Thomas Doane, 1821-1897 [RG4354.AM]


RG4354.AM:  Thomas Doane, 1821-1897

Correspondence:  1870-1897
Crete, Saline County, Neb.; Charlestown, Mass.:  Civil engineer
Size:  5 boxes


Thomas Doane, son of John and Polly Doane, was born at Orleans, Massachusetts, on September 20, 1821. He received his early education at an academy run by his father and others, and spent five more years at Phillips Academy, Andover. For three years after graduation from Phillips he studied civil engineering in the office of Samuel M. Felton at Charlestown. He was employed by eastern railroads until 1849, when he opened his own office of civil engineering and surveying. Doane made his reputation in 1863 when, as chief engineer of the Hoosac tunnel project, his pioneering of the use of compressed air and his advanced use of high explosives attracted fame and respect. In 1869 he went west as chief engineer and superintendent of the B & M Railroad, and was responsible for building 240 miles of road; for establishing the steam ferry at Plattsmouth; and for building and maintaining a telegraph line the full length of the roadway. He is also responsible for surveying the line between Crete and Beatrice, and for naming the towns on the line between Plattsmouth and Kearney.

In 1871 he took residence at Crete, Saline County, Nebraska where he settled with his second wife, the former Louisa A. Barber of Vermont (his first wife, Sophia D. Clarke, by whom Doane had five children, died eighteen years after their marriage in 1850). Doane had great hopes for the future of Crete, and in 1872 became one of the founders of the first bank at Crete, and its first president. In 1872 he arranged for the Burlington Railroad to donate 600 acres of land east of Crete for use as a college. He contributed heavily to support the school started there by the association of Congregational churches and in recognition of his work the school was named Doane College. The following year he returned to his home at Charlestown, and thereafter visited Nebraska only for the annual commencement exercises at the college. Doane died at West Townshend, Vermont, in 1897.


This collection consists of five manuscript boxes of material consisting of nine letter books containing correspondence dating from 1870-1897. These letters relate to: letters to fellow engineers; settling of his brother’s estate; engineering; letters to D.B. Perry relating to the financial affairs of the college; the bank at Crete; family affairs; investments; land and taxes; ranch business; and other business and personal affairs. Also included is one folder containing biographical information.

Note:  See the NSHS Library Catalog and the Nebraska History index for published sources about Thomas Doane and Doane College.


Box 1

  1. 1870-1873, letters to fellow engineers; settling his brother’s estate; patents; land deals
  2. 1874-1879, engineering

Box 2

  1. 1874-1888
    1874-1876, includes letters of D.B. Perry in reference to college finances

Box 3

  1. 1877-1880, building of the Crete Bank
  2. 1880-1883, general correspondence

Box 4

  1. 1883-1886 family; investments; land and taxes; ranch notes, etc.
  2. 1886-1889, general correspondence

Box 5

  1. 1889-1892, general correspondence
  2. 1895-1897, degree received at Doane College; new pastor for church; ill health; family reunion

Folder 1 – Biographical data



Civil engineering
Crete (Neb.) — History
Doane College (Crete, Neb.)
Doane, Thomas, 1821-1897
Railroad engineering
Railroad land grants
Railroads — Nebraska


DAB/HEK/jlc   05-06-1966
Encoded TMM   03-25-2010

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