of Barlow Newsletter
, May 1996
Samuel Kimbrough Barlow was born on December
07, 1795, in Nicholas County Kentucky, and was a son of William
Henry Harrison Barlow and Sarah Kimbrough. In his youth in
Kentucky he learned the tailor's trade. In his early twenties,
around 1818, he moved to Bloomington, Monroe County, Indiana,
where he married and started a family.
In August 1827 Samuel Kimbrough Barlow
was convicted of manslaughter in Indiana. According to the
records on file, he struck with an axe and killed one George
Matlock on October 16, 1826. Scores of citizens, members
of the jury, and the dead man's brother, joined in pleading
for Barlow's pardon and remission of his sentence of one
year of hard labor on the ground that he struck Matlock in
an attempt to prevent him from harming his own wife and children.
On December 6, 1827, Governor Ray pardoned him.
Executive Proceedings, Pardons & Remissions
Later, at the end of the Black Hawk War
in 1832, he moved to Peoria, Fulton County, Illinois. Subsequently
he pioneered where Chicago now stands and then in 1845 he
started west across the plains.
In May 1845 Samuel Kimbrough Barlow, his
wife Susannah and their children, Jane Ellen, James, John
and William, joined a "wagon train" that left Independence,
Missouri, and arrived at the Methodist Mission at Wascopum
... now The Dalles, Wasco County, Oregon ... in early September.
There they learned that the cost of a boat or raft trip down
the Columbia was beyond their means, as well as not immediately
available, so Samuel Barlow, William Rector and a few others
decided to build a wagon road around the south slope of Mt.
On December 09, 1845, Samuel Kimbrough
Provisional Government of the Oregon Territory for a charter
to build a wagon road from "the dalls Mission to valey
of Clackamus," and he was so authorized in January 1846.
The name The Barlow Road of the road as granted was the Mount
Hood Road but it was called then, and still is, the Barlow
The Barlow Road, which was about 80 miles
long when completed, was a toll road and the authorized tolls
were $5 per wagon and 10¢ for loose animals. By the
fall of 1846 part of the road was finished and in that October
146 wagons, 1500 head of cattle, horses and mules, and 13
head of sheep traveled over it. Work continued and by the
fall of 1848 the road was passable over its entire length.
Barlow and his partner operated the road
for several years although it was never a great money maker.
As the years passed, others took over the road until in 1919
it was deeded to the State of Oregon.
The complete story of the Barlow Road,
including a record of the 1848 usage of the road kept by
the toll keeper and showing the date, number of wagons, and
tolls paid of each wagon train, is contained in a pamphlet
called the "Barlow
Toll Road 1846-1919: The Story of Two Men from Fort Deposit," compiled
by E. L. 'Roy' Meyers published by the Genealogical Forum
of Portland, Oregon, Inc.
Excerpt from: SAM BARLOW AND
THE BARLOW ROAD
Used by permission of Evelyn L. Greenstreet
On the 9th of December 1845, Samuel Kimbrough
Barlow petitioned the Provisional Government of the Oregon
Territory -- located at the time in Oregon City -- for a
charter to build a wagon road from "the dalls Mission
to Valley of Clackamas."
Events leading to this historic document
started many years before, when a mother in Kentucky gave
her boy baby her maiden name, Samuel Kimbrough Barlow.
Moving westward, in the typical migration
pattern, Sam met and married Susannah Lee in Indiana in 1820.
They raised a family of five and when they all assembled
in Missouri in the Spring of 1845 for that year's migration
to Oregon, there were William, John Lawson, James K., Elizabeth
Jane -- all unmarried - and Sarah.
When William and James were tending the
toll gate on the Barlow Road in 1847, they met their brides-to-be,
Rachel and Rebecca Larkins, the pretty young daughters of
William E. Larkins and his wife, Rachel Reed. Elizabeth Jane
married Absalom F. Hedges in 1847 and John L. married Mary
Elizabeth Miller in 1851. Romance also traveled the road!
Mr. McCarver, on December 12 reported a
bill to the Legislature to authorize Samuel K. Barlow to
open a road across the Cascade Mountains. Second reading
was on December 16. After the third reading on December 17,
the bill passed 8 to 2.
Yeas: Messrs. Foicy, Garrison, Hendrick,
Hill, Lee, Smith, Straight, Speaker
Nays: Gray, McClure
The notice in the SPECTATOR, August 06,
1846, page 3, gives further details:
pro tem, was H.A.G. Lee; approved, Oregon City, December
18, 1845; signed by George Abernethy, Governor.
