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THE ROADS of SANTA CLARA COUNTY, 1888



THE matter of furnishing easy and convenient  means of communication between the different sections of the county, has been made an important question by the county government since its organization. The demand for good roads has been met, almost before it was expressed, and the result of this policy, long continued with a liberal spirit, is seen in the broad, smooth, well-kept highways reaching to every part of the valley, winding among the foot-hills, and extending over the mountains. Wherever possible, these roads are watered during the summer months, thus not only making them comfortable to travel, but preserving the solid bed and smooth surface. Experience has taught that this is the best, as well as the most economical, system of keeping the roads in repair.

Before the Americans came into possession, there were, practically, no roads. Travel was chiefly performed on horseback, and for this a narrow trail was sufficient. Where the ox-carts ran, there were tracks a little wider, but they had no legal existence as roads. There being no fences, and the country being used principally for grazing, there was no necessity for the warning to "keep off the grass," and in going from one point to the other, the route was generally an air line, except where intervening water courses compelled the traveler to seek an easy ford or crossing, or where opposing hills required a circuit to be made. Even when wagons first came into use, this system was kept up, and in the winter-time, when the ground was wet and soft, the wagon tracks ran parallel to each other to such an extent that it was a common saying that the road from San Jose to San Francisco was three miles wide! With the Americans, however, came a different system. About the first order made by the county government after its organization, was in reference to public roads. This order is of interest, as it establishes the first highways in the county. It was made by the Court of Sessions on the sixth day of July, 1850, and is as follows:—

"This ordered by the court, that the following roads be, and they are hereby declared, public highways within and for the county of Santa Clara, to wit:
"First—A road commencing at the city of San Jose and running where the present road now runs, by James Murphy's, and from thence to the right of Lucencia Higuera's ranch, through the Mission of San Jose to the county line, where the road crosses the Arroyo Delmaya at Sunol's ranch.
"Second—Also a road commencing at the city of San Jose, at First or Monterey Street, and running where the road now runs to San Juan, until it reaches the county line. (This is the present Monterey road.)
"Third—Also a road commencing at the city of San Jose, at Santa Clara Street, and running where the present road now runs, to the Mission of Santa Clara, and from thence, by the left hand road, to the Old Indian Village, thence by Busard's to S. Roble's, and from thence where the present road runs to the county line.
"Fourth—Also a road commencing at the city of San Jose, at Santa Clara Street, and to run where the present road now runs, to Santa Cruz, through Fernandez' ranch, by Jones' mill, to the county line."

The Jones' mill here referred to is the present town of Los Gatos.

The third specification in the order above set forth, refers to the road to San Francisco, S. Roble's ranch being the old town of Mt. View. This road includes the Alameda, famous in song and story. This avenue, as we have previously related, was laid out by the Fathers of the mission. The trees were planted by Father Maguin Catala, the work being performed by the Indians under his instruction. There were, originally, three rows of trees, one on each side and one in the center. The ground was moist and full of adobe, which, when wet, made traveling a severe penance. Ditches were made for the purpose of drainage, but imperfectly accomplished their object. The shade of the trees excluded the sunshine and prevented evaporation. While during the summer months the Alameda was a most charming drive, for four or five months in the year it was almost impassable for vehicles. Travelers passing between the town of Santa Clara and San Jose were compelled to seek the side of the road, and often to make a circuit of four or five miles. After dark it was not unusual for people to lose their way and be compelled to pass the night in the open air.

