1862, January 25. Los Angeles Star.
"On Saturday last, torrents of water were precipitated on the earth it seemed as if the clouds had broken through, and the waters over the earth and the waters under the earth were coming into conjunction. The result was, that rivers were formed in every gulch and arroyo, and streams poured down the hillsides. The Los Angeles river, already brimful, overflowed its banks and became a fierce destructive flood. ...
"The road from Tejon, we hear, has been washed away. The San Fernando Mountain cannot be crossed except by the old Trail which winds round and crosses over the top of the mountain. The plain1 has been cut up into gulches, and arroyos, and streams are rushing down every declivity. ...
"Another week has passed without a mail, making five consecutive weeks during which we had no communication with the outer world except by steamer express."2
1862, March 15. Los Angeles Star.
"We stated sometime ago, that Colonel Carlton had detailed a party of soldiers under Major Coult to repair the road over San Fernando Hill. The work was finished and from the report of the officer in charge, we take the following extract:
"'On Friday, the 14th of February, I sent Lieutenant Hanover with a party of ten men to repair the road for three miles which we had with difficulty passed over the 12th, and put the balance of the company under Captain Hines, on the hill in advance of us. On the 17th, having completed the road behind us, I sent the whole force to the hill. On Tuesday the 18th I finished up on the south and crossed to the north side of the summit where the heaviest work lay.
"'Here I found the rains had washed the road entirely away to the wall of cement on the right hand side, (descending) forming a gulch from twelve to fifteen feet in depth. It was necessary to cut away this wall in order to get a solid rock bed and to brace it well on the outside. The heavy timbers which had strengthened the former road lay in the bottom of the gulch. These the men dragged up by main strength and placed again in position.
"'By staying these timbers with braces equally as heavy, upon a solid footing, and cutting of ten feet of the cement wall, I think we have a better road bed than before. Some hundred feet below this point, it was necessary to repeat this work although not as formidable. This work was completed and the road thoroughly repaired over a distance of six miles on Monday the 24th.'"
That winter of 1861-62 then, the whole of southern California had been in a bad way. Both those roaring rivers, the Kern and the Los Angeles, had plunged out of their channels and cutting new ones, sprawled over the country. With the San Fernando Pass blocked, the Star newspaper had announced any traffic to the north out of Los Angeles, once more had to slowly make its way over the precipitous Cuesta Vieja, which had again become nothing more than a trail. That was something the stages carrying the United States mail had not even attempted.
Only a year before, in March 1861, the last stage of the Butterfield Overland Mail had crossed over the new pass. All the work the energetic Mr. Kinyon and the county itself had put into the road those three years since 1858, when the mail route had started, in order to make it a less dangerous grade for the Butterfield stages, was now torn out by torrential rains.
It is interesting to try and visualize that old road; the cement wall of stone masonry, held together with mortar, so high that when the road was gouged out making a twelve to fifteen foot gulch of itself, the wall could still be cut down ten feet. It had been put in to support the right hand side of the road as it went turning sharply3down the canyon from the cut through the rock on the always dangerous north slope. There were the heavy timbers the rains had torn out and washed down to the bottom of the twelve to fifteen foot gulch in the road. The soldiers had struggled hard to drag them up again "by main strength" and then brace them with equally heavy timbers on a solid footing in order once more, to strengthen the road.
Still descending the canyon for a hundred feet, there had been the same work to do over again, though not quite so hard a job; the wall of stone masonry to cut lower, the heavy timbers to drag back out of the gulch the road had become and brace with others just as heavy. So we have a brief glimpse of the construction used on the old San Fernando grade almost ninety years ago. After the 24th of May, 1862, the stages and the heavy trains of freight were again going up the mountain and through the high cut on the San Fernando Pass.
It is quite evident Messrs. Brinley, Pico and Vineyard had not even made a start on the turnpike road over the San Fernando Mountain for the building of which the state had granted them a franchise. The rains, however, seem to have given them time to mull over their franchise and in so doing, petition changes to be made.
There were three points they seemed to be anxious about. Because of their inability to start work on the road, they desired the time limit for its completion extended ten months from May 7th, 1862, the date previously set, to March 7th, 1863. They were worried about the return from their money and asked that the rates of toll fixed by the Board of Supervisors be such as to enable them "to realize from their investment in said road, the sum of twelve per cent per annum upon the amount of capital stock actually paid in."
