Search billions of records on


 Biographies Index  



California Genealogy and History Archives

Sacramento County



The earliest period in which cognizance can be had concerning the Welch family found them identified with Yorkshire, England, and genealogical records show that they became transplanted in the north of Ireland, where several successive generations lived and labored. Prior to the first struggle with England they crossed the ocean to the settlements along the Atlantic coast. The first representative of the name in New England was James Welch, a brave soldier in the Revolutionary war and a man whose noble attributes of character gave to his descendants an inheritance of incalculable value. Among his children was a son, James, who followed the sea and acquired ample means through the persistency of his efforts and the sagacity of his judgment. By marriage he became connected with one of the most ancient families of New England, his wife, Lucinda Brackett, having traced her ancestry to Scotch forbears who settled along the Atlantic coast as early as 1636. The Brackett family was closely related to George Cleves, the famous pioneer of the city of Portland, Me., and an early settler whose vision of the future was prophetic.

On Peaks Island in Casco bay near Portland, Me., Benjamin Welch was born in August, 1827, a grandson of James Welch, the Revolutionary soldier. At the age of sixteen he began to work in the Portland Locomotive and Car shops, a plant engaged in building motive power for the Atlantic & St. Lawrence Railroad (afterward known as the Grand Trunk). For five years he served an apprenticeship or worked for wages in the shops under the superintendeney of Horace Felton and John Sparrow. In the spring of 1852 he came to California via Greytown and the Nicaragua river. The ship on which he sailed north cast anchor at San Francisco on the 26th of March and he found employment in that city. March 4, 1855, he left San Francisco for the Kern river mining district and also visited mines in the San Joaquin and Bear valleys. Next he entered the employ of the Sacramento Valley Railroad Company as a car-builder and for seven years he remained with them, mainly at their Folsom shop. Later he assisted in the construction of the San Jose road and made his headquarters at Seventeen-Mile house.

Through a personal friend, T. D. Judah, chief engineer of the Central Pacific Railroad, Mr. Welch was engaged by Mr. Huntington as car master and general superintendent of construction. The first shop which he built was 20x150 feet in dimensions and gave employment to six men during the first year. With additions 130x130 this shop was used until 1867, when a shop 60x200 feet was erected. The next year a building was constructed 90x230 feet, with an L 90x40 feet, which was soon followed by another, 100x200, and the round- house. At a cost of $2400 he built in 1865 his famous snow-plow, which was in successful use for many years. Another of his important tasks was the reconstruction of the American river bridge which had been destroyed by fire. During 1869 he completed the invention of a framer and tenon machine, which saved much time and labor in the construction of cars. The tourist car, which later came into general use throughout the world, was constructed in 1870 after his plans, the original models and later improvements having been exhibited at the Railroad Exposition in Chicago held during 1884. The Pullman Company adopted the models and carried on the manufacture of the cars. Mr. Welch continued for years at the head of the shop employing about two thousand workmen and when finally he retired to private life it was with the highest reputation for success in his chosen field of activity.

In connection with railroad affairs Mr. Welch held many positions of honor and trust. For many years, beginning in 1870, he was a member of the Car Builders' Association. The committee on brakes, of which he was a member, held a session at Burlington, Iowa, that continued for thirty days in 1886, then met again the following year. Among the most staunch of his friends in railroad circles was A. J. Stephens, master mechanic and superintendent of motive power. Other railroad men of high ability reposed in him the fullest confidence and he enjoyed intimate personal relatio7is with many of the master spirits in railroad development of that day and generation. To friends and workmen as well he has been known for years as Uncle Ben, a familiar title that was given him in rec- ognition of his kindly spirit, friendly nature and generous helpfulness. Early in manhood he became a Mason, identifying himself successively with Union Lodge No. 58, F. & A. M.; Sacramento Chapter No. 3, R. A. M. ; Sacramento Commandery No. 2, K. T., and Sacramento Council No. 1. The benevolent principles of the order received exemplification in his own philanthropic temperament.

The marriage of Benjamin Welch occurred January 4, 1860, and united him with Mrs. Ellen Marsh, nee Boobar, a native of Maine. Their union was blessed with four sons who attained years of maturity, namely: George Henry, Walter Hatch, Frank Cummings and Benjamin Bradford. The eldest of these, George H., was born in Sacramento August 5, 1861, and received his education in the public schools of Howes Academy. During 1881 lie began to work in the car-builders' department of the Southern Pacific Railroad and there learned the trade. From 1886 until 1888 he acted as assistant foreman of the same department in Los Angeles, after which he served for four 3'ears as a car-builder in the Oakland division. During 1892 he was transferred to Ogden, Utah, as assistant foreman of the car- builders' department, from which place in 1894 he was transferred to Wadsworth, Nev., as foreman of the same department. October 7, 1895, he returned to Sacramento and since then has held the responsible position of gang foreman in the car-building department. Through his long association with the Southern Pacific Railroad he has proved trustworthy, intelligent and capable and has added prestige to an honored family name.

The Masonic order, whose ennobling principles appealed strongly to the elder Welch, also has the active co-operation of George H. Welch, who is an influential member of the blue lodge and a faithful exponent of the philanthropic creed of the fraternity. In addition, he has been actively connected with the Knights of Pythias. Politically he has given steadfast allegiance to Republican principles. In religion he is of the Protestant faith and a contributor to various church enterprises. By his marriage, September 9, 1884, to Miss Small of Oakland, he is the father of three children. The eldest son, Edward N., is now proprietor of a garage in Sacramento. The other son, Ben, is ten years the junior of his brother and is now a student in the Sacramento schools. The only daughter, Helen, is the wife of Frank McCormick, and resides in Sacramento. 

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