Collection Scope and Contents
Title: Hiram Newton Savage papers
Date (inclusive): 1905-1934
Collection Number: WRCA 061
21.75 linear feet
Rivera Library. Special Collections Department.
Abstract: Materials related to Hiram N. Savage's involvement with U.S. Reclamation Service projects and other water projects in San
Languages: The collection is in English
Collection is open for research.
The materials in this collection are arranged into three groups of materials as outlined below.
- Series 1. Papers
- Series 2. Photographs
- Series 3. Barrett and Morena Dams
The following biographical sketch was written by Charles P. Williams, M. Am. Soc. C. E., for the American Society of Civil
Hiram Newton Savage, M. Am. Soc. C. E.
Died June 24, 1934
Hiram Newton Savage was born in Lancaster, N. H., on October 6, 1861, the son of Hazen Nelson and Laura Ann (Newton) Savage.
He was the son of a farmer. After his public school education, Mr. Savage worked his way through the New Hampshire College
of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts, at Durham, N. H., from which he was graduated in 1887, with the degree of Bachelor of
Science. In 1891, he was graduated from the Thayer School of Civil Engineering, of Dartmouth College, with the degree of Civil
Engineer. In 1913, the University of New Hampshire conferred upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Science.
In 1888, Mr. Savage was Assistant Engineer, and, later, Resident Engineer, of the East Tennessee and Georgia Railway, the
Nashville and Tellico Railway, and the Athens (Tenn.) Improvement Company. From May to July, 1889, he served as Assistant
Engineer of the Hydraulic Mining Company, in the San Pedro Mining District, New Mexico, and from July, 1889, to April, 1890,
he was Chief Engineer of that Company and of the Rio Grande Water Company, in New Mexico, in charge of a survey of the Ortiz,
San Pedro, and Tejon Grants, embracing 100,000 acres; placer-mine prospecting and locations; ditch location and construction;
and preliminary location and estimate for a pipe line, 58 miles in length. From April to September, 1890, he was Engineer
of Billings Park, White River Junction, Vermont. In September of that year he located an extension of the sewerage system
of West Randolph, VT.
After his graduation from the Thayer School of Civil Engineering in 1891, Mr. Savage went to Southern California, and was
employed by the San Diego Land and Town Company, of National City, CA, as Chief Engineer, in charge of the construction of
the Sweetwater Dam and Distribution System that was to be used to furnish irrigation and domestic supply. His work included
the construction and reconstruction, operation, and maintenance of the System; the partition and subdivision of 40,000 acres
of land; the location, construction, and maintenance of the National City and Otay Railway; and the construction of Sweetwater
Park and Race Track, at National City.
In 1895, Mr. Savage became Consulting Engineer to the Southern California Mountain Water Company, in connection with the Morena,
Upper Otay, and Lower Otay Dams, and the water-carrying system to San Diego, CA.
From 1898 to 1903, he was Consulting Engineer for the San Diego and Cuyamaca Railway Company, the San Diego and La Jolla Railway
Company, the Coronado Beach Railway Company, the Cuyamaca Water Company, and for the Contractor for the Zuninga Shoals Jetty,
in San Diego Harbor, a Government project.
In 1903, Mr. Savage was appointed Consulting Engineer in the United States Reclamation Service, the organization of which
had been begun the preceding year, and, from 1905 to 1915, he was Supervising Engineer of the Northern Division of that Service,
including the States of Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming. The District included eleven primary projects: The Huntley, Lower
Yellowstone, Sun River, Milk River, St. Mary (storage), Flathead (Indian), Blackfeet (Indian), and Fort Peck (Indian) Projects,
in Montana; the Williston and Buford-Trenton Projects, in North Dakota; and the Shoshone Project, in Wyoming; all of which
were under construction and operation within the period of his service. He also investigated the irrigation possibilities
for about ten secondary projects, with a view to their construction when and if funds were made available. Among the many
important structures built on the primary projects were the Shoshone Dam, a concrete arch, 328 ft in height above the foundation,
then the highest dam in the world, and the Corbett Tunnel, 11 ft in diameter and 3 miles long. In addition to his work in
the Northern Division of the Reclamation Service, Mr. Savage at times served on Consulting Boards relative to the work in
He resigned from the U. S. Reclamation Service in 1915 and, in 1916, became Consulting and Supervising Engineer for the Sweetwater
Water Company of California, engaged on the reconstruction and enlargement of the Sweetwater Dam, the spillway and abutments
of which had been damaged by the record flood of 1916.
