Chapter 2

WAGON ROADS DOWN THE CANYON?

Page 4

SEC. 25. This Act shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage.

Both bills were approved by the legislature and signed into law on March 31, 1866.

Shortly after the first bill was signed into law a certificate of incorporation of the Oroville & Beckwourth Pass Wagon Road Company was filed June 18, 1866. The declaration of intention stated that the object of the organization was the construction of a wagon road from the town of Oroville, by the way of the north or the middle fork of Feather River to Beckwourth pass. The subscribers to the articles of incorporation were N. C. Cunningham, R. C. Chambers, Richard Irwin, Samuel Goodwin, James H. Houck, R. E. Garland, J. E. Edwards, David Every, John Hardgrave, and Jobe T. Taylor.

With the second bill also becoming law upon signature of the governor a special election was called on the question of voting $10,000 in aid of the construction of the road from Quincy to Indian Valley, by the way of Spanish creek. A company, the Quincy and Indian Valley Wagon Road Company, was thus organized with W. A. Bolinger, president, A. F. Blood, secretary, and S. J. Clark, treasurer.

These two companies brought Keddie some of his first professional work since leaving San Francisco when he was hired to explore the north and middle forks of the Feather River for suitable routes for these new wagon road companies. His report of survey for the Oroville and Beckwourth Pass road was due by March 31, 1867.

In early February 1867, as if in mockery of the elements during one of the severest of California winters, Keddie and his surveying party began the work to survey the Feather River, with a view to ascertain its adaptability for a wagon road, from Oroville, through Plumas County, to Beckwourth's Pass through the eastern range of the Nevada Mountains. The period of mid-winter was chosen in which to make the survey, in order that the mooted question of a road along the river and below the snowline might be fully set at rest, by an actual survey during the winter season.

In a notation of February 13 in his diary Keddie wrote; “I left Greenville on an exploring expedition down the north fork and up the middle fork of the Feather River to find a good location for a wagon road for Bolinger and Chambers.” And from a letter of the same time to his future wife; “Our job is to explore the north fork to Oroville, then go up the middle fork past Nelson point as far as Beckwourth Pass. I have to report as to which is the best route for a winter road. If the north fork is best, the Indian Valley people will get out of the mountains by coming down to the junction of Spanish and Indian Creeks, then down the river to Oroville. If the middle fork is best they will have to go to Quincy and Nelson Point and then down the river, though the two points that the road must connect are Oroville and Beckwourth Pass.”

Mr. Keddie and his party were on the north fork of the Feather River route for over two weeks, and arrived in Oroville on Saturday March 2, 1867. They were midway on the river between Indian Valley and Oroville during a heavy winter storm the previous week when the snow fell low down on the foothills, and on the mountains surrounding them, but no snow reached the line of their survey along the river. The rain, however, fell in torrents, and on the mountains above them snow fell to a depth of five feet. During the storm they were encamped a short distance above Big Bar, thirty-five miles below Indian Valley, and thirty miles above Oroville. The first snow they encountered was at Yankee Hill after they had left the river to avoid an extensive bend to the eastward. Yankee Hill could however be approached every day in the year, as the snow never fell there to a depth greater than eight or ten inches, and disappeared immediately, a point well known to the residents of Butte County. At Rich Bar, snow fell sometimes to the depth of eight or ten inches but remained only for a day or two. Of course the surveying party was unable to state whether any snow fell during the late storm on the upper half of the line of their route; but they knew that there was none on the whole line of their route when they passed over it, until they left the river for Yankee Hill. They reported the route easy and practicable for a wagon road, with light work of construction. Mr. Keddie pronounced it entirely practicable for a railroad.

