William Henry Roll

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Harry Thomas Cory
Professor, Consulting Engineer and Genealogist

Spouse(s): Ida Judd
Family tree: Harry Thomas Cory 1870-1955

Harry Thomas Cory

Harry Thomas Cory


[Note: The text has been modified by dividing it into paragraphs.]

CORY, Harry Thomas, civil and mechanical engineer, was born at Montmorenci, Ind., May 27, 1870, son of Thomas and Carrie (Stoney) Cory. His earliest paternal American ancestor was John Corey, who came from England about 1640 and settled at Huntington, Long Island, N.Y. From him and his wife Ann (or Hannah) the line of descent is traced through their son John and his wife Mary Cornish; their son John and his wife Priscilla Tompkins; their son Elnathan and his wife Sarah Simpson; their son Thomas and his wife Jane Roll; their son Thomas and his wife Margaret Saylor and their son Elnathan and his wife Susannah Harr, who were the grandparents of Harry Thomas Cory. The spelling of the family name was changed in the fifth generation.

Thomas Cory, father of our subject, was an officer in the Federal army during the civil war; he was an engineer and an educator, and twice interim professor at Purdue University; author of the text-book, "Manual of United States Land Subdivision," and made several important inventions, including a voting machine.

Harry Thomas Cory was graduated in electrical engineering at Purdue University in 1887 and in civil engineering 1889. As a graduate student of civil engineering at Cornell University he received the degrees M.C.E. in 1893 and M.M.E. in 1896.

He began his professional career in 1888 as assistant engineer of the Atlantic & Mississippi Railway Co. During 1889-90 he was assistant city engineer of Lafayette, and during the ensuing two years was deputy county engineer of Tippecanoe county. Ind.

He was professor of civil engineering at the University of Missouri 1893-1900, and professor of civil engineering and dean of the college of engineering of the University of Cincinnati during 1900-1902.

While on leave of absence from Cincinnati he was connected with the transportation department of the Mexican Central and the Texas & Pacific Railway Co. and in 1903-04 was in the maintenance-of-way department of the Southern Pacific road. Following that he was assistant to the resident of the associated Harriman lines in Arizona and Mexico, including the Arizona Eastern Railway Co. and the Southern Pacific Railroad Co. of Mexico (1905-11).

As general manager and chief engineer of the California Development Co. and allied interests including the subsidiary Mexican company, La Sociedad de Riego y Terrenos de la Baja California, from 1901 to 1910, Mr. Cory accomplished one of the greatest achievements in the history of American engineering - the closing of a wide breach in the banks of the Colorado river in southern California, through which the river was pouring its way into the great Imperial valley and the Salton sea at a rate that threatened soon to raise the Salton sink to sea level and inundate the entire valley, thus wiping out scores of prosperous villages and thousands of rich farms. As is true of all alluvial streams, the Colorado has gradually raised its bed and banks through silt deposits until it is now flowing practically along the top of its own ridge. Just before it crosses the international line at Calexico, whence it flows southward into the gulf of California, it had created in 1905 a crevasse in its banks and was passing through the irrigation canals into the Salton sea which is below sea level. In nine months it cut away and carried into the Salton sink four times as great earth yardage as the entire Panama canal. Repeated attempts to restore the river to its old channel had been made without success when Mr. Cory was asked to undertake the difficult task. After many disheartening setbacks he succeeded in erecting a series of dams and rock and gravel levees, fifteen miles long, which turned the river into its former course and saved the Imperial valley. The operation attracted the attention of engineers throughout the country and Mr. Cory's victory over the Colorado river gave him a great name in the history of the Southwest.

During the next seven years he was engaged as consulting engineer on various projects in the West. Upon the entrance of the United States into the European war he was called in by the American Red Cross, and from August to December was director general of its department of foreign relief. During this period he was a major in the engineer officers' reserve corps, U. S. A. From January to July, 1918, he was examining and advising on Red Cross organization work.

For two years following he was consulting engineer to the United States reclamation service in charge of southeastern states examination in connection with Sec. Franklin K. Lane's soldier land settlement reconstruction program.

At the invitation of the British government he became a member of a commission to investigate the projects for the irrigation of the Nile valley, his associates on the commission being F. St. J. Gebbie and Dr. G. C. Simpson, British engineers. The projects which had been initiated by Lord Kitchener in 1912 but had been suspended at the outbreak of the European war, were designed to increase the water supply of the Nile valley by stopping the waste of water in the White Nile by erecting storage dams on both the Blue and White Niles, by utilizing for over-year storage lakes Albert and Victoria and by constructing a drainage canal 250 miles long, 1,000 feet wide and forty feet deep to avoid the Sudd region, where the evaporation and plant transpiration losses are tremendous.

