Saturday, April 12, 2008

Samuel Skerry Montague - Central Pacific Railroad Chief Engineer

[Photo by Michael Colbruno; letter from Sacramento Public Library]


The sudden death of Theodore Judah left the Central Pacific without a chief engineer until the time when his place was taken by one of the men who had worked under him on the surveys that he made. Evidently the choice was a good one, for Samuel Montague continued in that position during the construction of the line and for a number of years thereafter, first as acting chief engineer, and later as chief engineer.

Samuel Skerry Montague, the son of Richard and Content Montague, was born at Keene, New Hampshire, July 6, 1830. In 1836 the family, including another son, John, moved to Rockford, Illinois, where, like thousands of other families of that time, they engaged in farming the new land. He attended public school during the winter months and the Rockford Classical School.

Montague's first engineering employment came in 1852 when he was twenty-two years of age, on the Rock Island and Rockford Railroad. Later he was with the Peoria and Bureau Valley Railroad, then with the Rock Island and Peoria, and finally with the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad. It was on these lines that he gained such engineering education as he possessed when he went to work for the Central Pacific.

In 1859, Montague with three companions joined the rush to the Colorado gold mines, commonly called the "Pikes Peak or Bust" rush. They probably did not find any gold, for the party continued on to California, arriving in the fall of the year. At that time the railroad from Folsom to Marysville was under construction and Montague secured a position with that line, which was a continuation of the road from Sacramento to Folsom, built by Judah.

Apparently Montague became acquainted with Judah, for on February 12, 1862, he went to work for the Central Pacific, probably on the location surveys that Judah was making for the line over the Sierra Nevada. It is also evident that he gained the confidence of the men who were building the road, because when Judah died, Montague was made acting chief engineer, a position he filled with such success that on March 31, 1868, he was made chief engineer, the position he held until his death.

Evidence of the confidence he inspired may be seen in the cordial approval given the relocation of a part of the line by George Gray, the consulting engineer. Strobridge, the superintendent of construction, who took a slightly dim view of engineers generally, simply said that Montague "was a smart man but had not had much experience when he commenced on the Central Pacific."

Montague directed the extensive surveys across Nevada and Utah as far east as Green River, Wyoming, and had charge of all engineering until the line Was completed to Promontory in May, 1869. He continued as chief engineer of the Central Pacific during construction of numerous lines in California up to his death in 1883.

Montague was married in San Francisco on February 13, 1868 to Louisa Adams Redington, a sister of Charles H. Redington, long an official of the Southern Pacific Company. There were four children. The family home was in Oakland, California and when Samuel Montague died on September 24, 1883, it was there that he was buried.

[Biography taken from Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Takedown notice: Please remove the pirated S.S. Montague portrait image, montague_cdv_MB.jpg, and any other content copied without permission. A complaint has been received.