JSNH&B home • Fall 2009 • vol. 2 no. 2

Theodore Judah

Narrated by Dan DeFoe

Sierra College, History Dept

Born in Troy New York in 1826, Theodore Judah became a civil engineer who worked on the Erie Canal and helped design the Niagara Gorge Railroad before deciding to move west to California to become as he put it "the pioneering railroad engineer of the Pacific Coast."

After singlehandedly discovering a route over the Sierra Nevada range, his dream of a transcontinental railroad became reality when Sacramento's "Big Four" invested in the idea. However, the partnership faltered when Judah, upset over business tactics and ethics, booked a return voyage to New York to find new investors and buy out his Sacramento partners.

Judah took a short cut, crossing overland through Panama to the east and while there contracted a fever which proved fatal. He died in November 1863. On May 10, 1869 the driving of the "Golden Spike" marked the completion of the project Judah inspired.


Judah video - click to play