James C. Haydon’s ties to Lehigh came through his nephew, Albert Newton Cleaver, and through the railroad, coal and iron industry connections he shared with Asa Packer, Lehigh’s founder. A Philadelphia native, Haydon worked as a civil engineer on the building of the North Penn Railroad from Philadelphia to Bethlehem after graduating from Burlington College, Burlington, New Jersey. The line, completed in 1855, connected with Asa Packer’s Lehigh Valley Railroad, built by Robert Sayre, later a Lehigh trustee.
Haydon spent a year as an executive with the Lehigh Valley Railroad before becoming superintendent of the Buck Mountain Coal Company at Rockport, Pennsylvania. He formed the Spring Mountain Coal Company in 1864 and moved to Jeansville, Pennsylvania, south of Hazleton, to operate the mine. In 1858, Haydon married Ellen Newton, whose sister, Elizabeth, was married to John O. Cleaver, another local coal operator. When the Cleavers died, the Haydons reared their nephew, Albert Newton Cleaver.
Haydon was known as a compassionate manager who treated his workers fairly. His conduct during the 1891 Jeansville mine disaster was exemplary. After his death, his daughter, Mary Haydon Hansen, honored her father by setting up a scholarship fund in his memory.