Buy the DVD

Brown, Molly
Gunnison, John
Marshall, William
Mears, Otto
Moffat, David
Nunn, Lucien
Palmer, William
Tesla, Nicola



Lt. Marshall Discovers Marshall Pass
(U.S.G.S. Bulletin 707 1922)

Marshall Pass was discovered in 1873 by Lieut. William L. Marshall, later chief of engineers in the United States Army, not as the result of systematic exploration, but in order to find relief from toothache. The following account of the discovery is condensed from a recent article on the subject by Thomas F. Dawson in " The Trail " (Sept., 1920), the official organ of the Society of Sons of Colorado.

In 1873 Lieut. Marshall, in charge of the Colorado branch of the Wheeler Survey, had spent the summer and autumn in the San Juan region, but on the approach of winter the snow became too deep for mountain exploration and he decided to abandon work and go to Denver. It was arranged that the party should follow the regular route by way of Cochetopa Pass, but as Lieut. Marshall had a very painful toothache, he decided to strike out on some shorter route so as to reach Denver ahead of his party and to find relief from his suffering. He accordingly started with one companion, Dave Mears, on mule back and with one pack animal to find a short cut. He first tried to cross the range west of Twin Lakes but found the snow too deep; then he tried an entirely new route at the head of Gunnison River, and after a hard struggle through fallen timber and deep snow he reached the summit in a pass which he had seen from a distance but never crossed. Lieut. Marshall realized that the pass he had discovered was one over which a road or even a railroad could easily be constructed, so despite the toothache and the icy wind the party spent a day and night on the summit making observations of the temperature and barometer and preparing a profile showing the approaches on both sides.

When the observations were completed the party pushed on to Denver, where a dentist soon relieved the toothache. In a short time the news of the discovery of the pass became noised about and Lieut. Marshall was waited upon by a delegation of prominent citizens who, with true western push, organized the Marshall Pass Toll Road Co. and in a few months completed a wagon road through the pass.

What would the traveler of to-day think of making a mule-back journey of 300 miles in the snow across the mountains of Colorado to find relief from a toothache! Such a trip would be bad enough to make under present conditions, but what must it have been through an unbroken wilderness and across the backbone of the continent!

Truly the " winning of the West " called for courage and endurance of which the traveler of to-day, with all the comforts and even luxuries of travel, can have little comprehension.

Copyright 2005 Sandia Software All Rights Reserved