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George Riley, Steam Shovel Operator Extraordinaire

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Catalog Information

George Riley, Steam Shovel Operator Extraordinaire
Accession Number
Date Added
5/16/2020 12:53:22 PM
Historical People
Gift of
Robert Underhill
Collection Title
Collection Description
Bob Underhill
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Search Engine Type
The Jan. 27, 1931 Rutland Herald article below is about George Edward Riley (1889 - 1946) of Clarendon who won a steam shovel operator contest in Los Angeles with a $15,000 steam shovel as his prize.  It had to be a pretty serious contest to offer a prize of that magnitude in the midst of the Great Depression. 

George was born in Clarendon in 1889, the 4th of 6th children born to Barney Riley (1831 - 1893) and Margaret (Monahan) Riley (1864 - 1943).  George grew up on a farm on what is now Route 7B South with his mother, two brothers, and two sisters.  Another sibling born ca. 1891 had died young.  His father Barney had died in 1893 as a result of being thrown from a wagon when the horse frightened and attempted to runaway.  An account of the accident is shown at the bottom of this entry. 

George left school after finishing 8th grade and in 1910 we find him working as a stone cutter at a marble quarry, perhaps the nearby Clarendon Valley Marble quarry (see entry in Buildings & Enterprises collection).  The 1917 WWI draft registration finds George working as a logger for the Clark County Timber Co. in Yacolt, WA from which he went on to serve in France during WWI operating a steam shovel.  Upon his discharge in May 1919 he returned to Clarendon for a period but  then joined his brother Bernard in Seattle, WA where George is found in 1930 working as a steam shovel operator.  George had married Cynthia Rose (Fulford) (Reynolds)(1888 - 1944) in 1929.  Cynthia had a son Ernest G. Reynolds (1917 - 2001).  In 1940 George was living in Tacoma, WA and working on a sewer project, perhaps as a steam shovel operator.  In 1942 his WWII draft registration form indicated he was working at the US Naval Station Sand Point. 

We do not know what model steam shovel George ran during the contest nor what model he won as his prize.  The cover photo is of a ca. 1926 P&H (Pawling & Harnischfeger) Model 26 made in Milwaukee. WI.
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