First Fifty Years of Cazenovia Seminary


Madison County

Sketches of Students of First Decade.

  ROBERT M. SHOEMAKER, ESQ. The subject of this sketch was born October 21, 1815, in German Flats, now the village of Mohawk, Herkimer County, N. Y. His ancestors were among the early Dutch settlers of the Mohawk valley. He seems to have had an inherent taste for civil engineering. At the age of nineteen he was employed as forward chainman by Hon. N. S. Roberts in making surveys for the enlargement of the Eric Canal. In order to prepare him for his profession, he was induced and assisted to go to Cazenovia Seminary, where, after gaining a fair mathematical education, he obtained the situation of chainman under W. C. Young, Esq., chief engineer, who was engaged in locating the Utica and Schenectady Railroad. In the service of that company, under the presidency of Hon. Erastus Corning, he served his apprenticeship as a civil engineer. Before the completion of the road he was promoted, in regular gradation, to assistant engineer; this he regards as the proudest event of his life. His subsequent life has been one of the most active, responsible, honorable, and successful. He rode from Little Falls to Utica (August 1, 1836) on the first engine that ever passed over that division of the road, which he had completed. Commissioner Sir John M'Cauly, of Canada, sought and secured him to survey a route for a railroad across the peninsula of Upper Canada from Toronto to Lake Huron. He was next employed to make the survey of the Ohio, now the Lake Shore, Railroad; then appointed chief engineer of the Mad River and Lake Erie Railroad. This was in 1837, when he was but twenty-two years of age. Mr. Shoemaker was directed to make the gauge of the railroad to suit an engine already constructed-the "Sandusky "--of four feet and ten inches. This was the origin of the four foot and ten inch gauge railroads. In 1838 he was selected to locate and construct the Little Miami Railroad. He was chief engineer of the Cincinnati, Hamilton, and Dayton Railroad, which he located and built. In 1852, chief engineer of Covington and Lexington Railroad. 1854, he undertook the construction of the Dayton and Michigan Railroad, which, with some wealthy gentlemen, he assumed as a speculation; this proved to be a good investment. In 1865 he joined in the construction of the Kansas Pacific Railroad; and, as general manager, built four hundred miles of that road, from Leavenworth to Fort Wallace. This involved difficulties, hazards, and losses of life from cholera and Indians.
  In 1868, returning to Ohio, Mr. Shoemaker declined active professional employment till 1870 when, under urgent solicitation, he undertook the construction of the "Dayton Short Line," one of the best of his constructions. He is president of this company, but rests from his active toils after long years of industrious enterprise, and is enjoying the pleasures of a quiet, peaceful, and honored life. He is a fine representative of western enterprise has never failed in any undertaking. No man in the Western States has done more to build up and develop the resources of that section than Mr. Shoemaker. He is a self-made man, and as such furnishes a bright example for young men in that respect. He was married December 25, 1839, to Miss Mary C. Steiner, daughter of Captain Harris Steiner, of Frederick, Maryland. He resides in Cincinnati, blessed with all the comforts that wealth can afford.

pp. 86-88.

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