Kingsbury Grade transports people between Lake Tahoe and Carson Valley. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Thousands of people drive up and down Kingsbury Grade and over Daggett Summit every day without thinking about how they got their names.

Charles Daggett may have one or two T’s in his last name. The sign atop the 7,334 foot summit that splits the South Shore of Lake Tahoe and Carson Valley has two T’s in Daggett. The state historical marker along Foothill Road uses one. An 1889 U.S. Geological Society map calls the route Daggetts Pass, no apostrophe. The Nevada State Library Archives (NSLA) uses two T’s.

Daggett was Nevada’s first doctor. Born in 1806 in Vermont, he attended Berkshire Medical College in Massachusetts where he also earned a law degree. In 1851, he moved to Mormon Station, now part of Genoa. In 1855, he became prosecuting attorney, county assessor, and tax collector of Carson County.

Image: Kathryn Reed

The Foothill Road historical marker says: “Originally named Georgetown Trail, the Dagget Pass Trail and Pass was named after Charles Dagget who acquired the land at the base of the road in 1854. In 1859-1860, David Kingsbury and John McDonald received a franchise from the Utah Territory to operate the toll road. At the time, the area was part of the Utah Territory. The men spent about $70,000 to construct a wagon road to meet the demand for a more direct route from California to the Washoe mines and to shorten the distance between Sacramento and Virginia City by 10 miles. The new 16 foot wide road, supported in some places by granite retaining walls on both sides, made the passage easier for travelers on this main route from California. Merchants and teamsters frequently traveled this road moving goods and people in and out of Nevada. In 1863, some of the tolls were 50 cents for a man and horse and $2 for a horse and buggy. That year the estimated tolls collected were $75,000.”



“People in Carson Valley had never paid taxes before and were outraged. Dr. Daggett’s life was openly threatened over this,” NSLA states.

Hours before trying his first case, Daggett became Nevada’s first “resident” attorney on Nov. 2, 1855. The area previously had legal counsel from a Placerville man.

“One of his last known distinctions occurred when he was appointed a member of the Committee of Arrangements for the formation of the Second Convention to form a separate territory out of the Utah Territory. With Dr. Daggett’s persistence, this territory became the state of Nevada,” NSLA documents state. “After his political career he settled down in the Genoa area and there is no official surviving document attesting to the year or age at which he died.

“Kingsbury Road, where (his) cabin was located, was a trail that had been established shortly before Daggett moved to the community.”

Visit Carson Valley contends the route was first a footpath established by the Washoe Tribe to get from one side of the mountain to the other.

Helen Carlson in “Nevada Place Names” wrote: “… in 1854, (Daggett) staked out a claim to 640 acres embracing its debouchment. After this considerable acquisition the name Georgetown gave way to that of Daggett Trail and Pass.”

Daggett Summit is one of a handful of routes into and out of the Lake Tahoe Basin. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Georgetown refers to the California Gold Rush town that was promoting this route as a faster than going over what was called Carson Canyon, which was actually the better road.

Carlson’s book introduces Kingsbury Grade: “… named for the Kingsbury brothers, who built it. The trail was opened as a wagon road in 1860 by D.D. Kingsbury and John M. McDonald. A.B. Kingsbury, one of the brothers, was killed in a snowslide in the mountains in 1861.”

Visit Carson Valley called this new Kingsbury route a 7-mile wagon road that ranged from 8 to 16 feet in width. Today, it’s 11.08 miles, with a grade less than 9 percent.

No one disputes today’s route is different.

“Old Kingsbury Grade is located in Haines Canyon, west of and below Daggett Summit, earlier known as Daggett’s Pass. The route started at a point approximately 2.65 miles north along State Route 206 (Foothill Road) from its intersection with the current Kingsbury Grade, State Route 207,” emailed Meg Ragonese, Nevada Department of Transportation spokeswoman. “Today, the alignment differs from the original alignment which ran from Foothill Road next to the old Van Sickle station and Muller Lane, straight up Haines/Dagget Canyon across the current Kingsbury Grade and continuing onto Dagget Summit near the Nevada side of Heavenly Valley. Much of the old alignment was at one time designated as SR19 and FAS559.” (FAS = Federal Aid Secondary.)

In the 1923-24 Department of Highways fourth biennial report, it calls Kingsbury Grade the “oldest road over the Sierras (stet) with grades up to 30 percent.”

It became part of the state highway system in 1929. However, “a road connecting Lake Tahoe to the Carson Valley appears on the first official state highway map of 1919,” Ragonese said.

She added, “Small sections of Kingsbury Grade are recorded as being paved in 1951, 1958, and 1959. … beginning in approximately 1965, other sections were paved as part of a U.S. Bureau of Public Roads National Forest Highway System project. By 1968, the entire route was paved as part of the construction of the current Kingsbury Grade alignment, which was still designated as State Route 19 around that time.”

When it started being called Kingsbury Grade and more about who it’s named after could not be ascertained from historical agencies in Nevada.

Note: A version of this story first appeared in the Tahoe Mountain News.

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