Ohio History Journal










"The middle ages had their wars and agonies, but

also their intense delights. Their gold was dashed with

blood, but ours is sprinkled with dust. Their life was

intermingled with white and purple; ours is one seam-

less stuff of brown." - RUSKIN.

A person can not live in the American central west and be

acquaintance with the generation which greets the new century

with feeble hand and dimmed eye without realizing that there

has been a time which, compared with to-day, seems as the Middle

Ages did to the England to which Ruskin wrote-when "life

was intermingled with white and purple."

The western boy, born to a feeble republic-mother with

exceeding suffering in those days which "tried men's souls,"

grew up as all boys grow up. For a long and doubtful period

the young west grew slowly and changed appearance gradually.

Then, suddenly, it started from its slumbering, and, in two

decades, could hardly have been recognized as the infant which,

in 1787, looked forward to a precarious and doubtful future. The

boy has grown into the man in the century, but the changes of the

last half are not, perhaps, so marked as those of the first, when

a wilderness was suddenly transformed into a number of imperial


When this west was in its teens and began suddenly outstrip-

ping itself, to the marvel of the world, one of the momentous

factors in its progress was the building of a great National

Road, from the Potomac river to the Mississippi river, by the


* Copyrighted 1901, by Archer Butler Hulbert.


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United States Government - a highway seven hundred miles in

length, at a cost of seven millions of treasure. This ribbon of

road, winding its way through Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio,

Indiana and Illinois, toward the Mississippi, was one of the most

important steps in that movement of national expansion which

followed the conquest of the west. It is probably impossible for

us to realize fully what it meant to this west when that vanguard

of surveyors came down the western slopes of the Alleghanies,

hewing a thoroughfare which should, in one generation,

bind distant and half-acquainted states together in bonds of com-

mon interest, sympathy and ambition. Until that day travelers

spoke of "going into" and "coming out of" the west as though

it were a Mammoth Cave. Such were the herculean difficulties

of travel that it was commonly said, despite the dangers of life

in the unconquered land, if pioneers could live to get into the

west, nothing could, thereafter, daunt them. The growth and

prosperity of the west was impossible, until the dawning of such

convictions as those which made the National Road a reality.

But if it meant something to the wilderness of the west,

how much more it meant to the east-opening for its posses-

sion the richest garden on the planet, the four million square miles

in the Mississippi basin. For this same prize two great powers

of the old world had yearned and fought. France and England

had studded the west with forts, and their arms had been reflected

in every stream from Presque Isle to the Holston, but neither

of them could conquer the Alleghanies. A century had proven

that the west could not be held by water ways. The question,

then, was, could it be held by land approaches? The ringing of

woodmen's axes, the clinking of surveyors' chains, the rattle of

tavern signs and the rumble of stage coach wheels, thundered

the answer - Yes!

So patriotic and so thoroughly American is the central west

to-day, that it is also difficult to realize by what a slender thread

it hung to the fragile republic east of the mountains, during the

two decades succeeding the Revolutionary war. The whole world

looked upon the east and west as realms distinct as Italy

and France, and for the same geographical reason. It looked

for a partition of the alleged "United States" among the powers

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as confidently as we to-day look for the partition of China, and

for identically similar reasons. England and France and Spain

had their well defined "spheres of influence," and the populated

and flourishing center of the then west, Kentucky, became, and

was for a generation, a hotbed of their wily emissaries. Through

all those years, when Burr and others "played fast and loose with

conspiracy," the loyalty of the west was far less sure than one can

easily believe. The building of the National Road was, undoubt-

edly, one of the influences which secured the west to the Union,

and the population which at once poured into the Ohio valley

undoubtedly saved the western states in embryo from greater

perils, even, than those they had known.

This road, conceived in the brain of Albert Gallatin, took its

inception in 1806, when commissioners to report on the project

were appointed by President Jefferson. In 1811 the first con-

tract was let for ten miles of the road west of Cumberland,

Maryland, which was its eastern terminus. The road was opened

to the Ohio river in 1818.

In a moment's time an army of emigrants and pioneers were

en route to the west over the great highway, regiment following

regiment as the years advanced. Squalid cabins, where the hunter

had lived beside the primeval thoroughfare, were pressed into

service as taverns. Indian fords, where the water had oft run

red with blood in border frays, were spanned with solid bridges.

Ancient towns, which had been comparatively unknown to the

world, but which were of sufficient commercial magnetism to

attract the great road to them, became, on the morrow, cities of

consequence in the world. As the century ran into its second

and third decades the National Road received an increasingly

heterogeneous population. Wagons of all descriptions, from the

smallest to the great "mountain ships" which creaked down the

mountain sides and groaned off into the setting sun, formed a

marvelous frieze upon it. Fast expresses, too realistically per-

haps called "shakeguts," tore along through valley and over hill

with important messages of state. Here, the broad highway

was blocked with herds of cattle trudging eastward to the

markets, or westward to the meadow lands beyond the mountains.

Gay coaches of four and six horses, whose worthy drivers were

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known by name even to the statesmen who were often their pas-

sengers, rolled on to the hospitable taverns where the company

reveled. At night, along the roadway, gypsy fires flickered in

the darkness, where wandering minstrels and jugglers crept to

show their art, while in the background crowded traders, huck-

sters, peddlers, soldiery, showmen and beggars-all picturesque

pilgrims on the nation's great highway.

It is a fair question whether our western civilization is more

wonderful for the rapidity with which new things under the sun

are discovered, or for the rapidity with which it can forget men

and things to-day which were indispensable yesterday. The era

of the National Road was succeeded in a half a century by that

of the railway, and a great thoroughfare, which was the pride

and mainstay of a civilization, has almost passed from human

recollection. A few ponderous stone bridges and a long line

of sorry looking mile-posts mark the famous highway of our

middle age from the network of cross-roads which now meet it

at every step. Scores of proud towns, which were thriving cen-

tres of a transcontinental trade, have dwindled into comparative

insignificance, while the clanging of rusty signs on their ancient

tavern posts tell, with inexpressible pathos, that

"There hath passed away a glory from the earth."





In considering the rise and fall of the National Road, it is

necessary to describe briefly the three great routes from the east

to the west which served before its building, and particularly

the historic route upon which it was itself built.

It was for the buffalo, carrying a weight of a thousand pounds

and capable of covering two hundred miles a day, to mark out

the first continental highways of America. The buffalo's needs -

change of climate, new feeding grounds and fresher salt licks -

demanded thoroughfares. His weight demanded that they should

be stable, and his ability to cover great distances, that they should

be practicable. But one such course was open for passage for

the buffalo, and that on the summits of the hills. From the

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The Old National Road.              409

hilltops the water was shed most quickly, making that the dryest

land; from the hilltops the snows of winter were quickest blown,

lessening the dangers of drifted banks and dangerous erosions.

There were three great routes of the buffalo from the sea-

board to the central west; first, through northern New York;

second, through southern Virginia and Kentucky; third, through

northwestern Maryland and southwestern Pennsylvania.

Route one was practically the present course of the New York

Central railway. It was the old overland route on the lakes.

Route two ran southwest, through Virginia, between the

Alleghanies and Blue Ridge, and turned westward through Cum-

berland Gap. This old route of the buffaloes was first marked

out for white man's use by Daniel Boone, who was engaged in

1774 to mark out a road to lands in Kentucky purchased from

the aborigines by the Transylvania Company. This route through

the Gap became known as the Wilderness Road. Kentucky took

up the matter of improving and guarding the Wilderness Road

in 1793, a year after her admission into the Union. The two

main thoroughfares of Kentucky were along buffalo "traces";

one, diverging on Rockcastle creek, led to the Blue Grass country,

where Lexington was built, (Boone's route); another led to

Harrodsburg, Danville and Louisville, and westward to Vin-

cennes and St. Louis on the Mississippi (Logan's route).

Route three was a course from the Potomac to the Ohio

river, marked for the first Ohio Company, before the French

and Indian War by Nemacolin, a Delaware Indian. It was later

the general course of Washington's road and of Braddock's

road -the first great road built westward.

Each of these three routes found its terminus on a body of

water; the first at Buffalo on Lake Ontario, the second at St.

Louis on the Mississippi, the third at Pittsburg on the Ohio.

As for the Indians and whites they were merely portage paths.

The fact that when men ascended these American streams to

the portages, and found there already deeply worn, trails of

the buffalo, is interesting evidence that the brute had found the

great continental paths of least resistance (least elevation) with

marvelous accuracy. This must be judged one of the most won-

derful exhibitions of the utilitarianism of animal instinct. If

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the proposed great highway from the Atlantic to the Pacific is

built, wherever there is need of careful choice of route, it will

inevitably follow the general alignment of a buffalo trace.

Each of these three American continental routes were of the

utmost importance at one time or another. The first great tide

of immigration which set westward went largely over Boone's

blazed road through Cumberland Gap. Later the Wilderness

Road was eclipsed by the National Road, which served until the

mountains were spanned by the railways. The most northerly

route, through the state of New York, the least used and known

of the three, will probably entirely eclipse its southern rivals in

importance in the days to come. This route became well known

in the days of lake and land emigrations to the west. Hundreds

of pioneers of the Connecticut Western Reserve went up this

old route to Buffalo and passed on westward, traveling along

the beach of Lake Erie.

The course of the buffalo through Maryland and Pennsyl-

vania to the Ohio is the most historic route in America, and one

of the most famous in the world. Undoubtedly the route of the

buffalo and Indian were identical, for at least the length of the

portage between Cumberland on the Potomac and Brownsville

(Redstone Old Fort) on the Monangahela river. This was prob-

ably the main traveled path. From it, however, diverged (on

the summit of Laurel Hill) what was, undoubtedly, the original

buffalo trace, which coursed in a northwesterly direction toward

the site of Pittsburg on the Ohio river.

This trace of the buffalo and portage path of the Indian

from the headwaters of the Potomac to the headwaters of the

Youghiogany had no name of which record has been made, until

it took the name of a Delaware Indian, Nemacolin, who first

"blazed it" for white man's use. In 1749 a company of Virginia

gentlemen received from the King of England a grant of land

in the "Ohio country," on condition that they would settle it

within seven years. The first two necessary duties of the com-

pany were quickly undertaken. Christopher Gist, a reliable moun-

taineer, was sent into the Ohio valley to pick out the land for the

pioneers of the company, and a Captain Michael Cresap, who

lived on the upper Potomac, was entrusted with the work of

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marking out a road thither - " to lay out and mark a road from

Cumberland to Pittsburg."l The road to the Ohio had already

been laid out for centuries, but it was not "marked." Cresap

employed Nemacolin to "blaze" the old route.

Thus at the middle of the eighteenth century, as the curtain

of one of the greatest dramas in history was about to rise, a

line of gashed trees led into the west, for the possession of which,

the two enemies, France and England, were about to transfer

their immemorial war to the new continent.

To those who love to look back to beginnings and read great

things in small, this line of wounded trees, leading across the

first great "divide," into the rich empire of the central west,

is worthy of contemplation. Each tree, starred whitely by the

Indian's axe, speaks of Saxon conquest and commerce, one and

inseparable. In every act in the drama that so quickly followed,

this Indian path with its blazed trees lies in the foreground. Over

it came the young surveyor Washington, on his way to the

haughty St. Pierre, to ask that exceeding formal question why

the French were building forts on western territory (which was

legally theirs, and to which no people other than the French have

ever had a better right!) Then, the trail having been widened,

on came Washington's little Virginian army, the first conflict

of the war, and the erection of Fort Necessity near the broad-

ened Indian path.2 Soon after, the route became immortalized

by the advent of Braddock's army, which was annihilated upon

it. The reader will recall that one of the three plans of the

British in the campaign of 1775, in the French and Indian War,

was the attempt of General Braddock to capture the French Fort

Duquesne, at the junction of the Alleghany and Monongahela,

in order to sever the line of French forts from Quebec to Louis-

iana, and break the "backbone of New France."

This important expedition landed at the port of Alexandria,

in Virginia, February 20, 1755. With the same dense ignorance

of the continent, which existed in the day when letters were

addressed to the "Island of New England," no thought was taken


1Jacob's Life of Captain Michael Cresap, p. 28.

2 Washington's Journal,1754 (Toner), pp. 42, 48, 50, 62, 95.

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as to how this army was to march through the dense wilderness

to the fort it was to capture. The port of debarkation, which

settled, necessarily, the matter of route, was decided upon, like

everything else, with little knowledge of the herculean task to

be accomplished.3 The road question was left to the colonies

through which the army was to march, and the first that Gov-

ernor Morris of Pennsylvania knew of Braddock's need of a road

was four days after the landing at Alexandria, instead of four

months before, as should have been the case.

On the twenty-fourth of February he received a letter from

Braddock's Deputy Quartermaster General, Sir John St. Clair,

urging him to "open a road toward the head of Youghheagang

or any other way that is nearer to the French forts."4  Morris

immediately replied that there was no "wagon road" but only

a "horse path" through his colony by way of Carlisle to the Ohio.

But by the twelfth of the next month, Morris was empowered

by his colony to appoint a commission to open a road "through

Carlisle and Shippensburg to the Yoijogain, and to the camp

at Will Creek."5 In the meantime Braddock's army had passed

by various courses to the headwaters of the Potomac, to Fort

Cumberland, the eastern terminus of the path blazed by Nemaco-

lin and widened by Washington. The commissioners appointed

by Governor Morris had "run their road to the Yoijogain" and

came home by way of Fort Cumberland without "running" the

road thither.6 Here they found St. Clair raging over the alleged

dilatory and unpatriotic policy of Pennsylvania. St. Clair imme-

diately sent a party forward to "find a road from there (Fort

Cumberland) to the point on the Youghiogany, which the road

being built by Pennsylvania would strike."7 No road was found


3 Cf. Woodrow Wilson's "George Washington," p. 85.

4Pennsylvania Colonial Records. Vol. VI, pp. 300, 378.

5 Idem Vol. VI, p. 318.

6"Pennsylvania Magazine of History," Vol. IX, p. 7.

