Orren M. James Survey Collection

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    Orren M. James Survey Collection (1895 - 1938)

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    Orren M. James (sometimes known as Orrin M. James) was born in Northwood, NH about 1869.  His father, Samuel James, was a farmer and land surveyor.  Orren attended Coe's Northwood Academy in 1888 and then enrolled in New England College in 1889.  He soon transferred to the Agricultural College in Durham, where he graduated from the Thompson School in 1893.  At graduation, James read his paper, "New Hampshire Roads".  He studied Civil Engineering at Harvard before returning home to enter business with George Lane of Chichester (about 1895).

    After two years in business with Lane, James joined the New Hampshire Department of Roads.  The Department was housed in the carriage house behind the house of his father.  In 1902, James married Abbie Adelia Lane, the daughter of his former partner.

    James believed in technological innovation and was one of the first in town to own an automobile (a Reo in 1906), to have electrical service (1925) and to have a telephone (early 1920s).  A hard working man, he wrote, "Work is a good thing for a fellow when taken in moderate doses."

    James was a member of the Grange and served on the Governor's Council.  He played the flute in the Shriner's Band.  He died in Northwood on December 13, 1938.

    Chapter 30 of the laws of 1935 permitted the Governor and Council of New Hampshire to purchase engineering or surveying plans from the estates of deceased professionals if they are of benefit to the State.  The only records purchased by the State under this law are these of Orren James.  For a number of years, they were kept by the N.H. Highway Department but in 1982, these records were transferred to the Archives.

    James understood the need to preserve old surveying plans and he kept or traced many town lotting plans.  These plans are generally indexed by town first and then by land owner's name.  There are exceptions to this rule, however, especially when the town couldn't be determined.  The Archives staff needs to know the plan number, which follows the town, usually a 3 or 4-digit number (though occasionally a 6-digit number beginning with 450 or 451).  Orren James' fieldbooks are also held at the Archives but a general index has not yet been created and finding the notes to support a particular plan will require the researcher to spend some time searching several books.