The Cajon Pass — Yesterday

by Myra McGinnis 1968

Long years ago, Cajon Pass became the gateway into the desert interior of California.   The word “cajon”  means box in Spanish and was fittingly applied to the area that has served as a pass through the rugged country between the desert and the valley lands west.

San Gabriel Mountains

San Gabriel Mountains

Cajon  is not a pass through a mountain. It is a pass between two mountain ranges —  San Bernardino and San Gabriel Mountains  which overlap. It was through or around this pass that the early settlers had to travel. Either way, it was a difficult trek of uncharted roads and highways. for that time and era, it would seem that settlers might want to stay on the eastern side of the ranges and settle down rather than try to get horses and wagons over the steep and hazardous mountains.

Horse-drawn wagon

Many years in the past the Pass  became  the “gateway into the wilds of the interior.”  What an interior it is!  coming or going from the coastal area of the Southern California that great mass of mountain peaks and sheer drops from the high precipices are startling and they culminate into the one of the most rugged as well as one of the most beautiful in the West.

The fact that this pass was at the western end of the Old Spanish Trail made it an important spot in the emigrant days.

Old trail

Old road over the divide near the summit of the Cajon.

Camp Cajon, 3 miles above the Blue Cut was once an Indian village. Here the pass becomes wider, a fan-shaped site bounded by the divide on the upper edge. the divide is the desert rim. Eroding water cause the formation of the two major divisions which are known as East and West Cajon.

The divide at the top of the pass

Long before the Cajon Pass was an accepted one and used freely, the wilderness of the Cajon region was a hideout for renegade Indians and white men.  Cattle and horse-stealing became so common that the people of the lower valleys had to take to battle.  Once in the interior of the vast mountain area beyond Cajon it was almost impossible to recover the animals.

Brown's toll road

Brown’s toll road through the Pass.

One of the historic roads that benefited the desert for many years was built by John Brown Sr. , an early desert  settler. This was the toll road that he built to connect the desert territory with the outside areas. The toll road served the public for 20 years. It was built from the Cajon Pass to the old Verde Ranch adjacent to Victorville.

from: The Cajon Pass — Yesterday
by Myra McGinnis 1968
Mohahve IV – Scrapbooks of History
Mohahve Historical Society

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