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Bio - Thomas Doane (1821-1897)

Bio of Thomas Doane

Source: Doane, Alfred Alder. The Doane Family: I. Deacon John Doane, of Plymouth; II. Doctor John Done, of Maryland, and Their Descendants. Doane Family Association of America, 1902. Vol.1, pp.444-447.


THOMAS DOANE was born at Orleans, Mass., Sept. 20, 1821 and died at West Townsend, Vt., during a visit to that place, Oct. 22, 1897. He was buried in Orleans. He married first, Nov. 5, 1850, Sophia Dennison Clark, who died Dec. 1, 1868. Married second, Nov. 19, 1870, Louisa Amelia Barber, born at Brattleboro, Vt., Apr. 13, 1828, daughter of Anson and Louisa (Potter) Barber, Mr. Doane attended the Orleans Academy until he was nineteen years old, and then spent five terms at the English Academy at Andover, Mass.

Leaving this school he entered the office of Samuel Felton, one of the most noted civil engineers of his time in the country and a leading citizen of Charlestown, Mass. After three years in Mr. Felton's office, he was placed in charge of a division of the Vermont Central Railroad and later was for two years resident engineer of the Cheshire Railroad, at Walpole, N. H. In Dec., 1849, he returned to Charlestown and, in company with his brother, John Doane, Jr., opened an office at 21 City Square, under the firm name of T. & J. Doane, Jr., for the general practice of civil engineering and surveying, an office which was maintained until his death. The firm also maintained for many years, ending in 1870, a Boston office; first at 4 Cornhill Court and later in Barrister's Hall, Court Square.

Mr. Doane had at one time or another been connected with all the railroads running out of Boston, but particularly with the Boston and Maine. In 1863 he was appointed chief engineer of the Hoosac Tunnel and located the line of the tu nnel, built the dam in the Deerfield River to furnish water power, and in this work introduced nitro-glycerine and electric blasting for the first time in this country. He also introduced compressed air and invented the machinery for it, and had a large share in inventing the pneumatic drills used there. On the opening of the tunnel in 1875 he ran the first engine, the " N. C. Munson" through it.

In 1869 he went to Nebraska and built two hundred and forty miles of railroad on the extension of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, and located and named nearly all the towns on the extension.

Completing his work in Nebraska in 1873 he returned to Charlestown and soon afterward was reappointed consulting engineer of the Hoosac Tunnel, and had charge of the reconstruction of the Troy and Greenfield Railway and of the tunnel. He finished his duties in this direction in 1877 and two years later was appointed consulting and acting chief engineer of the Northern Pacific Railroad, for one year. During that time he located the Pend d'Oreille division across the Columbia Plains, in Washington Territory, and parts of the Missouri Division in Dakota.

Mr. Doane was employed at one time as consulting engineer of the West End Street Railway, Boston, and in the winter of 1887-8, in company with other officials of the railway visited a number of Western cities for the purpose of examining cable systems. A large part of the engineering for the city of Charlestown was done by Mr. Doane previous to that city becoming a part of Boston in 1874.

For more than twenty years, and until the time of his death, Mr. Doane was an active member of the Boston Society of Civil Engineers. He was elected President shortly after its reorganization in 1874 and was nine times reelected to that position. He became a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1882.

From 1869 to 1873, while a resident of Nebraska, he was instrumental in founding "Doane College," situated at Crete, on the "Big Blue" River twenty miles west of Lincoln, and one of the leading educational institutions of that state. Offers by the railroad company of six hundred acres of choice land adjoining the town site, and of fifty lots in the town of Crete by the Eastern Land Association were made on condition that other valuable property be secured.Through Mr. Doane's influence, and his own liberal contributions, these conditions were fulfilled, and in appreciation of his efforts, of his generous aid, his active participation in every good enterprise, religious, educational, patriotic, but more especially because of his character as a man, the corporate body wrote his name into the articles of incorporation and the institution came to be called Doane College. Events have justified the incorporators in bestowing this name. From the first, Mr. Doane was a constant and liberal giver, an invaluable adviser and colaborer. The college contains four substantial brick buildings, a spacious campus, well-equipped laboratories and dormitories for both sexes. It maintains classical and scientific collegiate courses, a military department and a conservatory of music. Mr. Doane rarely failed to attend the commencement exercises, making yearly a trip to Nebraska for this purpose. He was one of the trustees at the time of his death. He prospered financially, and by his will the bulk of his estate will eventually go to Doane College as an endowment. Doane College is his monument and to this seat of classic study he gave thought, labor and money, making many sacrifices for its welfare in which his family shared.

Mr. Doane possessed a strongly religious spirit, and he early associated with the church, being for many years a member and a senior deacon of the old Winthrop Congregational church of Charlestown. He was the first president of the Charlestown branch of the Young Men's Christian Association, and was a member of the Congregational Club of Boston. He was a director of the Associated Charities of Boston, and president of its Charlestown branch. He was a vice-president of the Hunt Asylum for Destitute Children. He was a member of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, and of the American College and Educational Society, and was for more than thirty years a Justice of the Peace.

Mr. Doane resided for many years at No. 8 Pearl Street, in one of the oldest houses in Charlestown. It was at one time owned by Oliver Holden, the composer of the famous hymn "Coronation," who lived there for years and died in one of the upper rooms. The house was the last piece of property in the vicinity that was kept in the original state. It was never painted or refitted while Mr. Doane occupied it, he preferring to keep it in its original condition on account of the historical connections.

For many years Mr. Doane's figure going to and from his office was a familiar one on the streets of Cbarlestown. He was a man of fine appearance, and had a manner that attracted even strangers to him. Although seventy-six years of age it could only be told by his white hair and beard. He was tall, broad shouldered and as erect in his carriage as a trained soldier.



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