7 From Ormes' Journal it would seem that Braddock always intended

to march by way of Washington's road; for he says Morris was asked to

build a road that would "fall into his road at the great meadows, or at

the Yoxhio Geni" which would serve for reinforcements and convoys.-

Orme's Journal in "History of Braddock's Expedition," p. 315.

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and the alternative of following the old route of Washington

was all that was left.

Thus it happened that the historic trail, made famous by

Washington's first expedition and battle in the Ohio valley,

became the course of Braddock's ill-starred army. On the thir-

tieth of May, having abandoned all idea of making a new road,

Sir John St. Clair, set out from Fort Cumberland with a body

of six hundred choppers to widen and improve Washington's

road. Behind it, often within sound of the axes, the van of

the army daily encamped.8 Indian trails were only wide enough

for but a single traveler. The path, though widened for hauling

Washington's swivels, would not have answered the needs of

Braddock's army. For this army, a roadway, averaging probably

twelve feet in width, was cut, over which the guns and wagons

were hauled with exceeding difficulty.9

It has been a matter of interest to the writer to know how

largely the Indian trail became the identical course of Braddock's

Road. It is more than probable that the two courses were gen-

erally identical. In Mr. Atkinson's most valuable study of Brad-

dock's route we read: "For reasons not easy to divine the

route across Wills mountain * * * was selected."10 Such

evidences as this, that the road followed the invariable laws of

Indian trails, is the strongest circumstantial proof that can be

asked. "Steep rugged hills were to be clomb," wrote one who

followed the army, "headlong declivities to be descended, down

which the cannon and wagons were lowered with blocks and


On into the Alleghanies the little army marched through


8 "History of Braddock's Expedition," p. 355

9 Idem p. 203.

10 Atkinson's "Braddock's Route to the Battle of the Monongahela,"

Olden Time Vol. II, p. 544.

"There was but one practicable passage-way across the land for either

beast or man, and that, on the summits of the hills. Here on the hilltops,

mounting on the longest ascending ridges, lay the tawny paths of the

buffalo and the Indian. They were not only highways, they were the

highest ways, and chosen for the best of reasons." -Red Men's Roads,"

p. 8.

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the narrow aisle freshly hewn each day, unmindful of its doom

There is something doubly tragic in Braddock's defeat. The

army had undergone such exhaustive trials and was so near the

goal when it was suddenly swept by the lurking blast of fame!

The army followed the Indian trail until after the sixteenth

encampment. On the morning of the seventh of July, Braddock

"left the Indian track which he had followed so long,"11 and

started for the fort in more direct line across country. Arriving

at Turtle Creek, he gave up the attempt and turned back to the

Monongahela and the death trap. Braddock's Road was com-

pleted, full twelve feet wide, to the northern bank of the Monon-

gahela, where the city of Braddock, Pennsylvania, now stands.

It was rough, winding swath of a road mowed by British grit,

ending at a slaughter pen and charnel ground, only seven miles

from Fort Duquesne.






For three score years Braddock's Road answered all the

imperative needs of modern travel, though the journey over it,

at most seasons, was a rough experience.12 During the winter

the road was practically impassable.13

But with the growing importance of Pittsburg, the subject

of roads received more and more attention. As early as 1769

a warrant was issued for the survey of the Manor of Pittsburg,

which embraced 5766 acres. In this warrant an allowance of

six per cent. was made for roads.l4 Six years later, or the first


11History of Braddock's Expedition pp. 203, 351.

12 An obituary notice which has come into the possession of the writer

dated 1796, reads: "Alligany County, Marriland July the 14th 1796 died

John P. Allen at the house of John Simkins at atherwayes bear camplain

broaddags old road half way between fort Cumberland & Union town."

13 Colonel Brodhead, commanding at Fort Pitt, wrote Richard Peters:

"The great Depth of Snow upon the Alleghany and Laurel Hills have

prevented our Getting every kind of Stores, nor do I expect to get any

now until the latter End of April." - "Pennsylvania Archives " Vol. VIII,

p. 120.

14 Craig's "History of Pittsburg," p. 104.

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year of the Revolutionary War, court met at Pittsburg, and

viewers were appointed to report on a large number of roads,

in the construction of which all males between the ages of sixteen

and forty-five, living within three miles of the road, were required

to work under the supervision of the commissioners. One of

these roads became, nearly half a century later, incorporated in

the National Road.15

The licensing of taverns by Youghiogheny county in 1778,

and of ferries about the same time, indicate the opening and use

of roads. Within ten years, the post from New York to Pittsburg

was established over the treacherous mountain road.16 In 1794

the Pittsburg postoffice was established, with mails from Phila-

delphia once in two weeks.17

Through all these years, the contest for the west was being

waged. The armies of the United States, after many defeats, had

won their final victory, and at Greenville, in 1795, General An-

thony Wayne wrung, from the disconcerted allied Indian nations,

a treaty, which secured to the whites the Ohio country. During

these years, a stream of pioneers had been flowing westward;

the current dividing at Fort Cumberland. Hundreds had wended

their tedious way over Braddock's Road to the Youghiogany

and passed down by water to Kentucky, but thousands had jour-

neyed south over Boone's Wilderness Road, which had been

blazed through Cumberland Gap in 1775. All that was needed

to turn the whole current toward the Ohio was a good thorough-

fare. When would it be built? Who would build it? These


15 History of Washington County, Pennsylvania, pp. 20-22. Cf. The

Old Pike, p. 244.

16Pittsburg Gazette of September 30, 1788.

17 Craig's "History of Pittsburg," p. 226. The mail route estab-

lished at this time had its destination at Louisville, Kentucky, and came

to Pittsburg over the road opened by Governor Morris through Pennsyl-

vania via Bedford, Pittsburg, Limestone (by Ohio river) Paris, Lexing-

ton, Frankfort, Harrodsburg, Danville, Bardstown to Louisville. It

is interesting to note that mail for the settlements at the end of the Wil-

derness Road (Kentucky) always came westward over the Pennsylvania

roads. Mr. James Lane Allen has unfortunately confounded the Wilder-

ness Road and the Old National Road in his delightful volume, In the

Blue Grass Country p.-.

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were the questions that were being asked, when the eighteenth

century closed.

With the nineteenth century came the answer. The thou-

sands of people who had gone, by one way or another, into the

trans-Ohio country soon demanded statehood. The creation of

the state of Ohio is directly responsible for the building of the

National Road. In an act passed by Congress April 30, 1802,

to enable the people of Ohio to form a state government and

for admission into the Union, section seven contained this pro-


"That one-twentieth of the net proceeds of the

lands lying within said State sold by Congress shall be

applied to the laying out and making public roads lead-

ing from the navigable waters emptying into the

Atlantic, to the Ohio, to the said state, and through the

same, such roads to be laid out under the authority of

Congress, with the consent of the several states through

which the roads shall pass."18

Another law passed March 3 of the following year, appro-

priated the three per cent. of the five to laying out roads within

the state of Ohio, and the remaining two per cent. for laying

out and making roads from the navigable waters, emptying into

the Atlantic, to the river Ohio to the said state.19

A committee, appointed to review the question, reported to

the Senate December 19, 1805. At that time, the sale of land

from July, 1802, to September 30, 1805, had amounted to

$632,604.27, of which two per cent., $12,652, was available for

a road to Ohio. This sum was rapidly increasing. Of the routes

across the mountains, the committee studied none of those north

of Philadelphia, or south of Richmond. Between these points

five courses were considered:

1. Philadelphia - Ohio river (between Steubenville and Mouth

of Grave  Creek) .....................................  314  miles.

2. Baltimore - Ohio river (between Steubenville and Mouth

of  Grave  Creek) .....................................  275  miles.


18 United States at Large, Vol. II, p. 173.

19 United States at Large, Vol. II, p. 226.

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3. Washington - Ohio river (between Steubenville and Mouth

of  Grave  Creek) .....................................  275                               miles.

4.    Richmond  ............................................... 317                                        miles.

5.    Baltimore-Brownsville  ................................... 218                                 miles.

There were really but two courses to consider, those which

have already been described as the Wilderness Road and Brad-

dock's Road. The former led through a thinly populated part

of the country and did not answer the prescribed condition, that

of striking the Ohio river at a point contiguous to the state of

Ohio. Consequently, in the report submitted by the committee

we read as follows:

"Therefore the committee have thought it expe-

dient to recommend the laying out and making a road

from Cumberland, on the northerly bank of the Potomac,

and within the state of Maryland, to the Ohio river, at

the most convenient place on the easterly bank of said

river, opposite to Steubenville, and the mouth of Grave

Creek, which empties into said river, Ohio, a little below

Wheeling in Virginia. This route will meet and accom-

modate roads from Baltimore and the District of Colum-

bia; it will cross the Monongahela at or near Brownsville,

sometimes called Redstone, where the advantage of boat-

ing can be taken; and from the point where it will

probably intersect the river Ohio, there are now roads,

or they can easily be made over feasible and proper

ground, to and through the principal population of the

state of Ohio."20

Immediately the following act of Congress was passed,

authorizing the laying out and making of the National Road:







SECTION I. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Rep-

resentatives of the United States of America in Congress assem-


20Senate Reports, 9th Cong., Sess., Rep., No. 195.

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The Old Natioual Road.              419


bled, That the President of the United States be, and he is hereby

authorized to appoint, by and with the advice and consent of

the Senate, three discreet and disinterested citizens of the United

States, to lay out a road from Cumberland, or a point on the

northern bank of the river Potomac, in the state of Maryland,

between Cumberland and the place where the main road leading

from Gwynn's to Winchester, in Virginia, crosses the river, to

the state of Ohio; whose duty it shall be, as soon as may be,

after their appointment, to repair to Cumberland aforesaid, and

view the ground, from the points on the river Potomac herein-

before designated to the river Ohio; and to lay out in such

direction as they shall judge, under all circumstances the most

proper, a road from thence to the river Ohio, to strike the same

at the most convenient place, between a point on its eastern bank,

opposite to the northern boundary of Steubenville, in said state

of Ohio, and the mouth of Grave Creek, which empties into the

said river a little below Wheeling, in Virginia.

SEC. 2. And be it further enacted, That the aforesaid road

shall be laid out four rods in width, and designated on each side

by a plain and distinguishable mark on a tree, or by the erection

of a stake or monument sufficiently conspicuous, in every quarter

of a mile of the distance at least, where the road pursues a

straight course so far or further, and on each side, at every point

where an angle occurs in its course.

SEC. 3. And be it further enacted, That the commissioners

shall, as soon as may be, after they have laid out said road, as

aforesaid, present to the President an accurate plan of the same,

with its several courses and distances, accompanied by a written

report of their proceedings, describing the marks and monuments

by which the road is designated, and the face of the country over

which it passes, and pointing out the particular parts which they

shall judge require the most and immediate attention and amelio-

ration, and the probable expense of making the same possible

in the most difficult parts, and through the whole distance; des-

ignating the state or states through which said road has been

laid out, and the length of the several parts which are laid

out on new ground, as well as the length of those parts laid out

on the road now traveled. Which report the President is hereby

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authorized to accept or reject, in the whole or in part. If he

accepts, he is hereby further authorized and requested to pursue

such measures, as in his opinion shall be proper, to obtain consent

for making the road, of the state or states through which the

same has been laid out. Which consent being obtained, he is

further authorized to take prompt and effectual measures to cause

said road to be made through the whole distance, or in any part

or parts of the same as he shall judge most conducive to the

public good, having reference to the sum appropriated for the


SEC. 4. And be it further enacted, That all parts of the road

which the President shall direct to be made, in case the trees are

standing, shall be cleared the whole width of four rods; and

the road shall be raised in the middle of the carriageway with

stone, earth, or gravel or sand, or a combination of some or all

of them, leaving or making, as the case may be, a ditch or water

course on each side and contiguous to said carriage-way, and in

no instance shall there be an elevation in said road, when finished,

greater than an angle of five degrees with the horizon. But the

manner of making said road, in every other particular, is left to

the direction of the President.

SEC. 5. And be it further enacted, That said commissioners

shall each receive four dollars per day, while employed as afore-

said, in full for their compensation, including all expenses. And

they are hereby authorized to employ one surveyor, two chain-

men and one marker, for whose faithfulness and accuracy they,

the said commissioners, shall be responsible, to attend them in

laying out said road, who shall receive in full satisfaction for

their wages, including all expenses, the surveyor, three dollars

per day, and each chainman and marker, one dollar per day, while

they shall be employed in said business, of which fact a certificate

signed by said commissioners shall be deemed sufficient evidence.

SEC. 6. And be it further enacted, That the sum of thirty

thousand dollars be, and the same is hereby appropriated, to

defray the expenses of laying out and making said road. And

the President is hereby authorized to draw, from time to time,

on the treasury for such parts, or at any one time, for the whole

of said sum, as he shall judge the service requires. Which sum

The Old National Road

The Old National Road.              421


of thirty thousand dollars shall be paid, first, out of the fund of

two per cent. reserved for laying out and making roads to the

state of Ohio, and by virtue of the seventh section of an act

passed on the thirtieth day of April, one thousand eight hundred

and two, entitled, "An act to enable the people of the eastern

division of the territory northwest of the river Ohio to form a

constitution and state government, and for the admission of

such state into the Union on an equal footing with the original

states, and for other purposes." Three per cent. of the appro-

priation contained in said seventh section being directed by a

subsequent law to the laying out, opening and making roads

within the said state of Ohio; and secondly, out of any money

in the treasury not otherwise appropriated, chargeable upon, and

reimbursable at the treasury by said fund of two per cent. as the

same shall accrue.

SEC. 7. And be it further enacted, That the President be,

and he is hereby requested, to cause to be laid before Congress,

as soon as convenience will permit, after the commencement of

each session, a statement of the proceedings under this act, that

Congress may be enabled to adapt such further measures as may

from time to time be proper under existing circumstances.

Approved March 29, 1806.



In execution of this act President Jefferson appointed

Thomas Moore of Maryland, Joseph Kerr of Ohio, and Eli Wil-

liams of Maryland commissioners to lay out the National Road.

