The Sierra Highway is a road in Southern California, United States, with a rich history. Here’s an overview:
Early Beginnings: The history of the Sierra Highway can be traced back to the early 20th century. It was initially part of the state highway system established in 1910 under the State Route 4 designation. This route was part of the Midland Trail, a transcontinental route established in the early days of automobile travel.
Ridge Route Connection: In the 1910s, the Sierra Highway was connected to the Ridge Route, a significant engineering achievement that connected Los Angeles to the San Joaquin Valley. This connection made the Sierra Highway a vital link in Southern California’s road network.
U.S. Route 6: In 1937, the Sierra Highway became part of U.S. Route 6, a transcontinental highway that at one point stretched from Provincetown, Massachusetts, to Long Beach, California. This made it one of the longest highways in the United States.
Changes and Decline in Importance: Completing the Interstate Highway System, particularly Interstate 5, led to a decline in the importance of the Sierra Highway as a major through route. Much of its role was supplanted by these newer, faster roadways.
Modern Era: The Sierra Highway still exists today, but it functions more as a local road than a major thoroughfare. It passes through or near towns such as Santa Clarita, Palmdale, and Mojave, and it offers a scenic alternative to the faster interstate highways.
Cultural Significance: Beyond its practical use, the Sierra Highway holds a place in California’s cultural and historical landscape. It represents an era of early automotive travel, the state’s infrastructure development, and Southern California’s growth.
The Sierra Highway, like many historic roads, tells a story of technological progress, changing transportation needs, and the development of communities along its path.
Braided wagon trails become braided due to a variety of factors, primarily stemming from the behavior of the travelers and the physical environment they traverse. Here’s an overview of how this process occurs:
Multiple Path Creation: Initially, a wagon trail starts as a single path. As more wagons follow the same route, the trail becomes more pronounced. However, when a part of the trail becomes difficult to traverse due to obstacles, mud, steep inclines, or other challenges, travelers may start to create alternate paths to bypass these difficult sections.
Environmental Conditions: Factors like weather conditions (heavy rains creating mud, snow, etc.), natural obstacles (fallen trees, rockslides), or changes in the landscape (river course changes, growth of vegetation) can render parts of the original trail less passable. Wagon drivers then seek easier or safer routes, leading to the creation of parallel tracks.
Heavy Use and Erosion: With heavy use, the main trail can become deeply rutted and eroded, making it increasingly difficult for wagons to pass. This encourages travelers to forge new paths alongside the original one. Over time, with many wagons choosing different routes to avoid these ruts, a braided pattern of multiple trails emerges.
Avoidance of Conflict or Danger: Sometimes, the creation of braided trails is also influenced by the travelers’ desire to avoid conflict with other groups or dangerous wildlife. This could lead to detours that contribute to the braiding.
Search for Resources: In some cases, particularly during long journeys, wagons might veer off the main path in search of resources like water, grazing land for livestock, or better camping spots, which further contributes to the braiding of trails.
Lack of Central Coordination: In many historical contexts, there was no central authority planning or maintaining these trails, so they evolved organically based on the immediate needs and decisions of the travelers.
This phenomenon was particularly notable in the era of westward expansion in the United States, where many trails, like portions of the Oregon Trail or the Santa Fe Trail, exhibited this braiding due to the heavy traffic of wagons over decades, all facing various environmental and practical challenges.
Covered wagons significantly impacted the United States’ westward expansion during the 18th and 19th centuries. These wagons, often called “prairie schooners,” were designed to transport goods and settlers across the North American continent.
Key features and uses of covered wagons included:
Design: Covered wagons typically had a wooden frame with a canvas cover. This cover protected the contents from weather elements like rain and sun. The wagon bed was usually made of wood and was about four feet wide by ten feet long.
Cover: The cover was made of canvas or similar durable cloth, stretched over hooped frames, providing shelter and goods for the occupants.
Wheels: The wheels were often large and designed to handle rough terrain. The front wheels were usually smaller than the rear wheels, allowing easier turning.
Draft Animals: Oxen, mules, or horses were commonly used to pull these wagons. Oxen were preferred for their strength and endurance, especially over long distances.
Role in Expansion: Covered wagons were essential for westward migration in the U.S. They carried settlers’ belongings, including tools, food, and sometimes even passengers. These wagons were a vital part of the movement to settle the American West and were commonly seen on trails like the Oregon Trail, the Santa Fe Trail, and the California Trail.
