Monday, October 3, 2016

Civil Engineer, Surveyor, Stock Breeder, and Farmer David O. Stevenson [otd 10/03]

Civil engineer and County Surveyor David Osborn Stevenson was born October 3, 1851 in Dayton, Ohio. After high school, he moved to California and engaged in stock raising, mainly sheep. However, drought and poor agricultural conditions ruined that operation.
David O. Stevenson. [French]

He went to work as an apprentice in engineering for the Union Pacific Railroad, working mainly on spur line construction in Kansas and Nebraska. Around 1882, he transferred to the Oregon Short Line (OSL) and helped complete the tracks across Idaho into Oregon.

Impressed by what he saw in the Boise Valley, Stevenson settled in the area in 1885 and began civil engineering work for the Settlers Canal. The Settlers branches off the south side of the Boise River a mile or so west of the capital building. The Idaho Statesman reported (March 18, 1890) that the company directors wanted to extend the canal and had “determined to send for D. O. Stevenson, the engineer of the company, and prosecute the work as soon as the proper survey is made.”

After that, David worked on a number of different canal and reservoir projects. However, he also bought property somewhere near Eagle and went back into ranching. There, he raised blooded draft horses, for which he often won prizes at the county fair. He also raised grained, both as feed for his animals and for sale to millers. Stevenson held that property until 1908, when he moved into Boise to pursue other interests.

People in the Boise Basin had long wanted a railroad to bring in heavy equipment and export timber. Several failed attempts had been made, but hopes finally ran high at the start of a new century. On October 10, 1901, the Statesman told its readers, “The railway project from Boise to the Boise basin is being put on a firm foundation. Work has actually begun, a large surveying party now being in the field under the supervision of the chief engineer of the new company, D. O. Stevenson.”
Survey Team, ca 1901. National Archives.
However, for various reasons, that effort also fell through. Not until 1914 did work begin on a rail line from the valley up Mores Creek into the Basin. Trains began hauling logs out in May of the following year. Apparently, much of the main line followed the route surveyed by Stevenson over a decade earlier.

David also had an interest in a least one industrial venture. The Idaho Statesman reported (June 9, 1919) that Stevenson was in charge of production for “the Sand-Lime Brick Company, owned and operated entirely by Boise capital, and for the first time in more that a year the plant is once more in operation.”

Sand-lime bricks are produced by compression molding and then curing under high-pressure steam. They are more uniform in size, with straighter edges and smoother surfaces than conventional clay bricks. According to the Statesman, “Practically all the white brick buildings in Boise have been made out of bricks produced in this plant, prominent among which are the new high school, the Pinney building, and now some 450,000 bricks have been ordered for the construction of the Roosevelt school.”

Over the following years, Stevenson would serve on the Ada County Commissioner as well as several terms as the County Surveyor. After his last stint as Surveyor, he resumed his private practice. David kept it up until about a month before his death, at age 88, in April 1940.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [French]
“D. O. Stevenson, Surveyor, Dies,” Idaho Statesman, Boise (April 13, 1940).
Evan E. Filby, Boise River Gold Country, Sourdough Publishing, Idaho Falls, Idaho (2012).
“Sand-Lime Brick – Description and Specification,” Circular of the Bureau of Standards No. 109, Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C. (1921).

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