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By J. Albert Holmes,

Member of the Boston Society of Civil Engineers.

Charles D. Elliot was educated in the schools of Foxboro, Wrentham, Malden, and in the old Milk Row School and the Prospect Hill Grammar School, Somerville, Mass., and in Henry Munroe's private school on Walnut Street, this city, which he left to enter, at the age of twelve years, the Hopkins Classical School, situated at that time on the south side of Main Street, now Massachusetts Avenue, a few rods westerly from Dana Street, Cambridge. This school was in existence from 1840 to 1854, and was supported from a fund left by Edward Hopkins, ‘for a grammar school in Cambridge.’ The teacher during Mr. Elliot's attendance was Edmund B. Whitman. Mr. Elliot was a member of the first entering class of the Somerville High School. The front portion of the present Somerville City Hall was built and dedicated April 28, 1852, as a high school. The school from 1852 to 1867 occupied the upper floor, and [57] afterwards, for a few years, the entire building. It was here during the years 1852 to 1855 that Mr. Elliot studied, first under Principal Robert Bickford, 1852-1854, then for a short period unded a Mr. Hitchcock, who was in turn succeeded by Leonard Walker in 1855.

Mr. Elliot's engineering education began in the office of Stearns & Sanborn in June, 1855, and was the result of the interest in his mathematical ability shown by Daniel A. Sanborn, a member of the firm, and a near neighbor of the family. The other member was William B. Stearns, chief engineer, and afterward president of the Fitchburg Railroad. Mr. Sanborn was the founder of the Sanborn Insurance Map Company. The firm afterwards became Stearns & Stevenson, C. L. Stevenson being the new member. Mr. Elliot studied for his profession in this office until July, 1859, and most of that time was devoted to work on locations, bridges, and construction for the Fitchburg Railroad; but a part of his time was given to the city of Charlestown, on sewers and other city work, and to the Cambridge Water Works.

In July, 1859, he was appointed principal assistant under George L. Richardson, C. E., on the street surveys for the town of Somerville, and engaged in this work during 1859-1860. During 1860-1861 he was in partnership with T. Edward Ames, C. E., afterwards Brevet Major Thirty-sixth Massachusetts Volunteers, and some time city engineer of Charlestown. They had offices in Winnisimmet Square, Chelsea, and in Somerville. In 1862 he was in the office of J. G. Chase, C. E., later city engineer of Cambridge, and was most of the time engaged in running levels, establishing benches, and making plans for sewers; also in making preliminary studies and plans for the Charlestown Water Works. During the year he drew for General Henry L. Abbot, of Cambridge, a plan of the siege of Yorktown, Va., from notes by General Abbot. The execution of the plan so pleased the general that he procured for Mr. Elliot an appointment from the War Department as Assistant [58] Topographical Engineer. (See next paper for Mr. Elliot's war record.)

In January, 1865, Mr. Elliot removed to Cambridge, Mass., and entered the office of William S. Barbour. During the year he was engaged in making railroad surveys from the limestone quarries to the lime kilns at Rockland, Me.

During 1866 and 1867 he was engaged in the manufacture of paper collars and cuffs, for which much of the machinery used was either invented or improved by Mr. Elliot, and all the patterns and designs used were his own. He was possessed of considerable inventive genius. Besides the machinery previously mentioned, he planned and made a working model for a lawn mower. This was previous to the Civil War, and long before this useful machine was known to commerce. Another of his practical ideas which antedated considerably its actual adoption by the War Department, was the use of plate armor for ships. He invented, shortly before the introduction of ironclads, a device for drawing copper bolts from ships so as to preserve the bolts; this device was patented. Still another practical idea of which he talked, as early as 1869 or 1870, was that of perforated pipes to be built into walls and partitions, and to be connected with the hose in case of fire. A patent for some such device has since been granted.

Mr. Elliot removed in the spring of 1867 to Brookline, and in the autumn of the same year to Newton Centre, Mass. In 1868 he was in the office of J. F. Fuller, engineer for the Boston Water Power Company, where he was engaged upon sewers and other engineering work in the Back Bay. He formed a partnership in 1869 with William A. Mason, C. E., of Cambridge, and during 1869-70 was engaged in general engineering, street and land improvement, and the construction of the famous Beacon Trotting Park in Allston, now occupied by the Boston & Albany Railroad roundhouse and yards.

