The Gene Pool: JTR's Colorful Family History
The Barlow Family and
Their Pioneer Toll Road

Some excerpts from "Barlow Road" published in 1975
by the Clackamas Co. (OR) Historical Society
and the Wasco Co. Historical Society

Introduction || Sam Barlow and the Barlow Road

Necessary Provisions || The Barlow House


E.L. Meyers (Past President of the Clackamas Co. Historical Society) wrote:

There is no episode in the history of the West more dramatic than the discovery of the Columbia River by Capt. Robert Gray on May 11, 1792, who, with his crew, were the very first Americans to set foot in the Oregon Country. The expeditions of Lewis and Clark by land and water in 1805-6, and those sponsored by John Jacob Astor in 1811-12, no doubt were key factors leading to the all-important "Covered Wagon Era." Astor's projects included the maritime expedition led by Duncan McDougall and the overland party commanded by Wilson Price Hunt by land 1811-12.

However, it remained for the Mountain Men, Fur Traders and Missionary groups to carry on the conquest of the Great Northwest Empire. Hall J. Kelley of Boston, who had been in Oregon in 1832, wrote articles of his trip for the newspapers, creating the urge for people to go West, and the "Oregon Fever" came alive. Nathaniel J. Wyeth in 1832 built Ft. Hall on the upper Snake River and Ft. William on Sauvie Island, returning East in 1833. In 1834 he again came west with covered wagons accompanying Rev. Jason Lee and party of five to Ft. Hall. Lee continued on by horseback, barge and canoe to Ft. Vancouver and established a Methodist Mission on French Prairie.

The Rev. Marcus Whitman and wife, Narcissa, with the Rev. Henry H. Spalding and wife, Eliza, and party of seven came west in 1836 by covered wagon and a buggy (the wagon was left at Ft. Hall and the buggy at Ft. Boise). The Rev. Whitman established a Presbyterian Mission "Waiilatpu" on the Walla Walla River near Walla Walla. Robert Newell and Joseph Meek, Mountain Men with Indian wives, were the first to bring wagons as far as Walla Walla in 1840. In 1841 Meek went East, Newell returned to Walla Walla and transported their wagons through to Oregon City. Joseph Meek led a wagon train from Independence, Missouri, consisting of 26 wagons and 111 people through to Willamette Falls in 1841. L.W. Hastings guided one of the 30 wagons and 113 persons to "Wascopam" (The Dalles) in 1842, and Peter H. Burnett headed the "Great Migration" with an estimated 250 wagons and 900 people in 1843.

The emigration of 1843 involved the first large wagon train to move west on the Oregon Trail, and a large number of its members chose to push beyond Ft. Walla Walla by land, opening the first wagon road as far west as The Dallas.

In 1844 Cornelius Gilliam, Nathan Ford and Meyer Thorp headed three trains with 210 wagons and 1100 people. The wagon trains of this period used the Columbia River from "Wascopam" to Ft. Vancouver with the loss of a number of lives.

More and more they came. IN 1845 six trains arrived at The Dalles, 289 wagons with 1765 people: 40 wagons led by Samuel Brown; 30 wagons by Lawrence Hall; 40 wagons by Samuel Hancock; 52 wagons by Hackleman; 61 wagons by W.G. TeVault; and in the one of 66 wagons led by Solomon Tethrow, we find the Barlow, Palmer, Rector party.

Upon arrival, finding the situation not to their liking, Samuel Kimbrough Barlow suggested they find a way around Mt. Hood. It was approved, and from this point on history was made.

The unmarked graves of hundreds of brave men, women and children along the Oregon and Barlow trails bear mute evidence of the price paid for freedom, and the conquest of the Oregon Country. We the living, must never forget our debt to those pioneers of long ago.


By Evelyn L. Greenstreet

On the 9th of December 1845, Samuel K. Barlow petitioned the Provisional Government of the Oregon Territory (located at the time in Oregon City) for a charter to build a wagon road from "the dalls Mission to valley of Clackamas."

Events leading to this historic document started many years before, when a mother in Kentucky gave her boy baby her maiden name, Samuel KIMBROUGH Barlow. Moving westward, in the typical migration pattern, Sam met and married Susannah Lee in Indiana in 1820. They raised a family of five and when they all assembled in Missouri in the Spring of 1845 for that year's migration to Oregon, there were William, John Lawson, James K., Elizabeth Jane (all unmarried), and Sarah.

