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Gunnison History Tracker
MARSHALL PASS
   Nestled under 13,971-foot Mount Ouray, which was named after Ute Tribe Chief Ouray, is where Marshall Pass begins, with a toothache in the mouth of the man that the pass is named after, William Louis Marshall.
  Marshall, who was a West Point appointee, graduated 1868, who was with the Wheeler Survey of the Rocky Mountains, in command of one of the three surveying parties. Working in the San Juan Mountains during the summer and fall of 1873, near current day Silverton. In the fall of 1873, Marshall had a tooth-ache that became so sore and swollen, that he could not open his mouth. Marshall and packer Dave Mears, first set off to the Twin Lakes area, but was blocked by heavy snows. He then remembered another depression in the Divide.
  They spent six days, traveling the twelve miles near the top. Once on top, Marshall realized that he stumbled onto a possible east to west route. Barring the toothache, Marshall spent a day and a night to make a survey of the pass. He used his barometer and thermometer to take readings and to make a chart of the altitude and grade of the pass. So accurate were Marshall’s measurements that eight years later, the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad would use them with only a few alterations to build their line across the pass.
  Marshall and Mears would arrive in Denver four days before the rest of the party, and saved 125-miles off the distance.
  Word of this new pass that Marshall had crossed to get his toothache fixed, had reached the ears of one Otto Mears, known as the “Pathfinder of the San Juans”. Four years later, Otto Mears, of Kurland, Prussia, chartered the Marshall Pass and Gunnison Toll-Roads, on August 3rd, 1877. The capital cost was $15,000.00, with $100.00 shares.
  Word of this new pass that Marshall had crossed to get his toothache fixed, had reached the ears of one Otto Mears, known as the “Pathfinder of the San Juans”. Four years later, Otto Mears, of Kurland, Prussia, chartered the Marshall Pass and Gunnison Toll-Roads, on August 3rd, 1877. The capital cost was $15,000.00, with $100.00 shares.
  On August 3rd, 1877, Otto Mears charted the Marshall Pass and Gunnison Toll Road, anticipated the need for a better path across the mountains west of Salida and into the Gunnison country. He could see the railroad working up the Royal Gorge and began to predict their next move. Mears was familiar with the area, and built a new road over Marshall Pass, a logical extension of his existing road over Poncha Pass. The capital cost of $15,000.00, with $100.00 Shares.
  Otto Mears hired 28 men for the construction of a toll-road over Marshall Pass. In 1879, the McKee family was the first four-horse team over Otto’s Marshall Pass Toll Road, traveling from Gunnison, back to Canon City, where some sections of the pass still had no road constructed at all. The road ran west from Mears Junction, on Otto’s Poncha Pass Toll-Road, crossed Marshall Pass, and descended by way of Marshall Creek and Tomichi Creek, then on to the booming Gunnison City.
  By June 1880, Marshall Pass work force Superintendent W.M. Outcalt reported to the Gunnison News that the road was completed. On June 12th, 1880, the Barlow & Sanderson Stage Company reported that they would be starting stage service from South Arkansas to Gunnison. The stage would depart South Arkansas, one hour after the Denver Train arrived, at 7:00 AM, and would arrive in Gunnison at 7:00 PM, the same evening, offering one day service from Denver to Gunnison.. The stage traveled about 10 MPH on the east side of Marshall and was pulled by six horses, and held 8-10 passengers.
  After the Denver & Rio Grande reached Leadville, the larger Leadville stages were then used on Marshall Pass, and could carry up to seventeen passengers inside and on the roof.
  Mears charged a wagon team with two horses $4.00, a wagon with one horse $2.00, a wagon with additional teams was $2.00 per additional team, stock and pack animals were $0.25 a head, and saddled animals were $0.50.
  September of 1880, Colorado Senator Nathaniel P. Hill announced that the Post Office would begin regular postal service between Salida and Gunnison starting September 1st. Then on October 22nd, Telegraph service began to Gunnison.
  As predicted, he later sold the rights to the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad for $13,000.00 in fear of competition from the railroad, also a group started a Toll-Road on Monarch, and he knew it was time to move on. The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad began construction of Marshall Pass Route to Gunnison from Salida on February of 1881, using the pre-built roadway to beat the Denver, South Park, & Pacific Railroad into Gunnison.
  The line was laid with some iron and some steel, 30 lb rails. By the mid-1880’s, those rails were replaced with 40 lb & 45 lb rails, and in the late 1890’s, those rails were partially replaced with 52 lb rails. By the 1900’s 65 lb rails were then installed on the route. the railroad continued up-grading the rails as traffic on the line grew, and larger and heavier locomotives were used. In the 1920’s, 70 lb rails, the 1930’s, they went to 85 lb and even some 90 lb right after the war.
William Louis Marshall
Otto Mears