Kingsbury-McDonald Toll Road Construction Records

Identifier: NC1331

Scope and Contents

Collection contains 16 documents regarding the land acquisition and construction of the Kingsbury-McDonald Toll Road. Some of the individuals involved in the acquisition activities and construction and are included in the documents found in this collection are as follows: D. D. Kingsbury, N. Osgood, George W. Swan, Jason A. Corey, Zachariah Prichart, and John Roupley.


  • 1860-1867

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.

Historical Note

In late 1859 or the beginning of 1860, construction began on a new turnpike that would connect the Carson Valley, Nevada to Placerville, California. The toll road, named the Kingsbury-McDonald Toll Road, connected Meyers in northern Lake Valley (Lake Tahoe) to the Carson Valley Road just south of Genoa, Nevada. This road ran via the refurbished branch of the Johnson Cutoff and over Daggett Pass on an existing route. The new turnpike owners, D. D. Kingsbury and J. M. McDonald purchased the route from Dr. Daggett. In late March 1860, Kingsbury and McDonald purchased a half section of land near the east base of the grade from John M. Cary; shortly after the inauguration of service on the toll road, they sold this land to Henry Van Sickle who, as part of the same transaction, also acquired the toll road franchise, on which he held a mortgage. The new route was completed in August 1861. On November 27, 1861, Kingsbury and McDonald obtained an ex-post facto franchise from the territorial government of Nevada, authorizing them to build and maintain the turnpike and to collect tolls.

At the same time Kingsbury and McDonald were building the Carson Valley portion of the route it appears that George W. Swan was building the other end of the Carson to Placerville toll road starting near Placerville. He also purchased land just wide enough for a road, promising to erect a board fence on both sides, five boards high. When D. D. Kingsbury died, Swan became the attorney and completed the necessary property deals to complete the road.

The lower portion of Swan's Toll Road had several toll stations near Placerville. Swan's Upper Toll House was located in Strawberry Valley, as you climb the summit towards Tahoe. The written historical record shows that competing lines were built around 1863, which may have caused the failure of the Carson Valley-Placerville toll road. In actuality, however, it may be no more than the death of D. D. Kingsbury (who was likely killed in the same avalanche that killed his brother, A. B. Kingsbury), which complicated and slowed down the overall construction process, allowing competitors to catch up.

The Kingsbury turnpike attracted heavy use from the outset as the best and shortest overland connection between Placerville and the Comstock, capturing much of the traffic formerly traveling the old roundabout and onerous southern route through the high and snowy Luther Pass.

(Much of the above information is from the report: "Heavenly Ski Resort Master Plan, Volume 4B, Draft EIS" published in April 1995; additional information by Fred Holabird.)


0.1 Linear Feet (1 folder)

Language of Materials



Construction on the Kingsbury-McDonald Toll Road, which would eventually link the Carson Valley, Nevada to Placerville, California via Lake Valley (Lake Tahoe), began in late 1859 or early 1860. Collection contains 16 documents regarding the land acquisition and construction of the route.


Arranged chronologically.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Holabird Western Americana Collections, LLC in June 2018.
Guide to the Kingsbury-McDonald Toll Road Construction Records
Jessica Maddox
July 2018
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA
775-682-5724 (Fax)