The Military Road
Why The Military Road Went Through
Written by the 1972-73 Journalism Class of
Dayville High School - Dayville, Oregon
The Dalles Military Road Company obtained a grant of land from the government to
build a road from The Dalles to Fort Boise. A fair road was constructed over
which for many years vast amounts of freight were conveyed by pack trains, and by
By an act of Congress passed February 25, 1867, the United States was to aid in
construction of a military road for the state of Oregons' use. The road reached
from The Dalles, on the Columbia River, to Fort Boise. The road was to have 3 sections
of land on each side of the road, belonging to the government.
So in October of 1868, Congress passed an act granting the Military Road Company a crew
of road builders to build the road. Then when ten sections of the road were completed,
the land on the sides of the road could be sold.
On June 23, 1869, the following acceptance was filed by Governor George Woods. This
paragraph was taken from the book called "An Illustrated History of Baker, Grant,
Malheur, and Harney Counties with a Brief Outline of the Early History of the
State of Oregon", p. 407, paragraph 3. Executive Office, Salem, Oregon, June 23, 1869:
"I, George L. Woods, Governor of the State of Oregon, do hereby certify that this plot
or map of the Dalles Military Road has been duly filed in my office by the Dalles
Military Road Company and shows in connection with the public surveys as far as said public
surveys are completed, the location of the line of route as actually surveyed and upon
which the road is constructed in accordance with the requirement of an act of Congress
approved February 1867, entitled "An act granting lands to the State of Oregon to aid in
the construction of a military wagon road from Dalles city on the Columbia River to
Fort Boise on the Snake River", and with the act of the Legislative Assembly of the
State of Oregon approved Oct. 20, 1868, entitled, "An act donating certain land to
Dalles Military Road Company." I further certify that I have made careful
examination of said road since its completion and that the same is built in all respects as
required by the said above recited acts and that said road is accepted.
On January 12, 1870, the governor issured another certificate like the first stating
that the road had been completed.
On December 18, 1869, the governor withdrew the sale of the land along the road.
It was not for sale any more. The land that was not sold was given back to the Dalles
Military Road Company.
Congress, on June 18, 1874, passes an act authorizing patents for lands given to the
State of Oregon in certain cases. Under this act the road company selected lands and on
May 31, 1876, sold the land to Edward Martin for $125,000 and was invested in Eastern Oregon land
This was the status in 1885 for which the public called an investigation into
the fraud that was pulled over the government road company. So on March 02, 1889 an act was
passed asking the attorney General of the United States to look into it and to bring
a suit of forteiture to all the lands granted by the act of Congress of February
25, 1867, on the grounds that the terms had not been complied with. This act also
cancelled all the patents issued by Congress under the act.
The following article was taken from the book entitled "An Illustrated History of Baker,
Grant, Malheur and Harney Counties with a Brief Outline of the Early History of the State
of Oregon." The road was never completed in whole or in part.
Although the fraudulent representations of ---, officers, stockholders, and agents of
---- corporation, the Governor of Oregon --- deceived and induced to issue a certificate in
pursuance of the provisions of the act, declaring that he had examined the road throughout its
entire length and that it had been constructed and completed --- all respects in
accordance with the statute, and that, the patents to portions of the ---- had been
issued by the United States. This suit was held in the District of Oregon before Judge Sawyer,
on February 18, 1890.
The defendants filed 2 pleas as follows: The governor's certificate was made without fraud, and
that the defendants were bona fide purchasers from the Dalles Military Road Company, without
notice of any fraud or defect in the title. In an opinion rendered February 02, 1890, Judge Sawyer
sustained the defendants pleas and dismissed the cases.
From such decision, the case was appeled to the United States Circuit Court, --- District,
May 25, 1891, which re--- the decision of the District Court ---- remanded the case for further
hearing. --- conclusion reached was that the District Court erred in not permitting the
United States to reply to the pleas and ----ssing the bill absolutely. After the
---ate had been filled in the District ---- an issue was joined on these two
---- testimony taken from settlers and --- --- --- December 07, 1891, a decree --- again entired,
sustaining the second ----.
From this decree an appeal was ---- to the Circuit Court of Appeals, by ---- --- court, on March
10, 1892, stated --- the decree was affirmed. Thus, the original title of the road company to the
--- had been made absolute. Several --- military road grants including that of the Willamette
Valley and Cascade Mtn. --- Road Company, whose road passed thro--- what are now Harney and Grant
Counties --- also in litigation at this time, and --- basic facts in all were the same --- the case
against the Dalles Road Company ---, this case was made a test case and ---gative decision was
rendered against this company. (I'm so sorry for all of the ---'s, but the words got squeezed into
the left margin of the book when it was carelessly stapled together, R.S.) ...
The main point upon which the defendants rested their case was that by the act of 1867,
Congress provided that the only proof of construction required to obtain possession of the
lands was the Governor's certificate, and when that was given, and proven to have been
bona fide the title to the land was absolute.
Route of the Military Road
The Military Road traveled from Fort Boise to Fort Dalles. The route went into Malheur County
from Fort Boise to Camp Colfax (1865), near Ironside Mountain. From there, it passed
into Grant County to Camp Logan near Strawberry Creek, and down along the John Day River
to Canyon City and on to Camp Lincoln, which is the present site of Dayville. Then from
Camp Lincoln, it went to Antone on Rock Creek. From there it followed the
John Day River to Camp Watson, Burnt Ranch, and through Antelope to The Dalles.
©1998 Roxann Gess Smith
All Rights Reserved
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