From 1917 to 1923, Mr. Savage was Hydraulic Engineer for the City of San Diego, Calif. He supervised the design and construction
of the Barrett and the new Lower Otay Dams, the enlargement and reconstruction of Morena Dam and Spillway, and the extensions
to the City's rapid sand filtration plants. During this period, he compiled all known hydrographic and climatological data
for San Diego County, made estimates of the future water requirements for the City of San Diego and vicinity, investigated
available water resources, and made a plan of future water development for the city and its environs, together with plans
and estimates for the dams, reservoirs, carrying systems, and purification plants necessary for accomplishing this program.
He made filings of water appropriations and intiated proceedings for the acquisition of the necessary rights of way. Notwithstanding
the excellent and valuable work done by Mr. Savage during this engagement, his relations with the City Government of San Diego
were not at all agreeable. The City Council was composed largely of politicians, who had little appreciation of his work,
and whose actions were governed by political motives, rather than the good of the community. Finally, when attending a meeting
of the hostile City Council, he was subjected to a tirade of criticism and abuse, and was informed that his services were
terminated. Much to the chagrin of his opponents, who had expected a retort in kind, he replied calmly "very well", and with
sedate dignity withdrew from the Council Chamber.
In 1923 and 1924, Mr. Savage made a trip around the world, visiting nineteen foreign countries, including Italy, Egypt, the
Sudan, the Holy Land, Java, the Philippine Islands, China, and Japan. A second tour was made in 1924 and 1925. On this tour,
he visited Hawaii and twenty foreign countries, including the South Sea Islands, New Zealand, Australia, the Philippine Islands,
and India, where he explored the Ganges and Indus River Systems. He visited also Mesopotamia, where he reported to both King
Feisal and to the British officials, on the irrigation and drainage requirements for the Government irrigation system at Irak.
He traveled overland across the Holy Land, and reported on Zion and National Home movements; inspected the drainage basin
in Egypt and the Sudan, traveling southward in Equatorial Africa more than 5 000 miles by railways, water routes, and overland
on foot, conveyed by a force of negro porters. He went into Abyssinia, through the Sudan to the Belgian Congo, continuing
through Uganda and across Lakes Albert Nyanza, Kioga, and Victoria Nyanza, to the head-waters of the Nile. Continuing southerly
he went through Kenya, via Nairobi and Tanganyika, to Zanzibar and the Indian Oceau, thence returning by way of the Red Sea
to Cairo, where he reported to the late King Fuad I, of Egypt, and to the Government officials of the Sudan, Egypt, and the
British Empire, on the irrigation requirements of Egypt and the Sudan, on the water resources and on the control of the Nile,
with recommendations to construct a third dam on the Nile at Nag Hamadi, and to increase the height of the Assuan Dam sufficiently
to double the present storage capacity.
In 1925 and 1926, Mr. Savage inspected twenty-five National, State, and Corporate irrigation projects, in the western part
of the United States and in Alberta, Canada, reporting to President Calvin Coolidge on their administrative, technical, social,
and economic conditions and requirements.
In 1926 and 1927, he made a tour of inspection of the majority of the Latin-American Republics in the West Indies, Central
America, and South America, going from New York, N. Y., to the West Indies, thence to Central America, through the Panama
Canal, along the West Coast of South America, by the Transandine Railway, from Valparaiso, Chile, to Buenos Aires, Argentine
Republic, and thence back to New York. Several trips were made into the Andes Mountains. From Buenos Aires he made a trip
inland of more than 1 800 miles. From Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a trip was made into the interior of Brazil, to and down the
Alta Parana River, one of the principal tributaries of the Rio de la Plata. On this tour, studies were made of the natural
resources of the several countries, with reference to the feasibility of their development and utilization.
In 1927, Mr. Savage again made inspections of the principal irrigation projects in Western United States, reporting thereon
to President Coolidge. He also inspected irrigation and hydro-electric projects in Alberta and British Columbia, Canada.
