Santa Cruz County History - People

Old Soldiers: Santa Cruz County Civil War Veterans
by Robert L. Nelson


Santa Cruz Sentinel (March 6, 1928)

DIED; DONNELL- In Santa Cruz, March 4, 1928 Henry Scott Donnell, aged 84 years, native Bath Me.

Retired S.P. Engineer Dies at Local Hospital

Henry Scott Donnell, died at Hanly hospital, Santa Cruz, March 4th 1928. He was born in Bath Maine, in 1844. In 1860 he ran away from home and joined a Massachusetts regiment in the Civil War. He remained in the army until the end of the war. He was wounded and taken prisoner and remained in Libby Prison for six months. About 1868 he came to California and joined a surveying party under Col. Ives, who was then the principal exploring engineer of the Central Pacific railroad. He remained with Col. Ives for some years, and suffered great hardships on many trips, especially on the Humboldt Desert in Nevada. He then joined the Central Pacific Railroad as assistant in the engineering department and remained with them until 1877 when he became assistant engineer in charge of tunnel No. 3 on the South Pacific Coast railroad then being built from San Francisco to Santa Cruz. This tunnel crosses the line of the fault which caused the earthquake in San Francisco in 1906, and at this point many seams of petroleum gas were opened up. One night two explosions took place, which killed twenty-seven Chinamen. Some of them were working in the tunnel at the time and were killed by the first explosion. Others went afterwards to save their comrades and were killed by the second explosion. He remained with this company until 1880 when he went to Oregon and became assistant engineer on the location and construction of the Oregonian Railroad from Ray's Landing to Brownsville. This line afterwards passed into the hands of the Southern Pacific Company. He remained on this work until about the year 1882, when he joined the Southern Pacific construction forces in Cow Creek Canyon, Oregon, and remained on this work until the year 1887, when he went to Los Angeles to work for his son-in law, J. H. Quinton. He did various work in Los Angeles, including the construction of the San Gabriel Valley Rapid Transit Railroad, and he made the first topographical survey of Westlake Park in that city. He returned to Oregon in 1888 and joined the Southern Pacific company again as road master and remained with them until about 1905, when he went to Colorado to work for the Reclamation Service, and was two years on the construction of the Gunnison Tunnel in the Uncompahgre Valley, Colorado, and on that of the Strawberry Tunnel, Utah. About the year 1908 he returned to work for the Southern Pacific company as road master in Oregon and remained with that company until he retired on a pension about the year 1919. Since that time he has lived in Santa Cruz where his devoted wife died in 1920.

He was a conscientious, painstaking and industrious engineer, and was a hard worker all his life. He had a most magnetic personality, and made hosts of friends wherever he went. He was a good husband, a good father to this wife's children and a good man.

The body was shipped last night to Los Angeles for burial.

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