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Roads Bring Soldiers and Emigrants
Volume Two Number Six

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Oregon Trail 1869

The Dalles Military Road
To Ft. Boise through Canyon City

July 26 -- Congress was under the impression that if there was a road from the Dalles to Canyon City at all it was a very poor one, and which I presume is little better yet, "as graves on its banks (John Day river) of men drowned, stages and teams upset and treasure lost can testify."

From Canyon City to Fort Boise by way of Mormon Basin there was literally no road at all, at least in June 1864, as my own experience can testify -- not even a trail that a stranger could follow, much less such a road as contem- plated by that act of Congress.

Congress, in making that liberal land grant to the state expected a road to be built that would "permit its regular use" -- that is its use every day in the year, with perfect safety "from upsets, high water, drowning," &c., a road upon which trains of heavily loaded Government wagons, and also heavy artillery if ever needed could pass and repass the year round. It was expected that every stream would be substantially and permanently bridged that all banks and hills would be reduced to an easy grade; that every tree, stump, stone and grub would be removed from the surface and that all low and marshy land would be thrown up and graveled to a depth sufficient to sustain the heaviest road.

Such a road would be a blessing to the country and especially so to that portion of it through which it would pass. And furthermore, it was expected that the Legislature of Oregon would specify all these items and many others in reference to the building of the road.

The oversight and control of the whole matter is confided to the Governor, and it was expected as a matter of course that he would guard the interest of the state and secure to the advantages of a magnificent highway before the right to this liberal subsidy should pass to the corporation. It is hoped that the Governor will examine all these roads in person, and hold all these corporations to the strictest compliance with the letter and spirit of the acts of Congress. When he can not examine in person, never send in a tool of the corporation to make such inspection. Congress granted those lands for the good of the people and not for the benefit of the corporation.

From the act of our last Legislature it would seem that it had but one object in view in transferring this land grant to the Dalles Corporation, that was, to confer upon it the largest possible benefit for the least possible service -- not one single specification as to width, grade, causeways, bridges, culverts, &c. All of which should have been minutely specified and required with substantial marks placed at the end of every mile. As the Legislature, either ignorantly or willfully, passed over all this, it now becomes the duty of the Governor to fall back upon the spirit of the act of Congress and require a rigid compliance.

No lands are recognized as "mineral lands" until they have been reported as such.

The legal rights of all settlers on these lands are respected by the provisions of this bill and every such settler to have acquired rights under any law of Congress need have no fears from the operation of this act -- if he has acquired no rights as a matter of course he has nothing to lose. The second proviso in the first section of the bill will be held by Secretary of the Interior to cover ALL the rights of every settler upon these lands -- that is, all settlements made previous to the actual building of the road -- neither Congress, the Interior Department, nor the Courts will sustain any swindles upon bona fide settlers.

Should the corporation adopt a section of the road already built by other parties, the Governor should be careful to deduct that portion from the remainder, so as not to pay the corporation for work done by others.

The corporation will be compelled to build their road to Canyon City in order to obtain the land grant, as the act making the grant names that city as a point on the line, and the Governor can not certify compliance with the act unless the road is so laid.
Ex-Congressman Hon. J.H.D. Henderson
Canyon City Journal, Oregon, 1869


The above story is only one of several from this edition of our hard copy. Other titles include Golden Spike at Point in Utah Connects U.S. East to West, Pi-Ute Chief Speaks for Peace and a modern day tale of romance along the trail. Map of the Dalles Military Road and a minature replica of an Overland Mail Route state coach ad illustrate the front page. Again, here is a story that truly has a story behind the story. A scandal developed about some of these "military" roads in and around this area that were paid for as if complete and indeed they were not much more than mud ruts. When the source surfaces again, we will add more to this page about it.

Continue the Oregon Trail saga!

Read our Number Seven of the series, Oregon Trail 1873 Oregon: Land of Gold & Opportunity


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Bridget E. Smith, editor & publisher

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