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Bill Thayer

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The following text is reproduced from (the report of the) Fourteenth Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 12, 1883.

 p48  Reuben W. Petrikin
No. 2058. Class of 1865.
Killed by Indians, Oct. 15, 1882, in the Sierra Madre Mountains, near Dolores, Mexico, aged 40.

Reuben W. Petrikin graduated in the class of 1865, and was appointed Second Lieutenant in the 2d Artillery, June 23, 1865. He was transferred to the 1st Artillery September 23, 1865. He served in garrison at Fort McHenry and on the Canada frontier in the prevention of Fenian raids during the year 1866.

He was promoted to be First Lieutenant, 1st Artillery, February 28, 1866; and on June 2, 1866, was transferred, with the rank of First Lieutenant, to the Corps of Engineers. He served as Assistant Engineer in the construction of Fort Popham, Maine, until April, 1867, and in the summer of the same year, in an expedition against hostile Indians on the plains.

During the year 1868 he was chief engineer officer of the Department of the Platte.

Family affairs, consequent upon the death of his father, (which occurred in 1866) compelled him to resign from the army on February 15, 1869.

Soon after his resignation he was appointed Assistant Engineer on the Boston, Hartford & Erie Railroad, and afterwards became Chief Engineer of the Catawissa Railroad, from Milton to Williamsport, Pa., remaining in that position about eighteen months. After the completion of this work, he was employed as Assistant Engineer on the Pine Creek Railroad, and in 1878 and 1879 he was Chief Engineer of a narrow gauge railroad in West Virginia. In January, 1880, he became Locating Engineer on the Texas & Pacific Railroad,  p49 in which capacity he was engaged in running preliminary lines through Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. He then became Chief Engineer of the International Railroad, from Laredo to the city of Mexico.

While at Laredo he purchased an interest in a gold mine in the State of Chihuahua, among the Sierra Madre Mountains, and about the 1st of October, 1882, left Laredo, with a party of eight men, to visit the mine. Early on the morning of October 15, his camp was surrounded by Apaches, and he and two of his men were shot dead. The remainder of the party reached a settlement, nearly exhausted, after five days of suffering and hunger. With great difficulty Petrikin's body was recovered in the following December, but fortunately in such a state of preservation as to be recognized with certainty. He now lies beside his wife, father and mother.

Petrikin was married on January 20, 1870, to Miss Maggie Grafins, of Lockhaven, Pa. His wife died July 16, 1875, leaving two sons, — these two and four years of age.

I have met Petrikin but once since we left the Academy, and have with difficulty gathered together these few meagre facts, feeling that they would have a sad interest for all who knew him. Memory brings him back to me only as a cadet.

The first time I ever saw his sharp‑cut face, and looked into his clear eye, I knew he would be a remarkable man. Yet with all the facial signs of intense energy and activity, he was singularly quiet in manner and reticent of speech. Intellectually he was peculiar. I never knew a man of anything like his ability who had such an intense dislike for all subjects connected with language or literature. In mathematics, however, and all subjects based upon them, he showed a very high ability. In all engineering field work, in all topographical work, and in intuitive knowledge of ground he was without a rival.

Owing to his quiet, retiring disposition, I did not think he was thoroughly well-known throughout the class. But all liked him, and I am confident he never had an enemy in the corps.

Those who were, like myself, intimately associated with him, respected, admired and loved him. He was a warm and steadfast friend, and a quiet, straightforward, honorable, able gentleman.

Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Chas. W. Raymond.

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Page updated: 20 Jun 17