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Biography of Daniel Chipman Linsley (1827-89)
Surveyor of Skagit River system, 1870

By Noel V. Bourasaw, Skagit River Journal of History & Folklore, ©2006
(D.C. Linsley)
D.C. Linsley

      D.C. Linsley, who surveyed the Skagit River watershed for Northern Pacific Railroad in 1870, was born Daniel Chipman Linsley in Middlebury, Vermont, on April 17, 1827. Daniel's parents were Charles Linsley and his first wife, Sarah Chipman. Daniel was their first child and was given the name of Sarah's father, Daniel Chipman, but when his full name was recorded later in life, it often became Daniel Chapman Linsley. Like many others of the period, he is usually referred to by his initials.
      Charles was an attorney and relatively wealthy. His father, Joel Linsley, was a judge and Charles practiced law in Middlebury for most of Daniel's childhood, and then lived in Rutland and Burlington, but returned to Middlebury before his death. He was a railroad administrator for many years and some of Daniel's first rail projects were on assignment from his father's company. Charles and Sarah had eight children together, and after her death, Charles married again and he and his second wife, Emmeline Wells, had nine children.
      Details of Daniel's youth are very scarce but Vermont researcher Betsy Curler shared a timeline with the Journal. We are also especially indebted to Robert A. Sloma, who shared many more details from the research he and Kathleen A. Cullum compiled for a report he wrote for his Geoarch Company of Leicester, Vermont, about the Vermont & Canada Railroad. After secondary school, Daniel attended Middlebury College from 1845-47. He did not graduate with the class of 1849, but he was trained as a surveyor and a civil engineer. For the first three years after college, he surveyed for the Rutland and Burlington (Vermont) Railroad, the company that employed Charles as solicitor. Sloma discovered that Daniel boarded with his younger brother Charles in Cavendish, Vermont, in 1850.

