U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
William O. Owen, U.S. Deputy Surveyor
William "Billy" Owen moved to Laramie,Wyoming from Utah by emigrant wagon train with his mother and 2 sisters in 1868. Wyoming was actually part of Dakota Territory at that time. With the territorial capital being in Yankton, 500 miles distant, Laramie was a lawless railroad tent city.
In about 1869 or '70, Billy met two gentlemen with whom he would become intimately acquainted. These two engineers, pioneers and government surveyors were Mortimer N. Grant and William O. Downey. Mortimer Grant was a cousin of General Ulysses S. Grant. These two gentlemen were in business together and were city surveyors for the town of Laramie, county surveyors and US Deputy Surveyors.
From that day onward Billy Owen would have the direction of his life set. In 1873, Billy became an assistant on the crew of William Downey. He worked and went to school and in 1878 qualified as a civil engineer. His first survey contract as US Deputy Surveyor was for contract No.136 issued Sept. 20, 1881, and his last was contract No. 250 issued Sept. 2, 1891. This contract covered most of the Snake River and the valley around Jackson Hole to the west boundary of Wyoming.
Billy had many differing positions as a surveyor, he was county surveyor for Albany County, US Examiner of Surveys for the Department of Interior until his retirement in 1914, he was appointed US Mineral Surveyor for Wyoming in 1880 and executed many of the Mineral Surveys in the Medicine Bow and Hartville areas. He was elected State Auditor for Wyoming in 1894 and served for 4 years beginning Jan. 7, 1895.
Billy was the first to ascend the Grand Teton on August 11,1894. In 1927 the US Geographic Board named the second highest peak in the Teton range "Mount Owen" in recognition of Billy's climb. He toured Yellowstone National Park, by bicycle, in 1883. On July 29, 1878 while surveying with William Downey in the Medicine Bow range, the crew ascended Medicine Bow peak and observed a total eclipse of the sun. This latter point serves to illustrate the knowledge these early surveyors had of astronomy and mathematics.