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Angels Camp & Murphys Transportation

The earliest routes into the gold regions followed long-established Indian trails. The first route into Angels Camp and the Stanislaus Diggings followed the Antelope Trail, also known as the “Old Stockton Trail,” and “Marshall’s Trail.” The most direct route from Stockton to Angels Camp, Murphys, and the Stanislaus River ferries, it was promoted by Ben Marshall, one of Calaveras County’s earliest sheriffs. By 1854 it had been improved to accommodate wagon traffic. Soon known as the Angels Road, it crossed Salt Spring Valley and went up the newly constructed Carmen Grade and over Antelope Pass to Angels, Murphys, and other higher camps (Fuller, Marvin, and Costello 1996:9-11).

The route of the present Murphys Grade Road was not established until 1865, when the Murphys and Altaville Road Company constructed a toll road along this more direct route. It remained a private toll road until declared a free public road by the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors in 1911 (Wood 1955:141).

The main route into Murphys in those early years was known as the Hawkeye to Murphys Road. Established in 1854, this road ran from Hawkeye (on present Highway 49 near Cosgrave Road) to Murphys, intersecting Dogtown Road, through Torrey’s Ranch and on to French Gulch Road. At that point it forked to French Gulch, and, via Washington Flat, to Vallecito and Murphys (Calaveras County Road Records Book:261-264; Minutes of the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors 1856:143).

One branch of this road (CA-CAL-2030H) coursed southeasterly from the Hawkeye and Murphys Road (from where it continued on to Murphys along the present French Gulch Road). The Hawkeye and Vallecito Road (N.W. Green Probate Record, GLO 1871) branched southeasterly down the hillside west of the Richards barn on the north side of the Murphys Grade Road (Washington Flat Road) to cross the road, running along the line of the present Richards Ranch road, continued through the Richards field, across Angels Creek, past the Forsyth barns, to the early 1850s Green & Harvey Ranch (on present Ranch Road), and connected with the Six Mile Road to Murphys. This older version of Six Mile Road, however, commenced at the Slab Ranch and coursed northeasterly, through Quartz Gulch, joining the present Six Mile Road about 3000 feet north of where it currently joins Highway 4. This road was mentioned in an 1860 account that noted that Washington Flat was located two miles west of Vallecito, “on a good stage road” (Knight’s Scrapbook, Vol. 11:111). After the advent of the Murphys and Altaville Turnpike, the road was evidently used only locally for ranch access.

Another road into Murphys went from Angels by way of Vallecito, Douglas Flat, and up the valley northeast of Douglas by the Adams/Kenney Ranch on Pennsylvania Gulch and into Murphys from the east (Wood 1952:55).

The route of the present Murphys Grade Road was not established until 1865, when the Murphys and Altaville Turnpike Company, comprised of Murphys and Altaville merchants and residents, formed a company for the purpose of constructing a more direct road from Altaville to Murphys up the Angels Creek Canyon. The toll road was to be six miles and 116 rods long, with an average grade of less than one hundred feet per mile. A “Declaration” of the joint stock company was published in September of that year:


"To Whom It May Concern:

We, the undersigned residents of Calaveras County and State of California hereby declare and publish our intention to organize a joint stock company for the construction of a turnpike road 18 feet in width, average grade one hundred feet to the mile. Commencing near Brewery Gulch on Main Street in the village in Murphys, 9th township in said County, thence extending down Angels Creek to and crossing the old county road at Mr. Richards’ house near Washington Flat, thence through Italian (Massoni) and Slab Ranches by the most feasible and direct route, terminating at Ward’s Hotel in the village of Altaville, Township No. 8, and notice is hereby given that a meeting will be held for the purpose of a preliminary organization of said company in the village of Murphys on Tuesday, the 26th day of September, 1865, at 2 o’clock p.m." (Copperopolis Courier, September 15, 1865).


After its construction, the road was not only a great convenience to the community, but the tolls collected made it a profitable venture for the stockholders. By 1867 the turnpike was assessed at a value of $2,150. The corporate existence was to be 20 years, and continued by the directors for another 50 years in September of 1885. At this time Joseph Oneto was the principal stockholder (owning 115 of the original 120 shares), and the road operations were carried on under his supervision over the ensuing years. In April of 1893, the Board of Supervisors granted him a franchise to collect tolls at the Oneto residence at the Murphys end of the road, with the proviso that he keep it in good repair, operate sprinkling wagons on it, and construct water tanks along its route (Wood 1952:56-57).

The road was the favorite for the lumber wagons hauling lumber and timber into the mines in Angels, and, at many places for long stretches, the road was too narrow for two vehicles to pass, so turn-outs were provided where it was possible to pass. In 1911 Oneto again petitioned the Supervisors for a renewal of the franchise, but it was refused and the county took over its operation. The road was gradually improved by graveling and oiling, and in 1943, was widened and resurfaced with a $100,000 grant from the Federal Government (Wood 1952:57).

One of the roads to the Calaveras Central Mine during the 1930s coursed from present Gardner Lane (then known as Okieville) east to the mine. The road is depicted on recent maps of the area (USGS 1948) and is visible on the ground. It was previously recorded as a gravel road to the Calaveras Central Mine (P-05-002061 and -002063).