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      In 1851, Daniel was hired as an engineer to supervise construction of the Illinois Central Railroad and the Lexington & Danville Railway. He lived out of a suitcase for quite awhile, corresponding with the family from Cincinnati, Ohio; Frankfort, Kentucky; Chicago and many other locations. The Illinois Central was chartered that year to build a road from Cairo, Illinois, to the extreme northwestern corner of the state. Former efforts at a line were minimal, but President Millard Fillmore signed a Federal Land Grant Act in 1850 that made the IC the first railroad to receive such a grant; the line was completed in 1856.
      Daniel eventually settled in Kankakee, Illinois, where he invested in a ranch with his father and his brothers, George and Charles. That may have been in line with a company the family formed, called the C. & D.C. Linsley & Company. Kankakee records also show a plat of land named for Daniel and various partners. The partnership in the ranch caused hard feelings in the family, however, as Sloma discovered in correspondence. In Illinois, his brother George began raising Morgan horses. That period may have marked the beginning of Daniel's love for and knowledge of the Morgan breed, a lifetime interest that became his most publicized legacy.
      In 1855 Daniel C. Linsley returned to Vermont, where he resumed his civil engineering business and spent the next two years writing about Morgans. In his essay, Morgan Horses; a Premium Essay, he noted that while out West in 1852, "he became fully aware of their extraordinary hardiness, speed and endurance, from severe use and daily comparison of them with horses of different style." (Sloma) His treatise received an award from the Vermont State Agricultural Society in 1856 and he published it book form by the same name in 1857. Sloma noted that the book is still recognized among modern horse breeders as a seminal treatise. At about the same time, Linsley began publishing the monthly Vermont Stock Journal in 1857 and continued through 1858, while living part of that period in New York City.
      In 1857, Daniel also plotted a bridle trail, which became a road that lay along the course of the present-day Windsor Trail near the Ascutney Lodge in the northern Appalachian mountain range north of Windsor. He also built the first stone house at the Ascutney summit. He lived in Windsor, 50 miles southeast of Middlebury and there he met Martha "Pattie" Hatch, a daughter of Joseph D. Hatch, who would later serve as Burlington's mayor, as did Daniel in 1870-71. Daniel married Pattie Hatch on Sept. 1, 1858, and they had two children, Joseph and Fanny. The governor appointed Linsley as superintendent of construction for the Windsor courthouse in 1857 and Curler discovered that, while living there, Daniel was lauded for his leadership in the Windsor society.
      In 1859, Daniel and his new bride moved to Burlington, Vermont, about 35 miles north of Middlebury, where he was hired by the Vermont Central Railroad to extend the line to a terminus with the Rutland & Burlington Railroad. He also supervised construction of the brick-and-limestone North Avenue tunnel through a sandbank in Burlington, one of the few railroad tunnels built in the state and an experience that he would draw on more than a decade later. Sloma discovered that Daniel's hair turned prematurely white at that time, perhaps as a result of the stress of the project. Sloma did not discover any land investment by Daniel in Middlebury, although he may have inherited land there after his father died in 1863. He did invest in land in Burlington, however, and the Nicholson House, which Linsley built, still stands today in Burlington and has been restored as part of the University of Vermont campus. Sloma discovered from city directories that Daniel's family was well established in Burlington by 1865 and that the city was their base for the next two decades. Burlington was incorporated in 1864 and became the largest city of the state. Burlington is located in Chittenden County in the west-central part of the state, near Lake Champlain and the border with New York. Burlington was the home of Vermont hero Ethan Allen and present-day Vermont Congressman Bernie Sanders, who was mayor of the city in the 1980s. Here in Skagit County, the town of Burlington was named by Thomas Soule who moved here from Burlington, Vermont in the late 1880s. The namesake for the Vermont town was Peter Burling. Explorer Samuel de Champlain claimed the eastern shore of Lake Champlain in 1609 for the Crown of France.
      During the decade of the 1860s, Daniel was recorded as the water works engineer for Burlington in 1866 and he built the Burlington railroad depot and a station at St. Albans, all the while acting as engineer-in-chief for the Vermont Central. Starting in 1865, he and his brother George formed a concern called Linsley & Co. and began construction of wharves and mills in the northern section of Burlington's lumber district. They also apparently invested together in a planing mill in that part of town. Daniel also engaged in several projects concerned with clean water and improved sewage removal, along with designing the earthen reservoir on the hilltop south of the university. After completing his work for the Vermont Central Railroad, Daniel then acted as engineer for other local rail lines, including the Vermont and Canada Railroad's line to the Canada border, along with a line for the Lebanon Springs Railroad of New York between Lebanon Springs and Bennington, Vermont.
      Curler found evidence that Daniel became active in Democrat Party politics in Vermont, an uphill fight since she notes that Vermont was a one-party, Republican state for more than 100 years until 1964. Sloma discovered that the Burlington City Democratic caucus nominated him for town offices beginning in 1864, and then the state Democratic Party nominated Daniel for Lieutenant Governor at the state convention in June 1866. In March 1870 — just week before he departed for the Skagit River Survey, Democrats supported his bid to become mayor of Burlington, and he won by a very slim majority.

