March 5, 2020
STEEP ROAD TO SUCCESS: In 1851, after early Mormon settlers survived the perilous journey from Salt Lake City, following the Old Spanish Trail, they arrived in the valley and soon established a town. Anxious to build a fort for protection against possible Indian attack they soon realized that a greater source of lumber would need to be secured. The answer, of course, was above: the lush forests of the San Bernardino Mountains. But first a road would need to be built. The Old Mormon Road rose from Waterman Canyon and reached the summit some 12 miles up. An estimated 1,000 man-days of hard labor were involved. With a grade as steep as 40% wagons headed down the hill needed to fasten a log, horizontally, to the back wheels and skid down a good portion of the decline. There were no brakes that could hold the wheels against the grade. The road gave access to Seely and Huston Flats, and the immediate focus was to establish mills and build communities. The Daley Canyon Toll Road was completed in 1870 which was instrumental in the continued growth of the mountain lumber industry. However, neither the toll roads nor the Old Mormon Road would fulfill the needs of the Arrowhead Reservoir Company, formed in 1891, and their goal: water. The company’s plans included building several reservoirs, linked together, and able to irrigate 120,000 acres of valley farmland. Work began in the summer of 1891 to build a new road up Waterman Canyon that would mostly follow the old Mormon Road for the first half and then create new switchbacks up to the final crest. The road was completed March 1892. This week’s image shows a couple of families taking a break from their journey on the new road. Users were excited about the improved route until the company posted the toll: $2. This would be well over $50 in today’s money and there was much ill will until 1905, when it became a county road. By Ken Brafman, Image from John Robinson Collection.