Friday, August 2, 2013


Mt. Hood is a very tall, very pretty mountain, as I already told you.  The main problem with it for the early pioneers was that it was exactly in the way of where they wanted to take their wagons to the Willamette Valley.  So at first, people had to go down the Columbia River on a raft.  This could be very dangerous because there were some bad, scary rapids in the river, and your whole raft could tip over.  Or even if it didn't, your wagon could fall off the raft, and you might lose everything that you hadn't already thrown out earlier to make your load lighter.

The Columbia River

Oh, and people could fall off in the rapids and drown, which wasn't good either.  Plus, in order to take this big risk with your life and your belongings, you had to pay a lot of money to a professional rafting person to take you down the river.  Or else you had to pay some Indians to take you in their canoes.  If you knew how, you could build your own raft, but not everybody knew how to do this.

Sam Barlow, about 1919

In 1845, a man named Samuel Kimbrough Barlow went over the Oregon Trail with his wife and children.  Before he went to Oregon, Mr. Barlow had been a tailor in Kentucky.  When the family arrived at the Columbia River, there were already 60 wagons waiting to go down the river on the expensive ferries.  Mr. Barlow got angry about this state of affairs, and he decided there must be a way to go by land instead.  He said, "God never made a mountain that he didn't make a way to get over it."

The Barlow Road is the pink dotted line

So Mr. Barlow's party of 7 wagons joined up with Joel Palmer's group of 23 wagons, and they started looking for a way to go around Mt. Hood on the south side, through the Cascade Mountains.  The trees were very, very thick there, so the men had to cut down a whole bunch of them, just so they could get the wagons through on a path that was still really narrow.

It was hard work, and it took a long time.  When they got to the point where they needed to find a pass over the Cascades, Mr. Barlow and Mr. Palmer climbed up the side of Mt. Hood to about 9,000 feet, so they could get a better view.  And from there, they could see which way to take the wagons.  This pass later got the name of Barlow Pass.

The Barlow Road today

Anyway, by the time they got through the pass to a place called Government Camp, it was so late in the year that they couldn't take the wagons any farther.  So they made a cache of all their stuff, and they left one person there to guard it.  The rest of them went on to Oregon City, and they got there on Christmas night of 1845.

One of the five tollgates

In the spring, Mr. Barlow went back to where the wagons were, and he got permission from the Oregon provisional government to build a toll road.  The road was cleared out enough to open when the wagon trains started coming through in the fall of 1846.  The toll was $5.00 for a wagon and 10 cents for each horse, mule, or head of cattle.  Some people could pay this, but others had no money left, so they paid a quilt or two shirts for a wagon, or a gun for two wagons.  The road never made a profit because there were too many people who couldn't pay the toll, and the gatekeeper was nice enough to let them pass anyway.

The Barlow Road was very important in the settlement of Oregon.  About 75% of early immigrants going to the Willamette Valley used the road, even though people said it was the most difficult 100 miles of the Oregon Trail.

A traveler named Sarah Cummins wrote that "The traveling was slow and toilsome; slopes were almost impassible for man and beast.  As night was coming on, it seemed we all must perish, but weak, faint and starving we went on.  I could scarcely put one foot before the other.  I weighed less than eighty pounds at the time.  My own party had been 14 days with only nine biscuits and four small slices of bacon."

Mom's tour group on the Barlow Road
Anyway, Mom saw a little part of the Barlow Road while she was in Oregon.  I am glad I didn't have to go there in a wagon with the pioneers because I would have got really tired, walking around all the tree stumps.  Also, I would not like being hungry, like Sarah Cummins was.  Still, I guess it would be better than falling off a raft and drowning in the Columbia River.  Which is why the best plan of all is just to stay at home, so I think that's what I'll do!


  1. Hey Piper! I'm back posting on my blog I had to make a few tweaks and things went wrong so my fonts wont change back ( anyway your post was very educational as always! I hope to read more of your posts soon!

    1. Hey, Fluffy!
      It's good to hear from you again! I will go look at your blog as soon as I finish writing this. I hope everything has been going well for you in the last however long it's been!
      Love, Piper