In the fall of 1920 Mr. Cory returned to San Francisco, where since 1910 he has had offices as consulting engineer in association with his brother, Prof. Clarence L. Cory, dean of the college of mechanics and professor of electrical engineering of the University of California.

He is author of many papers in technical journals and the technical press; of "Imperial Valley and Salton Sink" (1915), and, with Thomas Cory, of "Manual of United States System of Land Surveyors" (1888). He was awarded the Rowland prize of the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1914.

He is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers; American Society of Mechanical Engineers; Engineers and Bohemian clubs, San Francisco; Jonathan Club, Los Angeles; Faculty Club, Berkeley, Calif., and University clubs of Columbia, Mo., and Washington, D. C.

He has been since its inception (1915) a vice-president of the American Rights League. Mr. Cory is the original of the character "Willard Holmes" in Harold Bell Wright's "The Winning of Barbara Worth" and of "Casey Rickard" in "The River" by Ednah Aiken.

He was married in Los Angeles, Calif., Oct. 4, 1911, to Ida (Judd) Hiller, daughter of George Thomas Judd, a farmer of Burley, Idaho; they have three children: Thomas Judd, Clarence Richard and John Harry Cory.

Source: The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 18, p. 421.

Cory, Harry Thomas, consulting engineer; born, Lafayette, Ind., May 27, 1870; son, Thomas and Carrie (Stoney) C.; descendant of John Cory (second in line in America, Town clerk, Huntington, L.I, 1875-95. B.S., (in Mech. E.) Purdue Univ., 1887; B.S., (in C.E.). Purdue Univ., 1889; M.C.E., Cornell Univ., 1893; M.M.E., Cornell Univ., 1896. Married, Ida Judd Hiller, Oct. 4, 1911, at Los Angeles. Cal. Prof. of Civil Engrg., Univ. of Mo., 1893-98; Prof. of Sanitary Engrg., 1898-1900; Dean, College of Engrg., Univ. of Cincinnati, 1900-02. Trans. Dept.., Mexican Central Ry., 1902-03; Maintenance of Way Dept., Sou. Pac. Co., 1903-04; Asst. to Gen. Mgr., Sou. Pac. Co., 1904-05; Asst. to Pres., Harriman Lines, Ariz. and Mex., 1905-11; also Gen. Mgr. and Chief Engr., Cal. Dev. Co., and La Sociedad de Riego Terrenos de la Baja Cal., S.A., the two comprising irrigation system of Imperial Valley, and in charge of re-diversion of Colo. River from Salton Sea, 1906-07. Member: Am. Soc. Civil Engrs., Am. Soc. Mech. Engrs. Clubs: Bohemian (S.F.) ; Faculty (Berkeley) ; Jonathan (Los Angeles). Contributor to technical press. Original of the character, "Willard Holmes," in the book by Harold Bell Wright, "The Winning of Barbara. Worth." Residence 835 Hyde St., San Francisco, Cal. Office: 802 Nevada Bank bldg., San Francisco, Cal.

Source: Greene, Edward Lee. Men of 1914. Chicago: American Publishers' Association. 1915.

Harry T. Cory's Publications

Cory, H. T. Opportunities in the South: address delivered before the Southern Land Congress, November 12, 1918. New Orleans, La.: Cut-over Land Department, Southern Pine Association, 1918. (Cory was Consulting Engineer for the United States Reclamation Service, Washington, D.C.)

Cory, Henry Thomas. "Sacramento Valley: Early Efforts at Development." Irrigation in California. San Francisco: 1918?

Cory, Harry Thomas. The Imperial Valley and the Salton Sink. 1915

Also at Hathi Trust: Cory, H. T. 1870-. The Imperial Valley And the Salton Sink. San Francisco: J. J. Newbegin, 1915.

Cory, H.T. (Harry Thomas) Multiphase alternating current transmission. Thesis (M.M.E.)--Cornell University, 1896.


Ancestral Lives of Thomas Judd Cory, Clarence Richard Cory, John Harry Cory (subscription)

Material Dreams: Southern California Through the 1920s By Kevin Starr. T.H. Cory was the engineer in charge of stemming the breach in the Colorado River Levee that caused the filling of the Salton Sea in 1906. He was the savior of the Imperial Valley, a vast agricultural enterprise.

Salt Dreams: Land and Water in Low-down California By William Eno DeBuys

Thesis: https://archive.org/details/thompsonhoustons00coryiala