The Traveler - The Quarterly Newsletter of the California Chapter of the Lincoln Highway Association
Volume 3, Number 2: Spring 2002

From the Editor

By Wes Hammond

With this issue of the newsletter, our journey across the United States, as seen through the eyes of a postcard photographer, comes to an end. George Clark's final "Vintage Views" article includes postcards from the states of Nevada and California. George has a very interesting collection of Lincoln Highway postcards, many of which will be featured in future newsletters.

The theme of the "Highway Nostalgia" article in this issue is travel through the Altamont Pass from memories of four individuals from the early 1920s through 1938. The Lincoln Highway completed in 1915-16 followed a route through the Altamont Pass steeped in history. These barren windswept hills have seen the travels of so many historical figures, more than all the famous California passes combined.

The earliest recorded travel through the pass is from the late 1700s and early 1800s, when the pass was known as Alta Monte Pass. In Spanish, Alta means "high." "Monte" can have two general meanings, depending on how it is used. It can mean "grove," "thicket," or "woods," or it can mean "hill" or "mound." The early travelers were Spanish and Mexican explorers moving east from Mission San Jose. Since there are no trees in the area, and the hills are not that high, I believe the name means, "Pass to the High Forest" or "Pass to the High Hills," in other words, the pass to the Sierra Nevada mountains. This, of course, is my opinion, and the real meaning of the name may never be known.

The first explorers included the famous names of Sal, Soto, Moraga, and Vallejo, followed by the mountain men Ewing Young and Jebidiah Smith. In 1845, John C. Fremont traveled through Alta Monte Pass. Four years later, when gold was discovered in the Sierra, men by the thousands moved through the pass to reach the gold fields seeking their fortune.

In May 1869, a gold spike was driven at Promentory Point, Utah, to complete the transcontinental railroad to the west. However, this was not a true transcontinental route, since all passengers and freight had to use river steamers between San Francisco/Oakland and Sacramento. In September 1869, a rail line between Sacramento and Oakland was constructed through the Altamont Pass, completed a true transcontinental railroad. As you can see, Altamont Pass also played a significant role in railroad history.