LAKE COUNTY HISTORY, CHAPTER 125 – HORSE FREIGHTING

When Victor Barnes, a man that lived in Kelseyville forty or fifty years ago, wrote about the early days of freighting, I was curious. Either Victor had been a freight teamster, or he was on a firsthand basis with a man who had been a teamster in the 1850s and ’60s. Without knowing for sure, I had to assume one or the other was true because Victor Barnes wrote like he knew his beans and what the job was all about.

 “When a teamster had freight in the horse and mule days, he had to load his wagon the day before the trip. This was especially true when the trip was from Big Valley to Hopland. He got up at three o’clock in the morning and fed his horses or mules. Then he curried the animals down, harnessed them, and cleaned out the barn. By the time he had his breakfast and had the animals hitched, it was five o’clock… so often he had to do all this in the dark since lights were never used on the road.”

“Many teams had bells on the lead animals. This was so other teams could hear the bells and be warned as they took the sharp turns coming around those mountain roads. The tight turns were hazardous. When loads came from the Lake County side the teams stopped near the top at the Highland Springs Toll Road. Coming from the other side it was less dangerous. At the Toll Rest Stop, the bits were taken out of the animal’s mouths and they were fed some hay or, sometimes, grain.”

“The round trip from Hopland to Lakeport and back again was traveled at about three miles an hour, slower than a man can walk. That was because of the up and down steep grades. Going up a grade was a slow business. Coming down the brakes were much in use. If the teamster had a load both ways, a complete trip took two or three days, counting the loading, unloading, and the double mileage.”

 “The Toll over the Highland Springs Toll Road was $1.50 for a four-horse team round trip, loaded or empty. Freight was hauled at four dollars a ton in summer and between six and eight dollars a ton in winter… because of the fall and late spring rains.”

 “Between two and three o’clock that afternoon the wagons arrived at Hopland. The cargo was unloaded as soon as possible. Sometimes it took hours because each wagon had to wait its turn. This applied, especially, if there were several loads all being shipped in the same railroad car.  Most of the teamsters stayed at the Thatcher’s Hotel. That is now the Pomo Inn (at the time of Mr. Barnes telling). Bed and breakfast cost $1.00 a night.”

“None of the teamsters were given a room; they were just sent upstairs and a man slept in the first bed he could find. South of Thatcher’s Hotel, and going from Main Street in Hopland, nearly to the railroad, there was a large barn. The animals were put here for the night. The teamsters weren’t charged, except for the hay. That cost twenty-five cents for each animal.”

“When the country changed from animals to trucks about 1920, highway 16 (now 175) was constructed. That changed things. There came a need for more rooms and board for the customers. Mrs. Marshall opened up the ‘Outside Inn’ where the present Hopland High School is today. Mrs. Marshall ran the Thatcher Hotel. At the ‘Outside Inn’ she built a large bunkhouse where the men could sleep. She fed them in an old, large, reconditioned house alongside the Hotel. The animals still needed care and they were cared for at the Thatcher barn by the tracks. Most of the teamsters stayed at the ‘Outside’ Inn.”

Next Week: A Close Vote; Wet or Dry?

© 2017 PAL PUBLISHING/USED BY PERMISSION

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Gene Paleno

Gene runs his life at a full sprint. In his ninety-three years he's dug ditches, painted signs, played semi-pro football, worked as a taxicab driver, an insurance agent, and a school teacher. He's been a technical artist, a marketing director, and a business owner. He served in World War II, raised four children, and was married to the love of his life for fifty years. He's an accomplished oil painter and skilled in ceramics. He's written fifteen books, including the definitive Lake County History, and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

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