To meet this trouble, the county government opened another road to Santa Clara by way of what is now known as Union Avenue, back of- the fair grounds. This did not entirely obviate the difficulties, and in 1862 a franchise was granted to a company called the "Alameda Turnpike Company," granting them the privilege of collecting toll on the Alameda, they to keep the road in good condition for travel. This company erected gates, but, owing to the nature of the soil, could never make a road good in all its parts, at all seasons. Many complaints were made, and finally, in 1868, the county purchased the franchise of the company and declared the road free. The price paid by the county was $17,737.50. In 1870 the report went abroad that the road occupied more ground than belonged to it, and that several feet on the south side was government land, and subject to preemption. One night a gang of squatters carried lumber out on the road and inclosed strips of land on the south side, and in the morning many of the residents found themselves shut off from the highway. The squatters, however, had nothing but their labor for their pains, as they were compelled to abandon their claims unconditionally. To prevent a recurrence of the dispute, an act of Congress was procured in 1871, granting to the county a right of way for the road, 115 feet wide, and defining its location. Accurate official surveys were made and granite monuments placed so that the exact lines should be always preserved. The final location was accomplished in 1873. After this date extraordinary efforts were made to keep the road in repair and maintain its beauty. These efforts were measurably successful. One of the greatest obstacles in the way of improvement was the shade cast by the center row of trees, and propositions for their removal were made from time to time, but each proposition was met with a remonstrance from the people, who looked upon the gnarled willows as a link connecting the past with the present, and, although many of the trees had died, and others were in advanced stages of decay, they were retained. Finally, in 1887, a proposition was made to construct an electric railroad along the center of the avenue. In view of this improvement, the people consented to part with the trees, and in the same year they were removed. In the meantime a portion of the road has been macadamized, and it will be paved throughout its entire length as rapidly as circumstances will permit.

The "Santa Clara Avenue," or "Alum Rock" road, as it is more generally called, is the beautiful avenue from San Jose to the Alum Rock Springs, in the cañon of the Penetencia, east of town. The original road was established by order of the Board of Supervisors in June, 1866. There had been a traveled road there previously, but not established by any competent authority. In 1872 an act was passed by the Legislature, authorizing the city of San Jose to survey and improve a road, to be known as the "Santa Clara Avenue," running from the eastern limits of the city to the city reservation in the eastern foot-hills.
The act provided for a Board of Commissioners to be appointed by the Governor, who should superintend the work of construction of the road, and should select a tract of four hundred acres in the cañon, for a public park. To construct and improve the road and park, a tax was provided on all property in the city and all property lying within three-quarters of a mile on each side of the proposed avenue. This tax was to be ten cents on the hundred dollars for the first year and five cents per year on the hundred dollars for the next three years, to be levied by the city and county as other taxes were levied and collected. With this money the road was constructed and trees planted. At the end of four years, when the special tax expired, the road was kept up from the road fund of the road districts, in which the avenue was situated, until 1878, when an act was passed by the Legislature, authorizing the Board of Supervisors to pay these expenses from the current expense fund.

The " Saratoga Avenue" was created at the same session of the Legislature, and in the same manner as the Santa Clara Avenue, except that the act provided that the road should be a hundred feet wide and that the special tax should be levied and collected by the town trustees of the town of Santa Clara. The commissioners began work, laid out and opened the road, but some of the outside property owners protested against paying the tax. The objection was that it was an unconstitutional assessment, inasmuch as it was to be levied and collected by officers not elected, who were expected to pay it. The courts decided the objection to be valid, and the road went into the hands of the county government as a public. highway, and all improvements were paid for from the road fund of the district. Not having a special revenue, it has not been improved as thoroughly as Santa Clara Avenue.

In early days there seemed to be an impression that the most practical way to improve the county roads was to grant franchises for toll companies, who were to keep the roads in repair in consideration of the privilege of collecting tolls. The argument used was that the people who used the roads ought to pay the expense of maintaining them. Acting on this proposition, many such franchises were granted, some by the Board of Supervisors and some by the Legislature. The toll-gate on the Alameda was the outgrowth of this idea.

In 1861 the San Jose and Alviso Turnpike Company secured a franchise to erect gates and collect •tolls on the road from San Jose to Alviso. In 1863 it was purchased by the county for $5,000 and declared a public highway. In 1867 the Saratoga and Pescadero Turnpike received a franchise for a toll-road over the mountains from Saratoga. In 188o this road was purchased by the county for $5,000, and the name changed to the "Congress Springs" road.

