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Dutch Flat Donner Lake Toll Wagon Road
(DFDLWR) — 1864

By Jack E. Duncan.

 From the book
"To Donner Pass from the Pacific:
A Map History covering 150 Years of California's Lincoln Highway,
Victory Highway, US-40, I-80, Henness Pass, Pacific Turnpike and
Dutch Flat Donner Lake Toll Roads from 1852 to 2002."

Copyright © 2001 by Jack E. Duncan.  Reproduced by permission of the author.

Hart 121Several men including both Charlie and Judge Edwin B. Crocker, Mark Hopkins, Leland Stanford and Collis Huntington, all of the Central Pacific Railroad Company, formed this toll road company. There were other investors but they were squeezed out early on. Early in 1861 the company was called the Lake Pass Turnpike Company because the name Donner was not yet in common use. Later the company was incorporated as the Dutch Flat and Donner Lake Wagon Road Company.

In 1861 the State of California granted the DFDLWR Company exclusive use of the corridor for a period of 10 years. It was built from Alta, over Donner Pass, through Coburn Station (Truckee), then north to join the Henness Pass Road near the present Stampede Lake. It was built near the planned railroad line west of Truckee to facilitate movement of men and supplies during construction of the railroad. East of Truckee the plan was different. The surveyors had already chosen the best path in the narrow Truckee River Canyon for railroad construction. Costly, slow road construction on less desirable alignments was avoided by routing the DFDLWR north of Truckee near the earlier emigrant trails.

Hart 132As 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. During 1864-1868 the toll road was so profitable that its owners could use the profits to support railroad construction when income from slow railroad bond sales were not sufficient to meet railroad construction expenses.

The DFDLWR road became public in 1871 but it may have been toll free as early as 1868 when the railroad could move freight and passengers to Reno faster, in greater comfort and at competitive rates as mentioned above. For the next 40 years, this road was used very little and maintenance was limited. Over the mountains the three counties that it traversed kept the road passable but it was not improved to accommodate long distance motorists. In 1913, the Lincoln Highway Association chose the DFDLWR route over the Sierra Nevada Mountains for the newly designated Lincoln Highway, therefore the DFDLWR alignment is identical to the early Lincoln Highway trace. ...

State permission was granted in 1861 allowing the company to collect tolls for 10 years, therefore this book uses 1861 to 1871 as the life of that road. Toll traffic began in 1864 and probably toll collection ceased in 1868.

See: Land Office Map of the Central Pacific Railroad and the Dutch Flat Donner Lake Wagon Road, detail, Bureau of Land Management, Sacramento, California, archives of old Land Office Records.

The book, To Donner Pass from the Pacific may be available from the author, Jack E. Duncan, 8555 Crater Hill Road, Newcastle, CA 95658-9666 for $19.50 plus $3.00 shipping and handling (The author reports that they "still have a few books" left as of 7/14/2004). Or you might try the Truckee - Donner Historical Society or search for an available copy.

Houseworth 780
[Click image to enlarge.]

Text courtesy Jack E. Duncan.
Hart stereoview images #121 and #132 above courtesy of the Barry A. Swackhamer Collection.
Houseworth stereoview #780 (see enlargement) above courtesy of the Steve Heselton Collection.

Houseworth 785. Courtesy Rich Nerger.

Houseworth stereoview #785 courtesy Rick Nerger.

> Edward Hodges writes that in 1861, the Central Pacific RR bought out the rights to the DFDLWR and quickly decided to improve that road all the way to Verdi, Nevada so it could be used to bring up supplies for the railroad construction. The area of my research is on a section of that road between Truckee and Verdi with a special emphasis on the Stampede Valley-Dog Valley piece. I recently learned that in the Fall of 1863, the CPRR assigned the job of road construction from the "SUMMIT" to Verdi to a man named Harry Polly . As construction supervisor, he was in charge of a 200-man crew and they got the job done by June of 1864. My request is help in locating any road survey maps from that project. If they can be found, I am hoping they will contain enough detail to show the road alignment between Stampede Valley and Dog Valley. ... The essence of my research is to locate the oldest map available which shows the pioneer road then known as the Henness Pass/Dog Valley Wagon Road in the area of Verdi Nevada. I already have in my possession, copies of the 1865 GLO / Mt. Diablo Meridian Survey Maps covering T20N R17E & T19N R17E.  ... I located a copy of the 1856 Surveyor General's annual report to the California State Legislature. In this report, there are references to two maps of interest to me. Both are wagon road survey maps commissioned by the citizens of the Marysville / Downeville area. The first one was created in 1855 by D.B. Scott, a civil engineer and Yuba county surveyor. The other map was created in 1856 by John Brewster, who was the current State Surveyor General. ... my search is to find a map of sufficient detail covering the Dog Valley area that it will add to the body of knowledge concerning the road alignment as it existed in 1855.

