Charles Melville Hays

Last updated

Charles Melville Hays
Charles melville hays.jpg
Charles Melville Hays
Born(1856-05-16)May 16, 1856
Rock Island, Illinois, United States
DiedApril 15, 1912(1912-04-15) (aged 55)

Charles Melville Hays (May 16, 1856 – April 15, 1912) was the president of the Grand Trunk Railway. He began working in the railroad business as a clerk at the age of 17 and quickly rose through the ranks of management to become the General Manager of the Wabash, St. Louis and Pacific Railway. He became Vice-President of that company in 1889 and remained as such until 1896 when he became General Manager of the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) of Canada.

Grand Trunk Railway British-owned railway in Canada and New England

The Grand Trunk Railway was a railway system that operated in the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario and in the American states of Connecticut, Maine, Michigan, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. The railway was operated from headquarters in Montreal, Quebec, with corporate headquarters in London, England. It cost an estimated $160 million to build. The Grand Trunk, its subsidiaries, and the Canadian Government Railways were precursors of today's Canadian National Railways.


Hays left GTR for a short time to serve as the President of the Southern Pacific Railway Company but returned to GTR after one year. As Vice-President and General Manager of GTR he is credited with keeping the company from bankruptcy. In 1909, he became the president of GTR and all its consolidated lines, subsidiary railroads, and steamship companies. He was known for his philanthropy and received the Order of the Rising Sun, third class, from the Emperor of Japan in 1907.

Order of the Rising Sun Japanese order

The Order of the Rising Sun is a Japanese order, established in 1875 by Emperor Meiji. The Order was the first national decoration awarded by the Japanese government, created on 10 April 1875 by decree of the Council of State. The badge features rays of sunlight from the rising sun. The design of the Rising Sun symbolizes energy as powerful as the rising sun in parallel with the "rising sun" concept of Japan.

Hays is credited with the formation of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (GTP), a dream he had to create a second transcontinental railroad within the borders of Canada. [1] He is also blamed for the insolvency of both the GTR and the GTP. He died before his dream was complete as he perished at sea in the sinking of the RMS Titanic. [1] Before the ship collided with an iceberg, Hays made a statement that was prophetic of the disaster. [2] His body was recovered, and he was buried in Montreal. He was survived by his wife and four daughters.

Grand Trunk Pacific Railway transport company

The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway was a historical Canadian transcontinental railway running from Winnipeg to the Pacific coast at Prince Rupert, British Columbia. East of Winnipeg the line continued as the National Transcontinental Railway (NTR), running across northern Ontario and Quebec, crossing the St. Lawrence River at Quebec City and ending at Moncton, New Brunswick. The Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) managed and operated the entire line.

RMS <i>Titanic</i> British transatlantic passenger liner, launched and foundered in 1912

RMS Titanic was a British passenger liner that sank in the North Atlantic Ocean in 1912 after the ship struck an iceberg during her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City. Of the estimated 2,224 passengers and crew aboard, more than 1,500 died, making it one of modern history's deadliest peacetime commercial marine disasters. RMS Titanic was the largest ship afloat at the time she entered service and was the second of three Olympic-class ocean liners operated by the White Star Line. She was built by the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast. Thomas Andrews, chief naval architect of the shipyard at the time, died in the disaster.

Early life

Charles Melville Hays was born in Rock Island, Illinois, on May 16, 1856. [3] His family moved to St. Louis, Missouri, when he was a child.

Rock Island, Illinois Place in Illinois, United States

Rock Island is a city in and the county seat of Rock Island County, Illinois, United States. The original Rock Island, from which the city name is derived, is the largest island on the Mississippi River. It is now called Arsenal Island. The population was 39,018 at the 2010 census. Located on the Mississippi River, it is one of the Quad Cities, along with neighboring Moline, East Moline, and the Iowa cities of Davenport and Bettendorf. The Quad Cities has a population of about 380,000. The city is home to Rock Island Arsenal, the largest government-owned weapons manufacturing arsenal in the US, which employs 6,000 people.


