Renowned Stone Mason and Bridge Builder
Colonel James Andrews was born on October 7, 1828 in the town of Dumfries, Scotland, the eldest of six children raised by his farmer father following his mother’s untimely death. His family moved to America in 1840, settling in Pittsburgh, where Andrews began working his way up in the stone mason trade. After years of hard work and building partnerships within the industry, he transitioned into the role of independent contractor. One of his first contracts was for mason work on a railroad bridge across the Monongahela River. Over the course of subsequent years, his success grew as he received and completed contract work that included tunnels for the Pan Handle Railroad and Pennsylvania Railroad Company, and the
first railroad bridge across the Ohio River at Steubenville.
By 1867, Andrews managed to secure a contract for constructing a bridge across the Mississippi at St. Louis, under the supervision of Captain James Buchanan Eads, launching a professional partnership that would continue for over a decade. The Eads Bridge officially opened for traffic on July 4, 1874 and has been active ever since. By the time the bridge opened, Andrews was already at work on his next project with Eads: building jetties at the mouth of the Mississippi which eliminated the need to continuously dredge the channel. Upon completion of the project on the Mississippi, Andrews joined Eads in a new potential venture to construct a ship railway across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico. Unfortunately the ambitious project never came to fruition due to their inability to pass a funding bill through the House and Senate, and Eads passed away shortly afterward.
After Eads’ death, Andrews immersed himself in several business ventures that included purchasing and remodeling the Moorehead and McLean furnaces and iron works, organizing the Pittsburgh Iron and Steel Company, and directing banks, street railway and bridge companies. Andrews had eight children: three daughters, Mary, Ella, and Maria, and five sons, Charles, Sidney, Robert, Walter, and Eads. He also maintained a professional friendship with Andrew Carnegie until his death. Andrews succumbed to Bright’s Disease in 1897 at age 72 in his home on Nunnery Hill in Allegheny City.
Sources: Special thanks to Bill Marks a descendant of Colonel Andrews for providing the sources of information for this article.
Andrews, James Warren. “Scottish-American Persistance.”
“Col. James Andrews Obituary.” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 8 July 1897.
Portrait and Biographical Record of the State of Colorado: Containing Portraits and Biographies of Many Well Known Citizens of the Past and Present. Chicago: Chapman Publishing Company, 1899.
Reavis, L.U., et al. Saint Louis: The Future City of the World. St. Louis: Gray, Baker and Co, 1875.