The third point about which they were concerned was evidently the fact that the nearby Cuesta Vieja was still usable when heavy rains closed the San Fernando Pass. Without doubt it would have to be the alternate road while work was being done on the new one. There was a danger someone else in the near future might apply for a franchise to either improve the old road or cut through another canyon and open a second turnpike road across the mountain, in competition.
The Cuesta Vieja was not more than a half mile on its summit, from the new San Fernando road. Therefore, Messrs. Brinley, Pico and Vineyard petitioned the inclusion of the first two points in an amendment to the Act passed and also the following:
"That no other person or persons shall, within the period of this franchise, build any other toll road across said mountain within two miles on either side of said road." This would also preclude the use of Elsmere and Grapevine canyons on the east and Weldon canyon on the west.4
1862, April 18. Amendment was passed and approved at the 13th
Session of the Legislature.5 Colonel Vineyard himself was sitting in at this session as State Senator representing Los Angeles County.6
1862, April 21, addressed San Pedro.
"Abel Stearns Esq., Los Angeles.
"Being legal owner of one mining claim duly recorded in the Soledad Mining canon7 (copper) ... in the 'Lady Washington lead' and now under charge of Major Strobel, you will be so kind as to take charge of same in my name and manage it for my best interest. ... I trust that it will turn out well.
"Major Strobel will place in your hands certain mining interests on my account, and I beg that you will preserve all my interests as far as possible.
1862, November 1. Los Angeles Star.
"Road to San Francisco Cañon9
"The numerous mining districts lately being opened in the northern part of this and adjoining counties and the increased amount of travel in consequence thereof, has rendered the enlargement of the road in San Francisco Canon an absolute necessity if the citizens of Los Angeles would retain the trade in those sections. The road was damaged last summer by an unprecedented storm and needs repairing, many points of rock need removing to render it traversable by the large teams it is necessary to use on the road. An amount of $2,500 it is said, will put the road in good order. Should this be neglected, Visalia, which is making strenuous exertions, will succeed in getting the trade of the rich localities of Slate Range, Caso and Owens River; this is important to Los Angeles."
1862, November 19. Los Angeles Star.
"On Saturday last, at a meeting of the Board of Supervisors,10 especially called for the purpose, the report of Messrs. Bowers and Robbins11 was received, those gentlemen having been appointed commissioners to inspect the road from this city to Fort Tejon and report as to its condition and the repairs required. The report was adopted, suggesting extensive repairs on that portion known as the San Francisquito Cañon.12
"The repairs on this road will be very extensive making it easy of transit for the heaviest wagons. Culverts will be built, the roadway widened, rocks blasted out and the line straightened and shortened. This contract was given to Mr. Robbins on his giving sufficient bonds for the performance of the contract."
1862. "Following the opening of the Owen's [sic] River Mines this year, Los Angeles merchants soon established a considerable trade with that territory. Banning inaugurated a system of wagon-trains, each guarded by a detachment of soldiers."13
The trade with the country to the north was increasing. The heavy work necessary to improve the Los Angeles-Fort Tejon road was on its way.
1862. It must have been sometime in the year 1862 that E.F. Beale, Surveyor-General of California and Nevada, took over the franchise given to Messrs. Brinley, Pico and Vineyard to put in the new San Fernando Road. General Beale, as he was often called, could see from his large holdings bordering the Fort Tejon Pass, the new development coming into the country around him.
To the north, the great Tulare Valley stretching endlessly below the Cañada de las Uvas was awakening with settlers. That year a man by the name of Colonel Baker14 together with one Harvey Brown, had purchased the franchise granted to the Montgomery brothers. It called for the reclaiming of 400,000 acres of the great valley, soggy and rush-covered near the Kern river, from the Canada as far north as Fresno.15 It foretold the future settlement of the desolate land.
The following year Beale was to hear that Colonel Baker with his family had come down from Visalia and had himself settled on Kern Island with the new, roaring channels of the Kern river watering the land about him. He had planted an alfalfa field, a green oasis in the hot desolate valley, and emigrants, tired and worn, driving in over steep mountain roads, had been told that if they could only hold out until they reached Baker's field,16 rest for themselves and fodder for their horses would be given them generously.
