Rules Of The Road

From the Diary of John McDannald: July, 1865

There were unwritten "Rules of the Road" as John McDannald writes in his diary on Sunday, July 5, 1865. Their wagon team was traveling along the Cache la Poudre on their way to La Porte.

"As we are now following as closely as possible along the banks of Cache Lapondria in order to cross over this range of mountains out into the Laramie Plains, by way of the pass at its headwaters and Virginia Dale, we encounter some extremely rough and narrow road. There were certain unwritten but well recognized rules of etiquette of today. And the infraction of this unwritten law or acknowledged customs and practices of that time was not only looked upon with disfavor, but any man who repeated the offense seldom escaped with anything less than a severe reprimand, and a warning that it must not be repeated. It had always been mutually agreed that one team would not pass another while both were moving along the same road, unless the team in the lead had stopped to rest or to make alterations or repairs to either the harness or wagon; then it was permissible for the rear team to pass around the other wagon and take the lead."

As it happened, Mr. McDannald's train did come upon a slow moving freight train just as they were approaching the "Cache Lapondria Gorge," as he calls it. They decided to camp for the night, and allow the freight wagon to continue on into La Porte where they could overtake it the next day. He continues " some places it is not wide enough for two wagons to pass, and someone must keep far enough in advance of the train to stop anyone coming from the other direction while we were passing these extra narrow places."

The following Monday, Mr. McDannald noted that they were thankful that they had allowed the stock to rest at LaPorte, since "...the Box Elder Creek* which we traveled along for some distance before we got to the old abandoned Stage Station at Virginia Dale, ran through a narrow gorge for a distance of about three miles, and while we had thought that the 'Gorge of the Cache LaPondria' was narrow, it was nothing compared to this one! It was utterly impossible for more than one wagon to negotiate this narrow defile in the earth's surface for the entire three miles. So it was necessary to send scouts on ahead to make sure that there is no other wagon already started through the Gorge from the other end before we dared to enter it."

(* The author of these pages has traveled along the Overland Trail, and feels that Mr. McDannald was mistaken in calling this the Box Elder. The Overland Trail did not follow the Box Elder in this vicinity, and he probably meant the Dale Creek, very near to Virginia Dale. At this point along the Overland Trail, the Dale Creek does pass through a very narrow gorge. This can be seen from Highway 287 about 1/2 mile north of the turn-off to the Virginia Dale Stage Station.)

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