In April, 1870, he removed from Newton Centre to Cambridgeport, and in December of the same year returned to Somerville, where he opened an office in the newly-constructed [59] Pythian Block, Union Square. It was at this time, when asked by Ira Hill, the owner of the block, whom he would suggest as an occupant for the only remaining office in the building, that Mr. Elliot proposed that a newspaper be started, and upon this suggestion the Somerville Journal was launched. Previous to and during the winter of 1870-1871 he attended afternoon and evening lectures on chemistry, and engaged in laboratory work in mechanical and mining engineering, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

During 1871-1872 he was chief engineer of the Arlington Water Works, and in 1872 was elected the first city engineer of the newly-incorporated city of Somerville. In 1873 he was engaged in private practice, and employed by Middlesex County in the widening of Somerville Avenue and the re-location of the horse railroad from the side to the centre of the avenue, and the adjustment of the damages incurred by the widening. He was re-appointed city engineer in 1874 and 1875. Among the important engineering works carried on under Mr. Elliot as city engineer were the construction of the newly-widened Somerville Avenue, the construction of the Somerville part of the sewerage system for abolishing the Miller's River nuisance, which involved the construction of an eight-foot sewer in Somerville Avenue and the filling of Miller's River by digging off the top of historic Prospect Hill, and the construction of Broadway Park.

On January 30, 1875, Mr. Elliot moved into a house which he had built for himself at 59 Oxford Street, Somerville. From 1876 to 1880, inclusive, he was engaged in general engineering, and as an expert in sanitary, hydraulic, and railroad work. During 1881 and 1882 he made surveys and plans for one of the numerous Cape Cod Canal schemes. Following this and until 1890 he was engaged in making insurance surveys in Boston and vicinity and in Lynn. In 1887 he was made agent for the estate of James C. Ayer, of Lowell, and in his capacity as an engineer made plans of, and sold for the estate, all of its land [60] in Somerville, amounting to seventy acres.1 In 1895-96 he made for the Metropolitan Park Commission the surveys and plans for the Mystic Valley Parkway, from Winchester Centre to the Old Mystic Pumping Station at the western end of the city of Somerville, and performed for the same Commission some work in the Middlesex Fells Reservation. From 1887 till his death he was constantly engaged as a consulting engineer, and employed as an expert by railroads, municipalities, corporations, and private individuals, and in the adjustment of damages and awards, and the apprisement of real estate.

His activities covered a broad field, and his recommendations resulted in many public improvements. His was the first suggestion to extend the Mystic Valley Parkway from the Pumping Station near West Medford to the Old Powder House in Somerville, afterwards constructed by the city and called Powder House Boulevard. As engineer to the Cambridge Electric Light Company, 1902-04, he made a request to the Charles River Basin Commission that a lock forty-five feet wide, with a depth of eighteen feet at low water, be constructed through the new dam at Craigie's Bridge, instead of one of less dimensions, which was done. He was deeply interested in the Cross-town boulevard through the eastern part of Somerville, to connect Middlesex Fells with the reservations south of Boston, and as chairman of a committee of the Somerville Board of Trade appeared many times before the legislative committee at the State House to advocate it, and finally succeeded in having a bill passed, which, however, was vetoed by the Governor for economic reasons.

Mr. Elliot was one of the founders of the Somerville Historical Society, of which he was president for three years. He took great pleasure in collecting ancient maps and manuscripts relating to American history, and particularly to Somerville. [61] No person was better informed on the history of this section than Mr. Elliot, and he prepared a brief history of the town and city in 1896.

Though we have a number of articles from his pen relating to engineering, he wrote largely on historical subjects. His writings show complete knowledge of his subject, and are altogether interesting. A partial list of his publications is as follows:—

On engineering.

As city engineer of Somerville, he prepared the reports for the years 1872-1874-1875; ‘Clay Pits and Free Baths,’ editorial in Somerville Journal, 1877; ‘Pollution of the Water Supply,’ Somerville Journal, about 1888; ‘What Somerville Needs,’ about 1890; ‘Civil Engineering as a Vocation,’ October 28, 1893; ‘A Feasible Metropolitan Boulevard for Somerville,’ December 29, 1894; ‘Proposed Charles River Dam and the Commerce and Industries of Cambridge,’ 1902; ‘Request for a Wide and Deep Lock in Charles River Dam,’ 1904.

Historical papers.

