American Society of Civil Engineers.

Transactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers (Volume 81) online

. (page 165 of 167)
Online LibraryAmerican Society of Civil EngineersTransactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers (Volume 81) → online text (page 165 of 167)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Club of Boston, University Club of Philadelphia, Chemists Club of
New York, Boston Athletic Association, India House, Transportation
Club, Harrisburg Club, American Electric Railway Association, New
England Iron League, West Side Tennis Club, Richmond Hill Asso-
ciation, Kew Gardens Civic Association, Kew Gardens Country Club,
Oak Island Yacht Club, and the Conococheague Club of Hagers-
town, Md.

Mr. Cuntz was elected an Associate of the American Society of
Civil Engineers, on September 6th, 1910.



MEMOIR OF GEORGE HENRY FROST 1827

GEORGE HENRY FROST, Assoc. Am. Soc. C. E.*



Died March 15th, 1911



George Henry Frost, the son of Ebenezer and Caroline (Harwood)
Frost, was born on July 9tli, 1838, at West Hawkesbury, Ont., Canada,
where his father was engaged in the foundry business. His parents
were of New England ancestry, natives of Vermont, who had emigrated
to Lawrence County, New York, and, about 183G, had removed to
Canada. When Mr. Frost was about a year old, his parents removed
to Smith's Falls, Ont., where the boy obtained his early education
at the village school. In 1854, he was sent to an academy in Glover,
Vt., and on his return to Smith's Falls, he taught school while pre-
paring for college. He was graduated from McGill University in 1860
with the degree of Civil Engineer, and, at the time of his death, was
its oldest living alumnus.

After his graduation from McGill, Mr. Frost, as was the custom
in those days, served his apprenticeship to a licensed land surveyor,
until 1863, when he received his diploma as a Provincial Land Sur-
veyor. His ambitions were not satisfied, however, by the opportunities
offered him at his home in Smith's Falls, and, in August, 1863, he
went to Chicago, HI., where he secured employment as Rodman on
a railroad survey then being made by the Chicago and Northwestern
Railroad in Wisconsin. He remained with that Company, first in
the ofiice of the Chief Engineer and afterward in the Land Commis-
sioner's office, until 1868, except for the summer of 1864 when he
was employed in an architect's office in St. Louis, Mo.

After leaving the employ of the Chicago and Northwestern Rail-
road Company, in 1868, Mr. Frost engaged in the private practice of
engineering with an office in Chicago. After the great fire in October,
1871, he did a great deal of engineering work in connection with the
rebuilding of the city and in the establishment of property lines within
the burned district. Many of the suburban sections which have been
incorporated as part of the City of Chicago were laid out by Mr.
Frost at that time. His work included also the survey of the tracts
which now comprise the United States Reservation at Fort Sheridan
and the Town of Glencoe.

In April, 1874, Mr. Frost established and issued the first number
of the Engineer and Surveyor, a monthly publication devoted to the
interests of the civil engineer, and the first periodical of its kind in
America. In 1876, the publication was changed to a weekly and
re-named the Engineering News. In December, 1878, Mr. Frost moved
his business to New York City and opened an office in the Tribune
Building. Later, he transferred his office to the St. Paul Building.
The Engineering News steadily prospered under his management

* Memoir compiled by the Secretary, from information on file at the Society
Headquarters.



1828 MEMOIR OF GEOEGE HENRY FROST

until it became known as one of the leading authorities on civil engi-
neering and allied subjects. In 1911, MJr. Frost sold his establishment
to the Hill Publishing Company, of New York City, which recently
was merged with the McGraw Publishing Company.

Mr. Prost always took great pride in the fact that he had carried the
entire first few editions of his paper to the post-office himself, and
that, during his 37 years of ownership, the paper had never missed
an issue and was always out on time.

In 1886, Mr. Prost became a resident of Plainfield, N. J., and from
the first took great interest in the local affairs of that place. When
the City authorities were considering a sewerage system for the
town, he took an active part in the work, serving, as a member of the
Common Council, on the Committee on Streets and Sewers for five
years. As Chairman of that Committee in 1893, he drafted the design
for the sewerage system and devoted much thought, time, and labor
to the project until its completion, in 1896.

