Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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ROBERTS, Solomon White, civil engineer, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 3 August, 1811; died in Atlantic City, New Jersey, 20 March, 1882. He was educated at the Friends' academy in Philadelphia. When he was sixteen years old he became an assistant to his uncle, Josiah White, who was directing the works of the Lehigh coal and navigation company in the construction of the Mauch Chunk railway, the second of importance that was built in the country. He also assisted in the construction of the canal from Mauch Chunk to Easton. Entering the state service, he had charge of building a division of a canal on Conemaugh river, and then was principal assistant to Sylvester Welch in locating and constructing the Portage railroad over the Alleghany mountains. Mr. Roberts's division was on the west side, including a tunnel 900 feet long, the first railroad tunnel in the United States, and the fine stone viaduct over Conemaugh river, near Johns-town, is his design and construction. While this road was in operation it was one of the wonders of the country. David Stephenson; the English engineer, says of it in his "Sketch of the Civil Engineering of North America " (London, 1838): "America now numbers among its many wonderful artificial lines of communication a mountain railway which, in boldness of design and difficulty of execution, I can compare to no modern work I have ever seen, excepting, perhaps, the passes of the Simplon and Mont Cenis in Sardinia." Remaining in the state service several years, Mr. Roberts became in 1838 chief engineer of the Catawissa railroad, in 1842 was president of the Philadelphia, Germantown, and Norristown railroad, and from 1843 to 1846 president of the Schuylkill navigation company. During the latter year he was chosen to the legislature, and from 1848 till 1856 he was engaged in locating, constructing, and operating the railroad from Pittsburg to Crestline, a distance of 188 miles. He located and named the towns of Crestline and Alliance. In 1856 he was chosen chief engineer and general superintendent of the North Pennsylvania railroad, which post he resigned in 1879. He was a member of many learned societies, contributed numerous papers to the transactions of the American philosophical society and to scientific journals, and wrote "Reminiscences of the First Railroad over the Alleghany Mountains," in the " Pennsylvania Magazine of History" (1878). He also published "The Destiny of Pittsburg and the Duty of her Young Men " (Pittsburg, 1850).--His wife, Anna Smith, poet, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 23 December, 1827; died there, 10 August, 1858, was the daughter of Randall H. Rickey, and married Mr. Roberts in 1851. She contributed poems to the " Columbian and Great. West" in 1850-'1, which were collected in "Forest Flowers of the West" (Philadelphia, 1851).
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