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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Collection Arrangement
  • Biography
  • Provenance
  • Preferred Citation
  • Collection Scope and Contents
  • Publication Rights
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Hiram Newton Savage papers
    Date (inclusive): 1905-1934
    Collection Number: WRCA 061
    Extent: 21.75 linear feet (24 boxes)
    Repository: Rivera Library. Special Collections Department.
    Riverside, CA 92517-5900
    Abstract: Materials related to Hiram N. Savage's involvement with U.S. Reclamation Service projects and other water projects in San Diego County.
    Languages: The collection is in English


    Collection is open for research.

    Collection Arrangement

    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 Engineers:
    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 other Divisions.
    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 States.
    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.

    Preferred Citation

    [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.

    Publication Rights

    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.

    Indexing Terms

    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