1870 and the Northern Pacific survey
      The two questions for which we still have not found answer are: 1. how and why and when did Linsley get involved with Thomas Canfield, one of the movers and shakers for the Northern Pacific Railroad? and 2, what enticed Linsley to travel completely across the country, just weeks after being elected mayor, to explore a river in the middle of a wilderness? Sloma suggests that Linsley's connection may have been J. Gregory Smith, who was president of the NP by 1866, while he was also governor of Vermont. And Canfield, also a Vermonter, was the president of Rutland and Burlington Railroad, which competed with the Vermont Central.
      When Jefferson Davis was Secretary of War for the U.S. before the Civil War, one of his most demanding projects was a transcontinental rail line to the West Coast and Canfield was an advocate early on. Although Davis favored a southern route, which would benefit his slave-owning interests, other alternate routes were surveyed as early as 1853 in the middle latitudes and as far north as the North Cascades mountain range.
      During that time that Canfield met Samuel Wilkeson Jr., who also took interest in the transcontinental project. Wilkeson's father made his initial fortune building a terminal in Buffalo, New York, for the Erie Canal, which opened in 1825. Samuel Jr. was an accomplished national player in both journalism and politics. He was for many years a columnist for New York City newspapers, including a stint as a war correspondent during the Civil War, when his own son, Bayard, was killed on the first day of the Gettysburg battle. He later published newspapers in Buffalo and Albany, New York and then became secretary to the board of the Northern Pacific Railroad in March 1869. Earlier he testified at the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson. Daniel did not serve during the Civil War, but at least one of his brothers did. After the war, the infamous Jay Cooke was in charge of the finances and promotion for Northern Pacific. In June 1869, Canfield took Cooke and other NP officers to Sacramento by rail on the new Union Pacific/Central Pacific Railway and they continued north overland to Olympia in Washington Territory. They explored the coastal towns of the Puget Sound and then continued east over the Cascades through Montana and on to the Great Lakes. After the trip, Cooke negotiated $100 million in bonds for the NP.
      In the April 1981 edition of the old Northwest Discovery magazine, editor Henry M. Majors published, for the first time, Linsley's complete field notes for the 1870 survey of the Skagit River watershed and exploration of potential routes along the Sauk River, across the North Cascades and Cascade Pass, and along Lake Chelan to the Columbia River. In that article is a letter from Edwin F. Johnson, NP's engineer-in-chief, to Linsley that noted an earlier 1867 expedition by General James Tilton and A.J. Treadway of Olympia, Washington Territory, which failed in its mission to reach the Columbia from Puget Sound because of the lateness of the season and because of rising river water. For his party, Linsley chose John A. Tennant of Ferndale, a longtime pioneer of the territory, and 22-year-old Frank Wilkeson [http://www.skagitriverjournal.com/WA/Library/Wilkeson/Wilkeson01-Bio.html], Samuel's son, along with Indian guides. Samuel Wilkeson had submitted his Reconnaissance of Puget Sound to the NP board in 1869 soon after becoming secretary. NP engineer Johnson's assignment letter to Linsley included these instructions for the survey:

      In passing from Bellingham bay you will note carefully the character of the ground for the purpose of a railroad to the Skagit river and in passing up the valley of the latter you will verefy [sic] as far as you are able the elevation and distance and character of the surface given in the report of Genl Tilton above referred to and you will take note of all matters of interest to the R R Co that may come under your observation on your explorations and make a report to me . . .

Patricia McAndrew's book about Frank Wilkeson, The Old Soldier Goes Fishing, will be published in the 2012-13 period. For more details about ordering the book, please see this site.

      Later in his journal, Linsley noted that he left New York on May 2, 1870, and proceeded by rail to San Francisco, and then by ship to Whatcom, which he reached on May 23. He had to proceed to Tennant's ranch on the Nooksack River by canoe, which took precious time. We do not know if Wilkeson came from New York with Linsley, only that the party left Whatcom together for the Skagit Valley on May 25, including H.C. Hale. Linsley misspelled Frank's name as Wilkenson. When Patricia McAndrew and I began researching Frank's life, we were often challenged by the repeated spelling of his last name, including Wilkinson. Tennant was to act as interpreter with the six Indian guides on the 1870 survey. The party consisted of two canoes, three weeks rations of "flour, bacon and tea. With the Exception of our instruments and blankets we carried nothing else." The actual trip on the mainland of what is now Skagit County began at a house on Swinomish Slough belonging to Indian Agent Dr. D.Y. Deere (misspelled as Deree). On the second night, the Linsley party stayed at the home of W. H. Sartwell on the south fork of the Skagit River. Curler observed that Sartwell is an early Vermont pioneer name. You will read the 1932 account of the survey in the accompanying story. On that 1870 expedition, Linsley was the first white man to record observations of Glacier Peak near Mount Baker.