In 1873, at the age of 17, he began his career in the railroad business working for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad in St. Louis. [4] From 1877 to 1884, Hays was Secretary to the General Manager of the Missouri Pacific Railroad. Beginning in 1884, he held the same position with the Wabash, St. Louis and Pacific Railway until 1886, when he became that company's General Manager. In 1889, he became Vice-President of the Wasbash Railroad and remained as such until 1896, when he became General Manager of the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) of Canada. [3]

Atlantic and Pacific Railroad

The Atlantic and Pacific Railroad was a U.S. railroad that owned or operated two disjointed segments, one connecting St. Louis, Missouri with Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the other connecting Albuquerque, New Mexico with Southern California. It was incorporated by the U.S. Congress in 1866 as a transcontinental railroad connecting Springfield, Missouri and Van Buren, Arkansas with California. The central portion was never constructed, and the two halves later became parts of the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway and Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway systems, now both merged into the BNSF Railway.

Missouri Pacific Railroad defunct American Class I railroad

The Missouri Pacific Railroad, commonly abbreviated as MoPac and nicknamed The Mop, was one of the first railroads in the United States west of the Mississippi River. MoPac was a Class I railroad growing from dozens of predecessors and mergers, including the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway (SLIMS), Texas and Pacific Railway (TP), Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad (C&EI), St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway (SLBM), Kansas, Oklahoma and Gulf Railway (KO&G), Midland Valley Railroad (MV), San Antonio, Uvalde and Gulf Railroad (SAU&G), Gulf Coast Lines (GC), International-Great Northern Railroad (IGN), New Orleans, Texas and Mexico Railway (NOTM), Missouri-Illinois Railroad (MI), as well as the small Central Branch Railway, and joint ventures such as the Alton and Southern Railroad (AS).

In 1901, Hays left GTR to serve as the President of the Southern Pacific Railway Company but returned to the company in January 1902 as Vice-President and General Manager. In October 1909, he was appointed president of GTR, which also gave him control of its subsidiary railroad and steamship companies. [5] These included the Central Vermont Railway, the Grand Trunk Western Railway, the Grand Haven and Milwaukee Railway, the Detroit and Toledo Shoreline Railroad, the Toledo, Saginaw and Muskegon Railway, the Southern New England Railway Company, the Canadian Express Company, and several others. [4] [6] In addition, he was sought after to help manage several philanthropies. He was Governor of the Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal, Montreal General Hospital and McGill University. He received the Order of the Rising Sun, third class, from the Emperor of Japan in 1907 for assistance he gave the Imperial Government Railways. [4]

Southern Pacific Transportation Company United States Class I railroad (1865–1996)

The Southern Pacific was an American Class I railroad network that existed from 1865 to 1998 that operated in the Western United States. The system was operated by various companies under the names Southern Pacific Railroad, Southern Pacific Company and Southern Pacific Transportation Company.

The Central Vermont Railway was a railroad that operated in the U.S. states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont, as well as the Canadian province of Quebec.

The Toledo, Saginaw and Muskegon Railway is a defunct railroad incorporated in January, 1886. The railroad offered service between Ashley, Michigan and Muskegon, Michigan starting on August 1, 1888. The Grand Trunk Railway of Canada took control the same day, but the company did not merge with the Grand Trunk Western Railway until 1928.

When Hays became General Manager of GTR in 1896, it was near bankruptcy and under-performing its rival, the Canadian Pacific Railway(CPR). On the advice of American financier J. Pierpont Morgan, [1] the GTR board selected Hays as General Manager to bring more aggressive, "American" business practices to the company. He reorganized the management of the company and successfully negotiated running rights with CPR. He also brought more efficiency to the handling of accounts, built new track and ordered more powerful locomotives. These changes produced an era of greater success for the railroad. [1] [7]

Transcontinental Railway

Charles Melville Hays. Portrait of Charles Melville Hays.jpg
Charles Melville Hays.

At the time, the western prairies were being rapidly settled. Hays wanted to capitalize on the trend by constructing a transcontinental railroad, within the borders of Canada, to run 3,600 miles from Moncton, New Brunswick, to Prince Rupert, British Columbia. [5] In 1900, he introduced a proposal to extend the lines of the Grand Trunk Western, an American subsidiary, from Chicago to Winnipeg, "and thence to the Pacific." However, he was turned down by the railroad's directors in London. Later that year, Hays left GTR to work for Southern Pacific, but a change in ownership there lead to his resignation. He returned to the GTR to find that the president, Sir Charles Rivers Wilson, had convinced the Board of Directors to pursue the transcontinental railway. Meanwhile, the government, under Sir Wilfrid Laurier, had also decided to back the project. Plans to construct the transcontinental line were announced on November 24, 1902. [7]

Hays' plan involved the creation of a subsidiary line from Winnipeg to Prince Rupert, with the government building the line from New Brunswick to Winnipeg. The cabinet became weary of Hays' demands for subsidies, but after negotiations between the government and Hays, aided by the railroad's president Rivers Wilson, the National Transcontinental Railway Act was passed in 1903. It enabled the incorporation of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (GTP). The government's portion of the line would be called the National Transcontinental Railway (NTR). [7]

There were problems with some of Hays' policies regarding the GTP.

