Member Biography

J.D. Shepley

Joseph Drummond Shepley

(1879.09.13 - 1963.08.28)
Commission #005

One of Mr. Shepley’s favourite stories was the one where he felt he was one of the few, if not the only one, to run down an antelope. Quote:

“In the early days, shortly after Saskatchewan became a Province, he was surveying with a crew north of Swift Current. They had run out of meat and were living on porridge and pancakes until this type of food started to come out of their ears. One morning they spotted a herd of antelope in a ravine, which they knew, narrowed at one end.. They sent one of the men out around to drive the antelope up the narrow end of the ravine. The rest of the men hid along the edge of the ravine until the antelope came opposite them, then, Mr. Shepley ran along the edge of the ravine and jumped on the back of one of the stragglers. The force of the fall broke the antelopes back, and needless to say one and all were happy to be back on a meat diet come supper time.”

Mr. Shepley was born near Amhertsburg in Essex County, Ontario on September 13, 1879. Upon graduation from high school in 1897, he obtained a teachers certificate, taught school a few years and then received his diploma from the School of Practical Science, Toronto in 1904. He continued his education with a Bachelor of Arts in Science, 1905.

In 1906 he became assistant to Mr. W.W. Meadows D.L.S., District Engineer, Department of Public Works, Saskatchewan. Another Easterner who realized the west was good for him! In 1906 he also received his commission as a Dominion Land Surveyor. This stood him in good standing with the Department and he was made District Engineer and Land Surveyor for the Battleford District, Department of Public Works, Saskatchewan. He held this position until 1912, at which time he commenced his own private practice as an engineer and land surveyor. While with the Department he was granted commission number 5 in Saskatchewan, when the Saskatchewan Land Surveyors Association was formed in 1910. His commission as an Alberta Land Surveyor was granted to him in 1913 as numbers 101.

In 1914 Mr. Shepley wrote to the then secretary treasurer of the Saskatchewan Land Surveyor’s Association, Mr. H.G. Phillips asking his advice on costs to appear in court as a professional witness. The letter read in part:

“I have to appear in court shortly as a professional witness. Once before I was called as witness and received $5.00 per day. I’ve heard we could claim $15.00 per day but I cannot point to any authority. Please advise.”

The author could not find any answer.

During the late 1920’s and 1930’s, surveying and engineering projects were non-existent, so Mr. Shepley added C.L.U. (Chartered Life Underwriter) to his name in 1926 and represented various assurance companies.

In 1929, the Rural Municipality of Paradise Hill # 501, Saskatchewan wrote to the Saskatchewan Land Surveyors Association questioning Mr. Shepley's account for work that he had performed for them. It read in part.

“The items are (A). Days with car. It is thought that with men at work, payment is being made for car standing idle, use being made for home trips only.”

Maybe the present day surveyors should look into this misuse of accounting practice.

1932 was a tough year for surveyors as noted in a letter dated March 1932 from Mr. Shepley to the association. Quote:

“I’ve been thinking of retiring from surveying but will register another year if not too late to get in at $10.00”

The Lieutenant Governor for Saskatchewan, in 1936, proclaimed that all persons holding a commission under the late sovereign were required, as soon as possible, to take the Oath of Allegiance. Our act said the oath could be taken either before the secretary of the association or before a Judge of the Court of King’s Bench or district Court. Evidently Mr. Shepley signed his before a Judge who merely initialed the oath and did not sign it. This caused much bureaucratic grief.

From 1938 until 1944 Mr. Shepley left his practice and worked with the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act (PFRA) as a land surveyor. While with the PFRA he was elected President of the Saskatchewan Land Surveyors Association in 1941. After World War ll, 1945, he again went into private practice in North Battleford, Saskatchewan until he retired.

The biography of Mr. Shepley, as published in our association reports of 1964 shows him as as a Dominion Land Surveyor in 1904 and a Manitoba and North West Territory commission in 1906. I believe these statements are in error.

Mr. Shepley was made a Life Member of our association in 1953.

I visited Mr. Shepley in 1958 when he was living at 1071 Arthur Street, North Battleford, Saskatchewan. The house, known as the ‘’Shepley House’’, was built by Mr. Shepley in 1908 and is still occupied as a residence. Mr. Shepley informed me,in 1958, that his phone, which was still in use, was the oldest phone being used in the City of North Battleford.

Mr. Shepley was of the Masonic Order. He was married to Effie Hamilton and they had three children, Eva H; Marjory H. (Mrs (Dr) W.H.A.Gordon and Jean B.D.

J.H. Webb SLS (Life Member) June, 2002

(See also biography on Alberta Land Surveyors Association web site.)