One of the most important branches of industrial development which has marked the progress of Pennsylvania during the latter half of the Nineteenth Century has been the construction of the various railroad systems of the State, which uniting one point with another, and bringing into closer contact, the large cities and smaller towns, have exercised a potent influence over commerce and the manufacturing interests. Charles McFadden, the subject of this biography, during his life, was known far and near, as one of the most active in promoting the prosperity of the State; his was an arduous task, and during his busy career he made the record of having built, and constructed more miles of railroad than any other contractor of his time.
CHARLES MCFADDEN was born in Liverpool, Perry County, Pennsylvania, December 13, 1830, and died March 4, 1895, in Philadelphia, where he had attained a most prominent position in the financial and business world. He was the son of John McFadden, who emigrated from Ireland, and Ann McIntire, also a native of the Emerald Isle. His parents settled in Pennsylvania, and when their son was old enough to attend the public schools he was sent to the Adams Academy until he was about fifteen years of age. He then began working for his father in railroad and canal construction, the elder McFadden being widely known as a constructor in that line. When Charles McFadden was nineteen years old, his father recognizing his merit, ability and progressiveness, took him into partnership and, together, they contracted for some of the largest operations known in railroad construction for a number of years. The firm was organized as John McFadden & Sons, and after Charles McFadden had served several years as a partner, he branched out in his indi-vidual operations. He was successively a member of Barnes & McFadden; Nead & McFadden, McFadden & Kelly, and then Charles McFadden & Sons, of which organization he was the senior partner.
Mr. McFadden began life as a poor boy and by hard work and unremitting attention to whatever business cares and duties he had on hand, advanced himself into the recognition of the prominent men of the community. In his youth he had learned much of usefulness to him, and had succeeded in mastering the details of railroad construction most thoroughly. Through a number of years he advanced step by step in the estimation of capitalists until he had obtained a position in the business community as the largest railroad contractor in the State. A self-made man, he owed his success to close application to business and his indefatigable efforts to advance himself. He was a thoroughly conscientious worker and paid strict attention to business, with the result that he is referred to in the industrial world as having built and finished more lines of railroad in Pennsylvania than any other contractor of his day. Recognizing in the railroad systems of the Key-stone State one of the most important factors in the development of its commerce, the leading men of Pennsylvania were unanimous in according Mr. McFadden a prominent place in the roster of those who advanced its interests in a material manner. Mr. McFadden built nearly all the branch lines of the Lehigh Valley Railroad, and was instrumental in completing some of the most successful branch roads in the State. Many hundreds of miles of rail, laid across mountain, plain and valley, through forests and over primeval districts, where the forces of civilization had not yet penetrated, were constructed by him. He wielded a vast force for the benefit of the people and was a notable aid to the leaders of commercial activity.
Not alone as a contractor was Mr. McFadden known in Pennsylvania, but his reputation as a business man was of the highest order. His judgment was at all times recognized as that of a clear-headed and logical man of experience, and his participation in the business affairs of several leading industrial and railroad companies largely served to advance their welfare. He was a Director of the Keystone National Bank and was also a Director in the Black Lick Mining Company. He was President of the Cornwall and Reading Railroad, and was also President of the Conshohocken Stone Quarry Company.
As a railroad constructor Mr. McFadden attained his widest
recognition, however, and these systems comprise but a small part
of his work: The Cape May Railroad; the tunnels at Hamburg, Philadelphia,
and Reading; tunnel at Phoenixville, Pennsylvania Railroad; tunnel,
Summit, Allegheny Valley Railroad; and tunnel Allegheny Mountain,
South Penn Railroad; Musconetcong tunnel, Easton and Amboy Railroad;
the South Penn Railroad, fifteen miles; the Holmesburg Bridge,
Pennsylvania Railroad; the Lehigh Valley Railroad in New York,
10 miles; the Cambria and Clearfield Railroad; the New York City
and Northern Railroad; the Columbia and Port Deposit Railroad,
Schuylkill Valley at Hamburg; Ridgway and Clearfield Railroad,
for Pennsylvania Railroad Company; New York, Lake Erie and Western
branches in McKean, Elk and Jefferson Counties, Pennsylvania;
Ebensburg Black Lick Branch, Pennsylvania Railroad. In addition,
he has built, probably, thirty other lines and off-shoots thereof.
While still a young man, Mr. McFadden was married to Sarah A.
McIntire, whose ancestry united the racial characteristics of the Ger-man and Scotch-Irish. They had eleven children, six of whom are still living. Mr. McFadden was socially prominent and, in his later years, he rose to an enviable position in his city and State. He was well known as a lover of fine horse-flesh, and took delight in promoting various club and social connections. Always a strict business man, however, he was active up until the time of his much regretted demise.