Authorization was given for two years -- January A.D. 1846 and
ending January AD 1848 at the following rates, to wit:
For each wagon 5 dollars
For each head of horses, mules or asses
whether loose, geared or saddled 10 cents
For each head of horned cattle whether geared or loose 10 cents
The name of the road as granted was Mount
Hood Road, but it was called then, and still is, "The
Barlow Road." Sam acquired a partner in Philip Foster
of Eagle Creek, and they both signed an agreement to share
and share alike in the expenses and the proffits (sic) John
Ramage helped them post the necessary bond.
As soon as the weather permitted in the
spring of 1846, men and oxen started to build the road, continuing
on from near Philip Foster's place, up to where they had
left the wagons and their plunder -- as they called their
goods --the previous fall. Sam remembered something he had
neglected to mention in his application - bridges! For here
was the Sandy to cross and the Zigzag! Not much could be
done about Laurel Hill except figure out ways to lower the
wagons down the steep mountain slope, which they did because
they had to. The wagons, with their contents finally reached
their destination, and they were the vanguard of many years
of emigration over the Barlow Road. Each year winter would
obliterate much of the evidence of their passing, as the
road builders found out.
Samuel K. Barlow and Philip Foster terminated
their partnership on November 29, 1848. It had not been a
financially profitable venture, but it was a very large step
forward in the development of the Oregon country.
1849 found many men taken with the fever
of "gold in Californey." Sam's eldest son, William,
went after his share but came back without it. It is doubtful
that the road was used very much, and upkeep must have been
minimal, if at all.
In 1850 Samuel K. Barlow received a commission
as a Justice of the Peace for Clackamas County from the Acting
Governor of the Territory of Oregon, Kintzing Pritchette.
And that was a lot of territory, as a glance at a map of
that time will show. However, other men applied for charters
to continue to operate the toll road, and it remained in
service until 1915. It was a two-way road, with emigrants
coming and going. Many Central and Eastern Oregon settlers
looked over the Willamette Valley first. No complete record
of these travelers has been found, but if one had been kept,
what a roster of names that would be!
The rest of the story can be seen at: The
Barlow Family and Their Pioneer Toll Road
The Barlow Road, Then and Now
Printed by the U.S. Forestry Commission
The Lure of "OYER-UN-GUN"
"Oyer-un-gun" was the Place of
Plenty," according to the Shoshone. Letteres from the
Rev. Jason Lee at Ft. Vancouver to friends back east, spoke
of the vast and fertile Willamette Valley, where the climate
was mild year round there were no storms or crop failures,
and flowers bloomed at Christmas time. Description much as
this built a frame of mind known as "Oregon Fever."
Hardy souls forsook their secure, familiar
homes, gathered all their earthly possessions, and embared
on history's most arduous emigrant trail. The Great Migration
began in 1843. Their ungreased axles squeaking over the high
desert and plateau, the patche and weather beaten "prairie
schooners" made their way to Oregon. Other men had come
to the Cascades before, the trappers, traders, and mountain
men. But these folks were here to stay. They had crossed
2,000 miles of dusty prairie, most of it on foot since space
in the wagons was reserved for treasured possessions.
Nearing the Columbia Gorge, even these stalwart
hearts paused; the turbulent rapids called the "dalls" by
earlier voyagers and the steep canyon walls rising from the
water's edge defied passage. Yet pass it did, these early
pioneers, by rafting an portagin through the aweson Gorge.
By 1845, wagons were pouring into the east
end of the Gorge by the thousands. Speculators setteled at
The Dalles, charging exhorbitant fares for passage. It took
an amateur many days to build a raft, float, and portang
his gear and family through the Gorge to Oregon City. It
could be sheer misery, with the cold gusty winter winds and
drenching rains. Many crossed the prairie, only to parish
passing through the Gorge.
The First Crossing of the Cascades
In the fall of 1845, the Samuel K. Barlow
party from Independence, Missouri, arrived at the Dalles.
They found they would have to wait weeks for passage and
could not afford the high price of food for themselves and
their stock. Having seen a notch in the south slope of Mt.
Hood, Barlow decided that "God never made a mountain
that had no place to go over it," and headed south to
find a way around Mt. Hood. He was joined by several other
parties, namely thouse of Joel Palmer and William Rector,
until 30 wagons made up the first train determined to cross
the Cascades before winter snow fell.
The parties went south from The Dalles,
turning southwest at Tygh Valley. When they reached the present
Gale Creek, near Warnic, they turned west. Their path ran
through park-like pine forests which soon merged with fir
and cedar. The terrain became steeper and full of boulders.
The woods became thicker -- making difficult going for the
lumbering wagons. Nearing the White River at Klip Creek,
they came to a very abrupt decline -- which later travelers
called Little Laurel Hill. Here the wagons had to be slowly
lowered with the help of ropes stoutly wound around trees.
