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Papers of James L. Ogilvie

Identifier: WJLO

Scope and Contents

The Papers of James L. Ogilvie consists of documents dated 1889 to 1992, with the bulk falling from 1955 to 1980. The collection contains professional files related to Ogilvie's career with the Bureau of Reclamation, largely related to the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. Significant among these are his desk diaries, which serve as a guide to his daily activities. The other dominant topic is the Denver Water Board. Main material types are correspondence, notes, newsletters, reports, clippings, publications, maps and speeches. Also included are a small amount of personal papers; professional, military and personal photographs; a videotape; and some drafting tools and equipment.


  • Creation: 1889-1992
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1955-1980


Restrictions on Access

There are no access restrictions on this collection. All "confidential" markings on correspondence or other materials have been determined to be for administrative purposes, not national security information; therefore, these materials are open for access.

Restrictions on Use

Not all of the material in the collection is in the public domain. Researchers are responsible for addressing copyright issues.


James L. Ogilvie had a long career with the United States Bureau of Reclamation in the field of irrigation and water management. He worked successfully on the Colorado-Big Thompson project and was the project manager for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project in southeast Colorado.

Born January 4, 1911, on the family farm in Weld County, Colorado, James Ogilvie attended the State Agricultural College (now Colorado State University) and earned a Civil Engineering degree in 1933. After graduating, he found employment with the Bureau of Public Roads (now the Department of Transportation), surveying areas for new roads. In 1938, he embarked upon his career with the Bureau of Reclamation, where his responsibilities included collecting, surveying, and planning design data.

Ogilvie continued this work until called to military duty during World War II. From 1942 until 1946, he served with the Aviation Engineer Battalion of the Corps of Engineers in the South Pacific, helping to construct a major airport and base in New Guinea. After an honorable discharge as a Lieutenant Colonel, he returned to the Bureau of Reclamation in Colorado.

At the Bureau, his responsibilities steadily grew. He worked successfully on the Colorado-Big Thompson project and performed office engineering, contract administration, budgeting and reporting duties. This was followed by Denver regional office work that included activities in Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska and Kansas. Subsequently, he became Assistant Regional Director with responsibility for major programs and staff functioning in a four-state area. When the Bureau began planning for the multi-million-dollar Fryingpan-Arkansas Project in southeast Colorado, the Bureau named Ogilvie the Project Manager. For this work he subsequently earned the agency's highest recognition for excellence, the Distinguished Service Award.

After retiring from the Bureau in 1970, James Ogilvie continued to focus his attention on the water needs of Colorado. He worked with the Denver Board of Water Commissioners as its manager and oversaw the implementation of water policies affecting the Denver area until his retirement in 1980.

Ogilvie was also active in other Colorado organizations. He served on the Denver Regional Transportation District Board, held leadership positions with the Denver Chamber of Commerce, and participated in the Denver Rotary Club. He also maintained close ties with Colorado State University, conducting several guest lectures and serving on the Dean's Council Board of Directors for the College of Engineering. His Alma Mater recognized his outstanding service to the state and the school by designating him an Honor Alumnus in 1992.

James Ogilvie was married to Freda (nee Schank) in 1934. They raised two sons, James Thomas, a doctor, and David Allen, a lawyer. James Ogilvie died in Denver on November 13, 1995.


16 linear feet (9 record cartons, 1 document box, 5 flat boxes)

Language of Materials



James L. Ogilvie (1911-1995) had a long career with the United States Bureau of Reclamation in the field of irrigation and water management. He worked on the Colorado-Big Thompson Project and was the project manager for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project in southeast Colorado. The collection contains professional files related to Ogilvie's career as well as desk diaries, which serve as a guide to his daily activities, and photographs. A portion of the collection is digitized and online.


The files are largely retained in original order. Their folder labels and thus their entries in this guide reflect James Ogilvie's methods of handling and identifying his own records. The exception is the photographs, which were isolated from the other materials for better storage.

The collection consists of 3 series in 15 boxes:

Series 1: Papers, 1934-1992 and undated

Series 2: Photographs, 1889-1986 and undated

Series 3: Artifacts, undated


The Papers of James L. Ogilvie was donated to the Colorado Agricultural Archives on July 1, 1999, and transferred to the Water Resources Archive on July 5, 2001.

Online Materials

Some materials have been scanned and are available through the Colorado State University Libraries website. In the electronic version of this document, direct links appear in context.

Related Collections

The Water Resources Archive has the collections of Whitney M. Borland and Carl J. Hoffman, who were similarly Bureau of Reclamation engineers, as well as the collection of Gilbert G. Stamm, who was Bureau Commissioner during the 1970s. The Archive also holds the Papers of Charles C. Fisk, who worked at the Denver Water Board. The Water Oral Histories Collection contains a December 13, 1996, oral history interview with Ogilvie's wife, Freda, in which she discusses his personal and professional life.


After arriving in the Water Resources Archive, the collection was weeded, and several boxes of professional books and journals and CSU publications were selected out. A box of photographs, originally designated to be returned to the Ogilvie family, was processed in July 2006. At that time, other photographs in the collection were relocated to be with these and all were sleeved. Duplicates and photos of animals were discarded, as were all nitrate negatives. Reboxing and some refoldering of the rest of the collection also took place. Some unneeded documents were removed as well. Additional photographs and negatives originally with the collection were found and added in March 2017.

Inventory Note

Note: Supplied information in the inventory is bracketed. Abbreviations used are ASCE for American Society of Civil Engineers, DWB for Denver Water Board, and JLO for James L. Ogilvie.

Guide to the Papers of James L. Ogilvie
Edited Full Draft
Prepared by John Newman; Revised by Patricia J. Rettig and Ruth Williamson
Copyright 2006
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the CSU Libraries Archives & Special Collections Repository

Fort Collins Colorado 80523-1019 USA