Between February 8 and August 9, 1890, he contributed to the Somerville Journal nine articles on the following subjects: ‘Revolutionary Landmarks’; ‘Aborigines’; ‘The First National Flag’; ‘Paul Revere's Ride and the March to Concord’; ‘British Retreat from Concord’; ‘Battle of Bunker Hill’; ‘Old Roads’; ‘Historic Tablets’; ‘Historic Somerville’; and, following these, ‘The Early History of Ten Hills Farm,’ Somerville Journal, November 8, 1890, and May 23, 1891; ‘Somerville in War Times,’ and ‘Early History of Somerville,’ Somerville Journal, Semi-Centennial Souvenir, March 3, 1892; a brief ‘History of Somerville,’ in ‘Somerville Past and Present,’ 1896; ‘The Somerville Historical Society,’ ‘Myles Standish and the Plymouth Explorers,’ ‘Governor John Winthrop and His Ten Hills Farm,’ ‘Somerville in the Revolution,’ all in Somerville Historical Society Souvenir, November 38- [62] December 3, 1898; Genealogical Pamphlet, ‘Charles Darwin Elliot-Mary Elvira Elliot,’ 1901; obituaries, ‘Hon. Charles Hicks Saunders and Hon. Isaac Story,’ Historic Leaves, Vol. 1, July, 1902; ‘The Stinted Common,’ Historic Leaves, Vol. 1, October, 1902; inscription for Prospect Hill Tower, Historic Leaves, Vol. 2, January, 1904; ‘John Winthrop,’ Historic Leaves, Vol. 3, July, 1904; obituary, ‘Quincy Adams Vinal,’ Historic Leaves, Vol. 3, October, 1904; ‘The Blessing of the Bay,’ read before the Winter Hill Improvement Association, November 16, 1904; ‘The Old Royall House, Medford,’ Historic Leaves, Vol. 4, April, 1905; ‘Union Square and Its Neighborhood About the Year 1846,’ Historic Leaves, Vol. 6, April, 1907; ‘Somerville's Development and Progress,’ Somerville Journal, May 3, 1907; ‘Union Square Before the War,’ Historic Leaves, Vol. 6, July, 1907; ‘Port Hudson,’ Historic Leaves, Vol. 7, October, 1908; ‘Charles Tufts,’ read before the Somerville Historial Society November 24, 1908; ‘Sketch of George O. Brastow,’ Somerville Journal, December 13, 1908.

Mr. Elliot became a member of the Boston Society of Civil Engineers December 17, 1902. He was also a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers from August 7, 1872, to January 4, 1898; the National Geographic Society; Massachusetts Real Estate Exchange; Somerville Board of Trade, in which he took a very active part, and to which he devoted much of his valuable time. He was a member of the Men's Club of the First Universalist Church; the Winter Hill Improvement Association; the American Historical Association; New England Historic Genealogical Society; Sons of the American Revolution; and Delft Haven Colony of the Pilgrim Fathers.

Charles Darwin Elliot and Emily Jane, adopted daughter of Judge Nathaniel F. Hyer, were married in New Orleans, La., September 3, 1863. Five children were born of this union. He is survived by Mrs. Elliot; a brother, Alfred L. Elliot; a sister, Mary Elvira Elliot; and four children, Clara Zenora, Ella Florence, [63] a professional genealogist, Charles Joseph, a civil engineer, and Adelaide Genevieve. The son was associated with his father in the engineering business, and has succeeded to his practice.

Mr. Elliot was very ill during the winter of 1907-08. It was thought he had fully recovered from this attack, though his friends noticed a slight diminution of his accustomed vigor. His condition during the evening of November 24, while reading the paper on Charles Tufts before the Somerville Historical Society, caused great anxiety to his family and friends. He was much improved, however, on the following day, and went about his duties as usual.

On Saturday, December 5, Mr. Elliot spent the entire day out of doors. He must have become chilled by the exposure, for he was obliged to see his physician upon returning home, but was about the house on Sunday. During the evening he was taken seriously ill, and for a time it was thought he would not survive, and though he rallied from this attack and was in his usual cheerful frame of mind the following day, the posssibility of his recovery was slight. From this time he did not leave his bed. There was another crisis on Wednesday, and the end came most peacefully the following morning. He died at 11 a. m. December 10, 1908. His death was due to heart trouble and other complications.

Services were held at his late residence, 59 Oxford Street, Somerville, on Sunday, December 13, and at the Winter Hill Universalist Church. The burial was at Woodlawn.

The Somerville Journal of December 18, 1908, gave a full account of the funeral services. The pastor, Rev. Francis A. Gray, paid a feeling tribute to the memory of the deceased, and again, at the memorial service, held October 31, 1909, spoke in eulogy of Mr. Elliot's many fine qualities as a citizen and a man.

Resolutions or letters of condolence were sent to Mr. Elliot's family from the Somerville Historical Society, the Somerville [64] Board of Trade, Willard C. Kinsley Post, No. 139, Department of Massachusetts, G. A. R., Somerville Woman's Relief Corps, Men's Club of the First Universalist Church, the Winter Hill Improvement Association, and the Haverhill Historical Society.

1 This was bounded approximately by Highland Avenue, Cedar Street, the main line of the Lowell Railroad, and Willow Avenue.

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