Their first report was presented December 30, 1806. It is a

document of great importance in the historical development of

road building on this continent, throwing, as it does, many inter-

esting side lights on the great task which confronted the builders

of our first national highway.21

The suggestion contained in the act of Congress, that the

road might follow, in part, the previous route across the moun-

tains, was undoubtedly taken to mean, that so far as possible,

this rule should guide the commissioners in their task. Starting


21 Appendix No. 1.

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The Old National Road

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from Cumberland the general alignment of Braddock's Road

was pursued, until the point was reached where the old thorough-

fare left the old portage trail, on the summit of Laurel Hill.

The course was then laid straight toward Brownsville (Redstone

Old Fort) probably along the general alignment of the old Indian

portage path, and an earlier road. From Brownsville to Wash-

ington was an old road, possibly the course of the Indian trail.

Albert Gallatin, father of the road, was at this time Secretary

of the Treasury, and property holder in Pennsylvania near the

probable route of the National Road. He was accused of attempt-

ing to bring the road near his lands. Mr. Gallatin immediately

wrote to the President asking him to decide the matter of route

between Brownsville and the Ohio river. Mr. Gallatin wrote to

Mr. David Shriver, the Superintendent of the National Road,

as follows: "You are authorized to employ a surveyor to view

the most proper road from Brownsville to Washington in Penn-

sylvania, and thence to examine the routes to Charleston, Steuben-

ville, mouth of Short Creek and Wheeling and report a correct

statement of distance and ground on each. If the county road

now established from Brownsville to Washington is not objec-

tionable, it would be eligible to prefer it to any other which might

be substituted."22 The National Road between Uniontown and

Brownsville followed a road laid out before the Revolutionary


As has already been suggested, there was a dispute

concerning the point where the road would touch the Ohio river.

The rivalry was most intense between Wheeling and Steubenville.

Wheeling won through the influence of Henry Clay, to whom a

monument was erected at a later date near the town on the old


On the fifteenth of January, 1808, the commissioners ren-


22 "The Old Pike," p. 373.

23 The country south of the Ohio from Steubenville and Wheeling

was historic ground, the first paths being well-worn routes of travel long

before the coming of the National Road. The main primeval thorough-

fares were the Monongahela trail and Girty's old trail southward from

Girty's Point on the Ohio River. See "Red Men's Roads " p. 17; also

DeHass' History of West Virginia, p. 342, note 1.

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dered a second report in which it appears that timber and brush

had already been cleared from the proposed route and that con-

tracts were already let for the first ten miles west of Cumberland.24

Permission to build the road was gained of each of the states

through which it passed,25 Pennsylvania making the condition that

the route of the road should pass through the towns of Wash-

ington and Uniontown.





The second report of the commissioners, as noted, assured

Congress that the preliminary work on the great road had begun.

This was in 1808, and contracts had been made for clearing the

surveyed route of brush and trees.      This indicates that the

National Road was not built on the bed of Braddock's road.

Though the two crossed each other frequently, as Mr. Middle-

ton's map shows, the commissioners reported that the two road-

beds were not identical in the aggregate for more than one mile

in the entire distance.26

Contracts for the first ten miles west of Cumberland were

signed April 16 and May 11, 1811. They were completed in

the following year.   Contracts were let in 1812, 1813, 1815.

In 1817 contracts brought the road to Uniontown. In the same

year a contract was let from a point near Washington to the


24 Appendix No. 2.

25 Pennsylvania April 9, 1807; Maryland 1806, Chap. IX, "An act

vesting certain powers in the President of the United States." Ohio,

1824, XXII, 87, "An act to concede to the government of the United

States the power of extending the Cumberland Road through this state."

Chase, p. 1961.

26 Braddock's Road and the National Road were originally one as

they left Cumberland. The course met again at Little Meadows near Tom-

linson's Tavern and again at eastern foot of Negro mountain. The courses

were identical at the Old Flenniken tavern two miles west of Smithfield

(Big Crossing) and on summit of Laurel Hill, at which point Braddock's

Road swung off northwesterly toward Pittsburg, following the old buffalo

trail toward the junction of the Ohio and Alleghany, and the National

Road continued westward along the course of the old portage path toward

Wheeling on the Ohio.

The Old Natioual Road

The Old Natioual Road.                      425


Virginia line. In the following year United States mail coaches

were running from Washington, D. C., to Wheeling, and 1818

is considered the year of the opening of the road to the Ohio


The cost of the eastern division of the road was enormous.

The commissioners in their report to Congress estimated the cost

at $6,000 per mile, not including bridges. The cost of the road

from Cumberland to Uniontown was $9,745 per mile. The cost

of the entire division east of the Ohio river was about $13,000

per mile. Too liberal contracts was given as the reason for the

greater proportional expense between Uniontown and Wheeling.

An idea of the difficulties of putting the great road through

the Pennsylvania mountain ranges can be gained from a table

of heights (above Cumberland) which the road crossed, given

by the commissioners in their report of 1808:


Summit of Savage  mountain ..................................                                   2,022-24

Savage  river  ..................  ........................... ...                                         1,741-6

Summit Little Savage mountain ...............................                                 1,900-  4

Branch Pine Run, first western water ......................... 1,699- 9

Summit of Red Hill (afterward called Shades of Death)....... 1,914- 3

Summit Little Meadow mountain............................. 2,026-16

Little Youghiogeny river ...................................... 1,322- 6

East Fork  of  Shade  Run ......................................                                   1,558-92

Summit of Negro mountain, highest point ...................                             2,328-12

Middle branch of White's creek, at the west foot of Negro

mountain  ...............................................                                           1,360-  5

White's creek ................................................                                           1,195- 5

Big Youghiogheny ...........................................                                         645- 5

Summit of ridge between Youghiogheny river and Beaver waters. 1,514- 5

Beaver Run ................................................. 1,123- 8

Summit of Laurel Hill ....................................... 1,550-16

Court House  of Uniontown ...................................  274-65

A point ten feet above the surface of low water in the Monon-

gahela river, at the mouth of Dunlap's creek ..............  119-26


A flood of traffic swept over the great highway immediately

upon its completion. As early as the year 1822 it is recorded that

a single one of the five commission houses at Wheeling unloaded

1,081 wagons, averaging 3,500 pounds each, and paid for freight-

age of goods the sum of $90,000.

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But the road was hardly completed when a spectre of con-

stitutional cavil arose, threatening its existence. In 1822 a bill

was passed by Congress looking toward the preservation and

repair of the newly built road. It should be stated that the road

bed, though completed in one sense, was not in condition to be

used extensively unless continually repaired. In many places

only a single layer of broken stone had been laid, and, with

the volume of traffic which was daily passing over it, the road

did not promise to remain in good condition. In order to secure

funds for the constant repairs necessary, this bill ordered the

establishment of turnpikes with gates and tolls. The bill was

immediately vetoed by President Monroe on the ground that

Congress, according to his interpretation of the constitution, did

not have the power to pass such a sweeping measure of internal


The President based his conclusion upon the following

grounds, stated in a special message to Congress, dated May 4,


"A power to establish turnpikes, with gates and

tolls and to enforce the collection of the tolls by pen-

alties, implies a power to adopt and execute a complete

system of internal improvements. A right to impose

duties to be paid by all persons passing a certain road,

and on horses and carriages, as is done by this bill,

involves the right to take the land from the proprietor

on a valuation, and to pass laws for the protection of

the road from injuries; and if it exist, as to one road,

it exists as to any other, and to as many roads as

Congress may think proper to establish. A right to leg-

islate for the others. It is a complete right of juris-

diction and sovereignty for all the purposes of internal

improvement, and not merely the right of applying

money under the power vested in Congress to make

appropriations (under which power, with the consent

of the states through which the road passes, the work

was originally commenced, and has been so far exe-

cuted). I am of the opinion that Congress does not

possess this power- that the states individually cannot

The Old National Road

The Old National Road.               427

grant it; for, although they may assent to the appro-

priation of money within their limits for such purposes,

they can grant no power of jurisdiction of sovereignty,

by special compacts with the United States. This power

can be granted only by an amendment to the constitu-

tion, and in the mode prescribed by it. If the power

exist, it must be either because it has been specially

granted to the United States, or that it is incidental to

some power, which has been specifically granted. It has

never been contended that the power was specifically

granted. It is claimed only as being incidental to some

one or more of the powers which are specifically granted.

The following are the powers from which it is said

to be derived: (1) From the right to establish post

offices and post roads; (2) from the right to declare

war; (3) to regulate commerce; (4) to pay the debts

and provide for the common defense and the general

welfare; (5) from the power to make all laws necessary

and proper for carrying into execution all the powers

vested by the constitution in the government of the

United States, or in any department or officer thereof;

(6) and lastly from the power to dispose of and make all

needful rules and regulations respecting the territory

and other property of the United States. According to

my judgment it cannot be derived from either of these

powers, nor from all of them united, and in consequence

it does not exist."27

During the early years of this century, the subject of inter-

nal improvements relative to the building of roads and canals

was one of the foremost political questions of the day. No

sooner were the debts of the Revolutionary war paid, and a

surplus accumulated, than a systematic improvement of the

country was undertaken. The Old National Road was but one

of several roads projected by general government.  Through

the administrations of Adams, Jefferson and Madison large


27 Richardson (Ed) Message and Papers of the Presidents, Vol. II,

p. 142. (May 4, 1822.)

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appropriations had been made for numerous improvements. The

bill authorizing the levying of tolls was a step too far, as Pres-

ident Monroe held that it was one thing to make appropriations

for public improvements, but an entirely different thing to assume

jurisdiction and sovereignty over the land whereon those improve-

ments were made. This was one of the great public questions

in the first half of the present century. President Jackson's course

was not very consistent. Before his election he voted for internal

improvements, even advocating subscriptions by the government

to the stock of private canal companies, and the formation of

roads beginning and ending within the limits of certain states.

In his message at the opening of the first Congress after his

accession, he suggested the division of the surplus revenue among

the states, as a substitute for the promotion of internal improve-

ments by the general government, attempting a limitation and

distinction too difficult and important to be settled and acted upon

on the judgment of one man, namely, the distinction between

general and local objects.

"The pleas of the advocates of internal improvement," wrote

a contemporary authority of high standing on economic questions,

"are these: That very extensive public works, designed for the

benefit of the whole Union, and carried through vast portions

of its area, must be accomplished. That an object so essential

ought not to be left at the mercy of such an accident as the

cordial agreement of the requisite number of states, to carry such

works forward to their completion; that the surplus funds accru-

ing from the whole nation cannot be well employed as in pro-

moting works in which the whole nation will be benefitted; and

that as the interests of the majority have hitherto upheld Congress

in the use of this power, it may be assumed to be the will of

the majority that Congress should continue to exercise it.

The answer is that it is inexpedient to put a vast and increas-

ing patronage into the hands of the general government; that

only a very superficial knowledge can be looked for in members

of Congress as to the necessity or value of works proposed to

be instituted in any parts of the states, from the impossibility or

undesirableness of equalizing the amount of appropriation made

to each; that useless works would be proposed from the spirit

The Old National Road

The Old National Road.               429


of competition or individual interest; and that corruption, co-ex-

tensive with the increase of power, would deprave the functions

of the general government." * * *

*  *  *  "To an impartial observer it appears that Congress

has no constitutional right to devote the public funds to internal

improvements, at its own unrestricted will and pleasure; that

the permitted usurpation of the power for so long a time indicates

that some degree of such power in the hands of the general

government is desirable and necessary; that such power should

be granted through an amendment of the constitution, by the

methods therein provided; that, in the meantime, it is perilous

that the instrument should be strained for the support of any

function, however desirable its exercise may be."

"In case of the proposed addition being made to the consti-

tution, arrangements will, of course, be entered into for the deter-

mining the principles by which general are to be distinguished

from local objects or whether such distinction can, on any prin-

ciple, be fixed; for testing the utility of proposed objects; for

checking extravagant expenditure, jobbing and corrupt patron-

age; in short, the powers of Congress will be specified, here

as in other matters, by express permission and prohibition."28

In 1824, however, President Monroe found an excuse to

sign a bill which was very similar to that vetoed in 1822, and

the great road, whose fate had hung for two years in the balance,

received needed appropriations. The travel over the road in the

first decade after its completion was heavy and before a decade

had passed the road-bed was in wretched condition. It was the

plan of the friends of the road, when they realized that no revenue

could be raised by means of tolls by the government, to have the

road placed in a state of good repair by the government and

then turned over to the several states through which it passed.29

The liberality of the government, at this juncture, in insti-

tuting thorough repairs on the road was an act worthy of the

road's service and destiny.


28 Harriet Martineau's "Society in America " Vol. II, pp. 31, 35.

29 See Appropriation No. 27, p. 143.

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In order to insure efficiency and permanency these repairs30

were made on the Macadam system; that is to say, the pave-

ment of the old road was entirely broken up, and the stones

removed from the road; the bed was then raked smooth, and

made nearly flat, having a raise of not more than three inches

from the side to the centre, in a road thirty feet wide; the ditches

on each side of the road, and the drains leading from them,

were so constructed that the water could not stand at a higher

level than eighteen inches below the lowest part of the surface

of the road; and, in all cases, when it was practicable, the drains

were adjusted in such manner as to lead the water entirely from

the side ditches. The culverts were cleared out, and so adjusted

as to allow the free passage of all water that tended to cross

the road.

Having thus formed the bed of the road, cleaned out the

ditches and culverts, and adjusted the side drains, the stone was

reduced to a size not exceeding four ounces in weight, was spread

on with shovels, and raked smooth. The old material was used

when it was of sufficient hardness, and no clay or sand was

allowed to be mixed with the stone.

In replacing the covering of stone, it was found best to lay

it on in strata of about three inches thick, admitting the travel

for a short interval on each layer, and interposing such obstruc-

tions from time to time as would insure an equal travel over every

portion of the road; care being taken to keep persons in constant

attendance to rake the surface when it became uneven by the

action of wheels of carriages. In those parts of the road, if any,

where materials of good quality could be obtained for the road

in sufficient quantity to afford a course of six inches, new stone

was procured to make up the deficiency to that thickness; but

it was considered unnecessary, in any part, to put on a covering

of more than nine inches. None but limestone, flint or granite,

were used for the covering, if practicable; and no covering was

placed upon the bed of the road till it had become well compacted

and thoroughly dried. At proper intervals, on the slopes of hills,


30 For specimen advertisement for repairs on National Road see Ap-

pendix No. 4.