Living Quarters: The covered wagon was a temporary home for many settlers traveling west. Families would cook, eat, sleep, and spend much of their time in or around the wagon during their journey.
Historical Significance: The image of a covered wagon crossing the plains has become an iconic symbol of American frontier life, representing the pioneer spirit, exploration, and the challenges of frontier life.
The use of covered wagons declined with the advent of railroads, which offered a faster and more efficient means of transporting goods and people across the country. However, their legacy remains an integral part of American history and folklore.
U.S. Highway 395, often simply referred to as Highway 395, is a north-south highway that runs through the western part of the country. It spans approximately 1,300 miles (2,092 kilometers) from southern California to the border of Washington and Canada.
Part of this highway passes through the Mojave Desert in California. The Mojave Desert is known for its arid landscape, unique geological features, and desert flora and fauna. Highway 395 offers travelers the opportunity to experience the beauty and solitude of the Mojave Desert while providing access to various points of interest along the way.
Here are some key points about U.S. Highway 395:
Route: U.S. 395 starts in Southern California and travels north through California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington before reaching the Canadian border near Laurier, Washington. It roughly follows the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
Scenic Route: Highway 395 is renowned for its scenic beauty and passes through a diverse range of landscapes, including deserts, mountain ranges, valleys, and forests. It offers breathtaking views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Mono Lake, and the Eastern Sierra.
Recreation: The highway provides access to numerous outdoor recreational opportunities, including hiking, skiing, fishing, camping, and boating in the various natural areas it traverses.
Historical Sites: U.S. 395 also passes by several historical sites and attractions, such as the Manzanar National Historic Site (a former Japanese internment camp during World War II), the Eastern California Museum, and various mining and pioneer heritage sites.
Some notable places and attractions along U.S. Highway 395 in the Mojave Desert region include:
Lone Pine: A charming town with access to the Eastern Sierra, Mount Whitney, and the Eastern Sierra Visitor Center.
Bishop: A larger town along the highway known for outdoor recreation, including fishing, hiking, and rock climbing.
Mono Lakeis a unique and ancient saline lake near Lee Vining with striking tufa towers.
Travelers along U.S. Highway 395 can experience the stark beauty of the Mojave Desert, explore its geological wonders, and access various outdoor recreational opportunities. It’s a popular route for road trips and exploration of California’s eastern Sierra region.
Overall, U.S. Highway 395 is a significant transportation corridor in the western United States, known for its stunning scenery, recreational opportunities, and historical significance. It offers travelers a chance to explore diverse landscapes and experience the beauty of the American West.
Of all the brother acts operating in and around San Bernardino County during the Mormon period, Few accomplished more for the ultimate benefit of the area than the Stoddard boys, Arvin and Sheldon.
Neither cut an imposing figure. Arvin, the quiet one, was only 5’5″ tall and weighed 135 pounds soaking wet, while Sheldon wasn’t much larger. But what they lacked in height, they more than made up in spirit.
Arvin, however, had an imposing ally in his wife Caroline. She was 6 feet tall and weighed well over 200 pounds — a formidable Amazon and an extremely vocal one too. One is tempted to ask if she carried him across the threshold on their wedding night.
She became Arvin’s mouthpiece and did not hesitate to make her opinions known, particularly when the chips were down. As their grandson, R. Jackson Stoddard wrote in the March 1970 issue of the LA Westerners Branding Iron, “For although she followed the will of her husband, in many cases the will of her husband was truly only a reflection of her own wants and desires.”
Today, a stretch of the Mojave Desert between Victorville and Daggett is blanketed with sites bearing the Stoddard’s names. They include the Stoddard Mountains, Stoddard Hills, Stoddard gulch, Stoddard Valley, Stoddard Well and Stoddard Wells Road — all directly attributable to Arvin’s work in the area during the 1850s and 60s.
There were four Stoddard Brothers at the beginning; Rufus, Albert, Arvin and Sheldon, who were all born in Canada. When their father died in 1838, mother Jane gathered them all up and crossed the United States border, first to Ohio in then to Warsaw, Illinois, where she became hooked on the Mormon religion. When the church made it’s great trek to Salt Lake City in 1847, she and her boys were in the initial contingent.
