The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

The Dollarhide Toll Road

Notes on the road from the Rogue Valley south over the Siskiyous.

Dollarhide Toll Road and Its History
    This article upon the Dollarhide toll road is furnished by C. B. Watson of Ashland, attorney for Mr. Dollarhide in his controversy with the county, and presents the Dollarhide view:
To the Editor:
    A week ago at 8 o'clock in the morning I started from the toll house on the Siskiyou Mountains for a tramp over the Pacific Highway. I was alone, but the beauty of the morning, the mountain and its gorgeous autumn coloring, the exhilarating atmosphere in this delightful altitude, the wonderful scenic beauty, this magnificent highway-to-be, and my reminiscent mood made for me the best of company. For more than forty years I have been familiarizing myself with this old mountain and know no experience that I enjoy more.
    If this highway shall be completed according to the plans and specifications made for it, and proper economy exercised, it will be a monument of lasting credit to the people of Jackson County and a suggestion of progressive spirit to the state of Oregon. It is certainly to be hoped that nothing shall be done or left undone by those having charge of this splendid enterprise which shall mar the personal interest they have in it or shall tend to criticize them for the part they play. Few men have better opportunity to construct a monument of magnitude to themselves.
    I followed the work on foot to the California line, and then on over the California portion of the highway to where it passes under the Southern Pacific railroad trestle beyond Bailey Hill.
    The Oregon part of the highway is much better than the California portion in some respects, and to people who shall travel over it will furnish a startling contrast. The Oregon portion has a roadbed from twenty-four to sixty feet in width, while the California part is restricted to nineteen feet. The alignment along the Oregon side is also much better; points are cut through or cut off which necessarily adds width and yardage (and consequently cost), but also brings the sinuosity of the road to a minimum and does away with sharp and dangerous curves. On the California portion, the roadbed being narrow, with consequently lower banks on the upper side and a narrower roadbed of solid earth, the curves are more frequent, with sharper turns and dangerous crowding onto the lower fills that constitute the outside of the bed. The grade is excellent on both sides and excepting the narrower bed and poorer alignment with the consequent disadvantages, the construction work on the California end is first class. The Oregon portion is first-class highway work, which also means that it is expensive. I asked no one, but estimate that about 80 percent of the roadbed work is completed. This means that if the winter weather should set in early the roadbed will not be completed this winter, which would be very unfortunate. If this part of the work shall be completed this fall and hard surfacing is to be done over it, the road will not be open for travel before July 1915, and if the rains should extend into June with a hard winter between now and that time, the hard surfacing will not be completed for next summer travel--if at all--until in the fall.
    During the winter this grade should be carefully attended by a force sufficient to hold the season's damage of grades, cuts and fills to the lowest point. The loose dirt composing the slopes and fills will be hard to retain in place, and when spring comes must be put in repair and properly packed for surfacing.
    This cannot be done until well dried out, which brings one to speak of another matter which cannot be overlooked without great damage, in which all the people of Jackson County and the traveling public have an interest. I refer to the toll road and its great importance at this time. I do not believe that the county court or the people having the construction in hand have sufficiently informed themselves of the status of the toll road. I cannot think that they would willfully and wantonly do or permit to be done that which unfortunately they have done and permitted if they understood it.
    I do not wish to give offense to anyone, but will take the risk of stating some history which can be easily verified.
(To Be Continued.)
Medford Mail Tribune, October 5, 1914, page 4

