Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Dutch Flat and Donner Lake Wagon Road

From: "Warren Awtrey" young.house@verizon.net

I’m trying to understand differing opinions I’ve read regarding the Dutch Flat and Donner Lake Wagon Road.

Everyone agrees that the DFDLWR was essential to the building of CPRR, and that the DFDLWR was the one route between Sacramento and the Washoe district unencumbered by a state-franchised toll road.

And most of the literature I’ve read agrees that the DFDLWR was highly profitable, as Jack Duncan writes in To Donner Pass from the Pacific: “As the railhead moved higher in the Sierra Nevada Mountains from Sacramento, transfer facilities and warehouses were built at several railheads, such as Newcastle, Clipper Gap and Cisco, reducing the distance that wagons had to haul between the railhead and Washoe. Shorter road travel to the silver mines encouraged use of the DFDLWR in preference to other roads. The combined rail/wagon travel between Sacramento and Washoe soon allowed the DFDLWR to offer more comfortable service than the Pacific Turnpike, Henness Pass and the Placerville roads. As a result the DFDLWR captured most of the tolls.”

But as Wendell Huffman writes, “Despite their expectations, the Huntington-Stanford-Hopkins-Crocker brothers-controlled Dutch Flat and Donner Lake Wagon Road attracted very little business and the connecting/parallel Central Pacific carried very little of the San Francisco-Virginia City commerce. The business they did secure was bound for Idaho.”

Can these two statements be reconciled?

The second statement above is especially intriguing. It was 1860 when Huntington, Stanford, et al, subscribed to Judah’s Central Pacific Railroad scheme. The riches promised by the Pacific Railroad Acts were still in the future. It would seem that the immediate motivation for these Sacramento merchants, all wanting to sell more goods in the burgeoning Nevada trade, was to have Judah survey a new, profitable wagon road for them. Were they completely wrong in judging the money to be made from the DFDLWR?

And then J. David Rogers writes in his paper "Theodore Judah and the Blazing of the First Transcontinental Railroad over the Sierra Nevadas," about the Placerville Road: “Among those speculators involved in the freight wagon route from Folsom to Carson City via Placerville were Leland Stanford and Collis Huntington, sponsors of the newly formed “Wagon Road Company.” Stanford, Huntington and eight other directors met in Placerville in June 1857 to discuss improvements to the road to Slippery Ford.  After the meeting convened these same individuals traveled the Johnson cut-off route over to Carson City.”

It seems odd that Huntington and Stanford, both already invested in (and Directors of?) the most popular wagon toll road to Nevada, would also put money in a competing wagon road going over Donner Pass.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

—Warren Awtrey


Anonymous Anonymous said...

From: "Oudegeest Bill" bill@donnersummithistoricalsociety.org

In 2003 [Mr. Hodges] entered a question ... looking for information about wagon roads over the Sierra. I see no response in the forum and wonder if you ever did find any relevant sources.

I am in search of the answer to a mystery and maybe some sources you’ve found will be helpful.

—Bill Oudegeest, Donner Summit Historical Society

5/26/2015 10:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sierra Railroad Survey Map by S.G. Elliot, 1860 showing wagon roads; California 4th State Surveyor General John Alexander Brewster, Aug. 1856 Map; David B. Scott, Aug. 1855 California Map— Can you help?

... I am doing some research on a section of the pioneer trail between Verdi Nevada and Truckee California. While I was doing research I came upon a reference to an 1860 survey map created by S.G. Elliott for the purpose of railroad construction. According to the source (California Historical Society Quarterly, vol #10, 1932, page 347), the map depicted various routes over the central sierra and of SPECIAL INTEREST to me the wagon roads as they existed in 1860. Do you know of the existence of this map or could you direct me to the appropriate sources? Sincerely —Edward Hodges 3/25/2003
P.S. ... My emphasis is on locating two maps of that area dated from the mid 1850's. The most important map was created by then State Surveyor General John Brewster in Aug. 1856. He prepared the map for the citizens of Downeville who were then competing with other Central California towns to have the first wagon road across the Sierra. I located the description of his survey in the Annual Report of the Surveyor General dated 1856. However, there was no map included and no mention of where to find it in the appendix. The other map covers the same general area and was created by David B. Scott in Aug. 1855. He too prepared his map for potential road building.

5/26/2015 10:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From: "Denny Dickinson" echosdad@hotmail.com
Subject: Survey Map by S. G. Elliott

... My name is Denny Dickinson. I was a historian doing research on Trout Creek for over six years in Truckee. My research stated when Joseph Gray built his way station which is now the corner of present day Bridge and Jiboom St. That corner is the California Emigrant Trial, the Dutch Flat Donner Lake Wagon Road, the Lincoln Highway, and US 40. I probably know more about Trout Creek than anyone. I am now a resident of the Land of New Mexico. I will be in Truckee to help my Optimist friends with the AirFair on July 11th [2015]. I would like to meet with you on Sunday, July 12th [2015] at the Truckee Donner Historical Society Library to share with you what I know.

I believe that I may have found an error on the very early USGS map. I have not been able to prove that fact because all the old railroad map do not show minor streams. The question is: Did the CPRR move the flow of Trout Creek when they built the railyard in Truckee?

I would like to know the answer to that question. I have gifted my research to the TDHS society. What I have to share is in that library.

Denny Dickinson Dixon, NM.

PS - Anyone who may have an interest is invited to be at that meeting in Truckee on Sunday, July 12th [2015]. Hope that you will be there. Bring Norm S. with you. I am sure that he can add to the discussion.

5/26/2015 10:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From: "Stephen Harris" stephenh321@gmail.com
Subject: Survey Map by S. G. Elliott

I am glad to learn of your interest in old maps and wagon roads in the greater Truckee area, with thanks to Denny Dickinson for the message. Denny and I have had a long interest in such matters, especially in the course of Truckee's Trout Creek through and around the Truckee Railyard. We have both repeatedly encountered the 'missing map' syndrome for early Truckee, along with frequent occurrence of later maps which are highly questionable or outright erroneous.

Regarding Trout Creek itself, I have spent much time exploring its reaches over the last 20+ years, having hiked its streamcourse many times, in various stages, from the Truckee River well into Tahoe Donner, and having camped at various sites in its canyon for extended periods of time. I have also participated in several years of stream monitoring programs with TRWC. But I defer to Denny in matters of actual history: I was astounded to learn from him that the creek in earlier times had been repeatedly dammed, diverted, sluiced, drawn dry, dumped on, polluted, buried or otherwise abused from at least as far upstream as Elle Ellen's Mill all the way to its mouth. The trouble persists in determining its original streamcourse between the Interstate crossing to the Truckee River, and Denny is right to point out the great historical significance of the old wagon road/Lincoln highway and Trout Creek intersection location. The Chinese of Truckee also figured prominently into this picture.

I have encountered several old maps, little more than detailed drawings, of Truckee purporting to be from the 1840's-1850's, and have made copies of them but cannot confirm their accuracy.

It would be grand to have in our possession the early maps of which you and Mr. Hodges speak; it would be even grander to locate a map, photograph, or even a description of the geographical layout of Truckee from the original Fremont expedition of 1844– don't you think? Could there possibly be some old Spanish/Mexican maps hidden away somewhere?

Please keep me in the information stream; I look forward to meeting with Denny myself in July [2015]. ...

—Stephen Harris, TDHS

5/26/2015 10:14 PM  

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