The trip is hot and dry. A layer of several feet of dust lined the route, flying around as the wheels of the wagons and hooves of the horses pass over. The road is steep and over granite along the 130 miles from the Carson Valley to Placerville. When not the middle of summer, the road is muddy or buried by snow. A horse could cover the terrain in 24-hours.
The road is Johnson’s Cut-off and the year is 1852. It was built by John Calhoun “Cock-eye” Johnson as a way to cut off 50 miles and 2,000 feet in elevation from the common route people took over Donner Summit as they emigrated West.
John Calhoun “Cock-eye” Johnson is the subject of the book, A Lovely & Comfortable Heritage Lost, written by his great-granddaughter, Ellen Osborne.
Osborne was at the South Lake Tahoe Library Saturday to give a presentation on her book courtesy of the Friends of the Library and the Lake Tahoe Historical Society. An overflowing crowd gathered to hear her tales of the old El Dorado County and how “Cock-eye” changed transportation over the Sierra.
The settlers heading west were part of the largest peacetime migration in American history. With the discovery of gold in 1849, people headed to a new life, and hopefully, new riches.