JOSHUA THORP, one of the most skilled engineers in southern Illinois, and the oldest engineer in years of service on the St. Louis Division of the Mobile & Ohio Railroad, is so well known in Murphysboro and Jackson County that he will need no special introduction to our readers. He was born in Carbondale March 10, 1852, and is a son of Capt. Joseph Thorp, County Treasurer, whose sketch appears elsewhere in this work.
Upon his father's farm Joshua was reared, and his education was acquired in the Carbondale High School and the Carbondale Normal. Later he spent one year in the study of mechanical engineering, and then put his knowledge into practice by engaging in work along that line. In 1870 he went to southeastern Missouri with Mr. Spiller, and for one season put up cotton gins at Bloomfield, Mo. He was then in the service of the Iron Mountain Railroad at Carondelet for three years, being employed as fireman and engine dispatcher, and running between St. Louis and Fredericktown.
The next employment of Mr. Thorp was with the St. Louis & Southeastern Railroad, running as fireman for one year between Nashville, Tenn., and Earlington, Ky., when in 1874 he formed a connection with the St. Louis & Cairo Railroad (now the Mobile & Ohio), with which he has since continued as locomotive engineer except for a very short period. In the fall of 1879 he went to New Mexico in the employ of the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad, running as engineer between Albuquerque and Ft. Wingate for four months, for he believed the change would prove beneficial, as his health was somewhat impaired.
In the spring of 1880 Mr. Thorp returned to Murphysboro, and after the St. Louis & Cairo Railroad became the property of the Mobile & Ohio Railroad, in 1886, he still continued his connection with the latter. In 1889 he went to Europe as the representative of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, sailing from New York to Liverpool. He was sent to get information for the Scrips League Association concerning the different trades, there being one representative from each trade who made that journey. He spent three months in traveling through England, Scotland, Belgium, Germany, Holland and France, and visited the Paris Exposition for ten days. Both voyages were made on the steamer "City of Rome." Mr. Thorp made a report to the Executive Committee of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, which was copied in all the journals of the country. His visit proved a most interesting one, for every opportunity was furnished him for seeing the country.
In St. Louis, December 20, 1876, Mr. Thorp was united in marriage with Mrs. Jennie A. Wilson, daughter of Louis Lajey, who was born near Ontario, Canada, and was of French descent. At the age of nineteen he went to St. Louis, where he worked at the blacksmith's trade. He was killed on the Iron Mountain Railroad. His wife, whose maiden name was Martha Wilkerson, was a native of Scotland, and with her parents came to America when a child. Her father was a soldier in the Black Hawk War. Mrs. Lajey is now living in St. Louis. Mrs. Thorp is the eldest of three living children, and is a devoted Christian, being identified with the Baptist Church. By her first marriage she had one son, John Wilson, who is now a fireman on the Mobile & Ohio Railroad. The children of the second marriage are Joseph L., Joshua, Grace and Mary. The family has a pleasant home on Front Street.
Mr. Thorp runs the Murphysboro accommodation between this place and St. Louis. He is careful and painstaking, and in the many years of his service has never had an accident, a record of which he may well be proud. He belongs to the Knights of Pythias, and is a charter member and Chief of Division No. 444, B. L. E. He has taken an active part in the work of this fraternity, and has aided in organizing many societies. He gives his political support to the Republican party. Of a kindly nature, generous hearted and true, he makes friends wherever he goes, and always retains their high regard.
Extracted 22 Feb 2017 by Norma Hass from 1894 Biographical Review of Jackson, Massac, Pope, and Hardin Counties, Illinois, pages 538-540.
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