In 1927 and 1928, he made a third trip around the world, visiting Latin-American Republics of South America, thence across
South America by the Transandine Railway, across the Atlantic, traveling 4,000 miles in South Africa, from Cape Town to the
Belgian Congo, continuing to Mozambique, Tanganyika, and Kenya, across the Indian Ocean, and to the interior of Northeast
India, thence to Arabia, Egypt, and the controlling works of the Nile. From here, he went to the Holy Land, thence over Asia
Minor to the Black Sea, continuing through Turkey, Greece, Italy, Switzerland, and France to England and Scotland. In these
latter countries, he inspected the water supply and work at Manchester, the combined water supply project of Manchester and
Liverpool, and the water supply of Glasgow, returning by way of Ireland, thence across the Atlantic to Canada and the United
For a time Mr. Savage was associated with Research Service, Inc., of Washington, D. C.
After five years of fruitless endeavor by the City of San Diego, to make some progress in the development of its water resources,
within which time the Sutherland Dam was begun and later abandoned, the citizens had become so insistent in demanding the
return of Mr. Savage that the City Council deemed it necessary to comply with their demands; accordingly, on July 2, 1928,
he again took charge of the Municipal Bureau of Water Development, Operation, and Maintenance. From this time until his death
he served the City with zeal and untiring energy. Even during his last sickness, he insisted on being informed daily regarding
the progress of the work under his charge.
During this last engagement negotiations and acquisitions of rights of way and water rights progressed as rapidly as economically
possible. Arrangement with the Federal Government was made relative to securing, when needed, an additional supply of water
from the Colorado River, and plans were developed for works for the conveyance of this supply. The El Capitan Dam was constructed
giving the city an additional supply of 10,000,000 gal per day.
Throughout his life Mr. Savage had an uncanny knowledge of human nature and exemplified great fortitude in overcoming obstacles
and in pushing work. His ability to find the ulterior motive, together with his unquestioned honesty of purpose and integrity,
made him loved by his friends and hated by those who opposed him.
His motto was "the most good for the greatest number throughout the longest time". Stoical as an Indian, he was never swerved
by praise or criticism.
In recognition of the valuable work he had done for the City of San Diego in the development of its water supply, the City
Council on July 9, 1934, changed the name of Lower Otay Dam to Savage Dam.
His foresight and ability to anticipate future needs and plan accordingly were remarkable. Sweetwater, Barrett, Morena, El
Capitan, and Savage Dams, which will serve the inhabitants of the San Diego area for ages to come, will stand as monuments
to his ability as a man and as an engineer.
Mr. Savage was married in December, 1891, to Linna Bell Clough, of New Hampshire, who died in October, 1897. Two daughters
were born to them, Lucy Eunice (Mrs. Robert L. Colthart) and Laura Ada (Mrs. Lawrence W. Hoppe). In 1927, Mr. Savage was married
to Eugenia Hurlock, of Maryland, who, with his daughters, survives him.
He was a member of the University Club and the Rotary Club of San Diego. He was also a member of the Masonic Order. Mr. Savage
was elected an Associate Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers on March 7, 1894, and a Member on October 7, 1896.
The materials in series 1 (Savage papers) and 3 (Barrett and Morena Dams) were given to the Water Resources Collections and
Archives by Paul Beerman, San Diego City Hydraulic Engineer, in January 1963.
[identification of item], [date if possible]. Hiram Newton Savage papers (WRCA 061). Water Resources Collections and Archives.
Special Collections & University Archives, University of California, Riverside.
Collection Scope and Contents
Reports, papers, maps and photographs covering early U.S. Reclamation Service projects and water resources development projects
throughout San Diego County.
Copyright has not been assigned to the Water Resources Collections and Archives. All requests for permission to publish or
quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Director of Distinctive Collections. Permission for publication
is given on behalf of the Water Resources Collections and Archives as the owner of the physical items and is not intended
to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the
library's online public access catalog.
United States Reclamation Service
Barrett Dam (Calif.)
Dams -- California -- Cottonwood Creek (San Diego County) -- Design and construction
Dams -- California -- San Diego County
El Capitan Dam (Calif.)
Lower Otay Dam (Calif.)
Morena Dam (Calif.)
Morena Reservoir (Calif.)
Reclamation of land -- California -- San Diego County
San Diego River (Calif.)
Sweetwater Dam (Calif.)
Water resources development -- California -- San Diego County
Water-supply -- California -- San Diego County
Water-supply engineering -- California -- San Diego County
Waterworks -- California, Southern