Alonzo J. Tullock. The profession of civil engineering is one which offers great opportunities to those equipped by nature and study for this line of work. It demands, however, perhaps a more thorough technical knowledge of more subjects than almost any other vocation in which man may engage, but its rewards are commensurate with its difficulties and on the pages of history the names of civil engineers who have seemingly accomplished the impossible appear with those of other benefactors of the human race. The great western country, without these able, trained, accurate and daring men would today have been yet sleeping, instead of offering homes and untold riches to the world at large. Among the men of Kansas who have represented this honored and difficult calling was the late Alonzo J. Tullock, whose work still lives, although more than a decade of years have passed since its author’s death.
Mr. Tullock was a native of Winnebago County, Illinois, born on a farm near Rockford, March 21, 1854. His parents, George and Mary (Milne) Tullock, the former a native of Scotland and the latter of England and of French ancestry, were farming people and among the pioneer settlers of that part of the Prairie State. On one occasion, when the father drove to the markets at Chicago, before the days of the railroads, he returned from his long and tedious journey to find that two of his children had died of diphtheria. George Tullock was a studious man, a geologist of something more than local note, and, through his love of study of the rocks, became a believer in evolution. He was honest to the penny, and the confidence in which he was held by his neighbors led him frequently to be called upon to act as administrator of the estates of his fellow-townsmen.
It is probable that Alonzo J. Tullock inherited his love of learning from his father. Even as a boy he was inordinately fond of reading and study, mathematics being his favorite. Early in life, while not employed in assisting his father in the work of the home farm, he attended the neighboring district schools, and later he attended and was graduated from the high school at Rockford. Subsequently, he matriculated at the University of Illinois, at Champaign, from which institution he was graduated, and succeeding this he took a course in engineering at the University of Michigan, at Ann Arbor, there completing the prescribed four-year course in three years. During his collegiate career, Mr. Tullock was forced to employ his spare time in various ways to secure the means for the continuation of his college courses. During one season he was employed to help make the surveys and maps in Wisconsin for the United States Government, and while he never taught school as a regular instructor, during his college days much of his time was passed in tutoring.
After the completion of his engineering course, Mr. Tullock was employed in the engineering office of William B. Howard, of Chicago, and it was while residing at that city that he was married, June 25, 1878, to Miss Katherine Southwick, a daughter of Jonathan E. and Nancy Elizabeth (Flint) Southwick, of Quaker stock. Mr. Tullock remained with Mr. Howard only a year or so. In 1880 he was induced by the banking house of Insley, Shire & Company, of Leavenworth, to come to this city and take charge of a bridge works that through mismanagement had met with financial reverses. Although he expected to remain at the most but a year, he was induced to locate here permanently, and eventually he bought the concern and became the sole owner of the Missouri Valley Bridge and Iron Works, or as it is now known, the Missouri Valley Bridge and Iron Company. Through the indomitable energy, efficient management and shrewd foresight of Mr. Tullock, this enterprise was made a great success. He was an absolutely tireless worker, and undoubtedly the great strain which he placed upon his energies hastened his death.
Among the great engineering projects accomplished by Mr. Tullock, only several will be mentioned. To his skill and talent is accredited the bridge across the Mississippi River, at St. Louis, the harbor at Galveston, Texas, which was built prior to the great Galveston flood and cyclone, and the gigantic wharf at Tampico, Mexico, which he completed just before his death. He was a great reader on technical subjects and possessed a large and comprehensive library dealing therewith. He had no time for politics with its intrigues, nor for the petty affairs of the community. He was jealous of his reputation, and was brilliant in conception and accurate in execution. Much to his regret he was forced to be much away from home, for he loved the quietude of his fireside, where he could be surrounded by his loved ones and companioned by his books. Always a firm friend of education in any form, he had much to do with the organization of the Leavenworth Public Library and was one of its main supporters for many years. His death occurred at his home at Leavenworth, July 21, 1904. Mr. Tullock left his widow and three children: Florence, who is now the wife of Frederick D. Bolman; Hubert S., who is now a member of the firm of Missouri Valley Bridge and Iron Company; and Lucy M.