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George Washington Cass: Wikis


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George Washington Cass (March 12, 1810 – March 21, 1888) was an American industrialist and president of the Northern Pacific Railway. Cass County, North Dakota is named for him.



George Washington Cass was born near Dresden, Ohio, March 12, 1810, to George W. and Sophia (Lord) Cass. He married Louisa Dawson in 1842.


Attended Detroit Academy, 1824 to 1827, in Detroit, Michigan, while living with his uncle Lewis Cass, governor, Michigan Territory. U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York, class of 1832.


Joined Army Corps of Engineers circa 1832, working on improvements to the Cumberland Road. Cass helped design the first cast iron bridge in the United States at Brownsville, Pennsylvania, later designated a National Civil Engineering Landmark. Cass left the Army as a first lieutenant in 1836 and settled into private business in Brownsville, Pa.

From 1836 to 1855 Cass organized a steamboat line and a stagecoach line. Due to his efforts he was appointed president of Adams & Co., successor to Adams Express. He expanded the Boston-based shipping company to points as far away as St. Louis, Missouri, and Richmond, Virginia.

From Adams, Cass went into railroading, becoming president of the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railroad, a future component of the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1856, a post he held until 1881.

Cass joined the future Northern Pacific Railway as a director in 1867, four years before the company laid its first rail near Carlton, Minnesota. He was appointed president in 1872, and saw the company through the difficult years following the failure of Jay Cooke and Company and the Panic of 1873. He remained as president until 1875, when the company succumbed to its first bankruptcy. Cass was named its receiver and remained until Frederick Billings reorganized the company circa 1878.

He died March 21, 1888.


  • Thomas C. Cochran, Railroad Leaders, 1845-1890 (1953).
  • Eugene V. Smalley, History of the Northern Pacific Railroad (1883), pp. 190-97.
  • The New York Times, March 22, 1888.
Preceded by
John Gregory Smith
President of Northern Pacific Railway
1872 – 1875
Succeeded by
Charles Barstow Wright

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