Dear America Wiki
Dear America Wiki

Libby on the cover

All of the characters that appear in The Great Railroad Race by Kristiana Gregory.

Main characters[]

Libby West[]

Main article: Libby West

Libby West (April 17, 1854[1] – 1918)[2] was the eldest child and only daughter of Julia and Sterling West. She had one sibling, her brother Joe. Libby often had to watch out for Joe who was prone to mischief. In May 1868, her family left their home in Denver to witness the joining of the first transcontinental railroad. Along the way, she became close friends with Ellie Rowe. Ellie and her mother traveled with the West family for most of the journey. Libby eventually developed feelings for Pete, her father's newspaper partner, who was four years older than her.

Supporting characters[]

Ellie Rowe[]

Ellie Rowe (born April 1855)[3] was the only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Rowe. Her family lived in Denver in a mansion built from her father's earnings during the gold rush. Her father was a surveyor for the railroad. Ellie and her mother followed behind him to witness the first transcontinental railroad. He sent them updates via telegrams. Ellie made friends with Libby West during their stay at the Laramie Hotel. She and her mother continued traveling with the West family from then on. In later life, she married a prospector. They opened a boardinghouse in Telluride that remains open as a hotel operated by their great-granddaughters. Ellie's great-grandson also competed at the 1992 Winter Olympics.

Joe West[]

Joe West (born May 13, 1861)[4] was the younger brother of Libby, and only son of Julia and Sterling West. He was noted for always getting into mischief. In 1868, Joe went along with his family while following the transcontinental railroad. Libby often had to look after him to stop him from doing anything dangerous. For example, he once tried to put a penny on the railroad track. His parents eventually allowed him to be a water boy for the railroad workers, which made him too tired for trouble. As an adult, he went to Harvard Law School and became a judge for the Idaho Supreme Court. He married a woman who was a typesetter for the Idaho Statesman. Their two sons graduated from Harvard. One became a state senator while the other became a drummer for a traveling circus.

Julia West[]

Julia[5] West ("Mother;" née Spoon;[6] died 1887)[2] was the mother of Libby and Joe, and wife of Sterling. The family moved from New York City in 1859 to settle in the Colorado Territory. While Sterling was away during the war, Julia took in boarders and sometimes helped the editor of the Rocky Mountain News at night. She was stubborn and made up her mind that the whole family would go with Sterling to travel along the transcontinental railroad. Throughout the journey, Julia remained firm that the family would stay together. When Sterling's old wound acted up, Julia insisted on going to Salt Lake City where her brother Henry lived. The family eventually moved on to witness the rest of the historic event. In 1887, Julia passed away from cancer.


Pete (1849[7] – 1918)[2] was a partner of Sterling, creating the newspaper the Daily West together. He began serving the Union Army at twelve as a drummer boy. Pete and Sterling were both imprisoned at the Andersonville prison camp. He gave Sterling his blanket, saving him from pneumonia. After the war, Pete joined Sterling in Denver. In 1868, he and Sterling created their own newspaper and began traveling along the transcontinental railroad. During the journey, Pete became romantically interested in Libby. They married when she was seventeen and they had four daughters and two sons. Pete eventually became an editor at the Rock Mountain News. He and Libby died a day apart from Spanish flu in 1918.

Sterling West[]

Sterling[5] West ("Father;" died c. 1887)[2] was the husband of Julia, and father of Libby and Joe. At ten, he was a cabin boy aboard a ship, and at thirteen, he was a printer's apprentice and later a writer for the New York Tribune. His boss, Horace Greeley encouraged Sterling to go out west to strike it rich. He moved his family to Pikes Peak, but lost everything. Sterling took a job at the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, before leaving to fight in the war. He was imprisoned at Andersonville Prison with Pete, whom saved his life. In 1868, Sterling started his own newspaper with Pete while traveling along the transcontinental railroad. It was not successful and he closed it down when his old war wound began acting up. In the following years, he became a deskman for the Rocky Mountain. Sterling died four months after his wife.

Minor characters[]

