Windham Native Sons: Milton A. Clyde
Most of us in town remember the Clyde family because of the pond named after them on their farm which has now become open space. Many sons and daughters of Windham families left town to make their fortune in the wider world. Milton A. Clyde (1816-1875) was one of those people and his rags to riches story is the stuff of the American dream in the nineteenth century. He became rich building railroads.
The firm of Stone & Clyde took numerous small contracts for stone-work on the road west of Springfield, and, on the completion of the road to Albany, Mr. Clyde located in Springfield, and contracted to fill an old meadow east of Main Street, where the Boston & Albany freight-yard and side-tracks are now located. Stone & Clyde then took a contract for grading on the Hartford & Springfield Railroad, and in 1843 they contracted for the stonework on that railroad. Mr. Clyde was connected with the building of the Niagara Falls & Buffalo Railroad. In 1853-4 he built the Hampshire & Hampden Railroad from Westfield to Northampton.
About this time he became associated with Sidney Dillon, now president of the Union Pacific Railroad, under the firm name of Dillon, Clyde & Co., and from that time till his death Mr. Clyde was the working manager. This firm was one of the greatest contracting companies in the United States.
One of their earlier operations — a most profitable one, too— was the “great fill” on the Lake Shore Railroad between Cleveland, O., and Erie, Pa. Afterwards they were engaged in similar operations on the New Jersey Central Railroad. The firm of Dillon, Clyde & Co. were also heavy contractors on the still unfinished portion of the Boston, Hartford & Erie Railroad between Waterbury and Fishkill, on which they were engaged for several years. Some years ago Mr. Clyde built the first Hartford reservoir, and recently the firm of Dillon, Clyde & Co. built the Connecticut Valley road from Hartford to Saybrook. They also built the Rockville branch of the Providence & Fishkill road and the Springfield & Providence Railroad from Providence to Pascoag, R. I., in which Mr. Clyde was a director.
But the great work of Mr. Clyde’s life was the tunneling and building of the famous underground railroad in New York City for the New York & New Haven”, New York Central & Hudson River, and the Harlem Railroads, from the Grand Central depot at Forty-second Street, to the north end of Manhattan Island, a distance of some eight miles. The greater part of the excavation was made through solid rock, of width sufficient to accommodate the tracks of all the roads, and from twenty to forty or fifty feet in depth. The contract price for this great work was $15,800,000 while the extras swelled the sum to 16,000,000. The success of this enterprise was very largely due to Mr. Clyde’s wonderful executive ability, which was ever the marked feature of his life. It was a common remark among contractors, that Mr. Clyde could do a job cheaper than any other man in the United State of an iron constitution, he spared neither himself nor his men in carrying out his enterprises. While superintending this work he took a severe cold, which prostrated him with congestion of the spine, which terminated fatally. While engaged upon a contract on the Fall River Railroad (now Old Colony), he met the lady whom he married four years later. He married Caroline-Valentine Read, of Fall River, Mass., Jan.30, 1848. She was b. at Fall River, March 20, 1825, and was the daughter of Joseph-E. and Sybil Valentine Read. She now res. in Springfield, Mass. Mr. Clyde’s grandson, Milton Clyde Long died on the Titanic when it sank. His obituary in Railroad Age noted that, “Mr. Clyde leaves a widow and two daughters, who will probably inherit a handsome fortune.”
This all rather interesting considering the large stone causeway in Windham known as London Bridge, was located on the Clyde property. The question becomes whether the Clyde family was responsible for its construction?