The Gilroy and Watsonville road was a toll-road in early days, but was declared a public highway in 1874.

The Santa Cruz road from Los Gatos over the mountains was a toll-road, under a franchise from the State, up to 1878, when it was declared a public highway by the Board of Supervisors. The company resisted the action of the Board and attempted to maintain its gates. This caused considerable excitement, and threatened serious trouble. The teamsters went in a body and tore the gate down. The company fought the matter in the courts, and the case is now pending on a motion by the company for a new trial. In the meantime the gates are down and the road free.

The Pacheco Pass road was formerly a toll-road. This road is over the mountains east of Gilroy. In 1879 it was purchased by the county for $6,000, and declared a public highway.

The purchase of the Pacheco Pass road wiped out the last toll-road in Santa Clara County.

The most prominent, if not the most important, highway in the county is the Mt. Hamilton road, or Lick Avenue. It has a world-wide fame, for the reason that it leads to the great Lick Observatory, and because it is the best mountain road on the continent. In September, 1875, James Lick addressed the Board of Supervisors, saying that he would locate his observatory on Mt. Hamilton if the county would construct a first-class wagon road to the summit; and, if the county had not sufficient funds on hand to accomplish the work, he would advance the money and take the county's bonds for the same. The proposition was accepted and a preliminary survey was ordered October 4, 1875. The Committee on Survey reported that the construction of the road, including bridges, would cost $43,385. Mr. Lick then deposited $25,000 in the Commercial and Savings Bank as a guaranty that he would stand by his proposition.

There was some little delay caused by the adjustment of the route to suit the convenience of property owners, but before the end of the year the preliminary matters had all been arranged. A. T. Herrmann was appointed engineer of the work, and on the eighth day of February, 1876 the contract for construction was let to E. L. Derby, at the following price:
Grading, $6.97 1/2 per rod; rocking (where suitable rock is found in the cut), $1.53 per rod, and where suitable rock is not found in the cut, $3.77 per rod; bridge at Smith Creek, $1,797. It will be seen that up to this time the work had gone on with great expedition; but now, the people having had time to talk the matter over, considerable doubt was expressed as to the advisability of the enterprise. It was argued that the county might go to great expense in building the road, and that in the end Mr. Lick might change his mind in regard to the location of the observatory. In that event the county would have a very expensive road that would be of very little practical use. The majority of the Board had no doubt of Mr. Lick's good faith, but in order to satisfy the popular demand, they arranged matters so that Mr. Lick deposited a further sum of $25,000, subject to warrants drawn for the construction of the road, and agreed to take county bonds therefor, payable when the observatory was completed on the mountain. When this point was settled, an opposition was developed from another source. Mr. Furlong, as chairman of the Board, had been directed by the Board to sign the contract with Derby for the construction of the road. This he at first refused to do, but finally complied under protest, filing his written objections thereto.