The Old National Road

The Old National Road.              431


drains or paved catch-waters were made across the road, whenever

the cost of constructing culverts rendered their use inexpedient.

These catch-waters were made with a gradual curvature, so as to

give no jolts to the wheels of carriages passing over them; but

whenever the expense justified the introduction of culverts, they

were used in preference, and in all cases where the water crossed

the road, either in catch-waters or through culverts, sufficient

pavements and overfalls were constructed to provide against the

possibility of the road or banks being washed away by it.

The masonry of the bridges, culverts and side-walls were

ordered to be repaired, whenever required, in a substantial man-

ner, and care was taken that the mortar used was of good quality,

without admixture of raw clay. All the masonry was well

pointed with hydraulic mortar, and in no case was the pointing

allowed to be put on after the middle of October. All masonry

finished after this time was well covered, and pointed early in

the spring. Care was taken, also, to provide means for carrying

off the water from the bases of walls, to prevent the action of

frost on their foundations; and it was considered highly import-

ant that all foundations in masonry should be well pointed with

hydraulic mortar to a depth of eighteen inches below the surface

of the ground.

By the year 1818 travel over the first great road across the

Alleghany mountains into the Ohio basin had begun. The sub-

sequent history of this highway and all the vicissitudes through

which it has passed, has, in a measure, perhaps, dimmed the

lustre of its early pride. The subject of transportation has

undergone such marvelous changes in these eighty years since

the National Road was opened, that we are apt to forget the

strength of the patriotism which made that road a reality. But

compare it with the roadways built before it to accomplish similar

ends, and the greatness of the undertaking can be appreciated.

Over the beginnings of great historical movements there often

hangs a cloud of obscurity. Over this heroic attempt, to make

a feeble republic strong through unity, there is no obscurity.

America won the west from England as England had won it from

France - by conquest. Brave men were found who did what

neither England nor France did do, settle the wilderness and

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begin the transformation of it. Large colonies of hardy men

and women had gone into the Ohio valley, carrying in their hands

the blessed Ordinance and guided by the very star of empire.

Old Virginia had given the best of her sons and daughters to

the meadow land of Ken-ta-kee, who were destined to clinch

the republic's title to the Mississippi river. The Old Bay State

had given her best blood to found the Old Northwest, at historic

Marietta.  New   Jersey and Connecticut had sent their sons

through vast wildernesses to found Cincinnati and Cleveland,

names which to-day suggest the best there is in our American

state. Without exaggeration, the building of the National Road

from the Potomac to the Ohio river was the crowning act of

all that had gone before. It embodied the prime idea in the

Ordinance of 1787, and it proved that a republic of loyal people

could scorn the old European theory that mountains are impera-

tive boundaries of empire.






The stories of those who knew the road in the west and those

who knew it in the east are much alike. It is probable that there

was one important distinction-the passenger traffic of the road

between the Potomac and Ohio, which gave life on that por-

tion of the road a peculiar flavor, was doubtless much smaller on

the western division.

For many years the centre of western population was in the

Ohio valley, and good steamers were plying the Ohio when the

National Road was first opened. Indeed the road was originally

intended for the accommodation of the lower Ohio valley.31


31 The early official correspondence concerning the route of the road

shows plainly that it was really built for the benefit of the Chillicothe and

Cincinnati settlements, which embraced a large portion of Ohio's popula-

tion. The opening of river traffic in the first two decades of the century,

however, had the effect of throwing the line of the road further north-

ward through the capitals of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. Zane's trace,

diverging from the National Road at Zanesville, played an important

part in the development of southwestern Ohio, becoming the course of

the Lancaster and Maysville pike.

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Still, as the century grew old and the interior population became

considerable, the Ohio division of the road became a crowded

thoroughfare. An old stage driver in eastern Ohio remembers

when business was such that he and his companion Knights of

Rein and Whip never went to bed for twenty nights, and more

than a hundred teams might have been met in a score of miles.

When the road was built to Wheeling its greatest mission

was accomplished-the portage path across the mountains was

completed to a point where river navigation was almost always

available. And yet less than half of the road was finished. It

now touched the eastern extremity of the great state whose public

lands were being sold in order to pay for its building. Westward

laythe growing states of Indiana and Illinois, a per cent.of the sale

of whose land had already been pledged to the road. Then came

another moment when the great work paused and the original am-

bition of its friends was at hazard.

In 1820 Congress appropriated $141,000 for completing the

road from Washington, Pennsylvania, to Wheeling. In the same

year $10,000 was appropriated for laying out the road between

Wheeling, Virginia, and a point on the left bank of the Missis-

sippi river, between St. Louis and the mouth of the Illinois river.

For four years the fate of the road west of the Ohio hung in the

balance, during which time, the road was menaced by the spectre

of unconstitutionality, already described. But on the third day

of March, 1825, a bill was passed by Congress appropriating one

hundred and fifty thousand dollars for building the road to Zanes-

ville, Ohio, and the extension of the surveys to the permanent

seat of government in Missouri, to pass by the seats of govern-

ment of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.32 Two years later $170,000

was appropriated to complete the road to Zanesville, Ohio, and in

1829 an additional appropriation for continuing it westward was


It has been noted that the National Road from Cumberland to

Wheeling was built on a general alignment of a former thorough-

fare of the red men and the pioneers. So with much of the

course west of the Ohio. Between Wheeling and Zanesville the


32 See Appropriation No. 14, p. 141.

33 See Appropriations Nos. 20 and 21, p. 142.

The Old National Road

The Old National Road.              435


National Road followed the course of the first road made through

Ohio, the celebrated route, marked out, by way of Lancaster and

Chillicothe, to Kentucky, by Colonel Ebenezer Zane, and which

bore the name of Zane's Trace. This first road built in Ohio

was authorized by an act of Congress passed May 17, 1796.34

This thoroughfare was rendered necessary by the large amount

of return traffic from the southwestern Ohio settlements and

Kentucky. The vast number of immigrants which, by 1796, had

journeyed to Kentucky, needed an overland thoroughfare to Penn-

sylvania and the east, which afforded a shorter course than the

roundabout Wilderness Road. It was easy to descend the Ohio,

but a tedious task to return by water, and steam packets were not

plying in that day (1796).

A description is left us of this first white man's public high-

way beyond the Ohio which is interesting in this connection:

"We came back by Cincinnati, and from there went

to the mouth of Soldier's Run, on Brush Creek, seven

miles from its mouth  *  *  * we started back to

Pennsylvania on horseback, as there was no getting up

the river at that day  *  * * There was one house

(Treiber's) on Lick branch five miles from where West

Union now is *   * * The next house is where Sink-

ing Spring or Middleton is now. The next was at Chil-

licothe, which was just then commenced. We encamped

one night on Massie's Run, say two or three miles from

the falls of Paint Creek where the trace crossed that

stream. From Chillicothe to Lancaster, the trace then

went through Pickaway Plains * * * There was a cabin

some three or four miles below the plains and another

at their eastern edge, and one or two more between that

and Lancaster *  *  * Here we staid the third night.

From Lancaster we went the next day to Zanesville,

passing several small beginnings. I recollect no im-

provement between Zanesville and Wheeling except one


34 Private laws of the United States, May 17, 1796.

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small one at the mouth of Indian Wheeling Creek,

opposite Wheeling."35

This route through Ohio was a well worn road a quarter of

a century before the National Road was extended across the Ohio


The act of 1825, authorizing the extension of the great road

into the state of Ohio, was greeted with intense enthusiasm

by the people of the west. The fear that the road would not

be continued beyond the Ohio river was generally entertained,

and for good reasons. The debate of constitutionality, which had

been going on for several years, increased the fear. And yet it

would have been breaking faith with the west by the National

Government to have failed to continue the road.

The act appropriated $150,000 for an extension of the road

from Wheeling to Zanesville, Ohio, and work was immediately

undertaken. The Ohio was by far the greatest body of water

which the road crossed, and for many years the passage from

Wheeling to the opposite side of the Ohio, Bridgeport, was made a

ferry. Later a great bridge, the admiration of the country side,

was erected. The road entered Ohio in Belmont county, and,

eventually, crossed the state in a due line west, not deviating its

course even to touch cities of such importance as Newark or Day-

ton, although, in the case of the former at least, such a course

would have been less expensive than the one pursued. Passing

due west the road was built through Belmont, Guernsey, Muskin-

gum, Licking, Franklin, Madison, Clark, Montgomery and Preble

counties, a distance of over 300 miles. A larger portion of the

National Road which was actually completed lay in Ohio than in

all other states through which it passed combined.

The work on the road between Wheeling and Zanesville was

begun in 1825-26. Ground was broken with great ceremony op-

posite the Court House at St. Clairsville, Belmont county, July

4, 1825. An address was given by Mr. Wm. B. Hubbard.

The average cost per mile of the road in eastern Ohio was much

less than the cost in Pennsylvania, averaging only about $3,400


35 "American Pioneer," Vol. II, p. 158. Cf. "Franklinton (Ohio)

Centennial," p. 22.

The Old National Road

The Old National Road.              437


per mile. This included three inch layers of broken stone, ma-

sonry bridges and culverts. Large appropriations were made for

the road in succeeding years and the work went on from

Zanesville, due west to Columbus. The course of the road be-

tween Zanesville and Columbus was perhaps the first instance

where the road ignored, entirely, the general alignment of a pre-

vious road between the same two points. The old road between

Zanesville and Columbus went by way of Newark and Granville,

a roundabout course, but probably the most practicable, as any one

may attest who has traveled over the National Road in the western

part of Muskingum county. A long and determined effort was

made by citizens of Newark and Granville, than whom there were

no more influential in Ohio, to have the new road follow the

course of the old, but without effect. Ohio had not, like Pennsyl-

vania, demanded that the road should pass through certain towns.

The only direction named by law was that the road should go west

on the straightest possible line through the capital of each state.

The course between Zanesville and Columbus was located by

the United States Commissioner, Jonathan Knight, Esq., who

accompanied by his associates (one of whom was the youthful

Joseph E. Johnson) arrived in Columbus, October 5, 1825. Bids

for contracts for building the road from Zanesville to Columbus

were advertised to be received at the Superintendent's office at

Zanesville, from the 23rd to the 30th of June, 1829. The road

was fully completed by 1833. The road entered Columbus on

Friend (now Main) street. There was great rivalry between the

North End and South End over the road's entrance into the city.

The matter was compromised by having it enter on Friend

street and take its exit on West Broad, traversing High to make

the connection.

Concerning the route out of Columbus, the Ohio State Journal


"The adopted route leaves Columbus at Broad

Street, crosses the Scioto river at the end of that street

and on the new wooden bridge erected in 1826 by an

individual having a charter from that state. The bridge

is not so permanent nor so spacious as could be desired,

yet it may answer the intended purposes for several

438 Ohio Arch

438       Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


years to come. Thence the location passes through the

village of Franklinton, and across the low grounds to the

bluff which is surrounded at a depression formed by a

ravine, and at a point nearly in the prolongation in the

direction of Broad Street; thence by a small angle, a

straight line to the bluffs of Darby creek; to pass the

creek and its bluffs some angles were necessary; thence

nearly a straight line through Deer Creek Barrens, and

across that stream to the dividing grounds, between the

Scioto and the Miami waters; thence nearly down to

the valley of Beaver Creek."

The preliminary survey westward was completed in 1826 and

extended to Indianapolis, Indiana. Bids were advertised for

contract west of Columbus in July 1830. During the next seven

years the work was pushed on through Madison, Clark, Mont-

gomery and Preble counties and across the Indiana line. Propo-

sals for bids for building the road west of Springfield, Ohio,

was advertised for, during August 1837, a condition being that

the first eight miles be finished by January 1838. These proposals

are interesting to-day. The following is the advertisement for

proposal of bids referred to above.

NATIONAL ROAD IN OHIO.-Notice to contrac-

tors.-Proposals will be received by the undersigned,

until the 19th of August inst., for clearing and grubbing

eight miles of the line of National Road west of this

place, from the 55th to the 62nd mile inclusive west of

Columbus-the work to be completed on or before the

1st day of January, 1838.

The trees and growth to be entirely cleared away to

the distance of 40 feet on each side of the central axis

of the road, and all trees impending over that space to be

cut down; all stumps and roots to be carefully grubbed

out to the distance of 20 feet on each side of the axis, and

where occasional high embankments, or spacious side

drains may be required, the grubbing is to extend to the

distance of 30 feet on each side of the same axis. All

the timber, brush, stumps and roots to be entirely re-

moved from the above space of 80 feet in width and

The Old National Road

The Old National Road.              439

the earth excavated in grubbing, to be thrown back into

the hollows formed by removing the stumps and roots.

The proposals will state the price per linear rod or

mile, and the offers of competent, or responsible indi-

viduals only will be accepted.

Notice is hereby given to the proprietors of the land,

on that part of the line of the National Road, lying be-

tween Springfield and the Miami river to remove all fen-

ces and other barriers now across the line a reasonable

time being allowed them to secure that portion of their

present crops which may lie upon the location of the



Lieutenant U. S. Engineers Supt.

National Road Office, Springfield, Ohio.

August 2nd, 1837.36

Indianapolis was the centre of National Road operations in

Indiana, and from that city the road was built both eastward and

westward. The road entered Indiana through Wayne county

but was not completed until taken under a charter from the state,

by the Wayne County Turnpike Company, and finished in 1850.

When Indiana and Illinois received the road from the national

government it was not completed, though graded and bridged as

far west as Vandalia, then the capital of Illinois.

The National Road was not to Indiana and Illinois what it

was to Ohio, for somewhat similar reasons that it was less to

Ohio than to Pennsylvania, for the further west it was built the

older the century grew, and the newer the means of transportation

which were coming rapidly to the front. This was true, even,

from the very beginning. The road was hardly a decade old in

Pennsylvania, when two canals and a railroad over the portage,

offered a rival means of transportation across the state from

Harrisburg to Pittsburg.37 When the road reached Wheeling,

Ohio river travel was very much improved, and a large proportion

of traffic went down the river by packet. When the road entered

36 Springfield Pioneer, August 1837; also Ohio State Journal, August

8, 1837.

