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Updated 3:10pm - Apr 16, 2014
Updated 3:46pm - Apr 15, 2014

Home arrow News arrow Northcoast Life arrow Early white settlers relied on pack-mule trains

Early white settlers relied on pack-mule trains

During Del Norte's early days, inland settlers relied on pack-mule trains for supplies. Some trains were 200 mules long. (Photo courtesy of Del Norte County Historical Society.).
During Del Norte's early days, inland settlers relied on pack-mule trains for supplies. Some trains were 200 mules long. (Photo courtesy of Del Norte County Historical Society.).

By Cornelia de Bruin

Triplicate staff writer

The first white settlers of Del Norte County had contact with the world only through a scant trail system and the ships that stopped here.

Although it was a more primitive system than available to travelers now, the number of roads was not so many more than those of modern times.

The first trails were cut through the forest. One crossed Cold Spring Mountain into Oregon, the other crossed the Siskiyou Range to the gold fields.

The Oregon route cost $3,000 to open and maintain. Teamsters would load up in Crescent City early in the morning so they could go over Redwood Ridge at daybreak. They could ranch their stock at a ranch owned by John Mavity, who served as a county supervisor in 1863-65.

Not until , when Horace Gasquet's City and Yreka Plank and Turnpike Road opened for use, did residents have a third connection to the world.

Five-hundred mules were used to freight. Most of them left the area after the plank road was finished

From Oregon came the seeds that early settlers used for crops. From San Francisco came their other goods.

Shortly after Gasquet and his largely Chinese work crews finished the City and Yreka Plank and Turnpike Road, Nicholas McNamara Sr. and his partners, Stateler, McKay and Dobson" (no first names given), advertised their newly formed freighting company, the Northern California or Southern Oregon Mountain Express.

The group owned at least 75 mules, which bore the loads during the area's five-year heyday of mule train teamstering.

One pioneer's writing states the group paid $50,000 for the animals and other pre-opening expenses.

Crescent Herald reporter George P. Johnson identified the company's operation base at Dugan & Wall's store, and its lead Agent, A.B. McElwain.

"The route led through Sailor Diggings (later known as Waldo, Ore.), Althouse, Applegate, Sucker, Canon and Gallice Creeks." It connected at Jacksonville, Ore., then went to Yreka.

The company advertised "letters procured from any Express or Post Office in California ... treasure, packages and letters carried at reduced rates."

T.H. Miles described the trails that teamsters drove their "long teams" across as "ankle deep dust in summer, and practically stopped by mud in winter.

"Little thought was given to making easy grades, and no attempt was made to eliminate the hairpin turns."

The trail led from Crescent City over Redwood Ridge, crossed the Smith River at Peacock Crossing (near the present-day golf course), and along the North Bank of the river just past its confluence with the North Fork of the Smith River.

From there it was upriver to Cold Springs Mountain, into Illinois Valley and onward to Sailors Diggings and other camps.

More than a quarter century later, mules still were used to deliver mail to the Klamath area, where Joe Fountain would drop mail.

From there a man identified only as "Hayes" packed the mail to Trinidad, a three-day round trip.

Early packers included Moe Mendez, Gassy Bow, Joe Teran, Sam Johnson, Peter Peveler, Martino Loritas, Robert Worthington, Old Martinez and a man identified only as Cochran.

 


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