Daniel Webster Balch - President of Nevada and Oregon Railroad

Daniel Webster balch (Nov. 14, 1834 - Unknown) was born to John Theodoric and Elizabeth Jones (Thacher) Balch. Currently little else is known about Daniel's early life and the events leading up to June 1881. Information on Daniel indicates that he lived in San Francisco prior to his becoming involved in the Nevada and Oregon Railroad in June of 1881. It was at this time that he became a stockholder in the Railroad founded a year earlier on June 5, 1880. This railroad was established in Reno, Nevada and proceeded northwest to the California state line.

It was in 1880 that a series of events would begin that led ultimately to Daniel being shot on September 27, 1881. A man by the name of Frank Fowler, a New York capitalist, had invested $80,000, along with some of his friends, in the newly formed Nevada and Oregon Railroad. Five months after the company had begun operations Fowler traveled out to check on his investment in Reno. Upon his arrival Fowler discovered that no by-laws had been established to govern the operations of the new company. Frank Fowler immediately called for a stock meeting to be held on September 27, 1881 with the intent of voting out the current board of directors.

These events set into motion a power struggle between two different factions within the Nevada and Oregon Railroad Company. The existing board of directors, led by Judge Wheeler and James McMecham, convened a meeting on September 25 to try and prevent Frank Fowler's moves against them. Squire C. Scoville, Secretary of the company, was noticeably absent from this meeting and thus prevented the remaining directors from getting immediate access to the companies books. A locksmith was called in to access the books in a locked safe only to have the books nowhere to be found upon opening. Apparently Scoville, in cooperation with Thomas Moore, an ally of Frank Fowler, had taken the companies books to San Francisco. This move did not slow down the anti-Moore/Fowler faction on the board. The directors immediately voted themselves 50,000 shares of stock thereby tipping the balance of power away from Fowler. Thomas Moore went to court to block the Wheeler faction's actions only to have Judge Wheeler succeed in overturning the Moore injunction.

On September 27, when time for the stockholders meeting came, Thomas Moore tried to block Wheeler, and his supporters, from access to the meeting. Wheeler and his supporters didn't respond well to this attempt to block them and a gun fight quickly ensued. During the shooting Daniel Balch and Squire Scoville were wounded. Scoville died six days later while Daniel Balch managed to recover and become President of the company several months later. For a time two boards were competing for control of the company but eventually Thomas Moore and Frank Fowler would succeed in gaining control of the company.

The Nevada and Oregon Railroad would struggle through delays and financial difficulties for several more years. Daniel Balch continued to lead the company but various cash advances had to be secured to keep the company afloat. On January 29, 1883 the company was forced to cease operations due to financial difficulties. In February of 1883, in a report to the California Secretary of State, Daniel Balch held back little as he criticized the company. Daniel said the company had been: "conceived in inequity and born in fraud". In the end the companies operations would bring about investigation and court action.

Genealogy of Daniel Webster:

Father: John Theodoric Balch
Mother: Elizabeth Jones Thacher

Wife: Nellie Dingle Holmes (Daughter of John Dingle)
Married: April 25, 1868


1. George Thacher
2. Daniel Herbert
3. Maud
4. John Adrian
5. Daniel Fraser

Primary Sources/Links:

Genealogy of the Balch Families in America - By: Galusha B. Balch

Railroads of Nevada and Eastern California: The northern roads - By David F. Myrick

Wikipedia - Nevada and Oregon Railroad

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License