Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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CHlLDS, Orville Whitmore, engineer, born in Stillwater, Saratoga County, N, Y., 27 December, 1802; died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 6 September, 1870. He was engaged in the survey and construction of the Champlain canal improvement in 1824-'5, and in building the Oswego canal in 1826-'8, and in 1829-'30 made the survey and plans for the improvement of the Oneida river, which were subsequently adopted, the work being finished in 1850. He aided in the construction of the Chenango canal in 1833-'6, and in 1836 began his labors on the enlargement of the Erie canal, acting as chief engineer of the middle division, which extended from Syracuse to Rochester. He was chief engineer of New York state works in 1840-'7, and in 1848 was the unsuccessful democratic candidate for the office of state engineer, then first created. He was chief engineer m the survey and construction of the New York central railroad, from Syracuse to Rochester, in 1848-'9, and in the latter year accepted a like position at the instance of the American Atlantic and Pacific ship canal County, of which Com. Cornelius Vanderbilt and others were the promoters, and which had a grant of land from the government of Nicaragua to build a ship canal across that country. Mr. Childs's reports, maps, surveys, and estimates for this work, made in 1850-'2, attracted much attention in this country and in Europe, and have been of much use in subsequent surveys. His route is still regarded by many as the most feasible one for a ship canal across that isthmus. It extended from the harbor of Greytown on the Atlantic, through Lake Nicaragua, to Brito on the Pacific coast. Mr. Childs was chief engineer of the Terre Haute and Alton railroad in 1855-'8, and was afterward employed by the state to fix the boundaries of the City and county of New York. At the beginning of the civil war he was chairman of the board of commissioners for providing proper harbor defenses for New York. He remove, d in 1860 from Syracuse, which had been his home up to that time, to Philadelphia, where he was interested in the manufacture of sleeping-cars, and in other railroad enterprises. He was president of the Central transportation company and of the Philadelphia car-works. Mr. Childs contributed much to the literature of his profession, and prepared most of the canal reports during his time.
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