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The Historic Barlow House

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Barlow House - then Barlow house now
Old photo courtesy of Oregon Historical Society
Home as it is today, courtesy of Edson Barlow, click photo to enlarge
This home is now a museum, and available for touring, for more information:

The Historic Barlow House

See the Fall 1996 issue of Victorian Homes magazine, pgs. 33-41 for a wonderful article about this home, its history and restoration


Sign panoramic view
Pioneer women have left a heritage rich in courage and fortitude and prominent among them was Susannah Lee Barlow, wife of Samuel Kimbrough Barlow, who arrived in Oregon City December 25, 1845.

Susannah was born in South Carolina March 17, 1791, was the daughter of William Lee, a Revolutionary War hero and a direct descendant of Light Horse Harry Lee of colonial fame.

Her father and mother moved to Kentucky shortly after the close of the Revolutionary War and later went to the Indiana frontier where Samuel Kimbrough Barlow married the lovely Susannah in 1817.

They, like their ancestors, hewed homes for themselves in the wilderness, building their fortunes from the work their hands. To them were born four sons; William, James John Lawson and Eli, and two daughters, Sarah and Jane.

It was in the year 1845, on the 30th of March, that the Barlow family started from Independence, Missouri for the Oregon Country. The first part of the journey was not especially eventful but in the latter end snows delayed them in the mountains while Samuel K. was laying out and constructing the first road into the Willametter Valley, through the Cascade Mountains.

Without provisions for themselves or food for their animals, they all would have perished on Laurel Hill if help had not been sent to them from Oregon City.

Shortly after arriving in Oregon the Barlows established their hom on the Molalla River, on the Donation Land Claim of Thomas McKay.

The hardships of the trail and a long life of pioneering made great in-roads on the health of this southern-born woman who had stood beside her husband in the thick of the storm and upheld his courage when his strength and circumstances no longer permitted the carrying out of his ambitious plans.

She shrank from no service that fell to her lot and like her colonial ancestor, stood ready to answer any call for help, saying:

"Here I am."

She was the ever faithful wife and mother and her son William said of her:

"She was the most beloved and revered woman of the Oregon Trail." To this her faithful husband added:

"She murmured not."

This real daughter of the American Revolution and the "Madonna of the Trail" died December 24, 1852, and is buried on dedicated ground what was once a part of their holdings. A tall, marble shaft half hidden by noble firs, bears the legend of her birth and death and in letters now grown dim and faint is a verse written by her husband.

"Do not disturb the repose of the dead;
Behold the pure spirit has arisen and fled!
Nor linger in sadness, around the dark tomb!
But go,where flowers forever will bloom."


Written by N. Leona Nichol

Sam Barlow and the Barlow Road

From Barlow of Barlow Newsletter, May 1996

Samuel Kimbrough Barlow was born on December 07, 1795, in Nicholas County Kentucky, and was a son of William Henry Harrison Barlow and Sarah Kimbrough. In his youth in Kentucky he learned the tailor's trade. In his early twenties, around 1818, he moved to Bloomington, Monroe County, Indiana, where he married and started a family.

In August 1827 Samuel Kimbrough Barlow was convicted of manslaughter in Indiana. According to the records on file, he struck with an axe and killed one George Matlock on October 16, 1826. Scores of citizens, members of the jury, and the dead man's brother, joined in pleading for Barlow's pardon and remission of his sentence of one year of hard labor on the ground that he struck Matlock in an attempt to prevent him from harming his own wife and children. On December 6, 1827, Governor Ray pardoned him.

Indiana Executive Proceedings, Pardons & Remissions


Later, at the end of the Black Hawk War in 1832, he moved to Peoria, Fulton County, Illinois. Subsequently he pioneered where Chicago now stands and then in 1845 he started west across the plains.

In May 1845 Samuel Kimbrough Barlow, his wife Susannah and their children, Jane Ellen, James, John and William, joined a "wagon train" that left Independence, Missouri, and arrived at the Methodist Mission at Wascopum ... now The Dalles, Wasco County, Oregon ... in early September. There they learned that the cost of a boat or raft trip down the Columbia was beyond their means, as well as not immediately available, so Samuel Barlow, William Rector and a few others decided to build a wagon road around the south slope of Mt. Hood.