After severing his connection with Engineering News in 1911, Mr.
Prost retired from active business and devoted his time to study and
travel. He was deeply interested in the study of genealogy and in
geography and history, and he supplemented his reading by travel in
many parts of the world. He had visited most of the countries
of Europe and had made extensive trips to Egypt, South America, and
in the United States. In 1914, he was planning a trip around the
world, but gave it up on the outbreak of the European War.

Up to December 23d, 1916, Mr. Prost had enjoyed unusually good
health. On that date, he suffered a stroke of paralysis and, although
his condition improved for a time, he grew worse again, his death
occurring at his home in Plainfield on March 15th, 1917.

On December 3d, 1868, he was married to Miss Louisa Hunt, a
daughter of the late Edwin Hunt, of Chicago, 111., and she, with four
sons, survives him.

Mr. Prost was a thorough business man, with a capacity for the
smallest as well as the largest detail. He was an optimist by nature,
always looking on the bright side of things, his enthusiasm never
lagging until his object was accomplished. Being deeply religious,
he always took a keen interest in local church and charitable affairs,
and was an active member of the Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church
of Plainfield.

Mr. Prost became a citizen of the United States in 1863, and was
always afterward associated with the Republican Party. He was a mem-
ber of the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers, and was also connected
with a number of other scientific and technical organizations. At the
time of his death, he was President of the Courier-News Publishing
Company, of Plainfield, N. J., having purchased that paper in June, 1904.

Mr. Frost was elected an Associate of the American Society of
Civil Engineers on January 4th, 1882.



MEMOIE OF JAMES JEEOME HILL 1839

JAMES JEROME HILL, F. Am. Soc. C. E.*



Died May 29th, 1916.



The death of James Jerome Hill, at St. Paul, Minn., on May 29th,
191G, removed from the railway, banliing, and industrial life of the
United States one of the most forceful and beneficent figures of his
generation. Through the reflex action of his marvelous mind, as
demonstrated in the many activities directly affecting the progress and
welfare of the world, he became an international character, and will
live in the future, in the influence and example of the sound policies
and great works that his genius created during the busy years of
his life.

In the vast circle of his friends, and among his business associates
who knew him as he was, the demonstration of grief at his death was
sincere and heartfelt, and the knowledge that such a personal and
public loss was inevitable, in the course of Nature, made the sorrow
no less poignant.

To condense even the main features of his history and life work
within the limits of this memoir would be an impossibility, but, as a
Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers, it is fitting that
some record of his career and activities, and of the encouragement and
co-ordination that he gave to the civil engineers who carried out his
great works, should be made in the annals of the Society.

Mr. Hill was born near Guelph, Ontario, in the Dominion of
Canada, on September 16th, 1838. His parents, James Hill and Anne
(Dunbar) Hill, were of Scotch and Irish extraction, his father fol-
lowing the usual occupations of a farmer in a new country. His
school education was obtained at Rockwood Academy, an institution
of his home neighborhood, conducted by a Quaker schoolmaster, who
exercised a strong influence on him and directed his reading and
studies. His father died when he was fifteen years old, and he then
took his share in the maintenance of the family by working in a country
store near-by. His ambition, however, could not long be satisfied with
such a narrow field, and three years later, in the summer of 1856, after
visiting several of the larger cities of the United States, he settled in
St. Paul, Minn.

As a young man without friends or resources, he found employ-
ment as a clerk on the river front, then the center of the business life
of the little frontier settlement. He was first with the Dubuque and
St. Paul Packet Company, then with the Davidson line of steamboats,
remaining with that concern until he was appointed Agent of the

* Memoir prepared by Ralph Budd, W. L. Darling, and John F. Stevens, Mem-
bers, Am. Soc. C. E.



1830 MEMOIR OF JAMES JEROME HILL

Northwestern Packet Company in 1865. In 1867 he established a
general fuel and transportation business on his own account, and in
1869 he became the head of the firm of Hill, Griggs and Company,
engaged in the same enterprises. During all these years, by constant
study of historical facts, human nature, and conditions, he laid the
foundation of a business experience which came to include a knowl-
edge of all the essential facts of the trade of the city and the country
back of it, and began to estimate properly the wonderful resources of
the latter, the possibilities of which had not even dawned upon our
most far-sighted men.

