David Dexter Clarke papers, 1864-1920  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Clarke, David Dexter
David Dexter Clarke papers
1864-1920 (inclusive)
.25 cubic feet (1 document case)
Collection Number
Mss 1056
The collection consists of narratives written by Mr. Clarke concerning his professional experiences and personal history, along with notes and some items of correspondence.
Oregon Historical Society, Davies Family Research Library
Davies Family Research Library
Oregon Historical Society
1200 SW Park Avenue
Portland, OR
Telephone: 503-306-5240
Fax: 503-219-2040
Access Restrictions

The collection is open to the public.

Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Historical NoteReturn to Top

David Dexter Clarke was born in South Hadley, Massachusetts, in 1844. His family was descended from early New England settlers. In 1864 he left school to come to Oregon via the Isthmus of Panama. In the Pacific Northwest he became involved in surveying and civil engineering, a profession he continued in for 53 years. He went to work for the City of Portland and Multnomah County surveyor when he reached Oregon. After that he worked as a surveyor and engineer for the Oregon & California Railroad (O&C RR), the United States Surveyor General's Office in Olympia, the Northern Pacific Railroad (NP RR) and the Tacoma Land Co. He operated his own contracting and engineering business, Clarke and Gray Co., in South Bend, Washington, from 1890 to 1893.

In 1893 he became an assistant to the Chief Engineer of the Portland, Oregon, water bureau, becoming head of the department upon the death of the Chief Engineer in 1897, where he continued the construction and implementation of the Bull Run Water System. He retired due to ill health in 1917, and died in 1923.

In 1875 Clarke married Sarah Eleanor Huntington of Olympia, Washington Territory. They had five sons: William Dexter, Ralph Huntington, Irving, Alfred Henry, and Herbert Houghton.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The collection consists of several narratives written by Mr. Clarke. One consists of a journal of his 1864 trip from Amherst, Massachusetts, to San Francisco, California, crossing the Isthmus of Panama on the way. Another is a history of the development of the water supply system for Portland, Oregon. The longest narrative is a memoir of his professional life, including descriptions of many of the other engineers he worked with. Also in the collection are a biographical narrative in response to a questionnaire, and the notes used to write it.

Also included are several items of correspondence with the American Society of Engineers, the Portland Water Supply Committee, and the Oregon Historical Society.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Alternative Forms Available

A selected portion of the collection is available on microfilm at the Oregon Historical Society Research Library.

The collection was used as the basis for a book: David D. Clarke, Narratives of a surveyor and engineer in the Pacific Northwest, 1864-1920 by Jerry C. Olson, published in 1995.

Restrictions on Use

The Oregon Historical Society is the owner of the materials in the Research Library and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the Research Library before any publication use. The Society does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners.

Preferred Citation

David Dexter Clarke papers, Mss1056, Oregon Historical Society Research Library

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
1 Account of journey from Amherst to San Francisco
Includes both original journal and edited version begun by D.D. Clarke.
2 Biographical and historical notes
Includes revisions of circa 1920
3 Biographical notes, miscellaneous 1874-1961
4 Correspondence
American Society of Civil Engineers Oregon Historical SocietyWater Supply Committee, Portland, Oregon
5 Development of the water supply of the City of Portland 1857-1920
6 A letter to "Our Dear Children" 1922
7 Personal experiences of a surveyor and civil engineer in the states of Oregon and Washington
Pages 1-49
8 Personal experiences of a surveyor and civil engineer in the states of Oregon and Washington
Pages 50-99
9 Personal experiences of a surveyor and civil engineer in the states of Oregon and Washington
Pages 100-155
10 Personal experiences of a surveyor and civil engineer in the states of Oregon and Washington
Professional colleagues
11 The struggle for water in the great cities of the United States undated

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Engineers -- Northwest, Pacific -- Biography.
  • Public utilities - Oregon - Portland.
  • Surveying -- Northwest, Pacific -- History.
  • Surveyors -- Northwest, Pacific -- Biography.
  • Water-supply - Oregon - Portland.
  • Personal Names :
  • Clarke, David D., 1844-1923. (creator)
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Biographies.
  • Genealogies.
  • Letters (correspondence)
  • Manuscripts.