37 Martineau's "Society in America. Vol. I. p. 17.

440 Ohio Arch

440       Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


Indiana, new dreams of internal improvements were underway

beside which a turnpike was almost a relic. In 1835-36, Indiana

passed an internal improvement bill, authorizing three great canals

and a railway.38 The proposed railway, from the village of Ma-

dison on the Ohio river northward to Indianapolis, is a pregnant

suggestion of the amount of traffic to Indiana from the east which

passed down the Ohio from Wheeling, instead of going overland

through Ohio.39 This was, undoubtedly, mostly passenger traffic,

which was very heavy at this time.40

But the dawning of a new era in transportation had already

been heralded in the national hall of legislation In 1832 the

House Committee on Roads and Canals had discussed in their

report the question of the relative cost of various means of inter-

communication, including railways. Each report of the com-

mittee for the next five years mentioned the same subject, until,

in 1836, the matter of substituting a railway for the National

Road between Columbus and the Mississippi was very seriously


In that year a House Bill (No. 64) came back from the

Senate amended in two particulars, one, authorizing that the

appropriations made for Illinois should be confined to grading and

bridging only, and should not be construed as implying that Con-

gress had pledged itself to macadamize the road.

The House Committee struck out these amendments and

substituted a more sweeping one than any yet suggested in the

history of the road. This amendment provided that a railroad be

constructed west of Columbus with the money appropriated for

a highway. The committee reported, that, after long study

of the question, many reasons appeared why the change should

be made. It was, they said, stated to the committee by re-

spectable authority, that much of the stone for the masonry and

covering for the road east of Columbus had to be transported

for considerable distances over bad roads across the adjacent


38Wabash-Erie, Whitewater and Indiana Central Canals and the

Madison and Indianapolis railway.

39 "Illinois in '37," p. 766-7. This was probably passenger and freight

traffic as the mails went overland from the very first, until the building

of railways. Cf. Note 17.

40 Ohio State Journal, January 8, 1836.

The Old National Road

The Old National Road.             441


country at very great expense, and that, in its continuance west-

ward through Ohio, this source of expense would be greatly

augmented. Nevertheless the compact with the admission of the

western states supposed the western termination of the road

should be the Mississippi. The estimated expense of the road's

extension to Vandalia, Illinois, sixty-five miles east of the Mississ-

ippi, amounted to $4,732,622.83, making the total expense of the

entire road amount to about ten millions. The committee said

it would have been unfaithful to the trust reposed in it, if it had

not bestowed much attention upon this matter, and it did not hes-

itate to ground on a recent report of the Secretary of War, this

very important change of the plan of the road. This report of the

War Department showed that the distance between Columbus

and Vandalia was 334 miles and the estimated cost of complet-

ing the road that far would be $4,732,632.83, of which $1,120,-

320.01 had been expended and $3,547,894.83 remained to be ex-

pended in order to finish the road to that extent according to plans

then in operation; that after its completion it would require an

annual expenditure on the 334 miles of $392,809.71 to keep it in

repair, the engineers computing the annual cost of repairs of the

portion of the road between Wheeling and Columbus (127 miles)

at $99,430.30.

On the other hand the estimated cost of a railway from Co-

lumbus to Vandalia on the route of the National Road was

$4,280,540.37, and the cost of preservation and repair of such

a road, $173,718.25. Thus the computed cost of the railway ex-

ceeded that of the turnpike but about 20 per cent., while the annual

expense of repairing the former would fall short of more than 56

per cent. In addition to the advantage of reduced cost was that

of faster time consumed in transportation, for, assuming, as the

committee did, a rate of speed of fifteen miles per hour (which

was five miles per hour less than the then customary speed of rail-

way traveling in England on the Liverpool and Manchester rail-

road, and about the ordinary rate of speed of the American loco-

motives) it would require only 23 hours for news from Baltimore

to reach Columbus, forty-two hours to Indianapolis, fifty-four to

Vandalia, and fifty-eight to St. Louis.

442 Ohio Arch

442       Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.

Click on image to view full size

The Old National Road

The Old National Road.              443


One interesting argument for the substitution of the railway

for the National Road was given as follows:

"When the relation of the general government to

the states which it unites is justly regarded; when it is

considered it is especially charged with the common de-

fense; that for the attainment of this end and the militia

must be combined in time of war with the regular army

and the state with the United States troops; that mutual

prompt and vigorous concert should mark the efforts of

both for the accomplishment of a common end and the

safety of all; it seems needless to dwell upon the import-

ance of transmitting intelligence between the state and

federal government with the least possible delay and con-

centrating in a period of common danger their joint

efforts with the greatest possible dispatch. It is alike

needless to detail the comparative advantages of a rail-

road and an ordinary turnpike under such circumstances.

A few weeks, nay, a very few days, or hours, may de-

termine the issue of a campaign, though happily for the

United States their distance from a powerful enemy may

limit the contingency of war to destruction short of that

by which the events of an hour had involved ruin of an


Despite the weight of argument presented by the house com--

mittee their amendment was in turn stricken out, and the bill of

1836 appropriated $600,000 for the National Road, both of the

Senate Amendments which the House Committee had stricken

out being incorporated in the bill.





The National Road was built by the United States govern-

ment under the supervision of the War Department. Of its build-

ers, whose names will ever live in the annals of the central west,

Brigadier-General Gratiot, Captains Delafield, McKee, Bliss, Bart-

lett Hartzell, Williams, Colquit and Cass and Lieutenants Mans-

444 Ohio Arch

444       Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


field, Vance and Pickell are best remembered on the eastern divi-

sion. Nearly all became heroes of the Mexican or Civil wars,

McKee falling at Buena Vista, Williams at Monterey, and Mans-

field, then Major-general, at Antietam.

Among the best known supervisors in the west were Commis-

sioners C. W. Weaver, G. Dutton and Jonathan Knight.

The road had been built across the Ohio river but a short

time, when it was realized that a revenue must be raised for its sup-

port from those who traveled upon it. As we have seen, a law

was passed in both houses of Congress, in 1824, authorizing the

government to erect toll gates and charge toll on the National

Road as the states should surrender this right to the govern-

ment.41 This bill was vetoed by President Monroe, on grounds

already stated, and the road fell into a very bad condition. But

what the National government could not do the individual states

could do, and, consequently, as fast as repairs were completed,

the government surrendered the road to the states through which

it passed. Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia, accepted

completed portions of the road between 1831 and 1834.42  The

Legislatures of Ohio and Pennsylvania at once passed laws con-

cerning the erection of toll gates, Ohio authorizing one gate every

twenty miles, February 4, 1831,43 and Pennsylvania authorizing

the erection of six toll gates by an act passed April 11, of the same


The gates in Pennsylvania were located as follows: Gate No.

1 at the east end of Petersburg. No. 2 near Mt. Washington,

No. 3 near Searights, No. 4 near Beallsville, No. 5 near Wash-

ington, and No. 6 near West Alexander.

The National Road was under the control of commissioners

appointed by the President of the United States, the state legisla-

tures, or governors.45 Upon these commissioners lay the task

of repairing the road, which included the making of contracts,


41 Laws of Pennsylvania (pamphlet), p. 500.

42 See Appropriation No. 27, p. 143.

43 Laws of Ohio XXIX, p. 76. For specimen advertisement for bids

for erection of toll gates in Ohio see Appendix No. 4, p. 147.

44Laws of Pennsylvania (pamphlet), p. 419.

45 Laws of Pennsylvania (pamphlet), p. 523.

The Old National Road

The Old National Road.               445


reviewing the work done, and rendering payment for the same.

None of the work of building the road fell on the state officials.

Therefore, in Ohio, two great departments were simultaneously

in operation, the building of the road by the government officials,

and the work of operating and repairing the road, under state offi-

cials. Two commissioners were appointed in Pennsylvania, in

1847, one acting east, and the other west, of the Monongahela

river.46 In 1836 Ohio placed all her works of internal improve-

ment under the supervision of a Board of Public Works, into

whose hands the National Road passed.47  Special commissioners

were appointed from time to time by the state legislatures to

perform special duties, such as overseeing work being done, audit-

ing accounts or settling disputes.48 Two resident engineers were

appointed over the eastern and western divisions of the road in

Ohio, thus doing away with the continual employment and dis-

missal of the most important of all officials. These engineers

made quarterly reports concerning the road's condition.49

The road was conveniently divided by the several states into

departments. East of the Ohio river, the Monongahela river was

a division line, the road being divided by it into two divisions.50

West of the Ohio the eighty-seventh mile post from Wheeling

was, at one time, a division line between two departments in

Ohio.51 Later, the road in Ohio was cut up into as many divi-

sions as counties through which it passed.52 The work of repair-

ing was let by contract, for which bids had been previously adver-

tised. Contracts were usually let in one mile sections, sometimes

for a longer space, notice of the length being given in the adver-

tisement for bids.  Contractors were compelled to give testi-

monials of good character and reliability; though one contract,

previously quoted, professed to be satisfied with "competent or re-

sponsible individuals only"! Time limit was usually named in


46 Idem, p. 477.

47 Laws of Ohio XXXIV, p. 41; XXV, p. 7.

48 Idem XXIII, p. 447.

49 Idem XLIII, p 89.

50 Laws of Pennsylvania (pamphlet), p. 477.

51 Laws of Ohio XLIII, p. 140.

52 Idem LVIII, p. 140.

446 Ohio Arch

446       Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


the contract, with penalties for failure to complete the work in

time assigned.

The building of the road was hailed with delight by hun-

dreds of contractors and thousands of laborers, who now had

employment offered them worthy of their best labor, and the

work, when well done, stood as a lasting monument to their skill.

Old papers and letters speak frequently of the enthusiasm awak-

ened among the laboring classes by the building of the great

road, and of the lively scenes witnessed in those busy years.

Contractors, who early earned a reputation, followed the road

westward, taking up contract after contract as opportunity offered.

Farmers who lived on the route of the road engaged in the work

when not busy in their fields, and for their labor, and the use

of the teams received good pay. Thus not only in its heyday

did the road prove a benefit to the country through which it

passed, but at the very beginning it became such, and not a little

of the money spent upon it by the government went into the

very pockets from which it came by the sale of land.

The great pride taken by the states in the National Road is

brought out significantly in the laws passed concerning it. Penn-

sylvania and Ohio legislatures passed laws as early as 1828,

and within three days of each other (Pennsylvania, April 7,53

and Ohio, April 1154), looking toward the permanent repair and

preservation of the road. There were penalties for breaking

or defacing the mile-stones, culverts, parapet walls and bridges.

A person found guilty of such act of vandalism was "fined in

a sum of not more than five hundred dollars, or be imprisoned

in a dungeon of the jail of the county, and be fed on bread and

water only, not exceeding thirty days, or both, at the discretion

of the court."55 There were penalties for allowing the drains

to become obstructed, for premature traveling on unfinished por-

tions of the road bed;56; for permitting a wagon to stand over

53Laws of Pennsylvania (pamphlet), p. 500.

54 Laws of Ohio XXVI, p. 41.

55 Laws of Ohio XXVI, p. 41.

56 Concerning the celerity of opening the road after the completion

of contracts, Captain Weaver, Superintendent in Ohio, made the follow-

ing statement in his report of 1827:

"Upon the first, second and third divisions, with a cover of metal

The Old National Road

The Old National Road.                    447


night on the road bed, and for locking wheels, except where ice

made this alternative necessary. Local authorities were ordered

to build suitable culverts wherever the roads connected with the

National Road. "Directors" were ordered to be set up, to warn

drivers to turn to the left when passing other teams.57 The rates

of toll were ordered to be posted where the public could see them.58

"Beacons" were erected along the margin of the road bed to keep

teams from turning aside. Laws were passed forbidding the

removal of these.59

The operation of the National Road included the establish-

ment of the toll system, which provided the revenue for keeping

it in repair; and from the tolls the most vital statistics concern-

ing the old road are to be obtained. Immediately upon the passing

of the road into the control of the individual states, toll gates

were authorized, as previously noted. Schedules of tariff were


of six inches in thickness, composed of stone reduced to particles of not

more than four ounces in weight, the travel was admitted in the month

of June last. Those divisions that lie eastward of the village of Fairview,

together embrace a distance of very nearly twenty-eight and a half miles,

and were put under contract on the first of July, and first and thirty-first

of August, 1825. This portion of the road has been in pursuance of con-

tracts made last fall and spring, covered with the third stratum of metal

of three inches in thickness, and similarly reduced. On parts of this

distance, say about five miles made up of detached pieces, the travel was

admitted at the commencement of the last winter and has continued on

to this time to render it compact and solid, it is very firm, elastic and

smooth. The effect has been to dissipate the prejudices which existed

very generally, in the minds of the citizens, against the McAdam system,

and to establish full confidence over the former plan of constructing roads.

"On the first day of July, the travel was admitted upon the fourth

and fifth divisions, and upon the second, third, fourth and fifth sections

of the sixth division of the road, in its graduated state. This part of the

line was put under contract on the eleventh day of September, 1826, ter-

minating at a point three miles west of Cambridge, and embraces a dis-

tance of twenty-three and a half miles. On the twenty-first of July the

balance of the line to Zanesville, comprising a distance of a little over

twenty-one miles, was let."

57 Laws of Pennsylvania (pamphlet), p. 419.

58 Laws of Ohio XXVI, p. 41; Laws of Pennsylvania (pamphlet),

p. 102.

59 Idem XXVI, p. 41.

448 Ohio Arch

448         Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


published by the various states. The schedule of 1831 in Penn-

sylvania was as follows:

For  every  score                    of             sheep                                                                                                          orhogs ..................................       .06

. " "         cattle             ..................... ................                                                                                                .12

"            "        led or driven horse ....................................                                                                                    .03

"            "                                horse and rider ...................................... .                                                                .04

"            "        sleigh or sled, for each horse or pair of oxen drawing

the  same  ..........................................  .03

" "                dearborn, sulky, chair or chaise with one horse .......... .06

"         chariot, coach, coachee, stage, wagon, phaeton, chaise,

with  two  horses and  four wheels .....................  .12

" either of the carriages last mentioned with four horses .......... .18

"every other carriage of pleasure, under whatever name it may

go, the like sum, according to the number of wheels

and horses drawing the same.