The north fork route for the Oroville and Beckwourth Pass wagon road would be through Quincy. From that point down Spanish Creek to the east branch of the north fork, a survey had previously been made for a road to Taylorville in Indian Valley. The starting point of the present survey was at the point where this road crossed the East Branch at Soda Bar, five miles from Indian Valley. The points and distances on this route, as determined by the application of the links and the chain, were as follows:

From Quincy to Soda Bar, (East Branch) 12
From Indian Valley to Soda Bar 5
To Kingsbury’s 6
Twelve Mile Bar 3
Rich Bar 4
Junction Bar, (East Branch and North Fork) 3
Long Bar Bridge 4 1/2
Rock Creek 9 1/3
Shores' Bar 1 1/8
Big Bar 8
Yankee Hill 0
West Branch Bridge 4
Pence's Ranch 4 1/8
Oroville 12
Total distance from Indian Valley to Oroville, 67 miles: from Quincy to Oroville 70 miles.

This of course was but the preliminary survey, to determine distances and the practicalities of the route.

The act authorizing the Oroville and Beckwourth Pass Wagon Road Company permitted either the north or middle fork of the Feather River to be chosen as the route; and the surveying party left Oroville on Monday morning, March 4, and Bidwell Bar the next day, to ascend the middle fork, the head waters of which have their rise in Beckwourth Valley and in the mountains surrounding it in the close vicinity of Beckwourth's Pass. Should this route be found, as many believed it would, to offer equal advantage and a considerable saving in distance, it would of course be adopted as it lead directly to Beckwourth Pass through mountains into Long Valley, intersecting the stage road from Virginia City to Susanville.

The survey of the north fork proved its entire practicability for a wagon road. Not a flake of snow on the line of the survey from Indian Valley to Oroville. The survey was made, too, during one of the most violent storms of an unprecedented season, when the engines and track of the Dutch Flat Railroad were buried so deep in snow as to render it impossible for the snow ploughs to make their way through it.

Mr. Keddie was familiar with the Dutch Flat route, and pronounced the Feather River route infinitely superior to it, in distance as well as in cheapness of construction and freedom from interruption by snow. He knew this route had grades much too easy to waste on a wagon road so back to Quincy he went having discovered what he felt sure would prove to be the best route for a transcontinental railway and the dream of having part in building it.

Keddie’s recommendation, which was delivered earlier than the deadline, was to build the wagon road following the north fork of the river condemning the middle fork as impassible. Keddie was supposedly the first white man to make the trip on either fork of the river and he reported strenuous climbing up the mountain side to circumvent obstacles before they could follow the river bed again. He also mentioned how very warm it was down in the canyon even though his reconnaissance was made in the dead of winter and there was snow on the mountains above. His estimate of the cost to build the wagon road was $150,000.

Besides being a good location for a wagon road, he also reported that the country of the north fork and Beckwourth Pass presented a potential route for a railroad across the Sierra Nevada’s via Beckwourth Pass, a crossing roughly 2000 feet lower than Donner Pass and far more advantageous than any other line north of Tulare County. This portion of Keddie’s report doomed the Oroville & Beckwourth Pass Wagon Road Company to failure and the project failed. No construction work was ever accomplished on the road as the incorporators now turned their attention to railroad building instead.

However on the Quincy and Indian Valley Wagon Road work was commenced under the management of William H. Blood; but as the county failed to vote a subsidy, and Mr. Blood died after a few miles had been constructed, the project was abandoned. In March 1870 however, the legislature authorized the county to issue bonds to the amount of $20,000 for the completion of this road. A. W. Keddie, the county surveyor, was directed to make a survey of the route, and then the contract for construction was let to John D. Goodwin, who represented the interests of William G. Young and M. B. Bransford, for the $20,000 bonds. The terms of the bonds stated they were to build the road from Dixie canyon to the crossing of Little Black Hawk, and to have the tolls of the road for ten years; $1,500 more were paid to complete the road to Quincy. The road was constructed at an expense that left but little if any margin to the contractors.

Previous Page Previous Page  

Copyright © 1996 - 2017 by Frank Brehm. All Rights Reserved.