Howard B. Carpenter papers, 1904-1907

Overview of the Collection

Carpenter, Howard Brandy, 1848-1969
Howard B. Carpenter papers
1904-1907 (inclusive)
1 cubic feet  :  3 Boxes
Collection Number
MG 429
Howard B. Carpenter was a U. S. Deputy Surveyor charged to survey the watershed divide at the crest of the Bitterroot Mountains between Idaho and Montana. The materials in this collection include three leather-bound volumes of his notes penned from 1904 to 1906.
University of Idaho Library, Special Collections and Archives
Special Collections and Archives
University of Idaho Library
875 Perimeter Drive
MS 2350
Moscow, ID
Telephone: 2088850845
Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.


Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The papers of Howard B. Carpenter span the years 1904 to 1907.

This collection is composed of three-volume set Field Notes of the Survey of the Boundary Line Between the States of Idaho and Montana, which describe the 739 miles of the project. According to the donor, Mrs. Widel, four copies of the notes are compiled: one each for the states of Montana and Idaho, one for the federal government and one set for the surveyor. The surveyor's copy was the copy Mr. and Mrs. Widel donated to the library collections.

The three-volume surveyor's notes span the dates of June 6, 1904 and Sept. 13 1905. Each volume contains over 30 photographs of camp scenes and work of the surveying project. Also, bound within each copy is letter correspondence from the Department of the Interior, General Land Office. Information provided in the survey field notes is significant for observing change in vegetation and geology in the Bitterroots region between Idaho and Montana.

A photocopy of Carpenter's biographical sketch written in 1924 by L.B. Neighbour, presumably a relative, is also included. The biographical sketch includes letters and remembrances from children and grandchildren as well as genealogical information and the life and work of Carpenter.

Historical NoteReturn to Top

Howard Brady Carpenter was born July 24, 1848 in Little Rock, Illinois to David Luther and Harriet (Brady) Carpenter. David and Harriet had three sons of whom Howard was the oldest. Howard's mother died in 1853; his father later remarried and they had four children. The Carpenters were of Quaker ancestry and they worked in the lumber and agricultural industries.

Studious from a young age, Howard received the nickname "the deacon" from younger siblings. Educated in the public schools, as an undergraduate student he attended a seminary in Prophetstown, Illinois where he had a teacher named Sidney Averill. Howard taught school at Quaker Street, New York for two years before learning his life's trade of land surveying through his older cousin—a civil engineer.

He worked on railroad projects in the Catskills Mountains and Pomeroy, Ohio, and later became chief engineer of a projected railroad running from Chicago to Illinois valley. In 1874 he started as chief engineer in San Francisco on water supply constructions, laying out roads, cable car lines, and ferry landings. For a short period of time he also worked in the Colorado and Wyoming mining industry as an engineer.

In 1900-1907 he turned his interests towards government surveying and subdividing of public lands as Deputy U.S. Surveyor. One of his first government projects subdivided the Shoshone Wind River reservation in Wyoming. During this time he also worked on the state boundary line between Colorado and New Mexico.

The U.S. government survey marked out several state boundaries in mountainous areas that previously had been run imperfectly or needed correction. One such project was the 500-600 miles of Bitterroot Range separating Montana and Idaho—extending from Canada to Yellowstone National Park.

Under the direction of the United States General Land Office, Carpenter surveyed the watershed divide at the crest of the Bitterroot Mountains between the Montana-Idaho State border. Charting a route from north to south, Carpenter marked and noted each mile of the survey in remote and rugged wilderness. His survey notes provide details about the area's landscape, geology and vegetation. Carpenter's survey determined that the original boundary line set by the U.S. Congress (the crest of the continental divide) extended 3 miles further south than its previous determination. In addition to this correction, Carpenter surveyed the Idaho-Montana-Wyoming corner in 1907. The entire project spanned four summers from June 6, 1904 to September 13, 1905.

Depending on terrain and weather, Carpenter and his crew of 21 men completed 1.5 miles to 2 miles per day, working seven days a week. His crew and pack train of 44 horses blazed the trees along the survey line and built markers of brass caps on iron pipes or raised mounds of rock approximately every quarter mile.

In the spring of 1908 Carpenter retired to his fruit ranch in Meridian, Idaho. For 10 years he was an active citizen of Meridian as bank director of First National Bank, irrigation ditch official, board member of the Methodist church, school board member and founder of Meridian's Building and Loan Association. He died of typhoid fever in 1969 at the age of 69.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Preferred Citation

[Description of Item], Howard B. Carpenter Papers, MG 429, Special Collections and Archives, University of Idaho Library, Moscow, Idaho.

Alternative Forms Available

The Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office Records digitized all three volumes of Carpenter's field notes. See them here: Howard Carpenter's Field Notes.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


The materials are stored in 3 boxes; volumes are arranged in chronological order. No materials were discarded and the original order was kept.

Box 1 contains a folder with papers such as the biographical sketch of Carpenter written in 1924, the photo slide and a copy of the winter 2000 Towers. Box 1 also includes the first volume of survey field notes, box 2 contains volume 2 and box 3 contains volume 3.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Papers, Photo slide, Winter 2000 Towers, Field Notes vol. 1
Field Notes vol. 2
Field Notes vol. 3

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top