"    "  cart of wagon whose wheels shall exceed two and one-

half inches in breadth, and not exceeding four inches. .04

"    "  horse or pair of oxen drawing the same, and every other

cart or wagon, whose wheels shall exceed four inches,

and not exceed five inches in breadth ................  .03

"    "  horse or pair of oxen drawing the same, and for every

other cart or wagon, whose wheels shall exceed six

inches, and not more than eight inches ..............  .02

"    "  horse or pair of oxen drawing the same, all other carts

or wagons whose wheels shall exceed eight inches in

breadth  .............................................  free

The tolls established the same year in Ohio (see table, page

59) were higher than those charged in Pennsylvania.

The philosophy of the toll system     is patent.  Rates of toll

were determined by the wear on the road. Tolls were charged

in order to keep the road in repair, and, consequently, each

animal or vehicle was taxed in proportion as it damaged the road-

bed. Cattle were taxed twice as heavily as sheep or hogs, and,

according to the tariff of 1845, hogs were taxed twice as much

as sheep.   The tariff on vehicles was determined by the width

of the tires used, for the narrower the tire the more the roadbed

was cut up. Wide tires were encouraged, those over six inches

(later eight) went free, serving practically as rollers,

The Old National Road

The Old National Road.                       449



1831   1832    1836    1837  184560 1900


Score sheep or hogs.........                 .10        .05       .061/4    .0614     .10       .12

Score cattle ...............                      .20        .10        .121/2    .121/2    .20        .25

Every horse, mule or ass, led

or driven .............     .03                           .01          .02      .03      .03    .05

Every horse and rider ........ .061/4                     .04             .061/4      .061/4         .05                .06

Every sled or sleigh drawn by

one horse or ox...........  .12                          .061/4       .08             .06                .05                .12

Every horse in addition....... .061/4                   .04             .04             .04                .05                .06

Every dearborn, sulky, chair

or chaise, 1 horse .........  .121/2                   .08             .121/2      .12            .10                .12

Every horse in addition....... .061/4                   .04             .061/4      .04                .05                .06

Every chariot, coach, coachee,

horses ....................                   .183/4  .121/2 .183/4    .183/4    ...      .30

Every horse in addition ......                     .061/4       .03             .061/4         .061/4         ...                .12

Every vehicle wheels under 2

in. in breadth .............  .121/2  ...   .121/2    .10     ...    .

Every vehicle wheels under 4

in. in breadth .............. 061/4                        .061/4       .08             .08

Every horse drawing same ... .03                        .02             .04             .05     ...    ...

Every vehicle wheels exceed-

ing four and not exceeding

five inches ................ .04    ..    ...     ..

Every vehicle wheels exceed-

ing four and not exceeding

six  inches  ................ ...  .02    .04     .061/4

Every horse or ox drawing

same .....................  .02    .02    .02     .05

Every vehicle wheels exceed-

ing  six  inches ............    .. ...           .04     ...    ...

Every person occupying seat

in  mail stage..............  .04  .03

Estimates differed in various states but averaged up quite

evenly. To the rising generation, to whom toll gates are almost

unknown, a study of the toll system affords novel entertainment,

helping one to realize something of one of the most serious


60 Tolls for 1845 were based on number of horses, each additional

horse being taxed about .20. Tolls for 1900 (in Franklin county, Ohio)

practically identical with tolls of 1845.

450 Ohio Arch

450       Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


questions of public economics of two generations ago. Toll

gates averaged one in eighteen or twenty miles in Pennsylvania

and one in ten miles in Ohio, with tolls a little higher than half

the rate in Pennsylvania.

Toll gate keepers were appointed by the Governor in the

early days in Ohio,61 but, on most of the road, by the commission-

ers. These keepers received a salary which was deducted from

their collections, the remainder being turned over to the commis-

sioners. The salary established in Ohio in 1832 was $180,000

per annum.62 In 1836 it was increased to $200,000 per annum,

and toll keepers were also allowed to retain five per cent.

of all tolls received above one thousand dollars.63 In

1845 toll keepers were ordered to make returns on the first

Monday in each month, and the allowance of their per cent. on

receipts over one thousand dollars was cut off, leaving their

salary at $200.00 per annum.64  Equally perplexing with the

question of just tolls was found to be the question of determining

what and who should have free use of the National Road. This

list was increased at various times, and, in most states, including

the following at one time or another: Persons going to, or

returning from public worship, muster, common place of business

on farm or woodland, funeral, mill, place of election, common

place of trading or marketing within the county in which they

resided. This included persons, wagons, carriages and horses

or oxen drawing the same. No toll was charged school children

or clergymen, or for passage of stage and horses carrying United

States mail, or any wagon or carriage laden with United States

property, or cavalry, troops, arms or military stores of the United

States, or any single state, or for persons on duty in the military

service of the United States, or of the militia of any single state.

In Pennsylvania, a certain stage line made the attempt to carry

passengers by the toll gates free, taking advantage of the clauses

allowing free passage of the United States mail by putting


61 Laws of Ohio XXX, p. 321.

62Idem XXX, p. 8.

63 Idem XXXIV, p. 111.

64Idem XLIII, p. 89.

The Old National Road

The Old National Road.               451


a mail sack on each passenger coach. The stage was halted and

the matter taken into court, where the case was decided against

the stage company, and persons traveling with mail coaches were

compelled to pay toll.65 Ohio took advantage of Pennsylvania's

experience and was forward in passing a law that passengers

on stage coaches should pay toll.66 Pennsylvania exempted per-

sons hauling coal for home consumption from paying toll.67 Many

varied and curious attempts to evade payment of tolls were made,

and laws were passed inflicting heavy fine upon all convicted

of such malefaction. In Ohio, toll gate keepers were empowered

to arrest those suspected with such attempts, and, upon convic-

tion, the fine went into the road fund of the county wherein the

offense occurred.68

Persons making long trips on the road could pay toll for the

entire distance and receive a certificate guaranteeing free passage

to their destination.69  Compounding rates were early put in

force applying, in Ohio, to persons residing within eight miles

of the road, 70 the radius being extended, later, to ten.71 Pas-

sengers in the stages were counted by the toll gate keepers and

the company operating the stage charged with the toll. At the

end of each month, stage companies settled with the authorities.

Thus it became possible for the stage drivers to deceive the gate

keepers, and save their companies large sums of money. Drivers

were compelled to declare the number of passengers in their stage,

and in the event of failing to do so, gate keepers were allowed to

charge the company for as many passengers as the stage could


Stage lines were permitted to compound for yearly passage

of stages over the road and the large companies took advantage

of the provision, though the passengers were counted by the


65 Laws of Pennsylvania (pamphlet), pp. 534, 164, 430-1.

66 Laws of Ohio XXXV, p. 7.

67 Laws of Pennsylvania (pamphlet), p. 353.

68 Laws of Ohio XXX, p. 8.

69 Idem XXIX, p. 76.

70 Idem XXX, p. 8.

71 Idem XXX, p. 7.

72 Idem XXXII, p 265; XXX, p. 7.

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The Old National Road

The Old National Road.              453


gate keepers. It may be seen that gate keepers were in a position

to embezzle large sums of money if they were so minded, and

it is undoubted that this was done in more than one instance.

Indeed, with a score and a half of gates, and a great many travel-

ing on computation rates, it would have been remarkable if some

employed in all those years during which the toll system was in

general operation did not steal. But this is lifting the veil from

the good old days.

As will be seen later the amounts handled by the gate keepers

were no small sums. In the best days of the road the average

amount handled by toll gate keepers in Pennsylvania

was about $1800.00 per annum. In Ohio, with gates

every ten miles, the average (reported) collection was about

$2,000.00 in the best years. It is difficult to reconcile the state-

ment made by Mr. Searight concerning the comparative amount

of business done on various portions of the National Road, with

the figures he himself quotes. He says: "It is estimated that

two-fifths of the trade and travel of the road were diverted at

Brownsville, and fell into the channel furnished at that point

by the slack water navigation of the Monongahela river, and a

like proportion descended the Ohio from Wheeling, and the

remaining fifth continued on the road to Columbus, Ohio, and

points further west. The travel west of Wheeling was chiefly

local, and the road presented scarcely a tithe of the thrift, push,

whirl and excitement which characterized it east of that point."73

on another page Mr. Searight gives the account of the old time

superintendents of the road in Pennsylvania in its most pros-

perous era, one dating from November 10, 1840, to November

1O, 1841,74 the other from May 1, 1843, to December 31, 1844.75

In the first of these the amount of tolls received from the eastern

division of the road (east of the Monongahela) is two thousand

dollars less than the amount received from the western division!

Even after the amounts paid by the two great stage companies

are deducted, a balance of over a thousand dollars is left in favor

of the division west of the Monongahela river. In the second

73 The Old Pike, p. 298.

74 Idem, p. 362-6.

75 Idem, p. 367-70.

454 Ohio Arch

454       Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.

report, $4,242.37 more was received on the western division of

the road than on the eastern, and even after the amounts received

from the stage companies are deducted, the receipts from the

eastern division barely exceed those of the western. How can

it be that "two-fifths of the trade and travel of the road were

diverted at Brownsville"? And the further west Mr. Searight

goes, the more does he seem to err, for the road west of the Ohio

river, instead of showing "scarcely a tithe of the thrift, push,

whirl and excitement which characterized it east of that point"

seems to have done a greater business than the portion east of

the Ohio river. For instance, when the road was completed as

many miles in Ohio as were built in Pennsylvania, the returns

from the portion in Ohio (1833) was $12,259.42-4 (in the very

first year that the road was completed), while in Pennsylvania

the receipts in 1840 were only $18,429.25, after the road had

been used for twenty-two years. In the same year (1840) Ohio

collected $51,364.67 from her National Road toll gates-about

three times the amount collected in Pennsylvania. Again Mr.

Searight gives a Pennsylvania commissioner's receipts for the

twenty months beginning May 1, 1843, as $37,109.11, while the

receipts from the road in Ohio in only the twelve months of

1843 was $32,157.02! At the same time the tolls charged in

Ohio were a trifle in excess of those imposed in Pennsylvania,

therefore, Ohio's advantage must be curtailed slightly. On the

other hand it should be taken into consideration that the National

Road in Pennsylvania was almost the only road across the portion

of the state through which it ran, while in Ohio other roads were

used, especially clay roads running parallel with the National

Road, by drivers of sheep and pigs, as an aged informant testifies.

As Mr. Searight has said, the travel of the road west of the Ohio

may have been chiefly of a local nature, yet his seeming error

concerning the relative amount of travel on the two divisions

in his own state, makes his statements less trustworthy in the

matter. Still it can be readily believed that a great deal of con-

tinental trade did pass down the Monongahela after traversing

the eastern division of the road and that increased local trade

on the western division rendered the toll receipts of both divisions

quite equal. Local travel on the eastern division may have been

The Old National Road

The Old National Road.                      455

light, comparatively speaking. Mr. Searight undoubtedly meant

that two-fifths of the through trade stopped at Brownsville and

Wheeling and one-fifth only went on into Ohio. The total amount

of tolls received by Pennsylvania from all roads, canals, etc., in

1836 was about $50,000, while Ohio received a greater sum than

that in 1838 from tolls on the National Road alone, and the road

was not completed further west than Springfield.

A study of the amounts of tolls taken in from       the National

Road by the various states will show at once the volume of

the business done. Ohio received from the National Road in

forty-seven years nearly a million and a quarter dollars.          An

itemized list of this great revenue is interesting, showing, as

it does, the varying fortunes of the great road:


YEAR                                                   TOLLS                         YEAR                                                    TOLLS

1831   .............                 $2,777 16         1856     .............                6,105 00

1832 .    ............               9,067 99           1857     .............                6,105 00

1833   ............                   12,259 42-4      1858 .         ............           6,105 00

1834 .    ............               12,693 65         1859     .............                5,551 36

1835    .........                    16,442 26         1860 .         ............           11,221 74 .

1836    .........                    27,455 13         1861     .............                21,492 41

1837 .    ............                39,843 35         1862     .............                19,000 00

1838     .........                    50,413 17         1863     .............                20,000 00

1839     .........                    62,496 10         1864 .    ............                20,000 00

1840     .........                    51,364 67         1865     .............                20,000 00

1841     .........                    36,951 33         1866     .........                    19,000 00

1842     .........                    44,656 18         1867     .............                20,631 34

1843     .........                    32,157 02         1868     .............                18,934 49

1844 .    ........                    30,801 13         1869     .............                20,577 04

1845   .........                      31,439 38         1870     .............                19,635 75

1846 .    ........                    28,946 21         1871 .............                    19,244 00

1847     .............                42,614 59         1872   ...........                    18,002 09

1848     ...........                  49,025 66         1873 .............                    17,940 37

1849     .............                46,253 38         1874     .............                17,971 21

1850     .............                37,060 11         1875     .............                17,265 12

1851     .............                44,063 65         1876     .............                9,601 68

1852 .............                    36,727 26         1877     .............                288 91

1853  .............                   35,354  40

1854 .        ............            18,154 59          Total ...... $1,139,795 30-4

1855     .............                6,105 00

About 1850 Ohio began leasing portions of the National

Road to private companies.       In 1854 the entire distance from

456 Ohio Arch

456       Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


Springfield to the Ohio river was leased for a term of ten years

for $6,105 a year. Commissioners were appointed to view the

road continually and make the lessees keep it in good condition

as when it came into their hands.76 Before the contract had half

expired, the Board of Public Works was ordered (April, 1859)

to take the road to relieve the lessees.77  In 1870 the proper

limits of the road were designated to be "a space of eighty feet

in width, and where the road passed over a street in any city

of the second class, the width should conform to the width of

that street" and such cities should own it so long as it was

kept in repair.78

Finally, in 1876, the state of Ohio authorized commissioners

of the several counties to take so much of the road as lay in

each county under their control. It was stipulated that toll

gates should not average more than one in ten miles, and that

no toll be collected between Columbus and the Ohio Central

Lunatic Asylum. The county commissioners were to complete

any unfinished portions of the road.79

Later (1877) the rates of toll were left to the discretion of

the county commissioners, with this provision:

"That when the consent of the Congress of the

United States shall have been obtained thereto, that the

county commissioners of any county having a popula-

tion under the last Federal census of more than fifteen

thousand six hundred and less than fifteen thousand

six hundred and fifty shall have the power when they

deem it for the best interest of the road, or when the

people whom the road accommodates wish to submit

to the legal voters of the county, at any regular or

special election, the question, Shall the National Road

be a free turnpike road? And when the question is so

submitted, and a majority of all those voting on said

question, shall vote yes, it shall be the duty of said


76 Laws of Ohio LII, p. 126.

77 Idem LVI, p. 159.

78 Idem LXX, p. 194.

79 Idem LXXIII, p. 105.

The Old National Road

The Old National Road.                      457


commissioners to sell gates, toll-houses and any other

property belonging to the road to the highest bidder,

the proceeds of the sale to be applied to the repair of

the road, and declare so much of the road as lies within

their county a free turnpike road to be kept in repair

in the way and manner provided by law for the repair of

free turnpikes."80

The receipts from the Franklin county, Ohio, toll gate, now

in operation, for the year 1899 was as follows:

January      .........................................                                       $36              00

February    ............' ................... ........                                      32 80

M arch       ...........................................                                     39 90

April ............................................                                            80 75

May    ............................................                                           67 25

June    ............................................                                           54 85

July     .............................................                                          47 15

August       ........................................ .                                      35 75

September  .......................................                                         29 27

October .........................................                                           29 26

November   .......................................                                       35 05

December .......................................                                          34 05


Total  .....................................                                       $522            08

It will be noted that April was the heaviest month of the

year. The gate keeper receives a salary of $30.00 per month.

