Donna Reynolds
Special to The Union

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June 21, 2014
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Nevada County Namesakes: Edwards Crossing

When temperatures soar, the Yuba River is an ideal place to cool off.

But did you know that long ago, instead of opting to head to Edwards Crossing for a refreshing plunge, your point of destination would have been Robinson’s Upper Crossing?

This was due to Allen and William Robinson being the earliest known owners of the crossing. While their crossing was made available to footmen and horsemen by Nov. 30, 1855, carriages would not be afforded that same luxury until May of 1856.

Over the years, this toll road and crossing would be owned and operated by various individuals or groups of individuals, until it finally came into the hands of William Edwards. He purchased a half interest in the toll road and crossing for $2,500 on Dec. 14, 1870 from the estate of James H. Cooper, at which point he became the partner of Thomas J. Manchester.

After Manchester moved back east, Edwards doled out $2,750 for his half interest, whereupon he became the sole owner on Sept. 11, 1876.

William Edwards was born in Cape May, N.J. Jan. 27, 1826. At the age of 22, he moved to Sangamon, Ill., where he supported himself by making shoes and farming.

After arriving in California on Jan. 9, 1852 aboard the steamer Golden Gate, he ventured to Nevada County and began mining at Blue Tent on Aug. 15, 1852. Not long afterward, he and a partner were operating a ferry at Illinois Bar, on the South Yuba. By July of 1855 William was constructing the Illinois Bridge and the Nevada City-Lake City turnpike, between Blue Tent and Lake City.

Late at night on June 17, 1856, Edwards heard a pistol report followed closely by a splash in the water. The next morning, on the Illinois Bridge, he found a hat along with flyleaves from a small book used for a suicide note penned by William Cole which attributed this act to a flight from punishment.

But, it was shortly thereafter found that no such life-ending deed had occurred, as Cole was later arrested for the murder of a man named Schillinschi which had taken place about two weeks prior to his alleged suicide.

The Illinois Bridge was swept away by high water on Dec. 8, 1861, whereupon Edwards moved to Meadow Lake and busied himself by constructing a road there around 1864. He returned to his South Yuba River crossing in 1867. On Nov. 28, 1878 he married Ellen Black at Blue Tent.

Ellen, a native of Sweden, had been married twice previously. After her first husband, August Frandy, died on Jan. 7, 1865, she cared for their two sons, John and August alone until remarrying at Blue Tent on July 17, 1866.

She and her second husband, William Black added two sons, William, Jr. and James Alexander to their family before William Sr. was involved in a cave in at the Enterprise claims at Blue Tent on June 21, 1870. Although it was originally surmised that Mr. Black would not survive the accident, he miraculously pulled through.

But his left leg had been so severely crushed that amputation was necessary (it was later mentioned that he lost both legs).

The happy arrivals of daughters, Ellen and Annie were followed by the sad occasion of William Black Sr. death on Nov. 11, 1876. Ellen was again a widow, and the mother of six children aged 12 and under. As these were the days when outside assistance was nearly nonexistent, Ellen’s marriage to William Edwards two years later undoubtedly came as a huge blessing.

On Sept. 1, 1879, William Edwards was present during a prominent incident in Nevada County history as a passenger in the Eureka Express stage. With Matt Daley handling the ribbons, the stage was traveling to Nevada City from Moore’s Flat, when it was held up at gunpoint on Rock Creek, about 3 miles northeast of Nevada City.

After the robbers discovered the express bag contained but a piddling amount of money, they relieved Mr. Edwards of $20, unaware that Edwards had dropped his purse containing $500 in the stage which was thereby overlooked.

Dan McCarthy was relieved of $160, and an unnamed man of Chinese descent handed over $80. Also aboard, but apparently suffering no monetary losses, were 17-year-old Moore’s Flat school teacher, Miss Hannah Skeahan, and Gold Flat residents Thomas and Margaret Barr and their three children Sarah, Franklin and Alice.

The greatest loss that fateful day was paid by 43-year-old Moore’s Flat banker William F. Cummings, who lost his life during his valiant struggle to keep the robbers from stealing his satchel, which contained gold bars worth about $6,700.

Although a posse was immediately assembled, and rewards offered for the capture of the two highwaymen, their whereabouts remained unknown until the summer of 1882.

Charles Dorsey (alias Thorne) was found guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced to life in prison, while John C. P. Collins (alias Patterson) kept his date with the hangman in Nevada City on Feb. 1, 1884.

In the interim, the Edwards family moved to a home on High Street in Nevada City. They later moved to Prospect Hill, where Ellen died on Feb. 19, 1890.

Seeking remedy for his poor health William ventured to Paso Robles Springs, but the remedy he sought was not forthcoming as he died there a few days later, on Feb. 29, 1892.

He was, at the time of his death, a member of the Board of City Trustees and a director of the Citizens Bank. He and Ellen are now at rest in Pine Grove Cemetery.

William had maintained the toll road and bridge between Nevada City and North Bloomfield up to Nov. 12, 1889, when he sold it to the County of Nevada for $5,000.

The bridge now spanning Edwards Crossing was not built until 1904, and thus did not exist in William’s day.

But, as William Edwards was the last individual owner of the crossing, the name “Edwards Crossing” remains in place today.

Donna Reynolds is a volunteer at the Doris Foley Library for Historical Research.

Over the years, this toll road and crossing would be owned and operated by various individuals or groups of individuals, until it finally came into the hands of William Edwards.


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The Union Updated Sep 21, 2014 07:36PM Published Jul 29, 2014 11:22AM Copyright 2014 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.