Member Biography

D.T. Townsend

David Thomas Townsend

(1878.04.01 - 1968.04.01)
Commission #025

An excerpt from Jack Holloway’s “History of the Alberta Land Surveyor’s Association” in which Jack was talking about Mr. Townsend’s input into the Association.

"In 1929, these desultory conditions began to show signs of change. While the Association had been coasting along, business conditions had greatly improved and lack of activity on the part of the members themselves had for the time being become a thing of the past. In his presidential address, Mr. Townsend gave the Annual Meeting of 1929 a remarkably cheerful picture of the state of the provincial economy. “Canada is prosperous,” he said, “as never before in her history, and in Alberta we have been blessed with the lion’s share of that prosperity.” Bank managers, railway presidents and insurance company directors were all predicting an era of unparalleled development, agriculture was thriving, the mining industry was booming, the construction business had reached a new peak of activity and all the land surveyors were busy. There was much to be thankful for and much more to come. "

That was at the beginning of the year when the bottom fell out of the stock market and many other human enterprises, and the Great Depression of the dirty thirties descended upon the land and remained for seven lean years that made all previous hard times seem comparatively opulent. But in that happy month of January there were no clouds on the horizon, and the outlook for the surveying profession had never been better.

A write up in the Canadian Pacific Railway staff bulletin June 5, 1943.(1)

"One of those who helped survey the Calgary district in the early days, David T.Townsend, Chief Surveyor for the Company’s Department of Natural Resources, Calgary,, since 1912, retired April 30th after 36 years with the company. Among western towns which Mr. Townsend surveyed were Outlook, Kerrobert, Coronation, Empress, Assiniboia and Shaunavan. After experience with the “Niagara, St.Catherine and Toronto Railway” in 1906 along with obtaining his Commissions as an Ontario Land Surveyor # 383 in 1906 and his Dominion in 1907, he was employed by the Company as a townsite surveyor in Winnipeg. He became Chief Surveyor for the Company in 1912. "

The write-up also noted that after 36 years of service, the C.P.R. presented Mr. Townsend with a Gladstone bag and flowers for Mrs. Townsend.

An article by A. Griffin entitled “The D.N.R. and its part in the Development of the West” and published by the Canadian Pacific Railway (no Date) states in part:

"In 1916 the Department of Natural Resources was divided, with the formation of the Department of Colonization and Development with Colonel J.S.Dennis as Chief Commissioner with head office in Montreal. The history of the Company’s land grants and their administration is the history of the settlement and Development of Western Canada. "

This quote may or may not please all historians, however it should play a role in our history of the Saskatchewan Land Surveyor’s Association book which will be published before our 100th anniversary in 2010.

Upon his employment with the Canadian Pacific Railway Mr. Townsend obtained other Land Surveyor Commissions: Saskatchewan Land Surveyor # 25 in 1910, Alberta Land Surveyor #58 in 1911 and his Manitoba Commission # 51 in 1914. I noted a reference that Mr. Townsend was an associate member of the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers, now the Engineering Institute of Canada, however I do not have any information as to which University he attended. I assume it was a University in Eastern Canada, circa 1905.

Mr. Townsend was President of the Alberta Land Surveyors Association in 1928, 1933 and again in 1937. He also served as President of the Saskatchewan Land Surveyors Association in 1925 and was made a Life Member in 1944. Interesting to note that in 1914 the initiation fee for membership in the Saskatchewan Land Surveyors Association was $5.00 and registration for the year was $1.00

Mr. Townsend was born in Mt. Vernon, Ontario, passed away, at the age of 90 in 1968 and buried in the Union Cemetery, Calgary. His wife, Florence predeceased him, in 1961 and to my knowledge they had one daughter.

(1) Material obtained from Mr. R.C. Kennell, Manager, CPR Heritage Services, G-1, 910 Peel St., Montreal, PQ. H3C 3E4.

Compiled by J. H. Webb, June 2004

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