Hays made the construction of the mainline his priority, failing to develop feeder lines. CNoR and CPR joined forces to gain control of the prairie traffic. [7] The competition among the three railroads led to Canada's ending up with three transcontinental railways instead of one. [1] This was to result in the GTP's being starved of traffic; even though it was arguably the best of the three, it ultimately failed to attract enough freight to make it profitable. [7]

After construction on the GTP began in 1905, Hays started the Grand Trunk Pacific Development Company in order to purchase thousands of acres of land on which he established town sites along the route of the railway, including Melville, Saskatchewan, which was named after him. Hays' vision went beyond the building of the railway. He also had plans for a fleet of ocean liners and a string of resort hotels across the Rocky Mountains. [1] [8] He hired the famed architect Francis Rattenbury from CPR to design a grand hotel, the Château Prince Rupert, at the westernmost stop on the railway. In 1909, only 3000 people lived in Prince Rupert, but anticipation of the railroad caused it to grow rapidly, despite the rapidly rising cost of property and the muddy environs. The city was incorporated in 1910. [8]

After Rivers Wilson retired as the railroad's president in 1909, Hays was appointed to fill the position. By 1910, Grand Trunk union workers were demanding wages on par with those of railroad workers in the United States. A strike put a stop to construction. Hays finally gave into the workers' demands but failed to re-hire 250 previously-fired strikers despite promising to do so. He also denied workers their pensions, causing one member of Parliament to describe him as "heartless, cruel, and tyrannical." [1]

By 1912, the cost of constructing the railway was increasing, with rising wages and price increases on materials, while the government refused to allow a rate increase. Another reason for the mounting costs was Hays' insistence on "building to the very highest standards". Meanwhile, CNoR and CPR monopolized the traffic in the west. In addition, Grand Trunk, which would be leasing the NTR from the government, was responsible for paying back the construction cost of that line. Hays began to fear insolvency. [1]


In April 1912, Hays was in London soliciting financial support for the GTP. He was anxious to get back to Canada for the opening of the Château Laurier in Ottawa, Ontario, named after Prime Minister Laurier. The gala opening of this hotel was set for April 25, 1912. [1] Hays had also received news that his daughter Louise was having difficulty with her pregnancy.

Additionally, he might have had business with J. Bruce Ismay, chairman of the White Star Line; in any case, Ismay had invited Hays to join him on the RMS Titanic. Hays, his wife, Clara, his daughter, Orian (see source note), his son-in-law, Thornton Davidson (son of Charles Peers Davidson), his secretary, Mr. Vivian Payne, and a maid, Miss Mary Anne Perreault, shared a deluxe suite (cabin B69) on B Deck, also known as the Bridge Deck. [8] [9]

At 11:40 pm on April 14, 1912, Titanic struck an iceberg. Hays helped the women in his party into one of the ship's 20 lifeboats, [10] but he, his son-in-law, and his secretary remained and perished when the ship sank, [8] along with 1,500 other Titanic passengers and crew. [2] Hays was reported to have made a prophetic remark on the evening of the disaster; deploring the way the steamship lines were competing to win passengers with ever-faster vessels, he is said to have commented, "The time will come soon when this trend will be checked by some appalling disaster." [1]

One source, Hacking, names the daughter with Hays on the Titanic as "Margaret," [8] but it was his daughter, Orian, who was traveling with her husband, Thorton Davidson. [11] That source does not mention Orian as a passenger on the ship. There was a 24-year-old woman, Margaret Bechstein Hays, on the Titanic, but she was staying in a different compartment from the C.M. Hays party with another group of people. [12] She escaped via lifeboat No. 7 (with her Pomeranian, Lady), [12] [13] while the other Hays women boarded lifeboat No. 3. [14] Early newspaper reports said that Clara and Margaret Hays, and Mrs. Thornton [Orian] Davidson disembarked the rescue ship in New York City together and boarded a train for Montreal, [15] [16] but other sources say that Margaret Hays lived in New York and took care of two young child survivors (Edmond and Michael Navratil), who were unclaimed immediately following the disaster. [17] Margaret (Hays) Easton's 1913 wedding announcement says her father, Frank Hays, walked her down the aisle. [18] Finally, Orian's death notice lists Marjorie (Mrs. George Hall), not Margaret Easton, as a predeceased sister. [19]


