The village of Gasquet takes its name from French immigrant Horace Gasquet, who arrived in Crescent City from France in 1853. The village’s name, however, is not the immigrant’s only legacy.
He is in history books as having been quite the entrepreneur, one with a hotel, general store, farm, barn, blacksmith, town bar and winery to his credit. But it’s his toll road that linked California to Oregon that put Msr. Gasquet into the history books.
The Gasquet Toll Road was built mostly by Chinese labor between 1881 and 1886, after the county’s board of supervisors granted Gasquet permission to undertake the project. Until the road was completed, the town of Gasquet’s only link was overland to Crescent City and on to San Francisco by sea.
The northeast overland route was needed to help ensure the county’s continued growth and development, and Gasquet’s Toll Road provided the link so sought after in the late 1800s. Described as a “corduroy road,” it was created by laying a bed of timers across its width on a surface of dirt and gravel.
Its route was along the forks of the Smith River, up the middle fork on the “left hand bank” for about 4 miles, then across the river. From its crossing, the road went to the mouth of Patrick’s Creek, up to Shelly Creek and crossed into Oregon about 3 miles east of the Robin’s nest.
Total length? Twenty miles.
The road has retained its original composition and construction, although it may have been repaired during the years with dirt and gravel. It’s still usable, although its drawbacks are the narrow gauge and windy path.
Prior to his corduroy road, Gasquet built a mule trail, one of the first of its type, to the interior and into Oregon Territory. He later built a second mule trail to Happy Camp on the Klamath River, where he opened another mercantile store.
Horace Gasquet, a French immigrant seeking gold in northern California, arrived in Crescent City in 1855. The businessman changed his plans to instead serve miners already living in the region.
Gasquet bought 320 acres and set up a village with a hotel, bar, stores, winery and blacksmith shop more than 15 miles from Crescent City, according to historical information from the National Park Service. He also decided to build a toll road connecting Crescent City to Waldo, Ore.
Chinese Americans completed the Gasquet Toll Road between 1881 and 1886. The 23-mile road would cost a man and a horse $1 to cross.
Pedestrian and pack animals cost 25 cents each, sheep and hogs cost 6 cents and horse and cattle cost 12 cents. A one-horse vehicle paid $2.75.
One of Gasquet’s ads, included in A.J. Bledsoe’s “Del Norte County” book, touted his resort and access to it in a bid to attract tourists for the summer. It featured trout and salmon fishing, along with deer and bear hunting and quail, pigeon and pheasant shooting.
“This place can be reached from San Francisco by Railroad, via Grants Pass, Or., or by steamer, via Crescent City, Cal.,” the ad stated.
Gasquet and his wife, Madeleine, added vineyards to the village of stores, hotel, mining camps and roads that they built using Chinese immigrants for labor. Madeleine Gasquet’s cooking and hotel management business skills helped the resort become a popular health spa that attracted visitors year-round.
The spot also hosted weddings and events. Madeleine Gasquet died in 1889, and her husband died seven years later.
But part of their efforts remain.
“The altitude and sunshine still support Horace’s grape vines, growing on hillsides,” according to the Redwood Empire Association, a California marketing group.