Washington Augustus Roebling was, like his father, a brilliant engineer, a skilled draftsman and a prolific writer. He was born in 1837 in Saxonburg and was 12 years old when the family moved to Trenton. John sent him to study engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., and when he graduated in 1857, John hired him to help complete the Allegheny Bridge in Pittsburgh.
At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, President Abraham Lincoln called for volunteers and 24-year old Washington enlisted the next day. Washington distinguished himself building suspension bridges for the Army in Virginia and at Harper’s Ferry, and in helping to defend Little Round Top at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. A year later he was captivated by Emily Warren, the pretty sister of his commanding officer, and they were married in 1865. Washington received the rank of Colonel near the end of the war.
Washington joined his father in completing the Cincinnati-Covington Bridge in 1866. To prepare for building the Brooklyn Bridge, John sent Washington to Europe in 1867 to study caisson construction and wire rope manufacturing. While Washington and Emily were visiting relatives in Mülhausen, she gave birth to their only child, John A. Roebling II. Washington’s health suffered from the stress of building the Brooklyn Bridge, and after it opened in 1883, he and Emily built a mansion at 191 West State Street and became Trenton’s first family. He served as the Vice President of the John A. Roebling’s Sons Company for 44 years but left the day-to-day running of the business to his brothers Ferdinand and Charles.
After his brothers’ deaths, Washington became President of the Company at the age of 84. Colonel Roebling, as everyone called him, was a familiar figure in Trenton commuting to and from work on the trolley with his dog, Billy Sunday. He continued to work up to a few weeks before his death at the age of 89 in 1926.