Windham Life and Times – January 7, 2022

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.

“Work on the project (the New York Central from Grand Central station.) began in fall 1872. The first contract was awarded to Fairchild and Ward and the Watson Manufacturing Company for the section between 45th Street and 49th Street. The preexisting track level in this section was maintained as the streets crossed over the line via iron bridges. The project north of 48th Street was completed by Dillon, Clyde & Company, which submitted the winning bid of $6,395,070 (equivalent to $138,151,000 in 2020). The contract for the project had been awarded on August 1, 1872. The contract for the section between 79th Street and the Harlem River was awarded to them on November 11. On January 14, 1873, the contract for the work between 49th Street and 79th Street was awarded to Dillon, Clyde & Company, which provided the only bid lower than that expected by the New York City Board of Estimate. The contract called for the project’s completion in two years. This section had been put up for bid, but since none of the bids were satisfactory, the bidding process was reopened.” Wikipedia. The Clyde house, 33 Pearl Street, Springfield MA., was modest considering Mr. Clyde’s wealth.

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?

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