Term: Colby, Gardner 1810 - 1879
Definition: financier, railroad executive, philanthropist, b. Bowdoinham, Me. A Boston merchant and importer, he purchased woolen mills at Dedham, Mass. (1850), and acquired a considerable fortune by supplying government contracts during the Civil War. In 1869 he made his first trip to Wisconsin, and shortly thereafter became interested in the construction of the Wisconsin Central R.R., serving as its president (1871-1878). He devoted much of his wealth to philanthropic enterprises, and his large endowment of Waterville College in Maine led to its being renamed Colby College. In 1878 he retired from the railroad business and returned to Massachusetts. His son, CHARLES LEWIS COLBY, b. Roxbury, Mass., graduated from Brown Univ. (1858), and engaged in the importing business in New York (1860-1870). In 1870 he became interested in the Wisconsin Central, and in 1874 moved to Milwaukee. He was associated with Elisha B. Phillips in the Phillips-Colby Construction Co., which constructed the Wisconsin Central's road from Menasha to Ashland (1871-1877). He was vice-president of the railroad (1874-1878) and president (1878-1890). He made several fund-raising trips to Europe for the Wisconsin Central, was president of several local Wisconsin railroads, and was a director of the Northern Pacific at the time of his death. He was affiliated with various mining companies in the development of the Gogebic region. A Republican, he was state assemblyman (1880). Dict. Amer. Biog.; Milwaukee Sentinel, Feb. 28, 1896; R. L. Martin, Hist. of Wis. Central (Boston, 1941); [F. A. Flower] Hist. of Milwaukee (Chicago, 1881); J. W. Colby, Hist. of Colby Family (Waltham, Mass. ).
[Source: Dictionary of Wisconsin biography]