Documentary History of American Water-works

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Biography Galen W. Pearsons

Galen W. Pearsons

Galen W. Pearsons was born in Orleans, Jefferson County, New York on October 20, 1833.  He worked in shipbuilding and railroads before becoming a water commissioner in Ogdensburg when that city built a Holly water works system in 1868.  The Holly firm was evidently impressed with Pearsons, and he was soon involved in building eight more Holly systems over the next several years. 

Pearsons was working on the Memphis water works where he met Frank M. Mahan, and the two of them moved to Kansas City to build water works there in 1873.  Pearsons remained a resident of Kansas City for the rest of his life, although he continued to design water works systems.

Pearsons died in Kansas City, Missouri on August 19, 1907.

Galen W. Pearsons's Water Works Experience
City State Years Projects
Ogdensburg NY 1868 Water Works Commissioner
Kalamazoo MI 1869 Engineer
Marquette MI 1870 Engineer
Potsdam NY 1871 Engineer
Memphis TN 1872 Engineer
Kansas City MO 1873-1878; 1886-1887; 1888-1897 Engineer
Pueblo CO 1874-1875 Engineer
Bangor ME 1875-1876 Engineer
Leavenworth KS 1882 Engineer
Olathe KS 1884 Engineer
Marshall MO 1885 Engineer
Paola KS 1885-1886 Engineer
Burlington KS 1886-1887 Engineer
Holden MO 1887 Engineer
Concordia KS 1887-1888 Engineer
Fort Riley KS 1888 Contractor
Las Animas CO 1889 Engineer
Osborne KS 1890 Engineer
Girard KS 1893 Engineer
New Orleans LA 1907 Consulting Engineer

1873 U.S. Patent 143,711, Improvement in stand-pipes for water-works, October 14, 1873, Galen W. Pearsons, Ogdensburg, New York

1883 U.S. Patent 274,138, Machine for lining water or other pipes, March 20, 1883, Galen W. Pearsons, Kansas City, Missouri

1887 U.S. Patent 368,420, Device for unloading passenger-cars at terminals, August 18, 1887, Galen W. Pearsons, Kansas City, Missouri

1888 History of Kansas City, Missouri: with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers
Page 562-563:  Galen W. Pearsons, assistant city engineer of Kansas City, was born in October, 1833. His father, Chesterfield Pearsons, was a native of Vermont. He was a civil and mechanical engineer, and a lawyer, and was for thirty years magistrate in Jefferson county, N. Y. He was a descendant of a Captain Pearsons who fought the Serapis against Paul Jones, and was knighted for that action. Chesterfield Pearsons married Miss Mary Barrett, a daughter of Oliver Barrett, of Woodstock, Vt. Oliver Barrett entered the Revolutionary army at the age of nineteen, at which time he could neither read nor write. During his service, however, in the American army, he not only learned to read and write, but also mastered the rudiments of a common English education, selling his rum rations and buying candles with the money thus obtained, these candles furnishing him with light to pursue his studies at night. He left the army at the close of the war with the rank of captain and an education which qualified him to teach school, and when soon afterward he for the first time entered a school-house it was as a teacher. He was also a self-educated mechanical engineer, and was for some time the leading architect in Vermont. He was a contemporary of Oliver Evans, who is noted in the early annals of engineering. Mr. Barrett was in all probability the first man in America to build a water wheel which embodied the same essential principles which are found in the modern turbine water wheel, and he was in every way, except so far as education is concerned, the peer of Oliver Evans. Thus it will be seen that Mr. Pearsons, the subject of this sketch, came by inheritance into the possession of mechanical genius. The first evidences of this genius were shown in his attempts to learn the measurement of angles on a bench by means of his father's compass, and at the age of twelve years he assisted in surveying by carrying the chain. Two years later he was frequently consulted with reference to mechanical devices, among which were the “drive well" and the "belt conveyor," both of which he brought into practical operation. At the age of eighteen he was everywhere recognized as an experienced, even a skillful mechanic, and was placed in charge of a large number of men employed in his brother's shipyard. At the age of twenty-one he had charge of the largest force of mill-wrights in Chicago, and in 1858 he accepted a position in his brother's marine railway at Ogdensburg, N. Y. He remained there three years as superintendent after the railway was sold to the Northern Transportation Company, and during this time, as a member of the city council, had charge of bridge construction, and built the city water works. Since that time he has been almost constantly engaged in the construction of works of this nature. From 1873 to January, 1878, he was chief engineer of the Kansas City Water Works, and during that period he built water works at Bangor, Me., at Leavenworth, Kan., at Marshall, Mo., and at Rockaway Beach, N. Y. Besides these works he has constructed several flouring mills and saw-mills, about forty steamboats and sailing vessels, and has been engaged also in general engineering business. He was appointed assistant city engineer in April, 1888. Mr. Pearsons was married in November, 1859, to Miss Eveline Tozer, of Jefferson county, N. Y., by whom he has four children, the oldest of whom is in business with his father as a mechanical engineer. Mr. Pearsons has been since 1876 a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and has had a more varied experience than most engineers.

1907 "Mr. Pearsons' Death," The Kansas City Gazette, August 20, 1907, Page 1.

© 2020 Morris A. Pierce