Hays' body was recovered from the waters of the North Atlantic by the Minia, and he was buried at Mount Royal Cemetery in Montreal. Two funerals were held for him on May 8, one at the American Presbyterian Church in Montreal, the other in London at the Church of St Edmund, King and Martyr

C.M. Hays' tombstone in Montreal J29437 CimetiereMtRoyal 20111015-131802 CMHays.jpg
C.M. Hays' tombstone in Montreal


Hays died before he could see the GTP completed. He was eulogized as one of the greatest railwaymen in Canada, and work on the GTR was stopped for five minutes, on April 25, 1912, in his memory. The period in which Hays led the GTR was its most prosperous era.

However, his policies led to the GTP's collapse in 1919. The company was placed in receivership, and the government seized GTR's stock. It was later alleged that Hays had deceived the company's London directors in 1903 by committing them to conditions in the railway's agreements with the Canadian government for the building of the GTP to which they did not agree. That scheme was blamed for the company's collapse. [7]

The railroad car in which his body was transported back to Montreal is preserved at the Canadian Railway Museum, near Delson, Quebec. There is a statue of him in Prince Rupert, and the city of Melville, Saskatchewan, is named after him, [20] as is the village of Haysport, British Columbia.[ citation needed ]

Personal life

He was survived by his wife, Clara Jennings (née Gregg), whom he married in St. Louis, Missouri on October 13, 1881. They had four daughters: [21] Orian (Mrs. Thornton Davidson, Mrs. Robert N. Hickson), Clara (Mrs. Hope Scott), Marjorie (Mrs. George Hall), and Louise (Mrs. Grier). [19]

Related Research Articles

Canadian National Railway railway company

Canadian National is a Canadian Class I freight railway headquartered in Montreal, Quebec that serves Canada and the Midwestern and Southern United States.

Canadian Northern Railway company

The Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR) is a historic Canadian transcontinental railway. At its demise in 1923, when it was merged into the Canadian National Railway, the CNoR owned a main line between Quebec City and Vancouver via Ottawa, Winnipeg, and Edmonton.

Melville, Saskatchewan City in Saskatchewan, Canada

Melville is a small city in the east-central portion of Saskatchewan, Canada. The city is 145 kilometres (90 mi) northeast of the provincial capital of Regina and 45 kilometres (28 mi) southwest of Yorkton. Melville is bordered by the rural municipalities of Cana No. 214 and Stanley No. 215. Its population at the 2016 census was 4,562, making it Saskatchewan's smallest city.

The National Transcontinental Railway (NTR) was a historic railway between Winnipeg and Moncton in Canada. Much of the line is now operated by the Canadian National Railway.

Canadian Locomotive Company

The Canadian Locomotive Company, commonly referred to as CLC, was a Canadian manufacturer of railway locomotives located in Kingston, Ontario. Its works were located on the south side of Ontario Street between William and Gore Streets on Kingston's waterfront.

History of rail transport in Canada

The first Canadian railway, the Champlain and St. Lawrence Railroad, was opened in 1836 outside of Montreal, a seasonal portage railway to connect river traffic. It was followed by the Albion Railway in Stellarton, Nova Scotia in 1840, a collier railway connecting coal mines to a seaport.

International Railway of Maine

The International Railway of Maine was a historic railroad constructed by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) between Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, and Mattawamkeag, Maine, closing a key gap in the railway's transcontinental main line to the port of Saint John, New Brunswick.

Richard B. Angus Scottish Canadian bank president

Richard Bladworth Angus was a Scottish-Canadian financier, banker, and philanthropist. He was a co-founder and vice-president of the Canadian Pacific Railway; President of the Bank of Montreal; President of the Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal; President of the Montreal Art Association and co-founder and President of the Mount Royal Club. He was the natural successor to Lord Mount Stephen as President of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) in 1888, but did not desire the position; and he twice refused a knighthood. The CPR Angus Shops were named for him, as was one of the later CP Ships.

Bonaventure Station (1887–1952) railway station in Canada

Bonaventure Station was the name of a railway station located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Its name was later adopted by a commercial development and a metro station.

