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The Oregon Surveyor


Vol. 40, No. 2


surveying efforts contributed to the opening of the

west. Graduating first in his class from the United

States Military Academy at West Point, he earned

an appointment to the Corps of Engineers in 1853.

Serving in in this capacity, Stevens gained experience

in engineering and surveying while supervising

construction of a number of eastern coastal fortifica-

tions. He eventually earned command of the US Coast

Survey office in Washington DC. After appointment

as Governor of the Washington Territory in 1853,

Stevens won a government bid to survey a railroad

route across the northern United States. He surveyed

this route between March and November of 1853 as

he traveled to the Washington Territory to assume

his position as Governor in Olympia. The route

surveyed by Stevens and his party became part of the

Northern Pacific Railroad. Stevens wrote a book of his

expedition to the Washington Territory titled “Report

of Explorations for a Route for the Pacific Railroad

near the 47th and 49th Parallels of North Latitude,

from St. Paul, Minnesota, to Puget Sound.”

A one-time surveyor, respected soldier, and a

somewhat controversial governor, Stevens left an

indelible mark on the Northwest. His survey of the

Northern railroad, settlement of Indian treaties,

and support of infrastructure in the northwest

contributed greatly to development and settlement.

Sources conflict with regard to Stevens’ popularity.

While some called for his removal as governor for

his treatment of the tribes, overall he was quite

popular with many people of the territory. Rather

than being removed from office by President

Pierce as some advocated, Stevens was eventually

elected to Congress in 1857 and left the Washington

Territory, never to return. After the start of the Civil

War in 1861, Stevens left congress and rejoined the

army. Isaac Ingalls Stevens was killed at the Battle

of Chantilly while leading a charge against General

Stonewall Jackson on September 1, 1862.


Oregon Geographic Names (Sixth Edition)


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