Jerry Olson's Books

By Jerry C. Olson, P.L.S., P.E., C.F.

To Download: Surveying North of the River

The General Land Office, under the Surveyor General of Washington, provided the original surveys of the public domain, allowing for entry and settlement. The Office was staffed by Surveyor Generals, Clerks, Draftsmen, and sometimes Examiners. They contracted the surveys to private Deputy Survyeors from 1851 until 1910 when the system of direct employees took over. The contractors also provided Mineral Surveys, Donation Land Claim Surveys, Homestead Entry Surveys, and surveys of Indian Reservations and Allotments.

Brief History of the General Land Office in Washington
Short Biographies of the Surveyors (454 biographies)
Photos of the Surveyors, Their Families, and Tombstones
Collected Biographies of the Surveyors from Various Sources
1300+ pages

E-mail Jerry at to get FTP and password information

David D. Clarke 1864-1920 Narratives of a Surveyor and Engineer in the Pacific Northwest

To Order: David D. Clark 1864-1920

Send your check for $39.95 plus $3.00 (WA residents $6.00) for shipping and handling along with your name and address to:
222 E. Evergreen Blvd.
Vancouver, WA 98660
phone: 360-695-1385

A Historical Resource

  • 225 pages
  • 170 photographs, maps and illustrations
  • extensive footnotes, bibliography and index

A Window into Pacific Northwest History

Rarely do we have the opportunity to see the past through the eyes of so eloquent an observer as David D. Clarke. Intended to be a private history, Clarke's handwritten manuscripts record more than 50 years of experiences, observations and thoughts while his professional and personal lives unfold in the Pacific Northwest.

Edited by Jerry Olson, the story begins in 1864 as Clarke leaves his home in the East to seek his fortune in the "Golden West." Adventures continue as Clarke pursues his dreams of becoming both surveyor and engineer. From Portland, Oregon to the Washington cities of Olympia, Tacoma and Spokane, his travels take him throughout the Northwest.

With extensive documentation offering insight and clarification, Olson presents a fascinating look at both Clarke's life and the history of surveying and engineering. David D. Clarke is sure to prove valuable not only to those who share Clarke's profession but also to social historians and those interested in the history of the Pacific Northwest.

Table Of Contents

  1. Early Portland
  2. Oregon and California Railroad
  3. Olympia General Land Office (GLO)
  4. GLO Survey Contract Near Spokane
  5. Tacoma Town Site Survey
  6. GLO Inspection Survey on the Yakima Indian Reservation
  7. A Proposal; Survey at Neah Bay
  8. GLO Survey Contract Near Yakima; Marriage
  9. Early Tacoma; N. P. RR. Survey RR. From Tacoma to Wilkeson
  10. Surveys of N. P. RR. Route Over Cowlitz Pass
  11. Survey of Proposed N. P. RR. From Priest Rapids to Yakima
  12. Survey of N. P. RR. From Mouth of Snake River to Spokane
  13. N. P. RR. Wash. Surveys; Early Tacoma Churches; Assignment to Portland
  14. Tacoma Harbor and Water Works; Explore RR. To Wenatchee
  15. N. P. RR. Surveys in Washington Cascades; N. P. RR. Office in Tacoma
  16. Private Contractor at South Bend
  17. Asst. Portland Water Engr. under Isaac Smith; the Bull Run Water System
  18. Career as Portland Chief Water Engineer
  19. Individual Biographies


  1. Resume of David D. Clarke
  2. Reports of David D. Clarke to W. Milnor Roberts on Cowlitz Pass Survey
  3. Reports on Survey of a Railroad at Carbonado
  4. Reports of Isaac Smith to Gen. Adna Anderson on Connection to Seattle Coal Road
  5. Letters to David D. Clarke at N. P. RR.
  6. Personal Notes




The material for this book is derived from two main sources, the David D. Clarke Collection in the Manuscript Department of the Oregon Historical Society (OHS) and the Northern Pacific Railroad Collection at the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS). Except for the footnotes and illustrations which are provided by the Editor, an attempt has been made to reproduce as exactly as possible those portions of the narratives and reports of Clarke that are included.