The road building was slow. They had only
axes and saws with but one grindstone in the entire company.
Consequently, much of the clearing was done by burning.
On October 11, Palmer, Barlow and a man
named Lock scouted ahead of the main party. They continued
to the summit of the Cascades -- later known as Barlow Pass,
elevation 4,155 feet. Then they scouted the southern flanks
of Mt. Hood. Looming between them and the dreaded Columbia,
the mountain stood snowy and immense. Palmer later records, "I
have never before looked upon a sight so nobly grand." But
they could not linger. They crossed a wide, stony field,
then sought a better view farther up the mountain. Finally,
they came to a wide, steep-sided ravine, so deep the timber
below resembled minature Christmas trees. (They were probably
looking across Zigzag Canyon.) Palmer's journal describes
the spot: "A precipate cliff of rocks, at the head,
prevented passage around it. The hills were of the same material
as that we had been traveling over, and were very steep." The
men decided to climb higher up the mountain, hoping to see
another path. Palmer, being the most hardy of the three,
went on alone after snow was encountered. He probably ventured
out onto Zigzag Glacier, climbing about one-third the distance
from timberline to the summit, though his maccasins had worn
thin and he traveled much of the distance barefoot. Meeting
his companions again, they re-joined the road-building members
of their party on Barlow Creek about 11 p.m. that night.
After one more exploring trip, the group decided to build
a cabin and store their belongings. They did not have time
to build the road over the rough terrain between them and
the Willamette Valley before the winter snow began. Two of
the party started to Oregon City for fresh supplies. One
man stayed behind at "Fort Deposit" as they called
the cabin, as a guard. Then, in small groups, they made their
way out of the mountains, some on foot, some on horseback.
At least one woman rode a cow.
The trek out was miserable. Snow had begun
to fall. The emigrants were cold and hungry; some were sick
from exposure. Many of the livestock died from eating the
poisonous rhododendron leaves. Fog, rain, and sleet slowed
their progress and camps were made under any shelter that
could be improvised. In his journal, Palmer recorded that
he ".....stood shivering in the rain around the fire,
and, when daylight appeared, it gave us an opportunity to
look at each other's lank visages. Our horses were shivering
with the cold, the rain had put out our fire, and it seemed
as though everything had combined to render us miserable." In
spite of all this, many managed to keep their sense of humor.
One of Barlow's daughters declared: "We are in the midst
of plenty -- plenty of snow, plenty of water if we melt it,
plenty of wood, plenty of horsemeat, plenty of dogmeat, if
the worst comes."
By Christmas 1845, everyone had reached
Oregon City with no mishaps. The hardships of the trail were
soon forgotten in the task of starting new homes.
Barlow was so busy collecting tolls he had
litte time to improve the road. This ws done by those who
used it. They changed some sections to avoid steep hills
and difficult stream crossings. But, generally, the emigrants
were not particular. As long as the route was passable, they
used it. The original tollgate was located on Gate Creek,
but was eventually moved to a site one mile east of Rhododendron.
Operating the toll road was not easy. Many emigrants had
no money. Arriving at the toll gate penniless, and hungry,
they refused to pay. Often a shirt, a cow, a blanket, or
a promise to pay was all that was collected. However, a chivalrous
Barlow allowed widow to pass toll free. The toll road passed
through various owners, being in existence nearly 70 years.
In 1912, Henry Wemme of Portland bought the road, making
many improvements. It was donated to the State of Oregon
by his estate in 1919.
The Barlow Road Today
Good highways take a modern day traveler
from the Dalles to the Willamette Valley in a matter of hours.
But in the mid-1800's, good routes were hard to find. By-passing
the treacherous Columbia River Gorge, the Barlow Road has
been called "the greatest boon to the settlement of
western Oregon" until the railroads were built in the
1880's. The first year the road was open, Barlow reported
152 wagons and 1,559 head of stock went through the tollgate.
Travelling then was certainly not the pleasure it is today.
Then, folks and camped along the Barlow Road because it was
necessary to reach their long-sought destination. They were
seeking homes in the Willamette Valley.
Today's sight-seeing Americans can travel
the same route once forged by the hardy first settlers to
Oregon. The eastern portion of the road is still mainly intact.
It has been altered little. Trees encroach from the sides
of the road. Topography, more than any modifications proposed
by man, determined the orginal route. It is a reminder of
the hard working men and women who passed along the way.
You can travel the eastern portion of the
route, though the western route has mostly been obliterated
by modern highways.
The brochure from which this is copied goes
on to tell the exact route to take to follow the eastern