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As It Was: Crescent City Cashes in on Oregon Gold Boom

Crescent City was an isolated community in 1854, with dense forest all around and its rocky ocean entrance often fogged in.

Pack mules traveled over ancient indigenous-people’s trails to supply the northern mining settlements in Josephine County, Ore.  Crescent City businessmen, eager to cash in on the gold rush, organized to build a road so they could sell even more goods to the miners. 

The Crescent City Plank Road and Turnpike Co. started talking people into investing in the road for a share of the tolls.  It took them four years to construct a passable, 52-mile route to Sailor’s Diggings, a mining community just north of the California border near the current town of Takelma. 

To satisfy investors, the company set tolls at $5 for a two-horse team, $8 for a four-horse team, and $10 for a six-horse team. Ten dollars in 1854 had the equivalent purchasing power of $306 in 2019. 

Business in Crescent City improved almost as soon as the road opened, with Second Street becoming the staging area for loaded outgoing teams, incoming mud or dust-caked wagons, and stagecoaches departing every three days.

Source: Chase, Doris. They Pushed Back The Forest. Crescent City CA, Del Norte County Historical Society, 1959, pp. 35-38.

Lynda Demsher has been editor of a small-town weekly newspaper, a radio reporter, a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for the Redding Record Searchlight, Redding California. She is a former teacher and contributed to various non-profit organizations in Redding in the realm of public relations, ads, marketing, grant writing and photography.