General Beale could look towards the mountains on the south of his vast ranchos and visualize over them, the small town of Los Angeles with its growing trains of freight wagons for the mining country, and its increasing ships sailing up the coast from around the Horn, loaded with eastern goods for the merchants.
The new road over San Fernando Hill and its monetary return in toll for every sort of beast or vehicle taking it, must have seemed a good investment to General Beale. Perhaps the wreck of the old road in the torrential downpour of rain that winter of '61 and '62 proved the new road might be too costly a venture for the original holders of the right. Whatever the reasons, there was General Beale, a man of wealth and the former head of the expedition that had surveyed the Great Wagon Road, taking over the re-building of the wagon road across the San Fernando Mountain.
1863, April 4. Los Angeles Star.
"San Fernando Road.
"In compliance with the franchise granted by the last Legislature for the construction of a turnpike road over the San Fernando Mountain, a good deal of work has been done by the present holder of the right, Mr. E. F. Beale. The terms of the law have been complied with, but the Board of Supervisors were not willing to ratify the franchise as the work done was not sufficient in their opinion to afford the required facilities for travel.
"In consequence another agreement has been made between the Board and Mr. Beale, by which the latter binds himself to further grade the road from a point ninety feet from the Northwestern extremity of the present cut to a point fifteen feet deep at the angle of the southeastern extremity of the same cut. This additional work will involve an outlay, it is stated, of from $16,000 to $18,000. The Board appointed commissioners to assess toll for same, which will last twenty years. The commissioners are Messrs. W.J.17 B. Sanford, J.J. Gibbons, Francis Mellus and W.A. Tucker.
"The following is their recommendation: Team of 12 animals, $2; team of 10 animals, $2; team of 8 animals, $1.75; team of 6 animals, $1.50; team of 4 animals, $1.25; team of 2 animals, $1; 1 animal, 50 cents; loose animals or cattle ten cents each; horse and man, 25 cents; sheep, 3 cents; pack animals, 25 cents."
After that Board meeting in March, General Beale must have realized the Supervisors were demanding a much lower grade over the mountain than he himself had considered necessary. He was faced with the problem of tackling the steep road again. The cut through the rock that had first been made in 1854 and then lowered in 1858 for the Butterfield Stage Route,18 had evidently been deepened by Beale but not enough to suit the Board. The road in the cut, between the towering shoulders of sandstone was still to be deepened further and its grade lowered fifteen feet at the south entrance to the cut.
The cost of the additional work was high, between sixteen and eighteen thousand dollars, showing how difficult the job was that still had to be done. But Beale had signed the contract and his metal must have been up. The town fathers were evidently going to hold out for the kind of road they themselves had in mind. After all the years of bitter reviling the Pass had received, this time, the road leading to it and over the top, was to be without reproach from the whip-cracking stage drivers, or the teamsters of heavy wagon trains, or the cattlemen herding their thousand of more crowding cattle through the mountain. The faithful Board of Supervisors seem to have settled on that.
As General Beale again worked vigorously to deepen the cut on the San Fernando Hill, three men who had been closely identified with the road, passed out of the picture.
1863, April 27. A terrible tragedy took place in the harbor at San Pedro. It was the explosion of the Ada Hancock, a lighter owned by Phineas Banning. Banning himself was on board but blown clear of the water, landing on a sand bar.19 Among many prominent citizens injured or killed, it took the life of W.T.B. Sanford, Banning's brother-in-law. He had been the contractor who, with his partner George Carson, had made the first cut through the high rocks for the new San Fernando Pass nine years before. At the previous meeting of the Board of Supervisors, just a month earlier, he had been appointed with Francis Mellus, one of the commissioners to assess the toll for the new road. Now he would not see its completion.
In 1863 C.H. Brinley was no longer in the county. He had become deeply involved in his mining ventures. The fabulous tales of gold, silver and copper being found at La Paz on the Colorado river some hundred miles north of Fort Yuma, were awakening the interest not only of mining men but of cattle men like Don Abel Stearns. Some of them were driving down their own herds along the coast, cutting across from San Juan Capistrano, or by way of the hot, grueling route through Fort Yuma, and taking up land for their grazing.20
1863, May. Don Abel Stearns received a letter from C.H. Brinley, his friend and business associate, dated May 2nd and headed La Paz. He told him quite fully, of "the progress of events" and said "the matter of most interest to you, I presume, is live stock." He informed Don Abel he "had located 2,500 acres of land on this side and up the river, in your name jointly with others, for the purpose of having a place in case the business should become of sufficient importance."
