|OTCC Interpretive Signs
The Devil's Backbone
The route of the Oregon Trail in Oregon changed many times during the emigration era. Early emigrants braved the wild Columbia River, and later many chose to trek across the desolate Columbia Plateau from Pendleton to The Dalles before turning to the river for the final leg of the journey. After Samuel K. Barlow opened a toll road over the Cascade Mountains in 1846 emigrants were offered yet another alternative that avo8ided the Columbia altogether. The Barlow Road ascended the south flank of Mt. Hood and descended the watersheds of the Zigzag and Sandy Rivers. Emigrants entered the valley below by following the long ridge to the east, called the Devil's Backbone, and then descending the steep incline to ford the river they climbed the hill and passed through what is today the City of Sandy toward what P. V. Crawford, emigrant of 1851called, "the great Willamette Valley." this viewpoint is named for the Jonsrud family of Sandy, Oregon. T. G. Jonsrud and his wife Kari settled west of Sandy in 1877. the Jonsrud's son Robert, a blacksmith and sawmill owner, acquired this land in the early 1900s. In 1922 Robert and his wife Tillie built the beautiful Prairie Style house across the road and cleared this viewpoint which has been in constant use for more than 70 years. Philip Jonsrud, Robert's son, donated the viewpoint to the City of Sandy in 1984.
"...We have arived at the conclusion that the much-dreaded place that the world calls "hell" is no more to be dreaded, for on our trip across the Continent we have safely passed through "The Devil's Gate," and witnessed a great many of his works while reviewing his grand estate, and at last, after arriving away out here in Oregon, we have had the exquisite pleasure of driving our team over the old man's backbone. That is, "The Devil's Backbone." Here we will leave the old man's carcass to be wet with the mists of an Oregon winter." E. W. Conyers; September 22, 1852
During the covered wagon era thousands of Oregon Trail emigrants reached the valley below on the Barlow Road by descending the south side of the long east ridge called the "Devil's Backbone." Samuel James made this descent in 1850 and "let the wagons down by ropes." Once down, weary emigrants, wagons and livestock forded the river--accidents were common.
"Came on to the crossing of the Sandy, a very hard stream to cross, as the current is very rapid and the bed of the stream full of large smooth rocks and very deep. Mr. H got on one of the mules to cross and I on the other. when he got to the deepest part, his poor mule stumbled and fell, throwing Mr. H. off on a large rock and the mule on one of his legs, so that he could not move. There happened to be a man wading at the same time, who came to his relief as soon as he could. Mr. H. got loose but it was some time before they got the frightened mule out. I was very much alarmed. I though that Mr. H. would certainly be drowned or seriously hurt, but he sustained no injury but a bruise on his leg, his pants being cut on the rock. My heart seemed to turn over when I saw him fall! He was soaked up to the waist. He emptied his boots, which were full of water, and walked 8 miles in this condition." Esther Belle McMillan Hanna; September 14, 1852
The trek westward on the Oregon Trail was arduous: wagons broke down, animals
died of exhaustion, and supplies were depleted. Early emigrants found few
permanent trading posts and often relied on trade with Indians for survival.
During the 1850s itinerant traders from the Willamette Valley wandered the
trail to supply emigrants. Later entrepeneurs, like the Revenue family,
established permanent trading posts along the emigrant
"Traveled over the Backbone to the last crossing of the Sandy...and camped near the first dwelling house we found in the Cascades. Here we found like civilization cock crowing and dogs barking, corn and potatoes growing all which seemed to us like home." Philip Condit; September 15, 1854