Canadas grand railway hotels

Canada's grand railway hotels are a series of railway hotels across the country, each a local and national landmark, and most of which are icons of Canadian history and architecture. Each hotel was originally built by the Canadian railway companies, or the railways acted as a catalyst for the hotel's construction. The hotels were designed to serve the passengers of the country's then expanding rail network and they celebrated rail travel in style.

John Houston was a newspaper publisher and politician in British Columbia.

Biggar station railway station in Biggar, Canada

The Biggar station is a heritage railway station operated by Via Rail located in Biggar, Saskatchewan, Canada.

Last Spike (Grand Trunk Pacific Railway)

The Last Spike of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway was driven one mile east of Fort Fraser, British Columbia, Canada on April 7, 1914.

Charles Hayes may refer to:

Edson Joseph Chamberlin Canadian railway executive

Edson Joseph Chamberlin was the president of the Grand Trunk Railway from 1912 to 1917.

Charles Peers Davidson Canadian judge

Sir Charles Peers Davidson KC was a Canadian lawyer and judge.

Margaret Bechstein Hays was a passenger on the RMS Titanic. She and her dog survived the ship's sinking, escaping on lifeboat no. 7. Following the disaster, she cared for two small children known as the "Titanic Orphans" in her New York City home until their mother claimed them.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 "Charles Melville Hays: Daring to Dream". Canadian National History Railblazers. Canadian National Railway. Retrieved March 19, 2012.
  2. 1 2 Lord, Walter (1955). A Night To Remember. New York: Holt. p. 97. ISBN   0805077642.
  3. 1 2 The Vermonter, Volumes 4–5. Charles S. 1898. p. 178. Retrieved March 18, 2012.
  4. 1 2 3 Atherton, William Henry (1914). Montreal, 1535–1914: Volume 3. S. J. Clarke. pp. 44–53. Retrieved March 18, 2012.
  5. 1 2 "Charles Melville Hays". The New York Times (as re-printed on Encyclopedia Titanica). Retrieved March 18, 2012.
  6. "Charles Melville Hays". Canadian Railway Hall of Fame. Retrieved March 18, 2012.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Regehr, Theodore D. (1998). "Hays, Charles Melville". In Cook, Ramsay; Hamelin, Jean (eds.). Dictionary of Canadian Biography . XIV (1911–1920) (online ed.). University of Toronto Press.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 Hacking, Norman R. (1995). Prince Ships of Northern British Columbia: Ships of the Grand Trunk Pacific and Canadian National Railways. Heritage House Publishing. pp. 30–35. ISBN   1895811287.
  9. "Mr. Charles Melville Hays". Encyclopedia Titanica. Retrieved May 10, 2012.
  10. Railway and locomotive engineering: a practical journal of motive power, rolling stock and appliances, Volume 24, Issue 1 – Volume 25, Issue 12: Obituary; Charles M. Hays. Angus Sinclair co. 1912. p. 186.
  11. "Mr Thornton Davidson". Encyclopedia Titanica. Retrieved March 20, 2012.
  12. 1 2 "Miss Margaret Bechstein Hays". Encyclopedia Titanica. Retrieved March 20, 2012.
  13. "Pets Who Sailed on the Titanic". Lost and Fond. Archived from the original on March 21, 2012. Retrieved March 19, 2012.
  14. "Mrs Clara Jennings Hays (née Gregg)". Encyclopedia Titanica. Retrieved March 20, 2012.
  15. "Widow and Daughters of Hays Speed Home". Chicago Examiner (as re-printed on Encyclopedia Titanica). Retrieved March 20, 2012.
  16. "Pres. Hays Widow Leaves For Home". Worcester Evening Gazette (as re-printed on Encyclopedia Titanica). Retrieved March 20, 2012.
  17. "Master Edmond Roger Navratil". Encyclopedia Titanica. Retrieved March 19, 2012.
  18. "Miss Margaret Hays Weds". New York Times (as re-printed on Encyclopedia Titanica). Retrieved March 20, 2012.
  19. 1 2 "Hickson Obit". Montreal Gazette (as reprinted on Encyclopedia Titanica). Retrieved March 19, 2012.
  20. Barry, Bill (2003). People Places Contemporary Saskatchewan Placenames. Regina, Canada: Print West communications. p. 230. ISBN   1-894022-92-0.
  21. Rowse, Sue Harper (2010). Birth of A City: Prince Rupert To 1914. p. 164. ISBN   1411685180.
Preceded by
Charles Rivers Wilson
President of the Grand Trunk Railway
Succeeded by
Edson Joseph Chamberlin