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Clinton Hall Kearney, Internationally Known San Antonian Engineer

Clinton Hall Kearney, Internationally Known San Antonian Engineer

Author: Melinda Luna PE

April 2024

Clinton Hall (C.H.) Kearney was born in San Antonio, Texas, on October 17, 1871. He was the son of William Kearney and Susan Hinckley Mudge. His father held the elected position of public weigher, and his mother was a homemaker. Kearney graduated from Princeton in 1894 and began his career at the Adirondack and St Lawrence Railroad. Later, he joined the Pearson Engineering Company, working alongside Dr. Fredrick Stark Pearson. Returning to San Antonio, Kearney married Mary C. Cresson in November 1908. He focused on initiatives to provide power and light to Mexico, and also oversaw projects in Spain related to power distribution. Kearney then journeyed to Alaska to assess mining operations, and he formulated a plan for future mining endeavors for the Pearson Labree syndicate.

Kearney then worked on projects such as the building of Medina Dam from 1911 to 1913. Medina Dam was part of the Medina Irrigation Company of San Antonio, which aimed to provide canals and irrigation to about 70,000 acres in the area. C.H. Kearney was a minor stockholder in the Medina Irrigation Company. He also negotiated with the International and Great Northern and Southern Pacific Railroad and played a role in establishing the town of Natalia, Texas. Kearney traveled to project sites for the Pearson Engineering Company. After 1915, following the death of Dr. F.S. Pearson, he sought work closer to home and served as Commissioner of Public Works. He was appointed as Street Commissioner for the bond fund in 1915, the first bond intended to pave many of San Antonio’s streets. Kearney contributed to the city of San Antonio in various capacities, including supporting the Citizens Training Regiment of Camp Cecil Lyon at Fort Sam Houston. Additionally, he assessed flows in West Texas on the Pecos, Devils, and Concho Rivers, providing opinions on building dams to the Texas Board of Water Commissioners. As President of the Sunset Fuel Company, he traveled to Washington DC to lobby for funds to deepen the port in Corpus Christi after the 1919 storm damaged the ports there, which would facilitate the transportation of goods to San Antonio. He collaborated with C.E. Ellsworth of the USGS to establish stream gauges in the city. Kearney also partnered with his classmate George White Caldwell in an engineering firm based in New York. Moreover, he was involved in the Medina Toll Road Company, which constructed a road to Medina Lake. Kearney also traveled to Spain and worked with the Ebro Irrigation & Power Company for two years, contributing to the completion of a dam supplying water and power near Barcelona, Spain.

Medina Lake Dam Construction1

He was appointed to the Flood Prevention Committee in 1920 alongside Edwin P. Arneson, W.B. Tuttle, Terrell Bartlett, and Willard Simpson. The committee aimed to present a report outlining necessary constructions to prevent floods, along with the required funds, to the city in December of 1921. No information could be found on Kearney’s activities between 1921 and 1931.

Some of his appointments were not engineering-related, such as being appointed to a Soldiers Settlement Committee by Governor Hobby.

The only obituary of his death was found in the Cotulla Record of October 23, 1931, which stated that he died after an operation (appendectomy). The article indicated that he was internationally known for his work on large projects in Brazil, Mexico, Spain, and South America. At the time of his passing, he was the head of the Catrina Farms company. The Catarina Farms development in Dimmitt County was designed to attract farmers with its infrastructure, including roads, waterworks, sidewalks, and amenities such as a hotel equipped with electric power and telephones. A railroad and a hotel with a store further enhanced the area’s appeal. However, due to issues such as water scarcity caused by drought, many residents eventually moved away. While Clinton Hall Kearney may not be a household name, he contributed significantly to various projects worldwide. As a tribute to him, the unincorporated area just east of Catrina, Texas, where Catrina Farms is located, is called Kearney.

When it was a 1920s tourist destination, a few postcards were produced. This one was never mailed but other examples of the same card confirm it was produced about 19222


1 https://www.edwardsaquifer.net/medina.html

2 https://www.edwardsaquifer.net/medina.html