He told him of the "country of wild Apaches where, as tradition has it, each blade of grass bears a pearl, and meat is cooked in cauldrons of boiling gold and silver"; and "the Indians say, that the Apache wigwam is filled with gold and silver and his plains with fat horses." He closed the letter by hoping it would reach Don Abel "in the enjoyment of good health as also Doña Arcadia21 to whom present my kindest regards."22
At that distance Mr. Brinley must have been quite willing to let General Beale assume the responsibility of making a lower turnpike road over the San Fernando Hill.
1863, August 30. Los Angeles. Published in the September 11th issue of the Daily Alta California, San Francisco.23
"Editors Alta: ... I have now to chronicle the demise of the Hon. J.R. Vineyard sitting member of the State Senate from this county. ... His death occurred on the 30th ult."
August 31. Los Angeles Tri-Weekly.
"The flags throughout the city were dropped to half-mast in token of respect."
1863, December 26. Los Angeles Star.
"Wednesday, December 23, 1863. The Board met pursuant to adjournment, present J. L. Morris chairman, and Supervisors Wilson and Aguilar.
"In the matter of the San Fernando Hill. Matthew Keller Esq. the commissioner appointed by the Board to examine the work done on San Fernando hill by E.F. Beale and associates,24 according to an agreement entered into with said Beale in May last, filed his report, viz; that the said contract here-to-fore made by said Board with said Beale has been complied with, but the committee makes further report for the improvement of said hill which was adopted and it was agreed and stipulated with said Beale and his associates, that said San Fernando hill be further cut don according to the diagram furnished by the surveyor employed by the Board, the grade to be one foot to every five, and after the compliance of said contract, the said Beale be allowed to receive additional tolls than those allowed him by committee appointed by said Board in the matter of the repairs of the road between Los Angeles and San Fernando hill.
"Ordered that J.J. Robins,25 roadmaster, be required to examine said road and report the necessary work to be done at the next regular meeting, 2d Monday in January."
Jacob L. Morris was not only chairman of the County Board of Supervisors but city treasurer as well. He presided over that Board meeting of December 23d in a small room on the second floor of Don Juan Temple's new Court House with its imposing clock tower and market place beneath.26 He had chosen wisely when he appointed Matthew Keller Esq. as the commissioner to report on the work done on San Fernando hill. He had come to the pueblo in 185027 and interested himself in almost every important undertaking that would further the development of the country.
Don Mateo,28 as he was friendily called, owned a general merchandise store on the north side of Commercial Street near Los Angeles Street, and as he was a wine producer he also sold his wines there.29 He owned the large Rancho Topango Malibu30 that had twenty thousand acres edging the seacoast for twenty-one miles.31
The two Board members listening to Don Mateo's report on the work General Beale and his associates had had done on the San Fernando hill, were Don Benito Wilson and Cristobal Aguilar. Don Benito, in 1853-54, had been Indian agent for southern California under General Beale who was a lieutenant then. He had helped him choose the site for the Indian Reservation on the Tejon Rancho. Since then Don Benito had increased his own land holdings and was owner of the Rancho San Pasqual,32 the Huerta de Cuati,33 and six years before, had bought from W.T.B. Sanford his half share of the Rancho San Jose de Buenos Ayres on whose wide acres they had raised cattle together."34
Cristobal Aguilar,35 sitting in at the Board meeting, was a member of one of the oldest California families. He had been born in California when it was a Mexican province and several times was an alcalde of the early pueblo. He was a supervisor in 1854 when, with the Board, he voted $1,000 for the county towards the cost of changing the San Fernando Pass from the Cuesta Vieja on the Camino Viejo over to the present canyon on the west.
