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

Captain Lane was not Ready to Give Up

Captain Lane was not ready to give up yet in his fight for a public highway. During the trial the judge had directed that if any individuals wanted a toll adjustment when utilizing the public road, they must apply to the Supervisors. The Board alone, he stated, had the right to regulate toll on the road.

Lane subsequently circulated a petition, which was signed by D. Cahill, William Pierce, John Prothero, and others living on the river, requesting that they be allowed to reopen the old road at the earliest opportunity. The petition was submitted to the Board and discussed during the meeting of December 7, 1875. It read, in part:
    Your petitioners living on the Mojave River being heavily taxed in consequence of the high rates of toll charged on the Toll Road running through the Cajon Pass in the County, and the old Road formerly running through the said Pass having been hindered and totally obstructed by the owner of the said Toll Road, which is itself almost impassable, respectfully ask that they be allowed the privilege of opening the old road through the said Cajon Pass.
The Board granted the petition without further comment, thereby setting up a potential confrontation, though no reports of subsequent conflicts can be found.

The Board's grant of the petition came to naught, and complaints about the toll road resumed. In October of 1876 the newspaper published an editorial on the issue, being very careful not to accuse the respected proprietor of the turnpike of being remiss:
    We have heard many complaints from persons living on the Mojave on account of the expense they are under in traveling to and from town by having to pay high rates of toll and many of the settlers are even talking of transfering their trade from this town to Mojave Station [Kern County railroad station]. No complaints are made of the road or its proprietor, who is under very heavy expenses in keeping the same in repair, and to whom they give the credit of doing his duty faithfully, but they think that, as the county is benefitted by their trade it should furnish them a road at public expense and relieve them of the onerous tax to which they are now subjected.
A burden which is crushing to the few becomes light when supported by the many. If a fair figure were offered, the proprietor would undoubtedly dispose of his franchise and the road could be opened to the public. It may be well for our Supervisors to give this matter their serious consideration as we are not strong enough to bear the loss of the business of so important a tract as the Mohave.

Months passed with no action being taken, until finally the Supervisors ordered John Brown to appear before them and explain why the toll should not be reduced. Following a delay due to illness, Brown did appear before the Board on March 11, 1878, to plead his case. He successfully argued to keep the old toll rates, but the Board ordered one modification in the toll collection: he was to allow teams and wagons hauling forage to the summit to pay only one way, provided they returned empty.

Brown also was ordered to construct two turnarounds in the upper narrows, and to improve the road at a place called Point of Rocks, also located in the upper narrows (not to be confused with Point of Rocks on the Mojave River). He was given a deadline of June 1, 1878, to complete the improvements.

One week before the deadline, on May 24, 1878, Brown sold the toll road franchise to Jesse Tay and Charles M. Lawrence, both of whom were miners prior to coming to San Bernardino in 1875. Having learned from his experience with the Driggers case and perhaps fearing further action by the Board of Supervisors, Brown inserted a clause in the transfer documents to protect himself from future grief:
    The grantor in no way guarantees the right to collect tolls on said road nor the validity of the said franchise nor its duration nor the legality of such tolls, but the grantees assume all risk as to those matters, and to take this transfer subject to such risk and no claim or adjudication in any way impairing or annulling the right to collect on diminished tolls on said road shall ever in any manner create any liability against grantor....
On the same day as the sale, Tay and Lawrence took out a mortgage that included the Bear Flat Ranch property and all of its improvements. They then moved the lower tollgate to the ranch, and headquartered all their operations there.

October 17, 1882, was a day for the Mojave settlers to celebrate. That was the day the charter for the turnpike finally expired, and the road became a public thoroughfare. One of the newspapers reported, "Some ingenious person has draped the toll gate pole in black and swung it over the road so travelers may mourn over the event of its demise, but at the top of the pole is a sprig of evergreen, emblematic, we suppose, that no more toll has to be paid." It is easy to imagine Aaron as one of those who had a hand in the ceremonial last rites for the tollgate, but the responsible parties remain anonymous.

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ecology: wildlife - plants - geography: places - MAPS - roads & trails: route 66 - old west - communities - weather - glossary
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