David J. Macpherson was born in Ontario, Canada on Jan. 12, 1854. Unlike Lowe, he was highly educated, working his way through Cornell University in only three years, and graduating in 1877 with a degree in civil engineering. According to his daughter, Margaret, he earned the highest math rating at Cornell up to that time. He then took a job as a city planner in San Antonio, Texas. He was best known for his work as a civil engineer for the Santa Fe Railroad.
In 1885, motivated in part by the death of his father and siblings of TB and other illnesses, he moved to Pasadena, a city known for its fresh air and healthy climate. There he purchased a strip of land which ran through Pasadena Highlands to Altadena, where he built his home.
Macpherson was an outdoor enthusiast and avid hiker who envisioned a cable funicular railway taking passengers to the top of Mt. Wilson, the highest peak in the San Gabriel Mountains. He surveyed the terrain and sketched out a successful route to the top, but didn’t have the finances to build the railway.