08 September 2008

Olinda Oral Histories: Recollections of Carbon Canyon Road

In this third post based on the Pipelines to the Past publication, put out by Cal State Fullerton's Oral History Program back in 1978, remembrances of Carbon Canyon Road by former residents of the Olinda oil district (now that's the word I was looking for, rather than "town" or "community!) are highlighted.

Jack Gauldin, born in 1897 and a resident of Olinda until 1924, remembered that a former Orange County Supervisor named Jim Connally received a contract to put a modern unpaved road through Carbon Canyon in 1914 or 1915. Mr. Gauldin was sent out to the area where Union Station now is in Los Angeles, a section of town that had many livery stables, and rented two dozen mules and harnessing for the grading of the road. He further recalled that:

Well, the early days had a road through Carbon Canyon to Chino. They really followed the stream of water, in and out. . . so we went in there with teams of horses and mules. I think in the camp one time we had about twenty-seven men working. We would take some of the Mexican boys, or whoever was working for us, and we would shovel out a path up on a steep hill and work the picks and axes and cut a furrow. Then we would take one horse with a plow and plow it. We would drive the horse on this same furrow that was dug by pick and shove. Then we would plow this, and we used what they call a ‘V.’ That’s a board about ten feet long and one about three feet wide, or whatever width you’d want it. The first one was very narrow. You would take that ‘V’ and kick the dirt out and eventually you’d get it wide enough to where you could take two horses up and heavier equipment . . . I forgot how long it took us to put those few miles—I think six miles or something like that through there. Then we had to oil it heavily and put culverts in the streams and build bridges over the streams. In the real rainy weather we’d lose a bridge now and then. Somewhere in the 1930s or along in there, they moved the road up to its present location and put it into a macadamized road. But the first road was oil road, and about a two-lane road. There was an old gent by the name of Jim Williams who lived in there . . .” who wouldn’t allow the road through his property on the higher ground and told them ‘It’s all right to stay down in the canyon.

It turned out, however, that Williams relented on his demand and allowed the road to be built through his property. While it was not stated where this was exactly, a sidenote is that Mr. Gauldin also remembered that another canyon ranch owner was named Gaines and that his property included the area that is now Hollydale Mobile Home Estates in Olinda Village on the south side of Carbon Canyon Road.As you'll see in the next post, Mr. Gauldin's memory of when the "macadamized" (i.e., paved) road in its present alignment was a few years off, but, otherwise, his recollection is interesting.

Jessie Isbell, born in 1890, had a brief statement about the road:

Carbon Canyon was not what it is now. It was a winding, just barely two-lane road. Sometimes, if you had an extra big car, you’d have to pull off the road. You’d go around the curves and look down into the stream, quite a ways down, go up a little ways more and turn in another direction. It was just winding in and out, and to drive it at night was quite a drive. So, there were quite a few accidents.
It is also unclear whether she was talking about the 1914/15 oiled road or the paved road that came in later.

Check out the next post for another interesting historical description of the paving of the road and why it was done!

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