  • A. J. Russell was a photographer hired by the Union Pacific Railroad to document the journey.
  • Andrew Johnson was the President who took over from Abraham Lincoln. He was very unpopular and was almost impeached before Ulysses S. Grant was elected.
  • Annie and Kate were Libby West's best friends in Denver. She was sad to part with them.
  • Miss Belle (born c. 1852)[8] was a strict teacher. Libby, her brother, and Ellie Rowe attended her school while staying in Ogden.
  • Mr. Buffington was the husband of Mrs. Buffington. He taught Joe West how to play chess.
  • Mrs. Buffington was a woman who ran a boardinghouse in Ogden. The West and Rowe families stayed at the boardinghouse for a month. Mrs. Buffington became quite fond of them.
  • Brigham Young was the leader of the Mormons in Salt Lake City. Libby and Ellie were curious about him because he had multiple wives. The girls also got to meet two of his daughters.
  • Clara Spoon was the wife of Henry with whom she had two sons and nine daughters.
  • Mrs. Cotton was a neighbor and friend of the West family in Denver. She taught the older girls on Tuesdays about etiquette and afternoon tea.
  • Mr. Durant was the vice president of Union Pacific Railroad. He was held up for several days on his way to Promontory. Durant and Leland Stanford were given the honor of driving in the final stake, but both missed.
  • Freeman brothers, two brothers who started a newspaper called the Frontier Index. They were described as "two Johnny Rebs," and despite fighting on opposite sides during the war, they and Sterling had a friendly rivalry. After being attacked for an editorial they wrote against gambling, they fled east.
  • Henry Spoon was the brother of Julia West and husband of Clara. He operated his shop "Spoon's Fancy Store" in Salt Lake City.
  • Horace Greeley, an "adventurous man," was the editor of the New York Tribune. He decided to go out west to the Colorado Territory and also encouraged Sterling West to go out there as well.
  • Jim Strobridge was a man overseeing the work on the railroad by Central Pacific. He brought his family along in their own private train car.
  • Jimmy Spoon was the husband of Nahanee and father of Little Bear. He lived in the Idaho Territory and visited his parents occasionally. Jimmy was once a rider for the Pony Express.
  • Leland Stanford was the president of the Central Pacific Railroad.
  • Aunt Lil was a relative of the Wests, possibly the sister of Julia. When Julia was mad at her husband, she went over to Lil's house and spent the night.
  • Little Bear Spoon was the infant son of Jimmy and Nahanee.
  • "Miss Sallie" was an Irish cook for the railroad workers who gave him the nickname "Miss Sallie," despite him being a man.
  • Nahanee Spoon was the Shoshone wife of Jimmy and mother of Little Bear. Libby became fond of her and hoped to meet her again.
  • Richard was a boy whom Joe befriended. They often got into mischief that could be dangerous.
  • Mr. Rowe was the father of Ellie and husband of Mrs. Rowe. He was a surveyor for the railroad and occasionally sent telegrams to his wife and daughter about the progress.
  • Mrs. Rowe was the wife of Mr. Rowe and mother of Ellie. She became a close friend to the Wests after she cared for Libby and Joe while Julia was sick. Mrs. Rowe and her daughter continued travelling with the family.
  • Thomas Spoon (born c. 1857)[6] was the youngest child of Henry and Clara. While the Wests were visiting, he became friends with Joe and they often got into trouble.
  • Tipsy was the Wests' horse whom they had had for a long time.
  • Ulysses S. Grant was a Union general who Libby saw on two occasions. He was elected to be the President and later sworn in.
  • William Tecumseh Sherman was a general in the Union Army. After seeing him at the Laramie Hotel and learning his views on Indians, Libby declared "I knew he wasn't a gentleman."


See also[]

Dear America characters
Main characters

Remember "Mem" Whipple | Deliverance Trembley | Lozette Moreau | Catharine Logan | Prudence Emerson
Abigail Stewart | Lucinda Lawrence | María Rosalia de Milagros | Hattie Campbell | Mary Driscoll
Florence "Florrie" Mack Ryder | Susanna Fairchild | Clotee Henley | Amelia Martin | Emma Simpson
Sarah Nita | Phillis "Patsy" Frederick | Libby West | Priscilla "Pringle" Rose | Mary "Polly" Rodgers
Nannie Little Rose | Angeline Reddy | Sarah Jane Price | Teresa Viscardi | Anetka Kaminska
Zipporah Feldman | Minette "Minnie" Bonner | Angela Denoto | Margaret Ann Brady | Kathleen Bowen
Simone Spencer | Lydia Pierce | Nell "Nellie Lee" Love | Bess Brennan | Minerva "Minnie" Swift | Grace Edwards
Julie Weiss | Madeline Beck | Amber Billows | Piper Davis | Dawn "Dawnie Rae" Johnson | Molly Flaherty

Supporting characters

Antoinetta Viscardi | Leon Nasevich | Daniel Pierce | Erma Jean Love | Patrick Flaherty

Lists of characters by book

A Journey to the New World | I Walk in Dread | Look to the Hills | Standing in the Light
Love Thy Neighbor | The Winter of Red Snow | Cannons at Dawn | A Line in the Sand
Valley of the Moon | Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie | So Far from Home | All the Stars in the Sky
Seeds of Hope | A Picture of Freedom | A Light in the Storm | When Will This Cruel War Be Over?
The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow | I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly | The Great Railroad Race
Down the Rabbit Hole | Land of the Buffalo Bones | My Heart Is on the Ground | Behind the Masks
My Face to the Wind | West to a Land of Plenty | A Coal Miner's Bride | Dreams in the Golden Country
A City Tossed and Broken | Hear My Sorrow | Voyage on the Great Titanic | A Time for Courage
When Christmas Comes Again | Like the Willow Tree | Color Me Dark | Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
Christmas After All | Survival in the Storm | One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping
My Secret War | Early Sunday Morning | The Fences Between Us | With the Might of Angels
Where Have All the Flowers Gone?