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Cajon Pass - Historic Roads

The Toll Road

Wagons on toll road at Cajon Summit
Mojave River Valley Museum

One of the historic roads built in 1861 was the John Brown Toll Road. It was established to connect the desert with the outside world. John Brown, Sr., was a man of great activity and spent a long life helping the desert to advance. When San Bernardino was made a county he was one of the first legislators. He had been a member of Fremont's expedition at one time. His Toll Road was twelve miles long and was a vital link in the progress of the desert country. With Henry Willis and George L. Tucker of San Bernardino, Brown secured a twenty-year franchise for operating the road. The road came through Cajon Pass to the floor of the desert and connected with the Van Dusen Road built from Holcomb Valley to the desert. After operating the Toll Road for eighteen years, Brown leased it out for the two remaining years. Afer that the road became a free county road. John Brown, Sr., was a colorful character. He was a miner, cattleman, road builder, and tireless in his activities in building for the desert's future. He lived to a good old age. He had ten children; four of them were boys who, in maturity owned land in the desert.'

(Ellsworth A. Sylvester, Mohahve, No. II (Mohahve Historical Society, 1964).)
The Mojave River and its Valley -- Erma Peirson

The Los Angeles Star ran an article on April 6, 1861, proclaiming that it was essential to improve the road that was so vital to the economy of the Southland:
    This road is the great thoroughfare from Los Angeles and San Bernardino to the great gold and silver fields now known to exist and which at present are being worked, east of the Sierra Nevada and Coast Range Mountains. And not only this, but over it all the travel from the north, not passing over the San Fernando Mountain, going southward, must pass. At the head of the caņon is one of the steepest mountains in the State, over which a road passes, and teamsters have always complained of the great difficulties encountered in the ascent.

    So severely has this been felt, that many of them have offered $5 a load toll to any parties who would cut down the mountain and make a turnpike road of it. As the travel on this road has been greatly increased of late by the trade to the mines, it has become absolutely necessary to take steps to improve the mountain pass road. For this purpose subscription lists have been circulated this week here and in San Bernardino, to raise money to cut down the road across the mountain, and thus facilitate transit to the mines.
Brown's Turnpike and Van Dusen's Road
Pioneer of the Mojave - Toll Road through the Cajon Pass


The completion of the toll road through the Cajon Pass and the ferry across the Colorado river at Ft. Mojave in 1862, both of which were due to the energy of John Brown, Sr., gave a new impetus to the trade with Arizona and Utah. Regular stage communication with Arizona was maintained and a large amount of freighting to the mines of the desert and to Arizona and Utah was carried on during the sixties. Grain, hay and flour produced in the valley, goods from San Pedro and mail and express matter brought from San Francisco and overland by the Butterfield stage company were distributed from San Bernardino. In 1866, several stage lines were giving regular service to different points in Arizona.

In 1861 John Brown, Sr., H. M. Willis and G. L. Tucker received a franchise for the construction of a toll road through the Cajon Pass. This was built, and in 1862 John Brown started a ferry across the Colorado at Ft. Mojave. For twenty years the life of the conces- sion, this toll road was kept up and much heavy traffic went over it.

(The Arrowhead Reservoir Company built a toll road in 1892, which was nineteen miles long and was well constructed : this gives access to some of the finest scenery in the country. For many years there has been a demand for a free mountain road which should enable the people to visit the lumber camps and the resorts of the San Bernardino)


In 1861, seeing the necessity of an outlet to Southern Utah and Arizona for the productions of San Bernardino, Mr. Brown, with Judge Henry M. Willis and George L. Tucker, procured a charter from the Legislature for a toll road through the Cajon Pass, which he kept open for eighteen years, thus contributing materially to the business of the city in which he lived.

In 1862. he went to Fort Mojave and established a ferry across the Colorado river, thus enhancing the business of San Bernardino still more.

(History of San Bernardino County - John Brown)

John Brown

Toll Road in the Pass

Mormon Hogback

Sanford Pass

Van Dusen Road

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