The list of material in the D. D. Clarke Collection at OHS is as follows:

  1. Personal Experiences of a Surveyor and Civil Engineer in the States of Oregon and Washington, 1864-1920", 11/27/22, 150 pages. (Noted in the following chapters as "Personal Experiences.")
  2. "A Letter To Our Dear Children", 1922, 44 pages. (Noted in following chapters as "To Our Dear Children".)
  3. Diary of the trip from Amberst, Mass. to Portland, Oregon, 1864, 36 pages.
  4. Professional Record, resume format, 2 pages. (Included as Appendix I.)
  5. "Biographical and Historical Notes, 1844-1916".
  6. "Portland Waterworks, 1893-1916".
  7. Biographies and notes on important people he had known, 26 pages. (Included as Chapter 19, "Individual Biographies.")
  8. Development of the Water Supply of the City of Portland, Oreg.," 1857-1920, 10/27/20, 10 pages.
  9. Obituaries of D. D. Clarke and newspaper articles on his retirement from the Portland Water Bureau.
  10. Many letters to and from D. D. Clarke.
  11. Clarke family genealogy.
  12. Letter to George Himes from D. D. Clarke giving a short personal history and listing the several articles (7) he had written for the Journal of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

When the Northern Pacific Railway Co. merged with other railroads in 1970 to form the Burlington Northern Railroad, many historical records were donated to MHS. Some of these records are still not inventoried. One portion of the collection, called the "Old Vault Files", contains what remains of the records and maps of the early exploration of N. P. RR. in Washington, Idaho, and Montana in 1867-1893. Another file called "Letters to D. D. Clarke" contains the letters duplicated in Appendix V, along with many others. My thanks to Denny DeMeyer for introducing me to this collection in St. Paul, for it provided background and verification to Clarke's stories.

The majority of the text is from "Personal Experiences", Clarke's handwritten account of his life from a professional perspective. The punctuation and spelling are preserved, with (sic) inserted at those rare instances of incorrect or archaic spelling. Some of the proper names of places have changed over the years accounting for most of the spelling discrepancies. The accounts of the early heyday in railroading in the Northwest contain numerous descriptions of the important people he knew. The extensive coverage of his time with the General Land Office provides valuable insight on the conduct of the Olympia Office and the awarding of contracts.

"To Our Dear Children" was written at the request of Mrs. Clarke to preserve the personal history of the Clarke family, including courtship, marriage, churches and personal friends. It reveals the religious devotion and quiet bashfulness of Clarke. These two documents, along with selected portions of the others, have been merged to produce a chronologically oriented autobiography, selecting the best version among duplicated episodes.

"Individual Biographies" is a separate chapter, while the "Professional Record", relevant reports and letters form the Appendixes. Maps from MHS are inserted where appropriate. The inventory of the collection at OHS listed "family photographs," but only 1 photo of D. D. Clarke and 2 of his sister, Abbie, were found at OHS.

Clarke mentioned the association of his wife's family with the city of Huntington, Oregon. This branch of research led to the personal mementos and photos owned by several of the Clarke and Huntington family descendants. Mrs. Dexter N. Huntington and her son Jim, both of Knappa, California; Dexter A. Clarke of Minneapolis, Minnesota; Mrs. Doris Clarke Hamilton of Portland, Oregon; and Herbert H. Clarke, Jr. of Santa Barbara, Ca. all were very helpful and deserve my special thanks.

This was my first major historical effort devoted to a single subject. At all of the libraries and museums, everyone was enthusiastic, helpful and supportive. I would especially like to express my appreciation to the staff of The Fort Vancouver Regional Library, The Oregon Historical Society Research Library, The Washington State Historical Society Research Library, The Minnesota Historical Society Archives, The City of Portland Archives, and The Clark County Historical Museum.

And last, but certainly not least, I would like to thank my wife Patti, for her patience, support and expertise. Without her encouragement, this book would not have been written.


What Reviewers Are Saying

"Editor Jerry Olson has carefully woven personal and professional diary recollections in a thoughtful study of D. D. Clarke, telling the story of this self made man. It is captivating reading for both layman and engineer."
Marvin F. Case
Editor, The Reflector

" of the most insightful looks into the 19th century life and mores to be found."
David L. Nicandri
Director, Washington State Historical Society

"David D. Clarke is more than simply a set of surveyor's field notes. Clarke's accounts of running five miles of survey line a day, riding a horse sixty miles and catching steamboats and stages to return to his ." home in Tacoma, remind me of how rich a heritage we surveyors share
Dennis D. DeMeyer
Land Surveyor's Association of Washington Historical Society

"...overall I found this to be a very appealing and entertaining book about land surveying in the pioneer days of the West. The details of the life and work of surveyors in that time make it well worth the purchase price."
Patrick Toscano
Book Review Editor, Professional Surveyor