James Geddes (engineer)

James Geddes
Geddes-james 1810.jpg
Born(1763-07-22)July 22, 1763
DiedAugust 19, 1838(1838-08-19) (aged 75)
OccupationEngineer, surveyor, legislator

James Geddes (July 22, 1763 - August 19, 1838) was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and was a prominent engineer, surveyor, New York State legislator and U.S. Congressman who was instrumental in the planning of the Erie Canal and other canals in the United States. He was also at the forefront of development of the salt industry at Onondaga Lake near Syracuse, New York beginning in 1794.


The son of a Scottish farmer, Geddes eventually settled in 1794 at the head of Onondaga Lake in what was to become Onondaga County, New York, where he investigated the brine springs and set up a salt works at Geddesburgh, now Solvay. He acquired lands from members of the Onondaga tribe and became an adopted member.[1]

Geddes first surveyed and laid out the village of Geddes with approximately twenty lots on either side of West Genesee Street in 1807.[1]

An early supporter of a proposed canal to the Great Lakes, Geddes was appointed by the state Surveyor General to explore possible routes for such a canal. Based in part on Geddes' recommendations, the Legislature established a canal commission in 1810 . Geddes was one of five engineers chosen in 1816 to supervise the construction of the Erie Canal. He also was appointed chief engineer of the Ohio and Erie Canal.

He served as a judge and was elected to the 18th Congress in 1818 as a Federalist.

His son, George Geddes, was a New York State legislator. His grandson, also called James Geddes, was a civil engineer and agriculturist.

Geddes died at Camillus, New York on August 19, 1838. The modern-day Town of Geddes is named for him.

U.S. House of Representatives
New district Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 19th congressional district

Succeeded by
Victory Birdseye


  1. ^ a b "Rich in Tradition, Village of Geddes Recalls Many Events as It Marks the 99th Anniversary of Its Incorporation". Syracuse Herald, April 19, 1931, Section 2, Pgs. 6 & 10. Retrieved 2010-08-24.