It is hardly necessary to say that the great American high-

way was never a self-supporting institution. The fact that it

was estimated that the yearly expense of repairing the Ohio

division of the road was $100,000.00 while the greatest amount

of tolls collected in its most prosperous year (1839) was hardly

half that amount ($62,496. 10) proves this conclusively. Inves-

tigation into the records of other states shows the same condition.

In the most prosperous days of the road the tolls in Maryland

(1837) amounted to $9,953.00 and the expenditures $9,660.5181

In 1839 a "balance" was recorded of $1,509.08, but a like amount

was charged up on the debtor side of the account. The receipts

reported each year in the Auditor's reports of the state of Ohio


80 Laws of Ohio LXXIV, p. 62.

81"Report of the Superintendent of the National Road, with Ab-

stract of Tolls for the fiscal year" (1837).

458 Ohio Arch

458       Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.

show that equal amounts were expended yearly upon the road.

As early as 1832 the Governor of Ohio was authorized to borrow

money to repair the road in that state.82





The great work of building and keeping in repair the Na-

tional Road, and of operating it, developed a race of men as

unknown before its era as afterward. For the real life of the

road, however, one will look to the days of its prime-to those

who passed over its stately stretches and dusty coils as stage and

mail coach drivers, express carriers and "wagoners," and the

tens of thousands of passengers and immigrants who composed

the public which patronized the great highway. This was the

real life of the road-coaches numbering as many as twenty

traveling in a single line; wagon-house yards where a hundred

tired horses rest over night besides their great loads; hotels

where seventy transient guests have been served breakfast in a

single morning; a life made cheery by the echoing horns of hurry-

ing stages; blinded by the dust of droves of cattle numbering into

the thousands; a life noisy with the satisfactory creak and crunch

of the wheels of great wagons carrying six and eight thousand

pounds of freight east or west.

The revolution of society since those days could not have

been more surprising. The change has been so great it is a won-

der that men deign to count their gain by the same numerical

system. As Macauley has said, we do not travel to-day, we

merely "arrive." You are hardly a traveler now unless you cross

a continent. Travel was once an education. This is growing

less and less true, perhaps, with the passing years. Fancy a jour-

ney from St. Louis to New York in the old coaching days, over the

National Road and the old York roads. How many persons the

traveler met! How many interesting and instructive conversa-

tions were held with fellow travelers through the long hours;

What customs, characters, foibles, amusing incidents would be

noticed and remembered, ever afterward furnishing the informa-


82 Laws of Ohio XXX, p. 8.

The Old National Road

The Old National Road.             459


tion necessary to help one talk well and the sympathy necessary to

render one capable of listening to others. The traveler often sat

at the table with statesmen whom the nation honored, as well

as with stage coach drivers whom a nation knew for their skill and

prowess over six galloping horses. Henry Clays and "Red" Bun-

tings dined together, and each made the other wiser, if not better.

The greater the gulf grows between the rich and poor, the more

ignorant do both become, particularly the rich. There was un-

doubtedly a monotony in stage coach journeying, but the con-

tinual views of the landscape, the ever-fresh air, the constantly

passing throngs of countless description, made such traveling an

experience unknown to us "arrivers" of to-day. How fast it has

been forgotten that travel means seeing people rather than things.

The age of sight seeing has superseded that of traveling. How

few of us can say with the New Hampshire sage, "We have trav-

eled a great deal 'in Concord.'" Splendidly are the old coaching

days described by Thackeray who caught their spirit:

"The Island rang, as yet, with the tooting horns

and rattling teams of mail coaches; a gay sight was the

road in merry England in those days, before steam en-

gines arose and flung its hostelry and chivalry over.

To travel in coaches, to drive coaches, to know coachmen

and guards, to be familiar with inns along the road, to

laugh with jolly hostess in the bar, to chuck the pretty

chambermaid under the chin, was the delight of men

who were young not very long ago. The road was an

institution, the ring was an institution. Men rallied

around then; and, not without a kind of conservatism,

expatiated upon the benefits with which they endowed

the country, and the evils which would occur when they

should be no more:-decay of English spirit, decay of

manly pluck, ruin of the breed of horses, and so forth.

To give or take a black eye was not unusual or deroga-

tory in a gentleman; to drive a stage coach the enjoy-

ment, the emulation of generous youth. Is there any

young fellow of the present time who aspires to take the

place of a stoker? You see occasionally in Hyde Park

one dismal old drag with a lonely driver. Where are you,

460 Ohio Arch

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charioteers ? Where are you, 0 rattling Quicksilver, O

swift Defiance? You are passed by racers stronger and

swifter than you. Your lamps are out, and the music

of your horns has died away."83

In the old coaching days the passenger and mail coaches

were operated very much like the railways of to-day. A vast

network of lines covered the land. Great companies owned hun-

dreds of stages operating on innumerable routes, competing with

other companies. These rival stage companies fought each other

at times with great bitterness, and competed, as railways do

to-day, in lowering tariff and in out-doing each other in points

of speed and accommodation.84 New inventions and appliances

were eagerly sought in the hope of securing a larger share of

public patronage. This competition extended into every phase

of the business-fast horses, comfortable coaches, well known

and companionable drivers, favorable connections.

However, competition, as is always the case, sifted the compe-

titors down to a small number. Companies which operated upon

the National Road between Indianapolis and Cumberland became

distinct in character and catered to a steady patronage which

had its distinctive characteristics and social tone. This was in

part determined by the taverns which the various lines patronized.

Each line ordinarily stopped at separate taverns in every town, as

our railways formerly entered individual depots. There were

also found Grand Union taverns on the Old National Road. Had

this system of communication not been abandoned, coach lines

would have gone through the same experience that the railways

have, and for very similar reasons.

The largest coach line on the National Road was the National

Road Stage Company, whose most prominent member was Lucius

W. Stockton. The headquarters of this line was at the National

House on Morgantown street, Uniontown, Pennsylvania. The

principal rival of the National Road Stage Company was the

"Good Intent" line, owned by Shriver, Steele and Company, with


83 "The Newcomes," pp. 132-133.

84 In one instance a struggle between two stage coach lines in In-

diana resulted in carrying passengers from Richmond to Cincinnati for

fifty cents. The regular price was five dollars.

The Old National Road

The Old National Road.                461

headquarters at the McClelland House, Uniontown. The Ohio

National Stage Company, with headquarters at Columbus, Ohio,

operated on the western division of the road. There were many

smaller lines, as the "Landlords," "Pilot," "Pioneer," "Defiance,"

"June Bug," etc.

Some of the first lines of stages were operated in sections,

each section having different proprietors who could sell out at

any time. The greater lines were constantly absorbing smaller

lines and extending their ramifications in all directions. It will

be seen there were trusts in the "good old days" of stage coaches,

when smaller firms were "gobbled up" and "driven out" as hap-

pens to-day, and will ever happen in mundane history, despite the

nonsense of political garblers. One of the largest stage com-

panies on the old road was that of Neil, Moore and Company of

Columbus, which operated hundreds of stages throughout Ohio,

It was unable to compete with the Ohio National Stage Com-

pany to which it finally sold out, Mr. Neil becoming one of the

magnates of the latter company, which was, in its day, a greater

trust than anything known in Ohio to-day.85

To know what the old coaches really were, one should see

and ride in one. It is doubtful if a single one now remains intact.

Here and there inquiry will raise the rumor of an old coach still

standing on wheels, but if the rumor is traced to its source, it

will be found that the chariot was sold to a circus or wild west

show or has been utterly destroyed. The demand for the old

stages has been quite lively on the part of the wild west shows.

These old coaches were handsome affairs in their day-

painted and decorated profusely without, and lined within with

soft silk plush.86 There were ordinarily three seats inside, each

capable of holding three passengers. Upon the driver's high

outer seat was room for one more passenger, a fortunate posi-


85 An old Ohio National Stage driver, Mr. Samuel B. Baker of

Kirkersville, Ohio, is authority for the statement that the Ohio National

Stage Company put a line of stages on the Wooster-Wheeling mail and

freight route and "ran out" the line which had been doing all the business

previously, after an eight months' hitter contest.

86 The following appears in the Ohio State Journal of August 12,

1837:-A SPLENDID COACH -We have looked at a Coach now finishing

off in the shop of Messrs. Evans & Pinney of this city, for the Ohio Stage

462 Ohio Arch

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The Old National Road

The Old National Road.                   463

tion in good weather. The best coaches like their counterparts

on the railways of to-day, were named; the names of states,

warriors, statesmen, generals, nations and cities, besides fanciful

names, such as "Jewess," "Ivanhoe," "Sultana," "Loch Lomond,"

were called into requisition.

The first coaches to run on the old National Road were long,

awkward affairs, without braces or springs, and with seats placed

crosswise. The door was in front, and passengers, on entering,

had to climb over the seats. These first coaches were made at Lit-

tle Crossings, Pennsylvania.

The body of succeeding coaches was placed upon thick, wide

leathern straps which served as springs and which were called

"through braces."   At either end of the body was the driver's

boot and the baggage boot. The first "Troy" coach put on the

road came in 1829. It was a great novelty, but some hundreds

of them were soon throwing the dust of Maryland and Pennsyl-

vania into the air. Their cost then was between four and six

hundred dollars. The harness used on the road was of giant pro-

portions. The backbands were often fifteen inches wide, and the

hip bands, ten. The traces were chains with short thick links

and very heavy.

But the passenger traffic of the Old National Road played

the same relation to the freight traffic as passenger traffic does to

freight on the modern railway-a small item, financially con-

sidered. It was for the great wagons and their wagoners to haul

over the mountains and distribute throughout the west the pro-

ducts of mill and factory and the rich harvests of the fields.

And this great freight traffic created a race of men of its own,

strong and daring, as they well had need to be. The fact that

teamsters of these "mountain ships" had taverns or "wagon


Company, and intended we believe for the inspection of the Post-Master

General, who sometime since offered premiums for models of the most

approved construction, which is certainly one of the most perfect and

splendid specimens of workmanship in this line that we have ever beheld,

and would be a credit to any Coach Manufactory in the United States.

It is aimed, in its construction, to secure the mail in the safest manner

possible, under lock and key, and to accommodate three outside pas-

sengers under a comfortable and complete protection from the weather.

It is worth going to see."

464 Ohio Arch

464       Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


houses" of their own, where they stopped, tended to separate them

into a class by themselves. These wagon houses were far more

numerous than the taverns along the road, being found as often

as one in every mile or two. Here, in the commodious yards,

the weary horses and their swarthy Jehus slept in the open air.

In winter weather the men slept on the floors of the wagon

houses. In summer many wagoners carried their own cooking

utensils. In the suburbs of the towns along the road they would

pull their teams out into the roadside and pitch camp, sending into

the village to replenish their stores.

The bed of the old road freighter was long and deep, bending

upward at the bottom at either end. The lower broad side was

painted blue, with a movable board inserted above, painted red.

The top covering was white canvas drawn over broad wooden

bows. Many of the wagoners hung bells of a shape much similar

to dinner bells, on a thin iron arch over the hames of the harness.

Often the number of bells indicated the prowess of a teamster's

horses, as the custom prevailed, in certain parts, that when a

team became fast, or was unable to make the grade, the wagon,

rendering the necessary assistance, appropriated all the bells of

the luckless team.

The wheels of the freighters were of a size proportionate

to the rest of the wagon. The first wagons used on the old roads

had narrow rims, but it was not long before the broad rims,

or "broad tread wagons," came into general use by those who

made a business of freighting. The narrow rims were always

used by farmers, who, during the busiest season on the road,

deserted their farms for the high wages temporarily to be made,

and who in consequence were dubbed "sharp shooters" by the

regulars. The width of the broad tread wheels was four inches.

As will be noted, tolls for broad wheels was less than for the

narrow ones which tended to cut the roadbed more deeply. One

ingenious inventor planned to build a wheel with a rim wide

enough to pass the toll gates free. The model was a wagon

which had the rear axle four inches shorter than the front, making

a track eight inches in width. Nine horses were hitched to this

wagon, three abreast. The team caused much comment, but

was not voted practicable.

The Old National Road

The Old National Road.                  465

The loads carried on the mountain ships were very large.

An Ohio man, McBride by name, in the winter of 1848 went

over the mountains with seven horses, taking a load of nine

hogsheads weighing an average of one thousand pounds each.

