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Mojave Desert History - Pioneer of the Mojave
Toll Road through the Cajon Pass

More Problems with Indians and Floods

The keepers of the lower tollhouse fared much better with the Indians than those at the upper station. Louisa Waters wrote that her father had taken precautions against the Indians by building high board fences around both tollhouses, and that at the lower station he had dug a cave into an embankment to be used as refuge during an attack. Actually, it was more likely that the cave was used for storing supplies, as stated in an anonymous article appearing in a Covered Wagon Days program. The precautions at the lower tollhouse proved unnecessary, as the only difficulty with Indians there was when eight of their best horses were stolen.

The upper tollhouse was not as fortunate. There were further incidents involving Indians in and around the upper narrows, one of which was recounted by pioneer George Miller. Miller tells the story of the time Sydney P. Waite noticed a bluejay darting down on something concealed in the bushes on the bluff. Always on the alert for Indians, Waite was suspicious and fired a shot into the area where the bird was flitting about. Nothing moved, nor was there any sound, but after thinking about it overnight, he investigated the spot the next day and found the dead body of an Indian.

In December of 1867 another round of major storms began, and soon after the first of the new year, reports came in that the road had been greatly damaged and that the floods had "torn it all to pieces." It was virtually impassable, but Brown gave assurances that he would repair it as soon as the weather permitted. In a letter to the editor of the San Bernardino Guardian dated January 22nd, Brown wrote that he was making steady, if not rapid, progress on the restoration of his road:
    I am way up here above the clouds, amidst the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada, trying to repair the damage done to the Cajon road during the floods; I feel confident for the task, and am making good headway. Only two places remain bad and they are not so as to prevent teams from passing through the Caņon. A government train, heavily loaded, passed on the way to Camp Cady safe on Friday last.

    I would have made better progress in repairing my road, had not some villain broke my iron scrapers to pieces, carrying off my chains and injuring the tools I have to work with.
In a report to the Board of Supervisors, Brown gave a financial statement for the year ending December 31, 1867. He showed total expenses on the road equaled $8,203.45, while total receipts were only $6,261.68, for a net loss of $1,941.77. The report was included in the minutes of the November 19, 1867, meeting, so his figures had been projected to the end of the year. His costs, therefore, could not have included his losses from the heavy damages caused by the floods, and thus appear to be quite high for ordinary annual expenses.

In spite of Brown's declared losses, the Board ordered the toll rate to remain as originally established. This decision did not seem to be in accordance with the legislative act, which stipulated that the Supervisors "shall not so establish, or reduce, the rates of toll, so as to make the dividend on said road less than three per cent. per month upon a fair valuation of the said road...." A complete accounting is not given in the Board's minutes, so the reasons behind the decision to leave the toll unchanged are not fully known.

One area where Brown did receive some assistance was in a reduced appraisal, and therefore, a reduced tax. The toll road originally had been assessed at $1,000, but in 1867 the figure had declined to $800, and by 1869, the assessment was only $600. However, though the declining appraisals were a temporary financial advantage, they actually represented a reduction in the value of the road, which meant that Brown's investment was being undermined by the constant flooding problems.

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