Boones Ferry Road is one of the busiest roads in the Portland area, but not many modern residents are aware that there once actually was a ferry on Boones Ferry Road — and fewer still know that the Boone in question was a descendant of the one and only Daniel Boone.
Daniel’s grandson, Alphonso Boone led the branch of the Boone family that emigrated to Oregon. In 1846, Alphonso headed west from Westport, Missouri, with seven of his children, his sister Panthea Boone Boggs, and her husband Lilburn W. Boggs, former governor of Missouri.
The Boones with their eleven wagons joined a California-bound wagon train which they expected to stay with about as far as Fort Hall.
Dissatisfaction with the leadership of the wagon train’s captain, William H. Russell, was widespread, and when the train reached Ash Hollow, Russell resigned. The wagon train broke up into small groups for the remainder of the journey. These parties, including the Boones, remained loosely associated with one another, banding together and splitting up again as the days wore on.
The Boones reached South Pass on July 18, and two days later they encountered a lone horseman from the west urging emigrants to try a new, shorter route to California being promoted by Lansford W. Hastings. Led by George Donner, about twenty wagons from the Russell train turned off to follow this new route into the history books.
On August 8, at Fort Hall, the Boones met a man promoting another new route, this one leading to Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Alphonso Boone and his family decided to take a chance on the new road to Oregon, known as the Southern Route or the Applegate Trail.
This proved to be a mistake. The Applegate Trail was a hard road through difficult terrain with limited access to water. To make matters worse, the Native Americans of southern Oregon and northern California were extremely hostile to the overlanders and frequently harassed them. It was Christmastime when the Boones finally reached the settlements in the Willamette Valley.
In the spring of 1847, Alphonso claimed 1000 acres across the Willamette from present-day Wilsonville. The Boones established a ferry on an old Native American trail running from Salem and the French Prairie area to the newly established city of Portland, bypassing Oregon City. They improved the trail by laying down a “corduroy road” of split tree trunks to get wagons through the muddiest stretches, and it grew into a major thoroughfare.
Alphonso made a point of operating his ferry 24 hours a day for the convenience of his customers. Legend has it that more than a few of these customers were moonshiners, who operated stills hidden in hollows and glens nearby and used the road to transport their product to town.
When word of the gold strikes in California reached Oregon in 1848, Alphonso and his sons headed south to make their fortune. On February 1, 1850, Alphonso died at Long’s Bar of an illness contracted in the gold fields. The ferry Alphonso Boone established in 1847 operated continuously for 107 years. It was finally shut down in 1954 after the completion of a highway bridge adjacent to the ferry crossing.
Trackback from your site.