Many lives were lost in the 1840s on the Columbia River, the only accessible route for emigrant wagons entering the Willamette Valley. Samuel K. Barlow acted on the need for a better route when in 1846 he petitioned the Oregon Provisional Legislature to lay out and build a road from Oregon City to the eastern base of the Cascades, and to charge a toll. In partnership with Phillip Foster and a crew of over 40, Barlow began building the road in the spring of that year. When finished the trail cut for over 80 miles through forest, swamps, stream, and hills.
At first, travel on the road was one-way, east to west, and the first toll gate was established at the beginning of the road to Gate Creek at Strickland. Reuben Gant drove the first wagon over the new road in 1846; that year Barlow reported a total of 152 wagons entering the valley via his road and close to 1,600 head of livestock.
After the treacherous descent of Laurel Hill’s steep cliff, travelers still had to ford the Zig Zag and Sandy Rivers. In 1853 Francis Revenue, Sandy’s first settler, built a bridge across the Sandy. This site, a few miles from Marmot, became the new toll gate, counting emigrants from 1853 to 1865. After that the gate was located at Summit House from 1866 to 1870; at Two-Mile camp from 1870 to 1878; and at Toll Gate east of Rhododendron form 1879 to 1915, at which time the Barlow Road passed into the hands of the state of Oregon and the toll gate was removed.
The toll fee of $5 per wagon seemed outrageous to emigrants arriving at the gate completely destitute. Even after the fee was reduced to $2.50, pioneers unable to pay to cash often paid instead with an article of clothing of an animal. Drivers often sent their livestock around the gate (to the frustration of the gatekeeper), and widows could pass through free.
The second gate at Revenue’s, now within the city limits of Sandy, was perhaps most symbolic of the end of the long trail. From there it was literally downhill to Foster’s place at Eagle Creek, where pioneers could rest before setting out at a more relaxed pace to stake a claim in the fertile valley. Today the City of Sandy stands at the gateway to the Portland Metropolitan area and thousands of eastward-bound travelers pass daily a small plaque next to the Sandy City Hall marking the intersection of the Barlow Road with Highway 26.
The Tollgate Inn Restaurant stands today as a tribute to those brave Pioneers who took it upon themselves to settle this great land we now call home.