Post-1870 survey
      After Linsley returned home to Vermont in the fall of 1870, he served as mayor for less than two months, resigning on Oct. 6, 1870, as Sloma discovered. Perhaps Linsley had already committed himself to further work with the NP. Sloma notes that former Montana Territory Governor xx Ashley held a meeting in Burlington on Feb. 28, 1871, to promote the NP concept and sell bonds. On March 1, 1871, the Burlington Daily Free Press and Times reported that Linsley had just departed for the Red River country after just a few days at home. This time, he conducted surveys for Thomas Canfield and the NP near Brainerd, Minnesota, and the Red River, and continued working on the line as it built a route through Dakota Territory.
      Linsley's work with NP appears to have been halted in the shakeup that followed the failure on Sept. 18, 1873, of Jay Cooke & Co., the brokerage firm that had financed construction of the NP. Coupled with over-speculation in land and securities and issuance of too much paper money by the federal government, that failure led to the 5,000 business failures and the worst nationwide financial panic until the one in 1893. Meanwhile, Linsley had been shuttling back and forth from Brainerd to Burlington. From 1872 on, the sawmill in north Burlington that he owned with his younger brother George appears to have grown rapidly as it provided construction materials to various rail lines in the area.
      Daniel's next large railroad project was the Burlington & Lamoille Railroad, which ultimately connected Burlington and Cambridge, a distance of 35 miles. William B. Hatch, a New York stock broker and relative of Linsley's father-in-law, was the first president when the company was organized on February 24, 1875, and Linsley was the first general manager, according to the Gazetteer of Lamoille County. Linsley was hired to construct the entire route and the line connected with the St. Johnsbury & Lake Champlain Railroad. The line was not a great financial success and was ultimately leased to the Central Vermont Railroad in 1889. Daniel's brother George was also an official on the line and their mill probably benefited from the construction. Daniel also invested in land during the 1870s, possibly in connection with the brothers' waterfront property, their planing mill and George's coal business.
      Daniel's interests extended to rail projects in New York City from the late 1870s to the 1880s. Sloma found that Linsley was the originator and constructor of a rapid transit road between Boston and New York City. He was also a principal in the construction of the Third Avenue Elevated Railway, a key arterial in New York City, and especially a tunnel on the line. That line is attributed as a key factor in the growth of a new store owned by the Bloomingdale Brothers, which benefited greatly by the transportation of customers when the line opened in 1877. Sloma notes that "early elevated railroads were steam powered and spread ash and cinders onto the street, but they were still regarded as an improvement over rail lines at ground level. The line ran up the avenue and was continued in stages until it reached the Bronx in 1886. The structure was dismantled, beginning in 1955, and replaced by a subway.
      Back in Vermont, Linsley designed a canal in Cambridge, Vermont, in 1879 that aided the transportation of cordwood. He was also involved with various turnpike projects. His last major rail project seems to have been once again in connection with former-governor Smith. Smith and an Ottawa lumber baron took over a failed railroad venture in 1881 and renamed it the Canada Atlantic Railroad. Linsley was hired to construct a portion of the track for the line, which eventually stretched 395 miles from the Georgian Bay near Ottawa to Coteau, in the far southern part of Quebec near the New York border.
      Sloma discovered a Burlington Free Press and Times obituary that recorded Daniel's death at age 62 on Oct. 7, 1889, in New York City, after a long illness; he was buried in Burlington. His brother George also died that year; they were the last surviving children from Charles's first marriage. His daughter, Fanny, was living with her mother in New York City. His son, Joseph Hatch Linsley, became a physician in Vermont after initially working for the Burlington & Lamoille Railroad. After serving as Burlington's health officer, he lectured on physiology at the University of Vermont and then moved his practice to New York City in the same year that his father died. We do not have a death date for Pattie Linsley but Sloma discovered that she lived in Ottawa, Ontario in 1913.

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