Home | Mission & Goals | Meeting Schedule | Search | Contact Us | Submit A Story | Links

John O'Donoghue 

The Man Who Built The Emmitsburg Railroad

George W. Wireman

John O’Donoghue was born on April 24. 1835, in Newery, Blair County, Pa. At the age of 17, John went to work for the Pennsylvania Railroad in Altoona, where he spent 13 years with the railroad working in the blacksmith department, and also served as a foreman and engineer on the Altoona Division.

In 1865 he resigned from the railroad and with his two brothers, James and Charles, formed the firm of John Donoghue & Brothers, railroad and tunnel contractors. This firm built many miles of trackage for the Western Maryland, Baltimore & Ohio, Shenandoah Valley, Columbia and Port Deposit, and the Emmitsburg Railroad.

The Rockport tunnel on the Lehigh Valley Railroad and about two miles of the Gunpowder waterworks tunnel in Baltimore were constructed by Donoghue & Brothers.

Following approval of the Act of Assembly on March 28, 1868, the Emmitsburg Railroad was Incorporated and a survey was made by Joseph S. Gitt and John Donoghue & Brothers, under contract in July 1871, to begin construction on the Emmitsburg Railroad. During construction of the seven-mile line from Emmitsburg to Rocky Ridge, a resident of Thurmont by the name of Frank Wilders was a member of the Donoghue crew.

Before the line was completed the funds gave out. The Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s College came to the rescue with a very substantial subscription to the bonds issued to ensure completion of the railroad. Listed below are the names of the bond holders and the amounts subscribed. This information was transcribed by Louis B. O’Donoghue from an Emmitsburg Railroad account book labeled, "BOND BOOK 188 of EMMITSBURG RAILROAD 1887."

The Sisters of Charity was the largest investor in the bond issue, purchasing over 24 percent of the bonds, totaling $23,300. John Donoghue, who’s company built most of the railroad, was the second largest investor. He personally purchased over 15 percent of the bonds, totaling $1 1,500.

Other investors in the bond issue were: Lewis M. Motter, $2,050; J. Taylor Motter, $650; John K. Taylor. $3,050; Mrs. Mary E. Patterson. $800; James A. Elder. $4,600; John H. McClellan, $400; Mrs. Helen Hendrix, S 1,650; William D. Hines, $2,050; Joseph S. Gitt, $400; William Bittinger, $4,750; William McSherry, S400; Benjamin Keilholtz, $15,350; Thomas Manning, $450; Felder C. Slinghuff, $150; Simon Hally, $250; William K. Black, $150; Joseph Fink, $400; Charles Pracht, $150; Dr. F.E. Chatard, $800; Edward Lynch, $1,300; E.O. Grimes, $3,800; E.S. Stouffer, $1,900; Mrs. L.B. Owen, $1,750; Jacob Weybright, $450; John Clark, $100; C.V.S. Levy, $250; Jessie H. Nussear, $400; Mrs. E. L. Rowe, $150; John H. Cretin, $400; J.W. Eichelberger, $150; Miss Marian F. Eichelberger, $100; Dr. C. D. Eichelberger, $400; Railroad contractor and president of Donoghue & Brothers Railroad Construction Company.

Emmitsburg Railroad was built: Mrs. Motter, Sisters of Charity, Dennis & Ellen McCarren; Dr. Edward Winschoff, Mt. Saint Mary’s College, Felix B. & Mary Taney, Mrs. Long, William Motter, George R. & M.E. Ovelman, William I. Black, E. Eckenrode, Mrs. Mary Biggs, Elisa Wiant, George & Ann Appold, Henry Heines, George Miller and Joshua & Phebe Biggs.

The right-of-way was 60 feet wide and the seven-mile line comprised 47193 acres of land.

It might be well to point out here that John O’Donoghue, for some unknown reason, would on occasions drop the "0" from the spelling, thus Donoghue, which is the way he spelled it in his construction business.

John O'Donoghue, died at the age of 68. Oct. 31, 1903, at his home in Altoona. A highly respected resident of the city, he had been in good health until he was stricken unexpectedly with a stroke and lingered in a state of unconsciousness for about 24 hours before he passed away.

John O’Donoghue and his family, with the exception of several years spent in Emmitsburg, resided in Altoona where he was well known by a large number of friends. He was buried in St. Johns cemetery.

Read Other articles by George Wireman

Have your own memories of the Emmitsburg?  
If so, send them to us at: history@emmitsburg.net

Do you know of an individual who helped shape Emmitsburg?
If so, send their story to us at: history@emmitsburg.net

Back to Previous Page >