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Bill Thayer

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[image ALT: A head-and‑shoulders photograph, slightly right of frontal, of a professorial-looking man in early middle age, with a rectangular face, a full head of wavy hair, and a short trimmed mustache; he has an intelligent and kindly air. He wears a plain suit jacket and a shirt with a rounded collar. He is West Point graduate Charles Edward Hewitt, the subject of this webpage.]

The preceding image, and the text that follows, are reproduced from (the report of the) Sixty-fifth Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 11, 1934.

 p101  Charles Edward Hewitt
No. 2849 Class of 1880
Died August 9, 1933, at Princeton, New Jersey, aged 74 years.

Military History

Cadet at the Military Academy, Sept. 1, 1876, to June 11, 1880, when he was graduated, and, availing himself of the provisions of Sec. 5 of the Act of Congress approved June 23, 1879, was

Honorably Discharged, June 11, 1880.

Civil History

Treasurer and General Manager, New Jersey Steel and Iron Co. to 1900; Managing Director of Trenton Iron Co. to 1904; President of the Trenton Water Power Co. to 1906; Treasurer of the Pequest Co. since 1905; Treasurer of the Ringwood Co. since 1906; Treasurer of the Hewitt Realty Co. since 1907; Director, Vice-President and Treasurer of the Gauley Mountain Coal Co. since 1912; Director, Vice-President and Assistant Treasurer of the Broadway-Maiden Lane Corporation since 1918; Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers; on Feb. 5, 1917, offered his services to the Secretary of War in event of War with Germany. Address: 50 Church St., New York City.

(Cullum Register)

 p102  Charter Member, Engineers Club of New York; Non‑active member West Point Army Mess since 1905.

Charles Edward Hewitt was born December 12, 1859, at Andover, Sussex County, New Jersey. He was the youngest of the eleven children of Thomas and Cynthia Cannon Hewitt and at the time of his death was survived by but one of all the family, a sister born in 1839. His childhood was spent at Andover, where he attended the local schools. Later, he was a student at the Westchester, Pennsylvania, Normal School, preparing for West Point. Through his uncle, Abram S. Hewitt, then a member of Congress and later Mayor of New York City, he took a competitive examination for an appointment to the Military Academy, which he won; and he reported with some thirty others, joining the Class of 1880 on September 1st, 1876. The larger part of the class had reported in April of that year in order to be drilled sufficiently to go with the Corps to the Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia. On their return the September members swelled the number of the class to some one hundred and twenty.

When the class, fifty‑two in number, graduated four years later, the vacancies in the Army were not sufficient to absorb the graduates; and Congress, in 1879, enacted a law giving an honorable discharge to those who might choose to resign and engage in a professional or business career. Hewitt took advantage of this law and left the service on June 11, 1880, the day he graduated. He was a good student, graduating well above the middle of the class, a bit above the average in behavior, respected by his instructors and beloved by his classmates. His life from that time to the day of his death was passed in a walk of life far removed from the others who remained in the service; and his was an illustrious example of the character building, the energy, and the adaptability that the Military Academy develops in those of its sons who, in their impressionable years, adopt and utilize the teaching and the spirit of their Alma Mater.

Charles Hewitt's father, Thomas Hewitt, was one of the first to manufacture iron in a large way. He operated many blast furnaces in New Jersey and was later associated with his brother, Abram S. Hewitt, and with the firm of Cooper and Hewitt, pioneers in the iron and steel industry and largely responsible for the development of that industry in America. Charles Hewitt had therefore a family history which naturally led him to carry on what his forbears had started; and he attained a prominent position in this industry, particularly in the design and construction of architectural and structural steel and in the supply of the raw material.

His professional career, as has been stated, led him far from association with his classmates and his army friends. But few army officers, beyond those who were with him at West Point, know of his prominence in the manufacturing and business world and a short recital of his activities will be of interest to many. On graduation he entered the employ of the Trenton Iron Company, makers of wire and wire cable for suspension bridges and wire-rope tramways. This company  p103 furnished wire for the cables of the Brooklyn Bridge, the first to span the East River, New York. He also joined the New Jersey Steel and Iron Company, later becoming chief engineer. About this time began the introduction of the steel skeleton type of lofty buildings, and in this development Hewitt took a prominent part. He was among the first to study the problem of wind bracing for buildings of the new type; and the steel for the Tower Building in lower New York (about 1893) was designed and erected under his supervision. When recently demolished, the building was found to be in as good condition as when erected. The New Jersey Steel and Iron Company was a pioneer in rolling steel shapes and angles and the steel beams so important in this construction, and it rolled the first beams up to twenty inches in depth. As chief engineer of this company Hewitt designed many bridges. Two of them about (1888) were drawbridges, built for the Jersey Central Railway. They were unique in the fact that they could be turned completely around; their arrangement saved time in the opening of the draw in the congested traffic of the railroad, the first of this type built. General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Goethals, his classmate, then Instructor in Engineering at the Military Academy, used the plans of these bridges for instruction in his section room. They are still in use and doing good service. Some of the other structures designed by him and built under his supervision are as follows:

Steel bridge for the Pennsylvania Railroad over the Delaware River at Trenton (afterwards removed and placed elsewhere) and many others for that company.

Bellefontaine Bridge over the Missouri River.

End spans and towers of the Williamsburg Bridge over the East River, New York.

The Brooklyn Elevated Railway.

The Park Avenue Viaduct, New York, for the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad.

