clams in over one hundred Colorado mines at one time or another. Mines belonging to David Moffat were involved in at least two significant strikes: the Cripple Creek strike of 1894, and the more widespread strikes of 1903.
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