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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sacramento County



The courage that had aided him in early life to face without dismay of tremor the dense ranks of gallant southern soldiers on more than sixty battlefields enabled him in more mature years to fill the difficult position of engineer and to meet its dangers, seen and unseen, with trained intelligence and quick decision. But in all the vicissitudes of his adventurous career perhaps at no time was he in greater danger of instant death than on the occasion of his trip, November 1, 1903, as engineer on the first section of train No. 16, known as the Oregon express. At the Tehama bridge on the Sacramento river there was a high trestle approach, the view of which was cut off by reason of dense timber, so that until a sharp curve was made close to the trestle it was completely hidden from view. Early in the morning of the ill-fated day the train was making its usual run at the customary speed, and the trestle was shown to be on fire as it came into the vision of the startled engineer. With the quickness of a trained mind be made an emergency application of the brakes, reversed his engine and sanded the rail. The engine left the rail at the burning portion of the trestle and safely crossed and stood upright just beyond, carrying the engineer to life and safety. The tender and two cars went down, and the fireman, caught under the tender, was killed. The cars caught fire from the burning trestle. The pitch gas tanks exploded, thus adding to the fierceness of the conflagration. Three of the cars, a mail, baggage car and empty coach, were burned before the second section could pull the rear portion, consisting of sleepers, back to a place of safety. The wreck and scene presented to all who viewed it the most convincing evidence that had anything but an unusually good stop been made a larger portion of the train, if not all of it, would have shared the fate of the three head cars and many of the sleeping passengers would have shared the fate of the unfortunate fireman.

This veteran of the Civil war and skilled engineer, who now in his retirement from active labors receives a pension from the United States government and from the Southern Pacific Railroad Company, was born at Adelphi, Ross county, Ohio, February 4, 1841, and received a common school education. Immediately after the opening of the Civil war he enlisted at Columbus, Ohio, with the First United States cavalry, and served during the entire period of the struggle, meanwhile taking a brave part in more than sixty battles. When peace had been declared he was honorably discharged, and on the 10th of September, 1865, he was mustered out of the service. At once he came via Panama to California and established his headquarters in Sacramento. From that time until 1883 he was engaged in telegraph construction work for the Central Pacific Railroad Company, being foreman of a gang for much of the time and superintending the construction of lines all along the coast. During 1883 he became a fireman, and in 1884 was promoted to be engineer, which position he held on the Southern Pacific railroad until March of 1911. when he was honorably retired on account of advancing years. For many years he has been associated with the Locomotive Engineers, and his interest in the order did not cease with his retirement from active work. Fraternally he holds membership with the Concord Lodge, F. & A. M., in Sacramento. During 18/2 he married Miss Delia Cassidy, and of their union four children were born. The sons, Joseph and Robert, are engineers with the Southern Pacific company, the former being on the Coast division. The older daughter, Mary, is the wife of Charles Johnson, and lives in Sacramento. The youngest member of the family circle, Laura, resides with her parents at No. 1615 Seventh street, Sacramento, and shares with them the good will and esteem of associates. 

History of Sacramento County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: William L. Willis
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1913)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011