It gave Hewitt much gratification to furnish the structural ironwork for the reconstruction of the Library Building at West Point, under the supervision of General Goethals.

He was the head of many other large enterprises or was very prominent in them; and he was a moving factor in the mergers and consolidations of recent years, in the steel industry, and the supply of the raw material, notably in the development of ore mines in New Jersey. One of these mines was operated by the London Company under General Erskine, before the War of the Revolution. After extended research, hundreds of thousands of tons of iron ore concentrates, of high mineral content, were sent to the blast furnaces from this mine.

As far as the writer knows Hewitt never spoke of these and his other achievements but the fact of their existence and of their continued and success­ful use by unnumbered thousands, must have been a wonder­ful satisfaction to his modest soul and a solace in his last long and painful illness.

 p104  So much for what Charles Edward Hewitt accomplished in his long and success­ful life. The writer, honored by his close friendship for nearly sixty years, saw him infrequently until after the World War; and much of the foregoing account of his work is as new to him as it will be to many who read this memorial. It cannot fail to arouse a feeling of pride in every graduate of the Military Academy and a renewed appreciation of what it does for its sons. His work has been so important and so far reaching in its effect on modern American life that he stands among the greatest of those graduates of West Point who have won fame in the walks of peace. All his intimate friends know well that he honored and loved the Academy and gave to it the credit for his success perhaps to the extent of ignoring too much his own ability and his high sense of probity and honor.

He was very patriotic. In 1898 he offered his services to the Government and in 1917 he wrote to the Secretary of War, asking to serve in the impending World War in any capacity in which he could be used to the advantage of the War Department. The Secretary of War replied in a personal letter, as follows:

My dear Mr. Hewitt:

I am grateful for your letter of February 5 tendering your services to the Government. Your letter will be kept here on file, so that in case the crisis becomes more acute, your aid may be utilized.

Cordially yours,

Newton D. Baker,

Secretary of War.

The War Department evidently considered that the character and extent of Hewitt's professional work would be of greater help in carrying on the war than any other that could be given for him, and he was not recalled.

An associate of Charles Hewitt, who knew him long and intimately, writes of him as follows:

In all my human contacts I have never encountered another individual with so rigorous and exact a conception of the sanctity of a trust, the inviolability of a contact, and the absolute and literal performance of his given word or of anything he conceived to be an obligation.

His interest in West Point and in army affairs and his early associations at the Academy never waned and was, I think outside of his family and his profession, the strongest single influence of his life and his nearest concern. In civilian life, permanently located in the Metropolitan district, he loved to serve as a rallying point for his classmates and friends in the service and the opportunities of meeting them, and reliving old days, afforded him his greatest pleasure.

From his friend for many years, the Rev. William B. Eddy, comes this tribute:

The death of Charles E. Hewitt marked the passing of a great man. Greatness does not require one to be in the public  p105 eye. It is the possession of those qualities of mind and heart that constitute the glories of manhood and links one's life with the Eternal. Mr. Hewitt was of unimpeachable integrity. He faced problems with eagerness, no selfish aim, no partisan purpose, no political reward. His patience and courage were inexhaustible. These qualities, enriched by a refreshing sense of humor, — they count for a great man.

Hewitt loved an out of door life and was happy when he could lay aside business cares and professional problems and indulge in it. One who knew him intimately writes of this as follows:

He was an enthusiastic fisherman and huntsman, particularly fond of quail hunting and bird dogs. He also became an ardent football enthusiast and was a member of the Army Athletic Association for many years until his death.

It is difficult to write adequately of Charles Hewitt's personality. He had a sunny and equable disposition, a kind heart, and an inexhaustible sense of humor, all of which were invaluable assets in his long and busy life. He was intensely loyal to his family, to his classmates and his friends, and to his Alma Mater.

Charles Hewitt married Eva Blackfan, daughter of Ogden Wilkenson and Mary Agnes Watkins Blackfan, of Trenton, New Jersey, in 1891. His surviving children are Ogdenº Blackfan Hewitt of Mahwah, New Jersey; Cynthia Cannon Hewitt (Mrs. Robert B. Heisman), of Wynnewood, Pennsylvania; and Edward Cooper Hewitt of Elizabeth, New Jersey. Mrs. Hewitt, the mother of these children died in 1908, and in 1912 he married Mrs. Margaret Parsons Cook, widow of Edward Durham Cook, of Trenton, New Jersey, who survives him. For many years Hewitt made his home in Trenton although his business interests during the latter part of his life were in New York. In 1926 he moved to Princeton, where he lived in a beauti­ful old house in the pleasant surroundings of that university town. His long life in both places was a happy one and his remarriage continued this happiness to the day of his death.

He was for some years, after the death of General Goethals, the president of his class, and he largely assumed responsibility for the arrangements for the class reunions since graduation. They were apparently a main object of his life, and no one enjoyed them more.

In January, 1933, Hewitt became seriously ill. He was taken to the excellent hospital at the Medical Center, New York, where everything was done for him that love, devotion and medical skill could accomplish. Late in the Spring or early Summer he was taken home as recovery seemed impossible. There, knowing that his end was near, and in spite of his continual suffering, his constant thoughts were of his family and of his old‑time comrades. To the latter he dictated cheerful and affectionate replies to their many letters, as long as he was conscious.

In these last moments of his life a suggestion that he be buried at West Point, to rest near his lifelong and devoted friend General Goethals, was evidently what he most desired; and there, side by side, lie these two great men.

A Classmate.

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Page updated: 14 May 16