I went down to Sonoma County to visit family this weekend. It took about 4 ½ hours and felt much longer. When I hit Windsor, I ran into an awful mess. Caltrans is widening the highway to three lanes, which is desperately needed, but until it’s done, oh boy !
Over the years, my growing interest in Humboldt history has prompted me to look at many of the things around us with new eyes. The buildings, the bay, the people. But the roads, up until the other day, remained unnoticed.
When the settlers arrived, the county was ribboned with Indian trails, but none would have accommodated the wagons hauling families, woodstoves, pianos and other accoutrements desired by the pioneers trying to carve homes and communities out of the wilderness.
In October of 1853, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors imposed a road tax. All able bodied men between the ages of 18 – 45 were required to contribute five days labor on public roads. In 1854, the Supes bumped the age to fifty, but within a week of imposing the tax they added an addendum; men could work five days on the road, or pay the same in cash at $4 a day. Guess not everyone felt like picking up a shovel.
In August of that year, the first wagon road from Union to our place near Blue Lake was started, and in October they finished construction and declared the road a public highway.
The same year roads were built from
- Bucksport to the forks of Elk River
- The Slide at Eel River to the crossing at Yager Creek
- The house of Mr. Dudley at Eel River to the crossing at Salmon Creek
- Grizzly Bluff to Cape Mendocino, where Joe Russ had a place.
In October, James Light, the road supervisor for Union reported 155 ½ days of labor worked on the roads, 33 of which were done by Light himself. He also spent $120 on lumber, which included building a bridge on the west side of Union at Butcher Slough.
Folks in Eel River dedicated 277 days with no delinquents, and those in Eureka 334 1/2 days of labor with 59 delinquents.
In 1855, the road tax stuck at $4, but the supervisors created separate funds for each district, and in ’55, the tax was reduced to 3 days labor or $3.33 per day.
Over the years, citizens petitioned the County Supervisors for more roads, and the road tax, and road construction, continued.