Charles J. Smith, Manager of the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company, was born in Nicholasville, Kentucky, March 13, 1854, and is the son of Charles F. and Z. A. ( Jackson) Smith. His father was a merchant at Nicholasville for several years, but in 1857, removed to Kansas City, Missouri, where he died in 1877. In the latter city, the subject of this sketch was educated in a private school until he reached the age of fourteen, when he entered Blackburn University at Carlinville, Illinois, from which institution he graduated in 1870. After graduation he spent one year as a clerk in a real estate office in Kansas City. In August, 1871, he began his railroad career as store-keeper in the employ of the Missouri River, Fort Scott & Gulf railroad, now known as the Kansas City, Springfield & Memphis railroad, being thus employed for a year and a half. This service was followed by a period of clerk-ship in the office of the Master Mechanic and as chief clerk of the motor power. He then spent three years as clerk in the auditor’s office of the same road and of the Leavensworth, Lawrence & Galveston railroad, afterwards known as the Kansas City, Leavensworth & Southern. In 1878, he became acting or assistant auditor of the Kansas City, Fort Scott & Gulf; Kansas City, Lawrence & Southern; Atkinson & Nebraska, and Kansas City, St. Joseph & Council Bluff railroads, holding these various positions for two years, and during this period resided in Kansas City.
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In July, 1880, he came to Portland when he was appointed assistant comptroller of the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company, and in October following, was appointed to a similar position in the Oregon Improvement Company. In July, 1881, he became comptroller of these two companies, but owing to change o f management in the latter company, he resigned the position in April, 1884, but retained the comptrollership in the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company until September, 1886, when he was appointed treasurer with an office in New York City. In connection with the duties of this position, he also assumed those of assistant secretary and treasurer of the Oregon Transcontinental and the Oregon Improvement Company, of New York.
In March, 1888, he went to Omaha, Nebraska, and became General Land Commissioner of the Union Pacific railroad. He remained in this position until May, 1889, when he returned to Portland and assumed his present position as joint manager of the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company, and of the Oregon Short Line Railway Company, lessee.
Few men of his years have had so extensive an experience in the complicated duties of railway management as Mr. Smith. His advance to his present position, where thorough and exact knowledge of innumerable details are necessary to secure success, has been of logical growth. He began in a subordinate position, worked hard to master every branch of the service, and every step forward prepared him for the next. Early in life he has attained to a position which would satisfy the ambition of most men, and which already places him among the prominent railroad men of the country. He possesses the executive ability, capacity for hard and continuous work, keen business sense and experience which admirably fit him for railroad management, and give promise of higher advancement. Personally he is pleasant and affable in manner, easily wins and holds friends, while his standing in the community as an honest and upright citizen is of the highest.
Mr. Smith was married on July 15, 1880, to Miss Elizabeth McMillan, of Kansas, and to them four children have been born.