The protest claimed that there was no authority of law for the building of the road in this manner, as the statute required all money levied in any road district to be expended in the district paying the same; that there was no law for compelling the county at large to pay for a road, and that the county had no authority to enter into a contract with Mr. Lick to advance the money. The Board, to satisfy the former objection, passed a resolution that they would ask the Legislature to pass an act authorizing the county to issue bonds to the amount of $120,000, of which $50,000 should be applied to the indebtedness of the several road districts of the county, and the balance used to pay the warrants drawn for the construction of the proposed road. Thus this difficulty was disposed of. There were innumerable minor obstacles to contend with which caused much trouble and vexation to the promoters of the enterprise, but they were finally disposed of. Up to May 22, 1876, the sum of $45,115.34 had been paid on Derby's contract. In the meantime there was great dissatisfaction with Derby's operations, and he had been compelled to assign his contract to his bondsmen, who established a trust for their protection, drawing the money on the contract and paying the contractor's verified bills. This dissatisfaction caused the Board to appoint a committee to investigate the work. The report of the committee showed grave misconduct by the contractor in the prosecution of the work. They found that the contractor had drawn $47,687, while the work he had done entitled him to only $42,687; that to complete the road according to specifications would require an expenditure of $16,819 more.
The Board was importuned to pay Derby's debts, contracted for work and material used on the road. The contractor and his bondsmen contended that the work done by Derby had cost about $65,000 and that there was some $11i,000 to $13,000 of claims outstanding against him. All propositions to relieve Derby's bondsmen or to pay his debts were rejected by the Board. The last effort made by Derby in this direction was a communication stating that the cost of the road to that date was $64,371, and that he had received $44,000; that if the county would pay $18,000 more he would make the road passable, or that he would finish the road according to specifications for $26,500. This proposition was also rejected. On the fourteenth day of July, the engineer estimated the work done by Derby, at contract prices, at $52,184, including Smith Creek bridge. In September they declared his contract forfeited. The Board authorized its committee (October 5, 1876) to go on and complete the road. This the committee did, employing Messrs. Drinkwater and Swall as superintendents. January 9, 1877, the Lick Board of Trustees and the supervisors made an official inspection of the road, the trustees officially declaring that the work had been done in a satisfactory manner, and that the road met all the requirements made by Mr. Lick. This inspection was a general holiday throughout the county, there being about five thousand visitors to the mountain on that day. January 13 the road was declared to be fully completed, the total cost being $73,458.81. Of this amount, $27,339.87 was in outstanding warrants against the general road fund. An act was passed in the Legislature of 1878, authorizing the Board to issue bonds to pay these warrants and accrued interest, the bonds to bear no interest, and to be payable when the observatory was practically complete.

This brief sketch of the work on this famous road gives but an imperfect idea of the thousand obstacles that were thrust in the path of the enterprise. There. were a number of people in the community who could see no advantage in the improvement, and were constantly raising objections, and trying to thwart the work. The Board of Supervisors were by no means unanimous on the subject, and it required a great deal of diplomacy to secure the passage of the proper orders at the proper time. Probably the most earnest and untiring friend of the road was Supervisor J. M. Battee, chairman of the road committee. To his devotion to the cause is due, more than to any other one man, the successful termination of the great work that has attracted the attention•of the scientific world to the summit of Mount Hamilton. The gentlemen composing the Board of Supervisors during the time the Mount Hamilton road was in course of construction were:—
1875, W. N. Furlong, chairman ; J. M. Battee, J. W. Boulware, A. Chew, Abram King, H. M. Leonard, Wm. Paul. 1876, H. M. Leonard, chairman ; S. F. Ayer, J. M. Battee, A. Chew, W. N. Furlong, Abram King, W. H. Rogers. 1877-78, same as in 1876, with the exception that J. M. Battee was chairman.

As the county has developed its horticultural resources, and it has been ascertained that a very few acres of land is ample for the maintenance of a family, many of the ranches have been divided into small tracts, creating a demand for more roads. This demand has been met as promptly as possible by the Board of Supervisors, until, at the present time, there are four hundred and ninety-four public highways, laid out, improved, and named, exclusive of streets in incorporated cities and towns and roads in their suburbs. During the fiscal year ending June 30, 1888there was expended for road purposes, by the supervisors, $76,516.45. The expenses were distributed as
follows:—   
Labor        $59,368 60
Lumber        6,106  22
   
Materials        3,790 23
Bridge work    2,373 40
   
Repairing tools.... ......         1,433 15
Land             2,699 25
   
Surveying                1,495 00
Gravel and rock        336 95
Implements               276 55
   
Sprinkling                          7,637 10
   

Pen Pictures From The Garden of the World or Santa Clara County, California, Illustrated. - Edited by H. S. Foote.- Chicago:  The Lewis Publishing Company, 1888.
page 119-123



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