    When gold was first discovered in California the settlements of Oregon were confined to the Willamette Valley and the lower Columbia. There were no white people living in southern Oregon except an occasional trapper or adventurer among the Indians. [Watson overlooks Baptiste Gagnier and family living at Fort Umpqua.] In 1846 a party headed by the Applegates came south from the Willamette looking for a better trail for immigrants into Oregon.
    They came through Rogue River Valley and turning east passed through the great sugar pine forests and entered the Klamath country near where Keno now is. In the spring of the same year Fremont and Kit Carson coming from Sacramento Valley also reached the Klamath lakes, preceding the Applegates by a few months.
    The Applegates on their return to the Willamette told of the wonderful country they had seen and planned to see more of it.
    When the news of the discovery of gold in California reached the Willamette, parties were formed to go to the mines and, taking direction from the Applegates, came south with assurance of game, grass and water and poetic notions of this wonderful valley. They found the Siskiyou Mountains formidable and sought directions from the Indians. Pilot Rock was shown to them and they were told to keep to the right of it and they would find "heap good trail." They did and the trail was greatly improved by the travel for the next year or two practically where the road now is.
    Gold seekers rapidly spread all over California, and discoveries where Yreka now is soon attracted hundreds of prospectors, who by and by crossed "the trail," and in the winter of '50 and '51 found gold on Jackson Creek. [The discovery of Rich Gulch is more reliably placed in early February, 1852.] The country rapidly filled. Yreka and Jacksonville became places of importance, and a large business sprang up between these "far northern" mining camps. The trail over the Siskiyous was improved, somewhat changed here and there to facilitate growing traffic and intercourse.
    By the time the territorial legislature met in January, 1853, application was made for territorial protection in southern Oregon and the organization of Jackson County. Such action was taken by the legislature, and James Clugage, Nathaniel C. Dean and Abel George were appointed county commissioners with directions to organize Jackson County in the Territory of Oregon. On the 7th of March, 1853 they met at Jacksonville and were "duly sworn into office by Daniel M. Kinney, postmaster."
    They then proceeded with their duties, creating precincts, appointing justices of the peace and constables and performing many other acts for the formation of a commonwealth of law and order.
    At this time there were no roads, only "trails," and these were to be improved and others laid out. At this first session of said board of commissioners in March 1853, I find as the first act in relation to public highways the following entry in the [Commissioners'] Journal:

    "Whereas, it is the opinion of this board that it is absolutely necessary for the public good and citizens of this country generally, that public roads should be laid out and located throughout this entire valley,
    "It is therefore ordered
    "That the trail as now traveled from its intersection with the northerly end of Oregon Street in the precinct of Jacksonville to its junction with the old Oregon Trail (so-called), near the residence of Nathaniel C. Dean, at what is known as the 'Willow Springs' be and the same is hereby declared a public highway.
    "That all the portion of the said 'Oregon Trail' from its junction aforesaid, to the boundary line of Douglas County in said Territory be and the same is hereby declared a public highway, and also that portion of the said Oregon Trail from the junction aforesaid to the northern boundary line of California as now traveled."
    Thus it will be seen that the first act of Jackson County for the establishment of public highways was to declare the "Oregon Trail" a public highway in March 1853. The "Oregon Trail" is the old Siskiyou Mountain Trail, practically the same as the present Dollarhide Toll Road. It is true that this trail, as all mountain trails, was from time to time slightly changed to avoid a bad place or secure a better grade, but practically the old Indian trail was adopted.
(To Be Continued.)
Medford Mail Tribune, October 6, 1914, page 4