On December 09, 1845, Samuel Kimbrough Barlow petitioned the Provisional Government of the Oregon Territory for a charter to build a wagon road from "the dalls Mission to valey of Clackamus," and he was so authorized in January 1846. The name The Barlow Road of the road as granted was the Mount Hood Road but it was called then, and still is, the Barlow Road.

The Barlow Road, which was about 80 miles long when completed, was a toll road and the authorized tolls were $5 per wagon and 10¢ for loose animals. By the fall of 1846 part of the road was finished and in that October 146 wagons, 1500 head of cattle, horses and mules, and 13 head of sheep traveled over it. Work continued and by the fall of 1848 the road was passable over its entire length.

Barlow and his partner operated the road for several years although it was never a great money maker. As the years passed, others took over the road until in 1919 it was deeded to the State of Oregon.

The complete story of the Barlow Road, including a record of the 1848 usage of the road kept by the toll keeper and showing the date, number of wagons, and tolls paid of each wagon train, is contained in a pamphlet called the "Barlow Toll Road 1846-1919: The Story of Two Men from Fort Deposit," compiled by E. L. 'Roy' Meyers published by the Genealogical Forum of Portland, Oregon, Inc.

Excerpt from: SAM BARLOW AND THE BARLOW ROAD     Used by permission of Evelyn L. Greenstreet

On the 9th of December 1845, Samuel Kimbrough 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, Smith, Straight, Speaker
Nays: Gray, McClure
The notice in the SPECTATOR, August 06, 1846, page 3, gives further details:

The Speaker, pro tem, was H.A.G. Lee; approved, Oregon City, December 18, 1845; signed by George 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!
The rest of the story can be seen at:     The Barlow Family and Their Pioneer Toll Road / offsite link

The Barlow Road, Then and Now

Printed by the U.S. Forestry Commission

The Lure of "OYER-UN-GUN"

"Oyer-un-gun" was the Place of Plenty," according to the Shoshone. Letteres from the Rev. Jason Lee at Ft. Vancouver to friends back east, spoke of the vast and fertile Willamette Valley, where the climate was mild year round there were no storms or crop failures, and flowers bloomed at Christmas time. Description much as this built a frame of mind known as "Oregon Fever."

Hardy souls forsook their secure, familiar homes, gathered all their earthly possessions, and embared on history's most arduous emigrant trail. The Great Migration began in 1843. Their ungreased axles squeaking over the high desert and plateau, the patche and weather beaten "prairie schooners" made their way to Oregon. Other men had come to the Cascades before, the trappers, traders, and mountain men. But these folks were here to stay. They had crossed 2,000 miles of dusty prairie, most of it on foot since space in the wagons was reserved for treasured possessions.

Nearing the Columbia Gorge, even these stalwart hearts paused; the turbulent rapids called the "dalls" by earlier voyagers and the steep canyon walls rising from the water's edge defied passage. Yet pass it did, these early pioneers, by rafting an portagin through the aweson Gorge.

By 1845, wagons were pouring into the east end of the Gorge by the thousands. Speculators setteled at The Dalles, charging exhorbitant fares for passage. It took an amateur many days to build a raft, float, and portang his gear and family through the Gorge to Oregon City. It could be sheer misery, with the cold gusty winter winds and drenching rains. Many crossed the prairie, only to parish passing through the Gorge.

The First Crossing of the Cascades

In the fall of 1845, the Samuel K. Barlow party from Independence, Missouri, arrived at the Dalles. They found they would have to wait weeks for passage and could not afford the high price of food for themselves and their stock. Having seen a notch in the south slope of Mt. Hood, Barlow decided that "God never made a mountain that had no place to go over it," and headed south to find a way around Mt. Hood. He was joined by several other parties, namely thouse of Joel Palmer and William Rector, until 30 wagons made up the first train determined to cross the Cascades before winter snow fell.

The parties went south from The Dalles, turning southwest at Tygh Valley. When they reached the present Gale Creek, near Warnic, they turned west. Their path ran through park-like pine forests which soon merged with fir and cedar. The terrain became steeper and full of boulders. The woods became thicker -- making difficult going for the lumbering wagons. Nearing the White River at Klip Creek, they came to a very abrupt decline -- which later travelers called Little Laurel Hill. Here the wagons had to be slowly lowered with the help of ropes stoutly wound around trees.

The road building was slow. They had only axes and saws with but one grindstone in the entire company. Consequently, much of the clearing was done by burning.