Don Mateo Keller, Don Benito Wilson and Cristobal Aguilar then, had all known the San Fernando Pass when it was the perilous Cuesta Vieja. They were all equally familiar with the eight long years of struggle over the steep grade of the second San Fernando Pass. Don Benito and Cristobal Aguilar would listen intently to Don Mateo's report on the road over San Fernando hill which, for the second time was being presented to the Board of Supervisors by General Beale as a finished job.
It must have been a disappointment to Beale that the town fathers, represented by these four hard-headed pioneers, should again consider the grade too steep; that they had even found it necessary to have a diagram drawn by a surveyor of their own choice to show him just how much further down the cut should be made and that the road should be no steeper than one foot to every five or a twenty per cent grade.
There was one redeeming fact however; General Beale must have sensed that the Board of Supervisors had perfect confidence in his ability, and that no matter how tough a job they were presenting him with, they knew the renowned road builder would accomplish it. The Board evidently had no qualms over insisting that the road be built their way.
South side of Beale's Cut in 1872. (Photo not part of Ripley. Click image to enlarge.)
1864, March 5. Los Angeles Star.
"The San Fernando Hill having been completed according to the survey ordered by the Board of Supervisors, the following rates of toll have been established: For a team of twelve animals, $2.75; for a team of ten animals, $2.75; one of eight, $2.50; six, $2; four, $1.75; two, $1.37 1/2; one, 75 cents. Loose animals, cattle etc., 10 cts. each; one man and horse, 25 cents; sheep 4 cts. each; pack animals, 25 cts. each; Mr. Beale has appointed A.P. Robbins as Collector of Tolls."
The members of the Board of Supervisors finally accepting General Beale's road over the San Fernando hill were, "B.D. Wilson, C. Aguilar, J.A. Morris, A. Ellis, P. Sichel (M. Keller.)"36
1864, March 5. Los Angeles Star.
"The improvement made is one of great importance to the county. A large amount of money has been expended by Mr. Beale in cutting down the hill."
This then is the deep cut through the towering sides of sandstone on the old San Fernando Pass.37 General Beale and those who had worked on the cut before him, had nothing for their workmen but the crudest implements, the pick and shovel. It was with these that Beale laboriously and stubbornly had his men carry out the final orders of the Board of Supervisors. It took him almost two years to accomplish the job, but for over eighty years, straight as a die, those great walls of the Cut have stood a monument in themselves to pioneer road building.
There is no better proof that the new turn-pike road was received with gratitude by the citizens of Los Angeles, than the fact the Star newspaper was silent about its grade. There was no further mention of the road that year, after the announcement in its March 5th issue of the completion of the work on San Fernando hill; no vituperation concerning the Pass, no hair-raising tales to blacken it.
There was the small adobe toll house near the foot of the south grade on the west bank of the creek bed.38 There was O.P. Robbins, the collector of tolls, who lived in it, ready to lift the wooden pole39 across the road as the herds of cattle or sheep pushed by and the stages and freight wagons came slowly lumbering up the grade or down it from the other side of the mountain.
The pull up to the top was still hard and the turns still quite sharp; the ruts from the heavy wagons were deep. The mud from the winter rains sloshed high to the hubs of the great iron-rimmed wheels. But there were no hair-raising deep gulches to fear on the side of a steep, cement-walled road. There was a short, heavy pull into the deep cut itself, but the road between the high, narrow walls of sandstone was level. The San Fernando Pass was a tough but no longer a dangerous grade.
Traffic over the new road was heavy. The mines were booming in the mountains along the Kern river, and the Owens river mines over the Sierras. More settlers were entering the desolate Tulare Valley. Emigrants were stopping at Baker's field and not going on. A small settlement was beginning to appear around it.
In 1863 because of trouble with the Indians in the Owens Valley, a thousand or more of them, men, women and children had been moved under the protection of the Second California Volunteer Cavalry, to the Sebastian Reserve. Fort Tejon was re-established for them and a large Indian camp was made below the adobe buildings of the Fort.40 But by 1864 most of them had been removed and early in September Fort Tejon was again abandoned for the last time.41
General Beale had resigned from his position as General-Surveyor of California and Nevada, at the close of the Civil War that year of 1864.42
The Indian Reservation had been given up as a government project in 1862,43 and General Beale now returned to his Ranchos
Tejon."44 From his own vast acres of grazing land,45 dotted here and there with great oaks that bordered the Cañada de las Uvas, he could watch the increasing traffic go through. Coming or going, it would all drive over the new turnpike road on the San Fernando Pass and the return in toll from his investment and his hard work was beginning to come in.
