"SHSI Certificate of Recognition"
"Best on the Web"

Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN

Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


From Encyclopedia Dubuque
Jump to navigationJump to search

Ancestry: https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/38828395/person/312128975788/facts?_phsrc=TrL4387&_phstart=successSource

CHAMBERLAIN, Selah (Brattleboro, VT, May 4, 1812---Dec. 27, 1890) At the age of twenty-one, Chamberlain moved to Boston at where he obtained business training as an apprentice in a grocery store. In 1835, Chamberlain formed his own company and was contracted to complete construction on an extension of the Erie & Pennsylvania Canal. He received larger contracts for the Wabash & Erie Canal, and in the 1840s supervised improvements on the St. Lawrence River. In 1847, he returned to Vermont and contracted to build segments of the country's emerging railroad system. He was largely responsible for the construction of the Rutland & Burlington Railroad to Boston, and the Lake Champlain Railroad. (1)

In 1849, Chamberlain moved to Cleveland to take advantage of Midwest railroad expansion. In Cleveland, Chamberlain also cofounded the private banking house of Chamberlain, Gorham, & Perkins, which in 1880 merged into Merchants National Bank. Related to his railroading, in 1850 he was a founder of the Cleveland Iron Mining Co. (later to become CLEVELAND-CLIFFS, INC.). Chamberlain's railroad interests included the entire contract to construct the Cleveland & Pittsburgh Railroad (1849), railroad building in Iowa and Wisconsin, and being a major stockholder in several railroads. He was an incorporator of the Cleveland, Lorain, & Wheeling Railroad Co. and helped form the Cleveland Transportation Co. and for many years was its president. (2)

Chamberlain was involved in railroad construction and other industries in the Midwest by 1860. He was involved in the incorporation of the Minnesota Central Railroad Company (1860) and the Minnesota Railway Construction Company (1869) and served as president of the Minnesota Central Railway (1881). (3) He was involved in the platting of Lyle, Minnesota in June 1870. It was from there that the CHICAGO AND NORTH WESTERN RAILROAD constructed a line to Manly Junction, Iowa in 1885 and a branch from Hayfield, Minnesota to Dubuque, Iowa completed in 1886. (4)

Chamberlain's other Dubuque business ventures began around 1864. In April 1864 a stock company called the Dubuque Level and Lead Mining Company was formed by Selah Chamberlain, Newton W. Kimball, Henry W. Clark, Randall J. Giggs, and J. W. Parker to blast a tunnel beneath a hill located between what is now Kaufmann Avenue and an area known as West Dubuque. The tunnel was planned to lower the water level enough to allow increased mining for LEAD. This became an important source of water for the community for many years. (5) One of the important legal cases involving miners' right, CHAMBERLAIN V. COLLINSON was decided by the Iowa Supreme Court in 1876.



1. "Selah Chamberlain," Case Western Reserve University, Online: https://case.edu/ech/articles/c/chamberlain-selah/

2. Ibid.

3. Martin, Lawrence A. "Railroads in Minnesota Part II," Online: http://www.angelfire.com/mn/thursdaynighthikes/minnrrs175.html

4. Baumann, Abbie L. and Witt, Diana, "About Lyle," Online: http://www.lylemn.org/about.html

5. Rumsey, Charles. "Early Waterworks Grew from Miners' Failures," Telegraph Herald, July 31, 1955, p. 32