Biography of Thomas W. Spencer
Oneida County, NY Biographies





The profession of civil engineering has engaged the attention of many bright minds in New York state and presented a field for the talents of Thomas W. Spencer, now deceased, which he occupied with remarkable success. Few railway civil engineers of central New York have left more creditable and enduring evidences of their skill, and the people of Utica have just cause to be proud that he made this city his home during the most active period of his life. He was a native of Vernon Center and was born in 1833, a son of Thomas G. and Eliza Ann (Ross) Spencer. Thomas G. Spencer was for many years a resident of Oneida county, and was also a civil engineer. He died at Albany, New York, January 19, 1866. Shortly after 1833 the family moved to Utica and a few years later settled at Albany.

He received his early education in private schools, concluding his preliminary training at the Boys Academy of Albany. After leaving school he associated with his father who was a civil engineer, thus gaining the foundation of a calling to which he gave his best energies through all the remaining years of his life. He served as rodman and in setting levels for the first T rails laid in New York state and made such rapid progress that in 1854, being then twenty one years of age, he was appointed as assistant engineer in the enlargement of the Erie canal at Schenectady. After filling this position for three years he was employed on the Albany & Susquehanna Railroad and later on the Cooperstown & Susquehanna Railroad in an engineering capacity, also serving in the construction of other railroads. In 1867 he took up his residence at Utica which he made his permanent home, and built the Utica & Black River Railroad and was for a time its superintendent. He was, interested in the construction of the Herkimer, Newport & Poland Railroad and became its president and general engineer. However, he gave up his connection with this road to accept an appointment as division engineer of the West Shore Railroad for the counties of Herkimer, Oneida and Madison. In July, 1883, he was appointed engineering inspector for the board of railroad commissioners of the state of New York, which office he held until 1892. He was thoroughly efficient and reliable in everything he undertook and gained a wide reputation as one of the most competent men in his special line to be found in the state of New York. His advice was often sought concerning difficult engineering problems and he was regarded as an authority in all matters pertaining to the laying out and construction of railways.

In 1854, at Richmondville, New York, Mr. Spencer was married to Miss Mary O. Dickinson and to this union four children were born: Thomas D., who became one of the prominent physicians of Rochester, New York, and died March 31, 1910; Mrs. Eugene Du Bois, of Buffalo, New York; Mrs. Electus B. Ward, of New York city; and Miss Mae Spencer, who resides at home. In politics Mr. Spencer gave his allegiance to the democratic party as the organization best adapted to secure the permanency of the republic. He never sought political office but was nominated by his friends in Utica as independent candidate for mayor in 1889 and was defeated after a hard fight. He was a true believer in Christianity and for twenty four years was a member of the board of trustees of Westminster Presbyterian church, being also connected with the Oneida Historical Society and one of its counselors. He possessed great energy of character, distinguished ability in a profession which he enriched by the labors of a long and useful life, and a fidelity to principles of right which no inducement could persuade him to desert. His death, February 22, 1902, marked the close of a career which will ever be regarded by his friends as in the highest degree creditable not only to himself and family, but to the community and the state of which he was an honored and most worthy representative.

From:
History of Oneida County, New York
From 1700 to the present time
of some of its prominent men and pioneers.
By: Henry J. Cookinham
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company
Chicago 1912


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