> Jack Duncan responds that: I can be of no help on finding early 1860s maps for Edward Hodges, ... since I have no data in that period. Edward sent some early maps to me but they are difficult to read because there are no surveyed reference points. The California Surveyor General did not contract with surveyors in the early 1860s to locate section lines as far as I know. That surveying was done in the mid 1860s, accidentally just in time to show the Dutch Flat Donner Lake Wagon Road and the Central Pacific Railroad. Maps in the 1861 period that I have seen are simple blank sheets with a line designating the road then with a very few references like rivers, peaks etc. Those were probably adequate in an era when no other roads existed. Later when additional trails, wagon roads, logging roads, skid roads, flumes, logging railroads etc were built, I find it essentially impossible to determine where that old map road really was.

> Edward L. Hodges writes he has created a "time-line" for the DFDLWR. In 1862, the CPRR created a subsidiary called the Dutch Flat-Donner Lake Wagon Road. The road was build in about 1 year (1863-64) under the direction of Robert H. Pratt (see article from the Sacramento Union, July 11, 1864).

Dutch Flat Donner Lake Wagon Road Timeline
by Edward L. Hodges

March 21, 1861 Lake Pass Turnpike Co. organized at Dutch Flat to build road to Steamboat Springs. S.G. Elliott given contract to build road for $66,000. At end of summer, no work done. [TW 289]
Oct. 19, 1861 The "Big 4" tour the route proposed by Judah for the railroad. Dr. D.W. Strong accompanies them. [TW 289]
Nov. 27, 1861 The "Big 4" and Bradley and Strong incorporate the DFDLWR with $400,000. Route to cover Colfax to Virginia City. Crocker, President. [HRTP 38]
Fall, 1862 "Work begun and a few miles constructed" [TW 290]
June, 1862 "500 men working on road till snow stopped the work in Nov. Dr. Strong in charge." [TW 290]
Oct. 30, 1863 Dr. Strong bought out by Big 4. Robert H. Pratt takes over construction boss job. [HRTP 75]
June 14, 1864 DFDLWR opens for business. Sacramento Union emphasizes connection to railhead at Newcastle. Cost of road stated to be $350,000. [HRTP 85]
July 16, 1864 Cal. Stage Co. starts run: Newcastle to Virginia City. Contract between DFDLWR and Newness Pass Turnpike. [TW 290]
May, 1865 Placer County authorizes the DFDLWR Company to erect toll gates at: Dutch Flat, Polly's Station, Donner Lake. [TW 290]
1868 Railroad completed to Reno. DFDLWR allowed to fall into "limited use."  
References: TW = Thompson & West. History of Placer County, 1888.  
  HRTP = High Road to Promontory, George Kraus, 1969.  
  HD = Hopkins Transportation Collection, Stanford Special Collections. Green Library M0097 Box 19, Vol. #1, Page 13.  

Stanford Special Collection / Green Library
Hopkins Documents M0097 Box #19 Vol #1
p. 13 Contract between DFDLWR and Henness Pass Turnpike Co. for shared use of read between "Ingrahams Station" and summit of Dog Hill. DFDLWR Company to pay 1/2 normal rates to HPTC. DFDLWR agrees not to build competing road. Contract good for 3 years starting July 16, 1864
George Fellows —> HPTC /// C. Crocker —> DFDLWR
p.18 Modification of original contract. All wagons owned by Central Pacific Transportation (aka CPRR) shall be able to use the entire road run by HPTC free of tolls. July 28, 1866
C. L. Lorr —> HPTC /// C. Crocker —> CPRR
p. 9 Right of Way Deed. Henry A. Frist sells R-O-W to DFDLWR for $150. June 24, 1864. Witness by H. Polley.

Sacramento Union, 7-11-1864
Courtesy Edward L Hodges.

Also see question regarding Robert H. Pratt, director of construction, and construction in the Dog Valley area.

Dutch Flat Wagon Road Open. Courtesy Google Library Project.

"The Old Dutch Flat Road." by Elwyn Hoffman. Sunset Magazine, p.373-ff, c. 1905.
Courtesy Google Library Project.

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