The fuel business, even at that time, was important, and was closely
allied with the restricted transportation facilities of the Northwest;
but, during this period, Mr. Hill had become interested in the trade
between the United States and Fort Garry, as Winnipeg was then
called, and which was carried by way of St. Paul. To handle this
business, he established, in 1870, the Red Eiver Transportation Com-
pany, and in 1872 he started the first regular line of service between
St. Paul and Fort Garry. The knowledge he thus gained of the vast
latent resources of that country crystalized into one of the dominant
ideas of his existence, and one which, extended and amplified beyond his
wildest dreams, became an accomplished fact long before the close of
his life. So that, as the result of his prophetic vision and tireless
energy, an immense section of our country, which had been con-
sidered — if at all — of little value, has become a very potential factor
in the production of the wealth of the world, and the homes of thou-
sands of the best citizens of which the United States can justly boast.
It was on one of his many trips, made in connection with this trans-
portation business, that he met Donald A. Smith, afterward Lord
Strathcona, with whom he was to be so closely and successfully asso-
ciated in his first railroad enterprise.

There came to a troubled life in the Fifties, under the stimulus of
legislation in Minnesota, a railway company called the St. Paul and
Pacific, which name alone signified ambition, without knowledge or
resources. It controlled valuable terminal lands in St. Paul, and had
partly built a line, ultimately intended to reach the Canadian boundary
at St. Vincent; but the road had failed, and had gone into the hands
of a Receiver in 1873. Its bonds were held in Holland, by parties who
were not willing to abandon their investment, nor had the foresight
or nerve to invest more to salvage the wreck. Mr. Hill alone saw the
possibilities of the road, and what a factor it could be made toward
the development of the country, an empire then unsettled and over-
looked. It was a ready forged but crude instrument, which, to be
adequate for his purpose, must be controlled, properly financed, and
made effective, all of which appeared to be a hopelessly visionary
project, excepting to his master mind.



MEMOIR OF JAMES JEROME HILL 1831

Its total debt was nearly $33 000 000, an enormous sum for those
times, and the very size of this debt would have staggered a less
optimistic and forceful character. He believed that he could secure,
and bent all his energies toward securing, control of the property,
and his faith was justified. The co-operation of Donald A. Smith,
and of George Stephen (afterward Lord Mountstephen) was gained,
and, together with Korman W. Kittson, who had had experience of
the country in acting for the Hudson Bay Company, they formed a
syndicate to buy the defaulted bonds of the companies covered by
the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad Company.

The detailed story of the next few years reads more like a fairy
tale than a relation of the sober facts of history. These four men
pledged every thing they had in the world to obtain even money enough
to secure an option on the bonds; for men of affairs in New York
and London regarded the whole proposition as chimerical. Besides
the securing of an option on the bonds, money had to be provided to
finish uncompleted lines, within the time limit set by the Legislature,
in order to avoid forfeiture; and all of this labor fell upon Mr. Hill,
as did also the financing necessary to make good the agreements with
the bondholders, until such time as the railroad could become a pro-
ducer of net revenue, and it was not until 1878 that it could be truth-
fully said that matters really began to take proper shape.

In 1879 the properties were reorganized as the St. Paul, Minneapolis
and Manitoba Railway Company, with necessary lines in operation, an
organization created, the proper spirit infused into the enterprise, and
a matured plan for the future mapped out. The system then com-
prised 555 miles of constructed road, and 102 miles .under construc-
tion. From this time began its steady, never-ceasing expansion, cov-
ering the Northwestern country with new lines and branches, to be
followed closely by immigration and settlement, and making an equally
steady progress towards Montana, and the ultimate goal of the Pacific
Ocean, which object had been in Mr. Hill's mind from an early day.

In 1888 the road reached Butte, and in 1893, the Pacific Extension
touched the shores of Puget Sound at Seattle, Everett, and Bellingham,
realizing the transcontinental idea. A line had long before been com-
pleted to the Great Lakes, and a steamship company established to give
an eastern outlet.

