Born: c. 1830

Died: August 5, 1913 1



John Hurd was a lumberman who built the Northern Adirondack Railroad from Moira to Tupper Lake between 1883 and 1890. Hurd became overextended, and the line went into receivership in 1894.


The Fort Covington Sun, May 21, 1891

THE New York Sun of May 12 contained the following announcement: George Foster, of Milford Pa., for more than thirty years a railroad contractor in South America, has, in company with John Hurd, the railroad builder of Adirondacks, secured the contract from the governments of Bolivia and Brazil to complete the railroad between those two countries It was began 15 years ago by the Collins Bros, of Philadelphia. The project was abandoned by them owing to the failure of the European capitalists who were backing them. Foster and Hurd have obtained valuable concessions from the two South American republics, which alone would warrant the completion of the road. They get a tract of land the entire length of the road and ten miles wide, abounding in mahogany, cinchona, caoutchouc, satin wood, and all other valuable woods. Foster thinks that gold will be found in that region. The railroad will give a line direct to the navigable waters of the Amazon. Foster says that this work is one of the most important ever undertaken in South America.

Malone Palladium, August 4, 1892

There was a collision last Tuesday evening on the N. A. R. R. near Willis Pond, which is about ten miles south of Paul Smith's Station, between the up train and the locomotive, The Pioneer, used by JOHN HURD, the president, in his running back and forth on the road. Mr. HURD is not only president, but general manager, train dispatcher and pretty much everything else, and was returning from Tupper Lake to his home at Santa Clara. He thought he could make the siding at Blue Pond in time to let the up train by, but failed to do it. The Pioneer was terribly wrecked. Mr. HURD and the engineer jumped. We understand that the latter was not hurt, but Mr. HURD was badly lamed, bruised and cut up. Fortunately no bones were broken and he will doubtless be out again in a few days; but it was a close call.


Frederick J. Seaver, Historical Sketches of Franklin County, Albany, NY: J. B. Lyon Co., 1918, pp. 534-536


John Hurd was a very different type [than Patrick A. Ducey]. Possessed of large properties at Bridgeport, Conn., a flouring mill at Indianapolis, Ind., and other business interests elsewhere, he became associated in 1881 or 1882 with a Mr. Hotchkiss, also of Connecticut, and Peter Macfarlane, a thorough lumberman from Michigan, in investment in timber lands to an aggregate of nearly sixty square miles in the western part of Franklin county, and subsequently in mills and a railroad. After a few years his partners were bought out by him. But mills a dozen to twenty miles from a railroad could not be profitable, and so Mr. Hurd, always optimistic and too often venturesome, proceeded; first, to build a railroad in 1883 from Moira to St. Regis Falls, a distance of twelve miles, and then to extend it to Santa Clara and Brandon, and afterward to Tupper Lake - a total length of nearly seventy miles. The road was finished to Brandon in 1886, and to Tupper Lake in 1889. Tupper Lake was then almost uninhabited, and no other railway touched it or was near it. Nor did Mr. Hurd want connection there with any other line, as he figured that without it he would have a monopoly of the haul of the lumber product of the entire region. On the other hand, it was his intention to extend his own road eventually from Moira to the St. Lawrence, and he expected also that it would do a large and profitable passenger business because affording an easy route into and out of the Adirondacks. For a long time the burden was carried by Mr. Hurd individually, though at a terrible cost in worry, interest charges and sacrifice of properties which he had to pledge as security for debts and loans. At length, as relief seemed to be assured through a bond issue, which would have discharged all of his obligations and left him with a fortune of several hundred thousand dollars in cash, there was a failure by the merest margin to float the bonds, and personal judgments and mortgages having piled up in a very large aggregate, a receiver was appointed for the railroad, and Mr. Hurd was bankrupt. He died a few years later in Connecticut, his immense mills having fallen into other hands, and the railroad having been acquired by New York Central interests. It has been extended from Moira to the Dominion capital, with the St. Lawrence bridged near Cornwall, and is now operated as the New York and Ottawa.

But before disaster came Mr. Hurd had established large mills at St. Regis Falls, Santa Clara and Tupper Lake, and was also turning out great quantities of hemlock bark, cord wood for shipment to Montreal for fuel, and charcoal. He owned seventy-five thousand acres, almost all virgin forest, and it is readily seen that his scheme of working it must have stripped it practically bare if continued for a few years, which would have been incalculably unfortunate for the country, however it might have worked out for Mr. Hurd himself.


At Santa Clara there were the railroad machine shops and two mills, one with a capacity of only about twelve thousand feet per day, but the other turning out over a hundred thousand; and there was also a chair factory.

Besides his other multitudinous activities, Mr. Hurd became associated about 1890 with former Governor Alonzo B. Cornell in experimenting for the lighting of railway passenger cars by electricity generated by revolution of the car wheels. Governor Cornell had been a telegraph operator in his youth, and later study had made him a practical electrician. The experiments were prosecuted at Santa Clara with some degree of success…



1. Tupper Lake Free Press and Herald, August 14, 1941