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JOHN LAWLEY

Lawley Toll Road

 

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     NOT JUST A TOLL ROAD DID HE BUILDJohn Lawley-460.jpg

 

In early days the only route to travel to the famous Lake County resorts was via Calistoga and over the Lawley Toll Road on Mount St. Helena.

 

Lawley was born in Alabama on Dec. 6, 1815, reared on a farm, and was engaged in teaching and operating mills and marble works. In 1852 he set out for California, worked a short while in the gold mines, then located in St. Helena and farmed the Kellogg Ranch northwest of Calistoga. (Kellogg was the name for the post office in Knights Valley on the highway to Geyserville.)

 

In 1854 he established a grain business in Napa City, which he operated until 1872 his huge warehouse known as the “Banner” warehouse on the river.  In the 1860s, Lawley and his two associates paid $100,000 for 26,000 acres or less than $4 an acre for a large tract of land in Berryessa Valley, where he eventually moved and farmed until 1877. He then engaged in quicksilver mining in Pope Valley.  His residence was located on the hills at the head of this valley and adjoined the celebrated Phoenix Quicksilver Mine, of which he was principal owner. It was in 1866 that a franchise to construct and operate a toll road was granted by the Legislature to John Lawley, a Mr. Patterson and Henry Boggs and they began to construct a toll road over the Mount St. Helena gap into Lake County from Calistoga. He completed this in 1868.  While farming the Kellogg ranch, he met and married on August 15, 1854, Cynthia Ann Williams who was born in Sangamon County, Illinois, February 14, 1823; she was a niece of Florentine Kellogg.  By this union they had four children: Mary F., born September 18, 1855; Charles A., born September 22, 1857; Harry B, born September 27, 1859, and Ada W., born April 30, 1863.One of their four children was Mary (or Molly), and after John Lawley’s death in 1906, she and the Lawley family operated the toll road until the state eventually purchased it.

 

Lawley was prominent in many Napa ventures. When Nathan Coombs Sr. laid out the plat map of Napa City in 1848, he reserved a block for a courthouse. Until the 1870s, when the courthouse was built (now the old courthouse on the same location), it was Lawley and Lafferts who operated a lumber yard on that site.  When the original corporation for a Napa Valley steam railroad was organized in 1864 (with such names as Goodman, Hartson, Brannan and Yount,) John Lawley was one of the first subscribers.  Incidentally, Lawley’s first warehouse on Napa River was about where Fifth Street and Main Street meet later the site of the Uncle Sam Winery, a huge brick building.

 

It was Lawley and his farm workmen who built the first passable road between Berryessa Valley and Napa - now the scenic Monticello Road.  Lawley was civic-minded too; he served a term as coroner of Napa County. In the 1870s when Napa had but one bank, the James H. Goodman Bank, Lawley was one of the trustees who organized another bank, the Bank of Napa.

 

But it is the toll road that will forever remain as the monument to pioneer Lawley.  By 1862 Sam Brannan had opened his resort in Calistoga; he and Nathan Coombs then operated a stage line (horses, of course) from Napa, and Coombs operated an independent stage line from Benicia to Napa, which’ serviced the town of Vallejo.  When Brannan et al decided on a railway, it was Lawley who saw the opportunity of cargo destined to Lake County being unloaded in Calistoga and needing trucks six- and eight-horse teams in some cases to cross the mountain on Lawley’s Toll Road, of course.

 

Later stage coaches made that road (now State Route 29) famous under the three decades that Bill Spiers had a monopoly on freight wagons and stages over Mt. St. Helena.  It was the Lawley Toll Road that made Middletown and such spas as Adams Springs, Seiglers Springs, Anderson Springs, Harbin Springs and Caldwell.

 

The terminus for Spiers' stages in Calistoga was the Hotel Calistoga famous in itself to world travelers.*

 

Quote from the History of Lake and Napa counties 1881

 

“Mr. Lawley has always been an active business man, but one of varying fortunes. Possessing a heart of kindly impulse, a generosity without limit, his good nature has often been imposed upon by the selfish and mercenary, greatly to his loss. In a life so long identified with Napa County, he has been a prominent factor in all that pertains to its permanent growth and prosperity, and now at three score years and more, he has scarce an enemy in the land.”

 

For great photos I recommend this site:  https://myclimbs.wordpress.com/old-lawley-toll-road/

 

Compiled by: Bill Wink 1/9/2017

Sources

History of Lake and Napa counties 1881

History of Mendocino and Lake Counties 1914 Aurelius O. Carpenter and Percy H. Millberry

History of Solano County 1982

 

Read More Local History

CALIFORNIA WHITE CAP MURDERS 1890 MIDDLETOWN, CA 

THE RAINS IN CA 1861-62

THE HISTORY OF MIDDLETOWN’S CORNER STORE

HISTORY OF GUENOC RANCH 1845 - 1958

DID LILLIE LANGTRY REALLY VISIT MIDDLETOWN?

WHERE WAS KAYOTE VALLEY?

MIDDLETOWN – BEFORE YOUR GRANDPARENT’S DAYS

MOUNTAIN MILL HOUSE 

Compliments of: Bill Wink

 

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