Mr. Hill was for two years during this period interested in the
planning and construction of the main line of the Canadian Pacific
Railway, from the plains of Manitoba west to the Pacific Ocean, being
Managing Director of that company; but in 1883 he gave up direct
connection with that enterprise to devote his entire time to the welfare
of his own marvelously developing properties.

He opened trade with the Orient, establishing a line of transpacific
ships to develop and handle this new traffic. Locally, wherever his



1833 MEMOIK OF JAMES JEROME HILL

lines touched, new industries sprang up; immigration and settlement,
fostered by him as a personal matter, followed the rails with a rapidity
hitherto unprecedented in the history of the United States.

In 1890 the various railroad enterprises which were offshoots of the
original plan were all compacted into one company, the present Great
Northern System. The great machine was pushed to completion, and
grew bigger and better from year to year, until it stands to-day, in
character and plan, as a marvel of transportation efficiency.

Mr. Hill was General Manager of the company from its beginning,
became Vice-President in 1881, and President in 1882, which office he
held and adrninistered until he resigned it to one of his sons, just 25
years later. During all these years, as well as to the end of his life,
his was the guiding hand, and his the inspiring vision and controlling
mind that have made the Great Northern Railway not only the most
notable long-distance transportation machine in the world, but also
the greatest single factor in the material development of an empire
of incalculable wealth of resources. This system, as the embodiment
of the plans, ideas, and acts of one man, alone constitutes a fitting
monument to the clear vision and untiring genius of James J. Hill.

As a student of railway economics, Mr. Hill had early known that
the measure of success for a road was to be found in its ability to move
traffic at the lowest practicable cost. In freight movement, this meant
light gradients, with heavy power and large-capacity cars, with con-
sequent maximum train loading. In this field he was preeminently the
pioneer in American railroad practice. In the planning and construc-
tion of his lines, the cardinal principle, which he insisted must be fol-
lowed, was that a dollar saved in construction is saved but once, but
that a dollar saved in operation, is saved every time the wheels go
over the track, and he saw to it that his engineers carried this principle
out in every particular. Either by personal inspection or from reliable
reports, he knew practically the resources and conditions of every mile
of territory into which he projected his lines. He was naturally a
great engineer, and alw^ays appreciated and gave credit where credit
was due, to the different engineers whom he trusted to plan and execute
the details of his projects. He quickly recognized merit and ability
in the persoimel of his engineering staff, and neither seniority nor
rank influenced him in the least in preferment or promotions. He was
equally quick to criticize and condemn, whenever his usually unerring
judgment so dictated, and his attention to details together with his
dynamic force of character kept every one of his staff up to the highest
point of individual efficiency. But every engineer, however humble
his rank, knew that, like Napoleon's soldiers, he carried a baton in his
baggage, and the success and preferment of many engineers, not only
of the Great Northern, but of other systems, were due, not only to Mr.
Hill's forceful example, but also to his direct personal interest in their



MEMOIR OF JAMES JEROME HILL 1833

welfare. Whenever he gave his confidence and support, he gave freely
and fully. Results were what he demanded, and nothing pleased him
more than to have an engineer leave the beaten track and find a new
and better way to reach such results, and in this way individual initia-
tive was encouraged. The Engineering Profession owes a large debt
of gratitude to Mr. Hill, as some who were intimately associated with
him for many years know full well, and appreciate.

As evidence of the great respect he had for the Profession, let his
own words speak for themselves. In an address delivered before a
gathering of Civil Engineers, at Minneapolis, Minn., on January 10th,
1908, he said:

"Yours is a great profession, following as it does the oldest of all
the arts. When the pyramids were built there were engineers who
mastered problems calling for great engineering skill. Relics of still
older civilizations appear from time to time on the sites of cities whose
names forgotten tell that the engineer was there also; and that he
was, then as now, a leader of thought in matters of great practical
service to the common good. The name of your occupation is signifi-
cant, related as it is to the word 'genius' and implying the union of
human ability with that diviner spark which kindles knowledge to a
brighter flame.