1. San Fernando Valley from ex-Mission San Fernando.
2. The Cattle on a Thousand Hills. Robert Glass Cleland, p. 170.
3. "The road takes some pretty sharp turns in the canyon." W.L. Ormsby on first Butterfield stage to San Francisco. The Overland Mail. Walter Lang.
4. It is interesting that, according to the old maps, there was no other important road until 1910, forty-eight years later, when the old road with the cut was side-stepped and the tunnel put in.
5. Statutes of California 1862, p. 282.
6. Los Angeles Triweekly. Aug. 31, 1863. Sacramento State Library, contributed by Miss Gillis, Librarian.
7. Soledad Canyon, about 35 miles due north of Los Angeles, used by the Southern Pacific between Saugus and Mojave. In early sixties it developed a mining boom.
8. Gaffey MSS. Used through the courtesy of the Huntington Library.
9. San Francisquito Canyon.
10. l862-63 — County Supervisors: B.D. Wilson. C. Aguilar. J.L. Morris, Vincente, Lugo. F.W. Gibson. History of Los Angeles County.
11. J.J. Robbins, roadmaster.
12. The franchise for the improvement of the San Fernando Pass had already been given and work was being done on the road.
13. Sixty Years in Southern California. Harris Newmark, p. 322.
14. Colonel Thomas Baker was one of the founders of Visalia. He was at the time (1861-62) State Senator from Tulare County.
15. History of Kern County. Morgan.
16. The present Bakersfield.
17. Error. W.T.B. Sanford.
18. Los Angeles Daily Eveing Bulletin. July 12, 1858.
19. Reminiscences of a Ranger. Major Horace Bell, p. 328.
20. Gaffey MSS. through the courtesy of Henry S. Huntington Library, San Marino, California.
21. Doña Arcadia Bandini Stearns, later Baker.
22. Gaffey MSS. through the courtesy of the Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino, California.
23. Miss Gillis, Librarian State Library, Sacramento, California.
24. Original investment in road by C.H. Brinley, Don Andres Pico and James R. Vineyard, probably still held. Further investment may have been made by others.
25. A misprint, J.J. Robbins.
26. Ana Begue de Packman. Picture in the files of the Historical Society of Southern California.
27. The First Census of Los Angeles. J. Gregg Layne.
28. Mateo Street named for Don Mateo Keller.
29. "Landmarks and Pioneers of Los Angeles in 1853." Ana Begue de Packman. The Quarterly Historical Society of Southern California, June-September, 1944, p. 88.
30. Bought from Leon Victor Prudhomme, in 1857 for $1,400 or seven cents an acre. Romance of the Ranchos, p. 18, Ralph Conner.
31. The City That Grew. Boyle Workman, p. 23.
32. Where now are Altadena, Pasadena, South Pasadena and parts of San Marino. Romance of the Ranchos. Ralph Conner, p. 21.
33. His heirs still live on part of the tract adjoining the Huntington Library and Art Gallery in San Marino. Ibid. p. 4.
34. Ibid. p. 17. Westwood, Westwood Village and Holmby Hills.
35. Cristobal Aguilar later was several times Mayor. Sixty Years in Southern California. Harris Newmark, p. 100.
36. History of Los Angeles County. Supervisors for 1864-65.
37. The Cut was still lowered a few feet about 1904 for early automobiles attempting the grade. This shows on the 1946 picture.
38. See "toll ho," marked on old map 1853-1875.
39. Mrs. Luisa de Lopez Dunne McAlonan. Charles Prudhomme MSS.
40. The Story of El Tejon. Part Two. Arthur Woodward, p. 128.
41. Ibid. p. 133.
42. Edward Fitzgerald Beale. Stephen Bonsall.
43. Story of El Tejon. Part One. Helen S. Giffen, p. 43.
44. Edward Fitzgerald Beale. Stephen Bonsall, p. 272.
45. "Beale adobe on the La Liebre Rancho, Canon de los Osas." Photo by Guy J. Giffen, 1937. A frontispiece. The Story of El Tejon. Helen S. Giffen and Arthur Woodward.