January 24, 1851: Birth of DM&N Railway engineer H. L. Dresser

On this day in 1851, future Duluthian Hermon Lamott Dresser, was born in Granger, Allegany County, New York, to farmers Joel and Belinda A. (Button) Dresser. While Dresser was well educated, he elected to stay on at the family farm until 1876, when he took a job as rodman among surveying crews planning railroads in Iowa and Missouri. By 1882 had had become an engineer. Accoridng to a 1922 biography, from 1886 to 1887 Dresser oversaw the construction of the Chicago, St. Paul & Kansas City Railroad, which later became the Chicago & Great Western Railroad, and did the same for the Iowa Central Railway in 1889 and 1890. He and his wife Phoebe moved their family to Duluth in 1891 when he took charge of construction of the Duluth & Winnipeg Railroad and acted as its first chief engineer until 1892, when he was named assistant chief engineer of the Duluth, Missabe & Northern Railroad Company. He was made chief engineer May 17, 1899. Historian Walter Van Brunt described Dresser as “a man of excellent business qualifications, and his management of railroad affairs has made him famous in that line of business. He is active and enterprising, generous, kindhearted and genial, and is considered one of Duluth’s most valuable citizens…. In political sentiment Mr. Dresser has always been a strong supporter of the Republican candidates; is broad-minded and liberal in his views, and ready to aid in every way possible for the best interests of his neighbors.” Dresser was an active Mason and belonged to Duluth’s Commercial Club and Boat Club. He almost died in July, 1916, when he drove his car into the Duluth Ship Canal. You can read of his rescue here.

H. L. Dresser. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

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