"The engineer is, indeed, in no mean sense a creator. Not only
does he provide for the needs of mankind those practical utilities on
which civilization is based, but he brings into being structures, com-
binations, possibilities of dead matter and natural energy in relations
new to men. He is inventor as well as artisan. Many of the modern
wonders of the world are the thoughts of his brain as well as the works
of his hands. The subjection of Niagara to our daily wants, the
redemption of an ancient country by the damming of the Nile, great
bridges such as span the Firth of Forth and our own East River at
New York, tunnels that carry traffic under the estuary of the Severn
and the peaks of the Simplou pass, tubes that enable railways to avoid
waters too wide to be bridged safely, canals that cut away land barriers,
the modern steamship that has cheapened and quickened ocean transit,
the factories that have revolutionized industry and the marvelous
plants which are now using the waterfalls of Norway to enrich the
earth by the manufacture of fertilizers drawn from the nitrogen of the
air — all these are conquests of the engineer's ability and bear tribute
to him as the author of heretofore unthought of things. Across every
chapter of the story of human development is written the symbol of
some great engineer's creative mind."

The financial record of Mr. Hill's labors sufficiently attests to the
sagacity of his ideas and their practical execution. While to super-
ficial comment, it may be said that his individual pecuniary reward
was great, the fact remains that he was never a money seeker for per-
sonal benefit. His whole ambition was to be a faithful custodian of
the interests committed to his care, and no charge that he ever failed
to make his work good can justly be made against him. His ability to



1834 MEMOIR OF JAMES JEROME HILL

interest capital — domestic and foreign — in any project, or iu line with
any plan he set forth, was well known. He proved his faith and words
by his acts, and such a course made him almost unique in the history
of railroad finance in the United States.

As a characteristic act, his handling of the Great Northern iron
ore interests may be mentioned. In 1899 he purchased an insignificant
logging road, in northern Minnesota, which owned some lands. These
lands contained iron ore, but in unknown qviantities. At that time the
vast deposits of such ore in that section had not been demonstrated,
and his purchase involved a business risk in which he did not care to
engage his stockholders. So the property was acquired as a personal
investment. A company was formed to hold and develop the lands,
which was done in the succeeding years, and when their immense value
had been fully proven, they were all turned over and distributed to
the holders of Great ISTorthern stock at cost. What the present and
potential value of the lands is no one knows, but it is a safe judgment
tliat they alone are worth more than the personal estate which Mr. Hill
acquired during his lifetime.

During all the busy years he gave to the creation and building up
of the great system of railway, not a cent of salary was ever drawn by
him from it, he preferring to take his compensation in common with
the stockholders, from the increased value of the properties. Unlike
other transcontinental lines, the Great Northern received no land
grant, or other aid from the Federal Government, excepting the grant
originally made to the St. Paul and Pacific Company in Minnesota.
Its securities were marketable because they had value behind them,
and from the further fact that the interests of the road were in the
hands of a man who always had made, and was believed to be always
able to make, his word good.

In 1901, the Great Northern and the Northern Pacific Railways
jointly purchased the stock of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy
Railroad Company, thus giving to his other lines access to the enormous
producing and consuming territory of the upper Mississippi Valley, a
territory which for extent and variety of wealth-producing area proba-
bly cannot be duplicated in the world.

Mr. Hill had planned to place all the properties, in which his stock-
Iiolders and himself were interested, in a position to be secure from
future speculative attacks, and to ensure the harmony which efiiciency
demands, by uniting them in the Northern Securities Company. That
company was dissolved by the decision of a divided Court, but the
management of the separate companies, so far, has remained successful
and harmonious.

Although the chief activities of Mr. Hill's life were expended in
the development of railways, he did work enough along other lines to
have more than sufficed to keep an ordinary man fully occupied. The



MEMOIR OF JAMES JEROME HILL 1835

keynote of such work was his desire to raise the average level of pros-
perity, of intelligence, and of public spirit. Undoubtedly, the great-
est pleasure he took in his work was in the efforts he made and the
success he achieved in improving agriculture and in increasing its
profits. He led the farmer away from the one-crop idea, and taught
him to diversify his industry by stock raising. He imported, at large



Online LibraryAmerican Society of Civil EngineersTransactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers (Volume 81) → online text (page 165 of 167)