Biography of William C. Young
Oneida County, NY Biographies


It seems rather strange to chronicle that another grandson of the pioneer White should have been as instrumental in the development of the railroads of the state of New York and adjoining states as Canvass White was instrumental in developing the canals of the state. In fact William C. Young, born November 25, 1800, and a son of Mary Stone White, a daughter of Hugh White, the pioneer, and who married John Young, the founder of Youngstown, has been as instrumental as any man in the state in the practical development of railroading. He received his education in Whitestown, attaining some knowledge of Latin, geometry and surveying, aside from the ordinary schooling of the period. At sixteen years of age he was assistant surveyor of the islands of Lake Ontario for the state of New York; the next year a rod man locating the Erie canal and participating in the ceremony of "ground breaking" for the work at Rome, July 4, 1817; the next year he was a cadet at West Point in a class of one hundred and twenty five members, and graduated number twelve in his class in 1822. After four years given to army life he resigned June 30, 1826, and engaged in superintending the locating and constructing of railroads in New York state. In 1831 while making the survey of the Saratoga & Schenectady road, Mr. Young proposed and practically introduced the present system of supporting car rails on the road bed, and introduced the use of cross ties in lieu of the stone blocks and foundations which formerly sustained the strip of railroad iron in place; the advantages gained by this method, in expediting the work and lessening the cost of construction, were so obvious that its general adoption was immediate and constituted a marked advance in the history of railroad construction. He was subsequently appointed chief engineer of construction and superintendent of the Utica & Schenectady road, which he completed after sixteen years of unremitting toil. In 1849 he was made chief engineer of the Hudson River Railroad, which ran between Albany and New York city, and although the original surveys had been made by a man of no less prominence than J. B. Jervis, and on Mr. Jervis' retirement from the position of chief engineer, he had enjoined upon the management that under no circumstances should the line of road be altered, nevertheless the ability, energy and common sense of Mr. Young, together with the estimates showing a less cost, enabled Mr. Young to resurvey and relocate two thirds of the road. On the completion of the road in October, 1851, Mr. Young was elected president of the Hudson River Railroad Company. He resigned the position the following January, as his professional duties in outdoor work were more to his taste than the confinements of routine work in the office. He had already spent twenty one years of his life (from 1831 to 1852) in locating and constructing the three roads above mentioned, aggregating in length about two hundred and fifty miles. In 1852 he was called upon by the president of the Panama Railroad Company to complete that road across the Isthmus of Panama, which he undertook and while there he nearly died of the fever, so he had to withdraw from the isthmus. In 1855 Mr. Young had charge of the western branch of the New York & Western Railroad from Rochester to Buffalo, some two hundred miles of road, and a monthly disbursement of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, which he continued in charge of for about two years and then resigned. There were numerous other important railroad surveys with which William C. Young was connected, and it must be taken into consideration that in his connection with the building of the Hudson River Railroad from New York to Albany, it was looked upon in his day as the most foolish venture possible, as it was in direct competition with the Hudson river the entire distance, the theory being, that railroads might pay in countries where it was impossible to operate canals, but they never could pay in direct competition with waterways. Mr. Young, speaking of his cousin, Canvass White, said: "On his return from England he brought with him the instruments for laying out canals, the plans and the design for the canal boats and became the most practical man in canal making; and with Judge Wright cooperated in making much of the Erie canal." It is fairly evident from the work of these two men, that one was as instrumental in the developing of the waterways of the state as the other in developing the locomotive steam power of the state. Mr. Young died in December, 1894, having been for four years prior to his death the oldest living graduate of West Point, and entitled by reason thereof to deliver the annual address.

White family members in Oneida County
White Family
White, Canvass
White, De Lancey P.
White, Fortune C.
White, Henry D.
White, Hugh
White, Hugh, Hon.
White, Moses T.
White, Philo
White, William M.
White, William P.
Young, William C.

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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