When William and James were tending the toll gate on the Barlow Road in 1847, they met their brides-to-be, Rachel and Rebecca Larkins, the pretty young daughters of William E. Larkins and his wife, Rachel Reed. Elizabeth Jane married Absalom F. Hedges in 1847 and John L. married Mary Elizabeth Miller in 1851. Romance also traveled the road!

Mr. McCarver, on December 12, reported a bill to the Legislature to authorize Samuel K. Barlow to open a road across the Cascade Mountains. Second reading was on December 16. After the third reading on December 17, the bill passed 8 to 2. Yeas: Messrs. Foicy, Garrison, Hendrick, Hill, Lee (probably Barton Lee of Champoeg), Smith, Straight and Speaker. Nays: Gray and McClure.

The notice in the SPECTATOR, August 6, 1846, page 3, gives further details. The Speaker, pro tem, was H.A.G. Lee; approved, Oregon City, December 18, 1845; signed by Geo. Abernethy, Governor. Authorization was given for two years -- January A.D. 1846 and ending January AD 1848 at the following rates, to wit: for each wagon... 5 dollars. For each head of horses, mules or asses, whether loose, geared or saddled... 10 cents. For each head of horned cattle, whether geared or loose... 10 cents.

The name of the road as granted was Mount Hood Road, but it was called then, and still is, The Barlow Road. Sam acquired a partner in Philip Foster of Eagle Creek, and they both signed an agreement to share and share alike in the expenses and the proffits (sic). John Ramage helped them post the necessary bond.

As soon as the weather permitted in the spring of 1846, men and oxen started to build the road, continuing on from near Philip Foster's place, up to where they had left the wagons and their plunder (as they called their goods) the previous fall. Sam remembered something he had neglected to mention in his application -- bridges! For here was the Sandy to cross and the Zigzag! Not much could be done about Laurel Hill except figure out ways to lower the wagons down the steep mountain slope, which they did because they had to. The wagons, with their contents, finally reached their destination, and they were the vanguard of many years of emigration over the Barlow Road.

Each year winter would obliterate much of the evidence of their passing, as the road builders found out.

Samuel K. Barlow and Philip Foster terminated their partnership on November 29, 1848. It had not been a financially profitable venture, but it was a very large step forward in the development of the Oregon country.

1849 found many men taken with the fever of "gold in Californey." Sam's eldest son, William, went after his share but came back without it. It is doubtful that the road was used very much, and upkeep must have been minimal, if at all.

In 1850 Samuel K. Barlow received a commission as a Justice of the Peace for Clackamas County from the Acting Governor of the Territory of Oregon, Kintzing Pritchette. And that was a lot of territory, as a glance at a map of that time will show.

However, other men applied for charters to continue to operate the toll road, and it remained in service until 1915. It was a two-way road, with emigrants coming and going. Many Central and Eastern Oregon settlers looked over the Willamette Valley first. No complete record of these travelers has been found, but if one had been kept, what a roster of names that would be.


As men traveled to the Oregon Territory before the departure of the
first wagon trains, they sent back letters of recommendations for emigrants.

"Travel in companies of 40 to 50 wagons and continue together the whole route, don't race your oxen."


  • 140 to 200 pounds flour per person (flour and meat in sacks or light barrels)
  • 40 to 140 pounds bacon per person
  • 10 pounds salt per person
  • 20 pounds sugar per person
  • 20 pounds coffee per person
  • dried fruit per person
  • rice
  • beans
  • corn, meal, plain and parched
  • raw corn
  • peas
  • milk cows
  • beef cattle or fat calves to kill on the way for meat


The loading of the wagons should consist mostly of provisions. Do not burden yourselves with furniture or many beds. Bring a few light trunks or very light boxes to pack clothes in. No heavy articles except a few cooking vessels, coal shovel, pair of pot hooks, water keg, tin canister to hold milk, a few tin cups, tin plates, tin saucers, butcher knifes, and one small grindstone in the company.


Bring clothes enough to last one year, including several pair of strong heavy shoes to each person. Bring but few bedclothes, for they will wear out by the time you arrive here. Blankets can be purchased here or exchanged for labor or commodities.


You will need rifles, shotguns, pistols, 6 pounds powder, 12 pounds lead for each man and shot. For killing buffalo the best size bore for a rifle is 40 to the pound, but a smaller caliber will be better suited for game west of the mountains. Large flintlock guns are good to traffic with the Snake Indians.


Bring plenty of cheap cotton shirts to trade with the Indians. Also bring blankets, red and blue cloth, tobacco, butcher knives, fish hooks, flints, lead, powder, beads, bells, rings, mirrors and rice.

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