    As the country filled up and the necessities of travel demanded accommodations for wagons, the pioneers got together and marked out a road. There were not people enough to bear so heavy an expense, and in 1858 the territorial legislature at the request of Jackson County passed an act entitled "An Act to Incorporate the Siskiyou Mountain Wagon Company," authorizing the construction of the road, granting to the company the right to collect tolls, and fixing the rates thereof.
    The company was organized, the road constructed, and its operation under the law of 1858 has been continuous from that date to this. The territory was admitted as a state in 1859, and in 1862 an act was passed by the state legislature making all territorial roads county roads and providing that where said roads were being operated as toll roads under the territorial law, the county in which such road was situated might lease the same for a period of ten years, the lessee to be governed by the territorial law in the rate of tolls to be charged. (It will be seen that the counties were not authorized to fix toll rates.) The law of 1862 also provides that at the expiration of ten years--term of lease--the county in its discretion may take over said road by paying to said lessee the cost of construction, maintenance, etc., less the tolls collected, together with 20 percent to be added to the amount of the difference. It also provides that if the county fails to pay to said lessee the sum or sums of money provided for, the lessee may continue keep up and operate said road and collect such tolls until the county does pay said money.
    The road continued to be so operated under lease until 1890. The last lease executed between Jackson County and the owners of said road was dated October 6, 1880, and was for ten years. The said lease so executed by Jackson County recites the territorial act of 1858 as the act recognized, and further recites as follows:
    "It is further agreed that at the end of ten years the county shall have all the rights and privileges allowed by the General Laws of Oregon in sections 28, page 669, but if the county of Jackson shall fail to pay the said company the amount allowed by said section then in that event, the said company may charge the amounts allowed by article 2 and no more, until the county comply with the terms of said section 38."
    At the date of the execution of said agreement, Jesse Dollarhide was president, and H. C. Dollarhide was secretary of said company, the first being father and the latter being the brother of L. D. Dollarhide, the present owner and operator of said road.
    At the expiration of said lease, to wit: October 6, 1890, no new lease was made and Jackson County failing to comply with the requirement of said law, the company continued to operate said road and to charge said tolls.
(To Be Continued.)
Medford Mail Tribune, October 7, 1914, page 4

    No effort was ever made by Jackson County to interfere in any way with said road until September 4, 1895, [when] the said county court made an order directing the road supervisor to remove the toll gate. On November 4, 1895, the order not having been complied with, the writer, as attorney for Dollarhide, moved said court to expunge and revoke said order on the ground that the "court under the law neither had nor has any jurisdiction in the premises, or over said road, to make such an order."
    The court revoked said order, and among other things says:
    "The court having heard the argument and the law thereon, and being fully advised in the premises,
    "It is therefore ordered and adjudged that said order be and the same is hereby revoked and shall stand for naught and as though the same had never been made."
    Subsequently the ownership and possession of said road and all rights and privileges thereunder became vested in L. D. Dollarhide, who has never sold, alienated nor encumbered the same.
    This may seem somewhat lengthy, but there has been so strenuous an effort made to make it appear that L. D. Dollarhide is an interloper and highwayman that in justice to him and the public I ask that this be published in full. The historical data alone is worth it.
    Dollarhide sold that section of the road from Barron's place up to Steinman to the county for Pacific Highway purposes at the beginning of the construction, since which time it has been the duty of the county to keep it up. The county has absolutely neglected to do so until it is almost impassable, and yet the public is made to believe that it is Dollarhide's road and his duty to keep it up. Dollarhide gave the county and the contractors the right to cross his toll road in constructing the Pacific Highway with the express understanding that they were not to block or obstruct it. Yet they have constructed a fill directly across his road from side to side that is 16 feet high on the downhill side and eight feet high on the other side. The contractors have also, without leave, license or consent appropriated 600 feet of the toll road and forced the travel out of the road and among the rocks. Many things that are absolutely false have been published to the damage of Dollarhide that could and ought to have been corrected by the authorities. Dollarhide has not tried to obstruct, hinder nor delay the construction. It would be foolish for him to do so, and he is not a fool. He knows the highway will be built and has done many things to favor it. He knows too, that there is no other road for travel between Jackson County and California but this toll road. Only a fool would expect him to keep it open for free travel. Were he to quit work on it it would be impassable in two weeks after bad weather sets in, yet it would appear that the effort being made against him is for this purpose and may succeed.
    The road was built and has been maintained by private enterprise for more than 30 years without a cent in taxes to be paid therefor. It has been offered to the county at various times at a cost which is a mere bagatelle, but the county has refused because of the expense of maintaining it. The building of the Pacific Highway across the mountain at a probable cost of almost $200,000 suggests the very high importance to this county of the travel over it, yet we have this effort to hamper Mr. Dollarhide in his aim to accommodate the travel until this elaborate highway is ready to take it over. No one knows how soon the highway will be open, and it does not augur great business judgment to absolutely close all traffic with California except by rail.
Medford Mail Tribune, October 8, 1914, page 4

Last revised January 3, 2014