Pain in the Pass
By Walter Feller
Trails from game and Indians crisscrossed the desert and southern California for thousands of years with some converging in the Cajon Canyon to facilitate movement between the two regions. These trails traced their way between springs and later, seasonal habitation sites where Indians could be found working on their survival.
The Spanish followed these trails with the supposed intention of searching for deserters and gathering those who would be converted to Christianity and taken to the missions to live.
Most likely in pursuit of horse thieves and escaped neophytes the trail up through a narrow, rocky canyon now know as Crowder Canyon the Spanish priests and military followed to the pass near the summit to enter the Mojave.
In 1827, in the rush to escape the Mojave Indians after ten of his men were massacred, Jedediah Smith used the narrow canyon to make his way to safety at the Assistencia near what became San Bernardino.
Jefferson Hunt, discharged from the Mormon Battalion in 1848 noted the canyon could possibly be used, with much trouble, to bring a wagon through.
In 1849 Captain Hunt led the first wagon train down the pass by this route. It was steep at the top and at the mouth of canyon the rocks were insurmountable and the wagons had to be unloaded, taken apart and everything portaged, reassembled and reloaded before moving on. This would not do on a continuing basis.
In 1850 an alternate road was cleared several miles to the west becoming known as the Sanford Pass, or Mormon Hogback. It was steep and hazardous but it would have to do.
Five years later, in 1855, another road was cut further to the west. This trail was also steep but went down a canyon rather than a narrow ridge. This route was also called Sanford Pass.
Some travelers and freighters still used the original route, unloading, carrying their cargo past the rocks and reloading after the wagons were put back together. In 1861, the County of San Bernardino contracted with John Brown Sr. to build a toll road bypassing the troublesome rocks.
Problem solved! At least for awhile.