James Harvey Strobridge
Construction manager of the Central Pacific, James Harvey Strobridge, was born on April 23, 1827 to an old New England family in Albany, Vermont. He had worked on the building of the Vermont Central Railway when he was a teenager and was promoted to foreman. He then joined the Gold Rush in 1849, sailing to the West. Because of prospecting and other endeavors that failed, he went back to the construction industry and served as a foreman on the Placer County canal and on the San Francisco and San Jose Railroad. Afterward, he took subcontracts with Charles Crocker, the chief contractor, and soon became the manager of the entire construction program and the driving force that got the railroad completed. Strobridge was in complete charge of all grading and track-laying forces, and he was also responsible for managing the labor force at a salary of $125 per month, contracted with a couple labors firms, some of which owned by the white and some by the Chinese. At first, he was opposed to hiring Chinese men, but soon recognized their valuable capacities and even had as many as 15,000 under his charge one time. Strobridge’s working style was to intimidate workers, and if it failed, he regularly fell back on physical violence. Neither he nor his men took any orders from the engineers.