On October 11, Palmer, Barlow and a man named Lock scouted ahead of the main party. They continued to the summit of the Cascades -- later known as Barlow Pass, elevation 4,155 feet. Then they scouted the southern flanks of Mt. Hood. Looming between them and the dreaded Columbia, the mountain stood snowy and immense. Palmer later records, "I have never before looked upon a sight so nobly grand." But they could not linger. They crossed a wide, stony field, then sought a better view farther up the mountain. Finally, they came to a wide, steep-sided ravine, so deep the timber below resembled minature Christmas trees. (They were probably looking across Zigzag Canyon.) Palmer's journal describes the spot: "A precipate cliff of rocks, at the head, prevented passage around it. The hills were of the same material as that we had been traveling over, and were very steep." The men decided to climb higher up the mountain, hoping to see another path. Palmer, being the most hardy of the three, went on alone after snow was encountered. He probably ventured out onto Zigzag Glacier, climbing about one-third the distance from timberline to the summit, though his maccasins had worn thin and he traveled much of the distance barefoot. Meeting his companions again, they re-joined the road-building members of their party on Barlow Creek about 11 p.m. that night. After one more exploring trip, the group decided to build a cabin and store their belongings. They did not have time to build the road over the rough terrain between them and the Willamette Valley before the winter snow began. Two of the party started to Oregon City for fresh supplies. One man stayed behind at "Fort Deposit" as they called the cabin, as a guard. Then, in small groups, they made their way out of the mountains, some on foot, some on horseback. At least one woman rode a cow.

The trek out was miserable. Snow had begun to fall. The emigrants were cold and hungry; some were sick from exposure. Many of the livestock died from eating the poisonous rhododendron leaves. Fog, rain, and sleet slowed their progress and camps were made under any shelter that could be improvised. In his journal, Palmer recorded that he ".....stood shivering in the rain around the fire, and, when daylight appeared, it gave us an opportunity to look at each other's lank visages. Our horses were shivering with the cold, the rain had put out our fire, and it seemed as though everything had combined to render us miserable." In spite of all this, many managed to keep their sense of humor. One of Barlow's daughters declared: "We are in the midst of plenty -- plenty of snow, plenty of water if we melt it, plenty of wood, plenty of horsemeat, plenty of dogmeat, if the worst comes."

By Christmas 1845, everyone had reached Oregon City with no mishaps. The hardships of the trail were soon forgotten in the task of starting new homes.

Barlow was so busy collecting tolls he had litte time to improve the road. This ws done by those who used it. They changed some sections to avoid steep hills and difficult stream crossings. But, generally, the emigrants were not particular. As long as the route was passable, they used it. The original tollgate was located on Gate Creek, but was eventually moved to a site one mile east of Rhododendron. Operating the toll road was not easy. Many emigrants had no money. Arriving at the toll gate penniless, and hungry, they refused to pay. Often a shirt, a cow, a blanket, or a promise to pay was all that was collected. However, a chivalrous Barlow allowed widow to pass toll free. The toll road passed through various owners, being in existence nearly 70 years. In 1912, Henry Wemme of Portland bought the road, making many improvements. It was donated to the State of Oregon by his estate in 1919.

The Barlow Road Today

Good highways take a modern day traveler from the Dalles to the Willamette Valley in a matter of hours. But in the mid-1800's, good routes were hard to find. By-passing the treacherous Columbia River Gorge, the Barlow Road has been called "the greatest boon to the settlement of western Oregon" until the railroads were built in the 1880's. The first year the road was open, Barlow reported 152 wagons and 1,559 head of stock went through the tollgate. Travelling then was certainly not the pleasure it is today. Then, folks and camped along the Barlow Road because it was necessary to reach their long-sought destination. They were seeking homes in the Willamette Valley.

Today's sight-seeing Americans can travel the same route once forged by the hardy first settlers to Oregon. The eastern portion of the road is still mainly intact. It has been altered little. Trees encroach from the sides of the road. Topography, more than any modifications proposed by man, determined the orginal route. It is a reminder of the hard working men and women who passed along the way.

You can travel the eastern portion of the route, though the western route has mostly been obliterated by modern highways.

The brochure from which this is copied goes on to tell the exact route to take to follow the eastern route.

A Memorial to the Women Who Died on the Barlow Road

The Barlow Road Memorial
Click photo for close-up of the cross
Next:  William Barlow, son of Samuel K. Barlow >>
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