Certificate: 8% Bond of 1879
Dated: 1st January 1879 - Petersburg, Virginia - United States
Signature: hand signed
Measure: 9.4" x 7.5"
Atlantic, Mississippi and Ohio Railroad
Atlantic, Mississippi and Ohio Railroad (AM&O) was formed in 1870 in Virginia from 3 east-west railroads which traversed across the southern portion of the state. Organized and led by former Confederate general William Mahone (1826-1895), the 428-mile line linked Norfolk with Bristol, Virginia by way of Suffolk, Petersburg, Lynchburg, and Salem. The AM&O was promoted as a trade link to the west, and further expansion was envisioned with the goal of increasing Virginia's Ohio Valley and Mississippi Valley commerce. It was heavily backed by investors from England and Scotland.
The AM&O went into receivership after the U.S. Financial Panic of 1873. After several years of continuing financial problems, Mahone's relationship with the bondholders soured, and he was removed as trustee, but was permitted to continue to lead operations. Finally, in 1881, the AM&O was sold at auction. It was acquired by other U.S. interests based in Philadelphia who outbid Mahone. They were already building Shenandoah Valley Railroad and had a new commodity in mind: bituminous coal. The AM&O was renamed to Norfolk and Western Railway (N&W). Norfolk & Western Railway was expanded west into the coalfields, and later into a much large system, eventually tapping the Ohio Valley and Mississippi Valley commerce as earlier promised Virginia. The N&W was combined with the Southern Railway, another profitable carrier, to form Norfolk Southern Corporation (NS) in 1982.
Today, much of the former Atlantic, Mississippi and Ohio Railroad remains in service for Norfolk Southern. The Fortune 500 company, headquartered in Norfolk, transports bituminous coal, intermodal shipping containers, automobile parts and completed vehicles, and other commodities in the 21st century global transportation markets. Most of the former AM&O lines are still part of the NS rail network.
William Mahone and the American Civil War
All three railroads were severely damaged during the American Civil War (1861-1865). After Virginia seceded in April 1861, William Mahone, as its president, used the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad (N&P) to deliver a small force to Norfolk to secure the Gosport Navy Yard, an important resource for the Confederacy. After Union leaders declined a request to surrender possession, he used an N&P train and other deception to bluff them into thinking large numbers of rebel troops were arriving, causing them to abandon the shipyard with no loss of life. He accepted a commission in the Confederate Army and during the remainder of 1861 and until May 1862, also continued as head of the N&P. Mahone was relieved of N&P duties in 1862 as he took on increasing responsibilities with the Confederate Army. He was active in many campaigns and was an able leader during the war, best-known as the hero of the Battle of the Crater in 1864 where he rallied troops and foiled an initial Union success during the Siege of Petersburg.
Post-war, rebuilding and linking
After the end of hostilities, defeated Confederate General Robert E. Lee advised his generals to go back to work rebuilding. William Mahone did just that. He returned to his old job and quickly set about repairing the N&P. Meanwhile, the managers of the South Side Railroad and Virginia and Tennessee Railroad also worked hard to restore service and rebuild bridges, stations, and rolling stock. The war had demonstrated the need to consolidate resources and connections, and the stockholders of the South Side Railroad elected Mahone as president of their road also before the end of 1865.
It was known that the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O) and other northern interests were trying to develop connections in the Shenandoah Valley which would favor Baltimore over Norfolk and other Virginia ports. Mahone could see that the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad was the key to western connections for the other two roads and he became a driving force in the linkage of N&P, South Side Railroad and the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad (V&T). He was president of all three by the end of 1867. However, the V&T board was opposed to consolidation which was favored by the other two roads. Rumors indicated that the B&O would expand its Valley line southward to meet the V&T near Salem, Virginia. Ultimately, the B&O did reach as far as up the valley as Lexington, Virginia, only 50 miles (80 km) short of reaching Salem.
When Mahone could not persuade the V&T board, he took another route to force consolidation, and worked diligently in lobbying the Virginia General Assembly, a part-owner of all three roads, to gain the legislation necessary to combine them into a single entity, and expand westward.
"All Mine and Otelia's"
Mahone was finally successful, and in 1870, the Atlantic, Mississippi & Ohio Railroad (AM&O) was organized as a new line comprised of the 3 railroads he headed, extending 428 miles in Virginia from Norfolk to Bristol. The former general and his wife Otelia (a character in her own right) moved to Lynchburg, where the AM&O established headquarters and shops. The letters A, M and O were said to stand for "All Mine and Otelia's." Instead of utilizing northern financial interests, in addition to the state's investment, Mahone obtained the needed funded through bonded indebtedness from across the ocean through a British financial agent.
The AM&O did well for several years. The three former railroads initially each became divisions, and the former South Side Railroad was later consolidated with the former N&P into a single division. Unfortunately for Mahone's dreams, before much expansion could take place, the AM&O fell on hard times in the financial panic of 1873 which negatively impacted almost all of the railroads.
After several years of operating under receiverships, Mahone had a falling out with his agent, who claimed a breach of integrity. There are some historical indications that this may have resulted from miscommunication, interference by Mahone's many enemies, or both. In any event, the foreign bondholders requested other receivers be appointed, and one of his lieutenants, Henry Fink, was named. In early 1881, the AM&O was sold at public auction. Mahone forces had gathered what he thought would be sufficient funds to place a winning bid, but they were outbid by a surprise entry of a principal of a Philadelphia-based financial company, a previously unidentified competitor. The new owners renamed it Norfolk and Western, possibly utilizing an earlier name proposed by citizens of Norfolk in the pre-war efforts to secure rail service.
Mahone was able to arrange for a portion of the State's proceeds of the AM&O sale to help found a school to prepare teachers to help educate black children and former slaves. The Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute near Petersburg was forerunner of Virginia State College, which expanded to become Virginia State University. A leader of the Readjuster Party, after leaving the railroad business, he became even more active in Virginia's politics and served as a Senator in the U.S. Congress from 1881-1887.