Walter Mason Camp biographical information

Walter Mason Camp biographical information

Dates: circa 1925

Contains biographical sketches of Camp written for publication in railroad and engineering journals.

  • Extent: 1 folder
  • Creator: Camp, Walter Mason, 1867-1925
  • Call Number: MSS 57 Series 1
  • Repository: L. Tom Perry Special Collections; 19th Century Western & Mormon Manuscripts; 1130 Harold B. Lee Library; Brigham Young University; Provo, Utah 84602;
  • Access Restrictions: Open for public research.
Conditions of Use
It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Copyright to the Camp papers is held in part by the Harold B. Lee Library. No item, paper manuscript, or other materials in the Camp papers may be published in whole without written permission. Scholars desiring photocopying privileges must sign a statement agreeing not to publish the materials they receive. Permission to publish material from the Walter Mason Camp papers must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Board of Curators.
Preferred Citation
Walter Mason Camp biographical information; MSS 57; Walter Mason Camp papers; L. Tom Perry Special Collections; 19th Century Western & Mormon Manuscripts; 1130 Harold B. Lee Library; Brigham Young University; Provo, Utah 84602;
Other Finding Aids
Folder-level inventory available online.
Subject Terms
Camp, Walter Mason, 1867-1925
Genre / Form
Finding Aid ID Number
Finding Aid Title
Camp (Walter Mason) papers
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by E. Dennis Rowley and Neil Broadhurst (manuscript register)
Finding Aid Creator
This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit 2013-11-03T04:10-0700
Finding Aid Language
Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant, 2007-2008
Biographical Info:

Biographical History

Walter Mason Camp (1867-1925) was a civil engineer, specializing in railroad construction and maintenance, and a passionate chronicler of Indian life and customs, most particularly Indian Wars.

Walter Camp was born to Treat Bosworth Camp and Hannah A. Brown on April 21, 1867, at Camptown, Pennsylvania. His father was an insurance surveyor and author of insurance literature. In the Civil War he was captain of Company F, 52nd Pennsylvania Infantry, and was confined for a period in Libby Prison.

Camp's early life gave little hint that he was to become a major gatherer of information on America's Indian Wars. He seemed clearly destined instead to become exactly what he did become, a highly competent civil engineer, specializing in railroad construction and maintenance. He received his preliminary education by winter attendance at public school in Wyalusing, Pennsylvania. At the age of nine he was employed as fireman in a planing mill at Wyalusing; later he worked on farms and harvested lumber for four years.

In 1883, at the age of 16, Camp entered railway service on the Lehigh Valley Railroad, being employed first as a trackman and then as a chainman and rodman under the division engineer. While night trackwalker on the Lehigh Valley he acquired a working knowledge of telegraphy, thus beginning a forty-two year railroad career. In the fall of 1887 he entered Pennsylvania State College, and was graduated as a civil engineer in 1891.

His first job after graduation was with the Southern Pacific Company, where for a period of six months he was employed as surveyor in Fresno County, California, and after that as draftsman in the chief engineer's office at San Francisco. From 1892 to 1894 he was engineer in full charge of construction and later superintendent in charge of operation and maintenance of the Rainier Avenue Electric Railway in Seattle, Washington. He had charge of building a counterbalance system for assisting electric railway cars over heavy grades at Seattle in 1892, and was one of the first in this country to build and operate special equipment for freight traffic on electric railways. In 1894 and 1895 he was work-train foreman, surveyor, and section foreman on the Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern Railroad. In 1895 he resumed his studies as a post graduate student in electrical and steam engineering at the University of Wisconsin, and in 1896 taught for a while in the National School of Electricity in Chicago. He then became inspector and later superintendent of track construction on the Englewood & Chicago, a storage-battery road.

Camp became engineering editor of the Railway and Engineering Review (now the Railway Review) in 1897. There, he found the sphere of usefulness for which his talents and experience eminently fitted him, and for twenty-eight years he served faithfully and well as a railway editor.

As a writer Walter Camp commanded the respect of the railroad fraternity. He had a thorough knowledge of the practical side of railroading, and knew railroad conditions and needs. His published works, apart from thousands of pungent and useful editorials, included a standard work, Notes on Track, which was long used as a textbook in colleges having a railroad department. Also, he edited Samuel Folson Patterson: An Appreciation by Members of the American Railway Bridge and Building Association (Chicago, 1918), and wrote Railroad Transportation at the Universal Exposition, St. Louis, 1904. He was also the author of numerous papers published by engineering and historical associations, and held membership in the many railway organizations.

At Blue Island, Illinois, on May 2, 1898, Walter Camp married Emeline L. F. Sayles, daughter of Elliott Sayles.

In addition to his interest in railroads he had a cabin in the Michigan woods and a 240-acre dairy farm at Lake Village, Indiana, where he lived during his last years. But his interest in Indian life and customs, the Indian Wars and, in particular, the Little Bighorn River battle dominated his life. He was a trailblazer in his zeal to record the facts of history from the people who had witnessed that history. Beginning in about 1903, his vacations for twenty summers were usually spent in research among Indians and in talking with people who had survived the Little Bighorn River fight and other battles. He personally visited over forty battlefields and interviewed almost 200 survivors of western battles.

His research included the Washinta River fight, MacKenzie's raid on Dull Knife's village, Baldwin's fight with Sitting Bull on Redwater Creek, the battle of Wolf Mountain, the Lamedeer fight, the Nez Perce campaign, Baldwin's fight on the Little Porcupine, the Yellow Hand affair, the capture of Rain-In-The-Face, the death of Sitting Bull, and the Wounded Knee and White Clay Creek affairs. All of these occurred during Camp's boyhood or young manhood, a factor which no doubt increased his interest in them. Also, through the persistent efforts of Camp and General Anson Mills the exact site of the Slim Buttes fight was found and a marker erected.

Camp collected an incredible amount of original source material during his lifetime. However, his original plan was to write a history of the Seventh Cavalry. He even used such a title on his personal stationery. Later, his ambitions grew and he decided to write a history of the Indian wars. Unfortunately, he achieved neither goal, due in part to failing health and the heavy demands of his profession. He died on August 3, 1925, in Kankakee, Illinois, with his cherished dream of a written history unrealized.

[Much of the above biographical statement is excerpted from the Railway Review obituary.]

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Ryan Lee
Curator - 19th Century Western & Mormon Manuscripts