MS 34 Don M. Stewart Papers

Summary Information

San Diego History Center Document Collection
Stewart, Don M.
Don M. Stewart Papers
MS 34
1.0 Linear feet (2 boxes)
This collection contains personal papers of Don M. Stewart, documents on San Diego water development, and drafts of Stewart’s book “Frontier Port.”

Preferred Citation

Don M. Stewart Papers, MS 34, San Diego History Center Document Archives, San Diego, CA.

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Biographical / Historical Notes

Donald M. Stewart (1873-1969) was born in San Diego on August 3, 1873. His father, Daniel Stewart came to San Diego from England in 1868 and worked for the Panama Steamship Company. Donald was one of six children. He attended school in San Diego from 1882 to 1891. He then held jobs for the San Diego Sun, the Lion Clothing Company, and a building contractor in San Francisco. In 1899 he joined a goat hunting expedition to Guadalupe Island. That same year he was appointed as ensign in the Naval Military Service, which later became the National Naval Volunteers, and then the Naval Reserve. In 1900 he was employed by the Western Metal Supply Company. In 1903 he was elected to the City Council, choosing not to run for re-election in 1905. In 1902 he married Maude Wilson. They had three children: Donald M. b. 1904, Dorothy M. b. 1909, and Marjorie May Stewart Sanborn b. 1911.

In 1906 he left Western Metal Supply and joined W.H. Frazer in the real estate business. He later joined Harry Fisher and Company in the insurance business. In 1907 he organized an armed guard to accompany the British steamer Maori King to Guaymas, Mexico. He was employed by the Pacific Coast Steamship Company as office clerk and cashier until 1909 when he was elected City Treasurer and Tax Collector of San Diego. He served in the Navy from 1917 to 1919 as Lieutenant Commander of National Naval Reserves. During WWI he was assigned to the U.S.S. San Diego which was engaged in escorting troops to France from New York or Halifax. He was on leave when the San Diego was sunk after hitting a floating mine near Fire Island. He worked in real estate until 1921 when the City Council elected him to fill a vacancy on the Council. He served on the council until 1927. During Stewart’s terms on the city council, he was actively involved in efforts to increase San Diego’s water supply. Stewart was especially involved in efforts to bring Colorado River water to San Diego.

After leaving the City Council he returned to real estate, took over the business of Charles Cass and devoted his time to general insurance and property interests. In 1932 he became Chairman of the Democratic County Central Committee. Later he was appointed to the Executive Committee of the Democratic Party’s state organization. In May of 1934 U.S. Senator William G. McAdoo elected him Postmaster of San Diego (1934-1948).

He was involved in many social organizations and served as President of the San Diego Historical Society. In 1965 Wade Ritchie Press of Los Angeles published his book, Frontier Port. It chronicles the development of San Diego and its maritime history with the author’s personal experiences from 1880’s through the turn of the century. Don M. Stewart died June 14, 1969 in Lemon Grove. According to newspaper reports at the time of his death, he was the oldest living San Diego native.

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Scope and Content

This collection contains personal papers of Don M. Stewart, documents on San Diego water development, and drafts of Stewart’s book “Frontier Port.” His personal papers primarily cover his military service, political activities, and time as postmaster. The documents on San Diego water development were collected during his time on the City Council and Democratic County Central Committee. They cover several dam sites, the Sutherland-San Dieguito system, Boulder Canyon, and assorted other reports. The book “Frontier Port” is a collection of essays and anecdotes regarding Stewart’s experiences in San Diego from the 1880s and details the general conditions and maritime history of San Diego at the time.

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This collection is arranged in three series:

Series I: Personal Papers;

Series II: Water Development;

Series III: Frontier Port.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

San Diego History Center Document Collection February 1, 2017

1649 El Prado, Suite 3
San Diego, CA, 92101

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The San Diego History Center (SDHC) holds the copyright to any unpublished materials. SDHC Library regulations do apply.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Ruth Milburn in 1984, Sean Stewart in 2002, and Samantha Mills in 2017.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Boulder Canyon Project .
  • San Diego (Calif.). City Council.
  • United States. Naval Reserve.

Family Name(s)

  • Stewart Family

Geographic Name(s)

  • Barrett Dam (Calif.)
  • El Capitan Dam (Calif.)
  • Lower Otay Dam (Calif.)
  • Morena Dam (Calif.)
  • San Diego River (Calif.)
  • Sutherland Reservoir (Calif.)
  • Upper Otay Dam (Calif.)

Personal Name(s)

  • Fletcher, Ed
  • Jorgenson, Lars
  • Pyle, Fred
  • Savage, Hiram N.


  • Dams
  • Postmasters
  • Water development projects — California — San Diego County

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Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

The ledger book and papers in this collection are in good condition. The Freeman Report newspaper is brittle and badly yellowed. Use copy instead.

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In April of 2002 Don Stewart’s Frontier Port papers and the Certificates of Elections were combined with MS 34.

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Collection Inventory

 Series I: Personal Papers

Family Papers, 1871-1970


Tax receipts and reports; letters of introduction; letters of appointment; certificates of election; and membership cards. Certificate of membership of Daniel Stewart in Odd Fellows Mutual Aid Society in Oversize Collections D7.

Democratic Party Service, 1894-1950 1:2
Military Service, 1900-1964 1:3
Post Office Service, 1934-1950 1:4

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 Series II: Water Development

Correspondence, 1926-1931

Scope and Content:

Primarily including Don Stewart, Ed Fletcher, Lars Jorgenson, and El Capitan Citizens Committee.

Correspondence: Board of Water Commissioners, 1922 1:6
Correspondence: State Railroad Commission, 1925 1:7
Water Development: Dams, undated


Photos and statistics for Barrett Dam and Reservoir, Morena Dam, Lower Otay Dam, and Tajunga Dam.

Water Development: Sutherland-San Dieguito System, 1925-1951


“Estimated Revenue from San Dieguito Water System as it Exists 2-10-1925” and “Analysis of Income and Expenditures – San Dieguito Water Fund 1925-1932” in Oversize Collections D7.

Water Development: Boulder Canyon / All American Canal Project, 1934-1937 1:10
Water Development: Miscellanea, 1914-1928


Brochure against Mission Gorge No. 2; Water Commission report on acquisition of La Mesa, Lemon Grove, and Spring Valley Irrigation District; 1931 agreement between Southern California irrigation districts on water distribution; data for use in proposed settlement of San Diego River litigation.

Reports: H.N. Savage, 1914-1930 1:12
Reports: Freeman Report, 1924 1:13
Petition: Capitan Grande Indian Lands, 1930 1:14
Miscellanea, 1923-1938


Articles and advertisements (primarily regarding Ambursen Dam); expenditures from Sutherland Dam Bond Fund; and San Pasqual Valley Purchases Options.


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 Series III: Frontier Port

Chronology of Stewart Family, undated 2:1
Annotated drafts of Frontier Port, undated 2:2
Annotated drafts of Frontier Port, undated 2:3
Drafts of Frontier Port, undated 2:4
Uncut Proof of Frontier Port, 1965 2:5
Record of distribution of Frontier Port, 1967-1969 2:6

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