Clare County Library
Clare Genealogy

Donated Material: Biographies

WALSH, Patrick T. Born 1855, Davenport, Iowa, USA.
Donated by Cathy Joynt Labath, Iowa, USA.


Source: Davenport Democrat. Davenport, Scott, Iowa. June 20, 1924


Cities are but men magnified; their histories are definitely formed and their development as truly shaped by characteristics and decided by simple events which controlled their destinies as any man's. The glamour of their rise to high position and their accession of power is no less wonderful than that of the individuals who make up the municipality.

Few there were perhaps in LeClaire's day who dared to let their imagination pierce the future but little more than three quarters of a century away to visualize a city on the Mississippi with industries which reached to all parts of the world, with buildings scarcely then conceived in the minds of the builders in the civilization they had left. Even fewer, then were there who in the activities about the French & Davies mill of the '66's saw in the lad packing shingles at that plant, a bui8lder who in four decades was to be so nationally known that the United States of America would invite him to bid upon its first Panama canal project; few, too, of those who toiled in the stone-yards at the Rock Island Arsenal a decade later would believe that before their own span of life had finished, their fellow-worker, Patrick T. Walsh, native of Davenport, was to direct railroad construction works throughout the nation; handling contracts whose totals annually mounted into millions.

It seemed a far journey from a humble home and struggling family of eight to dazzling pinnacle of command in the engineering world, but it was Pat Walsh's journey and he accomplished it. No magic formula of success was his; he held no Aladdin lamp to fortune.

"Success can be classified as that quality which prompts the average individual to 'move up' as he enters a crowded street car," Pat Walsh once explained. "About the entrance, the crowd huddles together and the congestion is being gradually added to by the incoming passengers. Finally, someone gets aboard whose disposition and temperament is to 'move up' where there is more room and tho he bumps some of the passengers and gets jostled himself, he reaches the place where there is more room and a better atmosphere and really makes it more satisfactory for the crowd he passed on his way to comfort."

"Moving Up" Always.
That was Pat's creed. His life exemplified the "moving up" process. Those who caught his spirit moved along with him as biographies of half a dozen of his associates can attest and they found him quick to recognize the same quality in others that he himself possessed. No little of his success in life can be attributed to his fidelity and keen judgment of his aides. Men who proved their worth in his early years rose with him to high position in the Walsh ranks.

Born March 17, 1855, of parents but lately come from County Clare, Ireland, and settled in this community, he was one of a family of eight. An elder, too, upon whom early fell some of the responsibilities of providing for the home. Thus the summer when he was 11, Pat went into the world of wage earners, a shingle packer and probably general errand boy. Two summers of this and the next year found him carrying water for men engaged in the "Big Cut" in West Davenport- his first association with railroad construction gangs and the initial touch of the romance of the builders. Then the Rock Island Arsenal was booming and for the lad who seemed destined to earn his livelihood by the toil
of his brow, the stonemason's art held promise of future sustenance. For a decade he worked there.

In the '80s, tho, the men sought better working hours and in the difficulties which ensued Walsh took an uncompromising stand. The men won their contention. Their working conditions were adjusted to their satisfaction, but Walsh, tho a victor in the fight- emerged defeated- a defeat which started him on the high-road to wealth and prominence. He was not returned to the Arsenal and his years of faithful service seemed to have been lost.

He didn't turn from his chosen occupation nor from his home. With no financial backing and only such equipment he could assemble by his limited means, he sought minor contracts, digging cellars, and similar supplementary excavation jobs. But Pat had a line of action. He was in the crowd at the entrance to life's reward and he determined to "move up."

Lands First Contract.
Cellar work led to sewer-drains and street improvement and his field was gradually expanding until one happy day he landed a contract for the "fill" on the Burlington right-of-way at Galva. That was a crucial point in his life for from then on, Walsh Construction company, under various names and in varied combinations, forged slowly to the front as a railroad construction concern. On the Newer larger roads, the Walsh crews were continuously employed. Success of these later days never turned Pat's head. He was ever thotful of the needy. His charity was broad and once he learned of a sick or crippled youngster and their needs he never failed to remember them by generous gift. His civic pride kept pace with his own charity. Institutions and causes have occasion to remember his generosity as those of his aides who advanced with their leader to important places.

In the construction field the Walsh interests were centered. Later years brought a diversification of his enterprises. The Walsh Construction company which was the development and focal point of all his engineering activities represented the merger of half a dozen companies which had operated under his controlling genius; the Blackhawk hotel will stand a monument to his civic industry and pride as well as his art as a builder, the Sacred Heart Cathedral, another of his local projects, was his particular pride.

So, this is the story of a boy who rode from water-carrier to ride in his private car, who lost in victory and turned defeat to success, who never failed to take note of faithful service and rewarded it, whose charity grew as his means.

Back Arrow
Iowa Emigrant Biographies