Rufus was the first of the boys to reach California, arriving in San Diego as a member of the MormonBattalion. After his group was disbanded in Los Angeles, he remained in the area for almost a year before he rejoining his family at Salt Lake City in 1849.
Sheldon was the next to go. Leaving Salt Lake in 1848, along with 30 other men found for the placer diggings near hang town, they traveled as far as Mountain Meadows with a larger company who hired Capt. Jefferson Hunt to guide them to Los Angeles over the Old Spanish Trail.
At the Meadows they left Hunt’s party and turned west to take what they thought was a shortcut to the gold fields and for the next 17 days blindly followed a false trail without a guide, compass or map to go by.
On the 18th day, hopelessly lost in facing death without water their lives were spared when a sudden rain squall drenched the area. As Sheldon later wrote, “We caught the water by spreading out our rubber blankets on the ground and drank it with a spoon.”
They then turned east on the Muddy River, followed at South until they fortunately encountered Capt. Hunt’s company again and accompanied it up the Mojave River, through Cajon Pass and down to the Chino Ranch.
Tragically enough, on the same trip another group of would-be minors left Hunt’s command at Provo, Utah, insisting they also knew a shorter route to the gold fields, only to blunder into Death Valley, where five died before the survivors made it to Los Angeles.
From Chino the party went on to Mariposa, where they broke up to mine, while Stoddard ran a trading post in nearby Carson Valley for a few months before returning to Salt Lake with a herd of horses and mules.
in March 1851 Sheldon married Jane Hunt, daughter of Capt. Hunt, and the following month they accompanied the first group of Mormon colonizers to the San Bernardino Valley, making temporary camp at Sycamore Grove.
After the Mormons purchased the San Bernardino Rancho that September, and moved down into the valley, Sheldon built the first log cabin in the settlement on First Street,, west of I Street. His cabin was later moved to and made part of the Westside of this stockade constructed on the present courthouse site as protection against hostile Indians.
For the next 14 years Sheldon Stoddardwas engaged in freighting and carrying mail between San Bernardino and Salt Lake City, crossing the Mojave 24 times in all. In 1865 he made one trip to Nevada in Montana with a mule team which covered over 1300 miles, and took six months to complete.
Arvin Stoddard and his wife also came to San Bernardino with the first Mormon train and lived in the stockade for three years before receiving an urgent message from Mormon leader Brigham Young, authorizing him to investigate a gold strike in the Calico Hills to see if he could ” obtain as much gold as possible to help finance the founding and furtherance of the faith,” keeping only enough to live on during the venture.
Arvin and Caroline, ardent church devotees, packed their wagon and with their poor young children in tow, headed for the hills without hesitation.
But before looking for gold, Arvin searched for water to raise crops to feed his family and stock and to flush through sluice boxes used to separate flakes of gold from the desert sand.
One of his more successful wells, known as Stoddard Well, is still flowing today and besides furnishing the family with ample water, also provided an impetus for others to break out a new road on almost a straight line from Lane’s Crossing, near today’s Oro Grande, to Fish Ponds Station between present-day Barstow and Daggett, thereby saving many miles compared with the old route, which followed the westward band of the Mojave River.
Although it took him almost 8 years of prospecting, Arvin finally struck a rich claim and extracted a sum that Caroline estimated at $60,000 before calling it quits and lighting out for Salt Lake City to hand to Brigham Young.
But before they reach the Mormon Temple, they were held up by Indians and robbed of all their hard-earned loot, except for a few thousand dollars hidden in Caroline’s underwear.
As her grandson related, “The Indians were neither red nor brown. they were more white than any Indian she (Caroline) had ever seen.” Caroline deduced they were renegade Mormons, acting on behalf of the church, and although her suspicions were never resolved, her once benevolent attitude toward the Mormon hierarchy changed overnight and led to her eventual break with the church.
In 1869 the Arvin Stoddards move to Milford, Utah, where they build a hotel called, naturally, “The Stoddard House,” where they lived until Caroline died in 1904.
Sheldon Stoddard remained in San Bernardino for the rest of his life, Rev. and honored by all who knew him for his contributions to the county and state.
After serving as president of the pioneer society, he spent his final years surrounded by old friends like John Brown and Billy Holcomb. They camped and fished together in their mountain retreats and dedicated monuments to the pioneers in Cajon Pass. he was active up to the day of his death in 1919 at the age of 89.
Heritage Tales 1988 by Fred Holladay published by the City of San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society