The following description is from the St. Clairsville (Ohio)

Gazette of 1835:

"It was a familiar saying with Sam Patch that

some things can be done easier than others, and this fact

was forcibly brought to our mind by seeing a six-horse

team pass our office on Wednesday last, laden with

eleven hogsheads of tobacco, destined for Wheeling.

Some speculation having gone forth as to its weight, the

driver was induced to test it on the hayscales in this

place, and it amounted to 13,280 lbs. gross weight-

net weight 10,375. This team    (owned by General C.

Hoover of this county) took the load into Wheeling

with ease, having a hill to ascend from the river to the

level of the town, of eight degrees. The Buckeyes of

Belmont may challenge competition in this line."

Teamsters received good wages, especially when trade was

brisk. From Brownsville to Cumberland they often received

$1.25 a hundred; $2.25 per hundred has been paid for a load

hauled from Wheeling to Cumberland.87 The stage drivers


87 Before the era of the National Road the price for hauling the

goods emigrants over Braddock's Road was very high. One emigrant

paid $5.33 per hundred for hauling "women and goods" from Alex-

andria, Virginia, to the Monongahela. Six dollars per hundred weight

was charged one emigrant from Hagarstown, Md., to Terre Haute,

Indiana. An elaborate description of the freighters of our 'Middle Age'

is given by Mr. Thomas Wilson of the United States National Museum

in a delightful article entitled "The Arkansas Traveller", Ohio Archaeo-

logical and Historical Society Publications Vol. VIII, pp. 296-300.

Among other things the following is of special interest, written of a road

parallel to the National road in Ohio: "The wagons were immense lum-

bering machines with broad tires three to five inches in width and an inch

in thickness. The boxes or bodies were like unto the latter "Prairie

Schooners;" the keel was not straight as is usual at the present day, but

highly curved, being low in the center or middle of the wagon and high

in the air at the front and back. The body was of framework mortised

together, the slats, both horizontal and perpendicular, conformed in curve

466 Ohio Arch

466        Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


received twelve dollars a month with board and lodging. Usually

the stage drivers had one particular route between two towns

about twelve miles apart on which they drove year after year,

and learned as well as trainmen, know their "run" to-day. The

life was hard, but the dash and spirit rendered it as fascinating

as railway life is now.


to their respective body-pieces and standards in that they increased and

made the top end of the body to be higher and longer than was the bot-

tom of the foundation. (See cut.) They were provided with bows and

covered with sail-cloth, an efficient protection against rain. The wagon

had what was then called a "patent Lock," now so common as to have

lost the terms "patent" and "lock" both, and become a "brake." The

handle of the brake was managed by the driver from the ground. Occa-

sionally it swung back and forth over the hind wheel and was pulled down

by the weight of the driver and fastened with a chain to a spike or hook;

occasionally it was at the rear of the wagon and was pushed from side to

side and kept in place by a ratchet. The pole of these wagons was known

as "stiff," that it is it was fastened solid into the front hounds and did

not fall to the ground, nor was it supported by the horses' necks. It

was only used to steer and hold back, for which purpose long chains were

fastened to its ends and attached by breast-chains to the hames.

The bodies of these wagons were set on bolsters and, of course,

without springs. This, with their curve, brought them low in the center

and gave the front wheels but little play in turning. The great length

and weight of the wagon, with its six horses, made it a machine as

unwieldy to turn or steer as a steamboat. The six horses were hitched

to the wagon thus: the wheel horses with double and single trees

fastened to the tongue and hounds by means of hammer and hammer-

strap, the former serving as a bolt or pin; the middle leaders were hitched

to double and single trees which hung by the middle hook in the iron

loop at the end of the pole. From the same loop the lead-chain was

hooked which, stretched between the middle leaders, received the hook

of the double trees of the leaders. The drivers used but a single line

fastened to the bridle-rein of the near lead horse. The lefthand side was

the "near" side, the other the "off" side. The middle span of horses

were the "middle leaders," the rear ones the "wheel horses." The near

wheel horse carried the saddle for the driver, on which he could mount

as occasion demanded, but he rarely did. In driving, he walked by the

side of the near wheel horse, carrying in his hand his Loudoun County

black-snake whip, the single line attached to the lead horse being con-

tinually within reach. The rear end of the line was buckled to the hame

of the wheel horse, high up, and was about long enough to clear the

ground as it swung; when it was not in use its slack was hung over the

The Old National Road

The Old National Road.                467


Far better time was made by these old conveyances than

many realize. Ten miles an hour was an ordinary rate of speed.

A stage driver was dismissed more quickly for making slow time,

than for being guilty of intoxication, though either offense was

considered worthy of dismissal. The way bills handed to the

drivers with the reins often bore the words "Make this time

or we'll find some one who will." Competition in the matter

of speed was as intense as it is now in the days of steam. A

thousand legends of these rivalries still linger in story and tra-

dition.  Defeated competitors were held accountable by their

companies and the loads or condition of their horses were seldom

accepted as excuses. Couplets were often conjured up containing

some brief story of defeat with a cutting sting for the vanquished



"If you take a seat in Stockton's line

You are sure to be passed by Pete Burdine."


"Said Billy Willis to Peter Burdine

You had better wait for the oyster line."


In September, 1837, Van Buren's presidential message was

carried from Baltimore (Canton Depot) to Philadelphia, a dis-

tance of one hundred and forty miles, in four hours and forty-

three minutes. Seventy miles of the journey was done by rail,

three by boat, and eighty-seven by horse. The seventy-three by

rail and boat occupied one hundred and seventeen minutes and

the eighty-seven by horse occupied the remaining two hundred

and twenty-six minutes, or each mile in about two minutes and

a half. This time was considered remarkable and shows how

little time was lost, even in the relay system. And that message

was not light, as any one may see by perusing its contents.

The news of the death of William the Fourth of England,

which occurred June 20, 1837, was printed in Columbus, Ohio,


hame. The line was used to guide the horses, more as a signal than by

actual force. To pull it steadily without jerk means for the lead horse

to come to "haw" (to the left); two or three short jerks meant for him

to go "gee' (to the right). By these signals, with the aid of his voice,

the driver had perfect command of his team."

468 Ohio Arch

468        Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


papers July 28. It was not until 1847 that the capital of Ohio was

connected with the world by telegraph wires.

Time tables of passenger coaches were published as railway

time tables are to-day. The following is a National Road time

table printed at Columbus for the winter of 1835-1836:



THE OLD STAGE LINES with all their different connections throughout

the state, continue as heretofore.

THE MAIL PILOT LINE, leaves Columbus for Wheeling daily, at 6

A. M., reaching Zanesville at 1 P. M. and Wheeling at 6 A. M. next day,

through in 24 hours, allowing five hours repose at St. Clairsville.

THE GOOD INTENT LINE, leaves Columbus for Wheeling, daily at 1

P. M., through in 20 hours, reaching Wheeling in time to connect with

the stages for Baltimore and Philadelphia.

THE MAIL PILOT LINE, leaves Columbus daily, for Cincinnati at 8

A. M., through in 36 hours, allowing six hours repose at Springfield.

Extras furnished on the above routes at any hour when required.

THE EAGLE LINE, leaves Columbus every other day, for Cleveland,

through in 40 hours, via. Mt. Vernon and Wooster.

THE TELEGRAPH LINE leaves Columbus for Sandusky City, every

other day at 5 A. M., through in two days, allowing rest at Marion, and

connecting there with the line to Detroit, via. Lower Sandusky.

THE PHOENIX LINE, leaves Columbus every other day, for Huron,

via Mt. Vernon and Norwalk, through in 48 hours.

THE DAILY LINE OF MAIL COACHES, leaves Columbus, for Chilli-

cothe at 5 A. M., connecting there with the line to Maysville, Ky., and


For seats apply at the General Stage Office, next door to Col.

Noble's National Hotel.

T. C. ACHESON, for the proprietor.

The following advertisement of an opposition line, running

in 1837, is interesting:




FROM WHEELING, VA. to Cincinnati, O. via Zanesville, Columbus,

Springfield and intermediate points.

Through in less time than any other line.

"By opposition the people are well served."

The Defiance Fast Line connects at Wheeling, Va. with Reside &

Co.'s Two Superior daily lines to Baltimore, McNair and Co.'s Mail Coach

The Old National Road

The Old National Road.                    469


line, via Bedford, Chambersburg and the Columbia and Harrisburg Rail

Roads to Philadelphia, being the only direct line from Wheeling-: also

with the only coach line from Wheeling to Pittsburg, via Washington,

Pa., and with numerous cross lines in Ohio.

The proprietors having been released on the 1st inst. from burthen

of carrying the great mail, (which will retard any line) are now enabled

to run through in a shorter time than any other line on the road. They

will use every exertion to accommodate the traveling public. With stock

infinitely superior to any on the road, they flatter themselves they will

be able to give general satisfaction; and believe the public are aware, from

past experience, that a liberal patronage to the above line will prevent

impositions in high rates of fare by any stage monopoly.

The proprietors of the Defiance Fast Line are making the necessary

arrangements to stock the Sandusky and Cleveland Routes also from

Springfield to Dayton-which will be done during the month of July.

All baggage and parcels only received at the risk of the owners





From  Wheeling to Columbus, Ohio.





From Columbus to Cincinnati.


There was always danger in riding at night, especially over

the mountains, where sometimes a mis-step would cost a life.

The following item    from  a letter to a newspaper in 1837 tells

of such an accident:

"One of the Reliance line of stages, from Frederick to the

West, passed through here on its way to Cumberland. About

ten o'clock the ill-fated coach reached a small spur of the moun-

tain, running to the Potomac, and between this place and Han-

cock, termed Millstone Point, where the driver mistaking the

track reined his horses too near the edge of the precipice, and in

the twinkling of an eye, coach, horses, driver and passengers

were precipitated upward of thirty-five feet onto a bed of rock

below - the coach was dashed to pieces, and two of the horses

killed - literally smashed.

"A respectable elderly lady of the name of Clarke, of Louis-

470 Ohio Arch

470       Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


ville, Kentucky, and a negro child were crushed to death - and

a man so dreadfully mangled that his life is flickering on his lips

only. His face was beaten to a mummy. The other passengers

and the driver were woefully bruised, but it is supposed they

are out of danger. There were seven in number.

"I cannot gather that any blame was attached to the driver.

It is said that he was perfectly sober; but he and his horses

were new to this road, and the night was foggy and very dark."

An act of the legislature of Ohio required that every stage

coach used for the conveyance of passengers in the night should

have two good lamps affixed in the usual manner, and subjected

the owner to a fine of from $10.00 to $30.00 for every forty-

eight hours the coach was not so provided. Drivers of coaches

who should drive in the night when the track could not be

distinctly seen without having the lamps lighted were subject

to a forfeiture of from $5.00 to $10.00 for each offense. The

same act provided that drivers guilty of intoxication, so as to

endanger the safety of passengers, on written notice of a pas-

senger on oath, to the owner or agent, should be forthwith dis-

charged, and subjected the owner continuing to employ that

driver more than three days after such notice to a forfeiture

of $50.00 a day.

Stage proprietors were required to keep a printed copy of

the act posted up in their offices, under a penalty of $5.00.

Another act of the Ohio Legislature subjected drivers who

should leave their horses without being fastened to a fine of

not over $20.00.

As has been intimated, passengers purchased their tickets

of the stage company in whose stage they embarked, and the

tolls were included in the price of the ticket. A paper resembling

a way bill was made out by the agent of the line at the starting

point. This paper was given to the driver and delivered by

him to the landlord at each station upon the arrival of the

coach. This paper contained the names and destinations of the

passengers carried, the sums paid as fare and the time of depar-

ture, and contained blank squares for registering time of arrival

and departure from each station. The fares on the National

The Old National Road

The Old National Road.                    471


Road varied slightly but remained nearly as follows, when the

great monopolies were in control:

Baltimore to Frederic ................................                                 $2              00

Frederic to Hagarstown ..............................                                2                00

Hagarstown to Cumberland ...........................                             5                00

Cumberland to Uniontown............................ 4 00

Uniontown to Washington ............................                            225

Washington to Wheeling .............................                              2                00

Wheeling to Zanesville  ..............................                               3                00

Zanesville to Columbus ...............................                               200

Columbus to Springfield ..............................                               2                00

Springfield to Cincinnati .............................                               300

Springfield to Indianapolis ............................                             3                00

Intermediate points 5 cents per mile.






The most important official function of the National Road

was to furnish means of transporting the United States mails.

The strongest constitutional argument of its advocates was the

need of facilities for transporting troops and mails. The clause

in the constitution authorizing the establishment of post roads

was interpreted by them to include any measure providing quick

and safe transmission of the mails. As has been seen, it was

finally considered by many to include building and operating rail-

ways with funds appropriated for the National Road.

The great mails of seventy-five years ago were operated

on very much the same principle on which mails are operated

to-day.   The postoffice department at Washington contracted

with the great stage lines for the transmission of the mails by

yearly contracts, a given number of stages with a given number

of horses to be run at given intervals, to stop at certain points,

at a fixed yearly compensation, usually determined by the custom

of advertising for bids and accepting the lowest offered.

When the system of mail coach lines reached its highest

perfection the mails were handled as they are to-day. The great

mails that passed over the National Road were the Great Eastern

and Great Western mails out of Washington and St. Louis. A

thousand lesser mail lines connected with the National Road

Click on image to view full size


The Old National Road

The Old National Road.                     473


at every step, principally those from Cincinnati in Ohio, and

from Pittsburg in Pennsylvania. There were through and way

mails, also mails which carried letters only, newspapers going

by separate stage. There was also an "Express Mail" corre-

sponding to the present "fast mail."

It is probably not realized what rapid time was made by

the old-time stage and express mails over the National Road

to the central west.     Even compared with the fast trains of

to-day, the express mails of sixty years ago, when conditions

were favorable, made marvelous time. In 1837 the Post Office

department required, in their contract for carrying the Great

Western Express Mail from Washington over the National Road

to Columbus and St. Louis, that the following time be made:

Wheeling,    Virginia  .............................. 30                hours.

Columbus,  Ohio      .................................                  45        "

Indianapolis, Indiana ............................ 65 "

Vandalia,     Illinois  ................................ 851/2          "

St. Louis,    Missouri...............................  94             "

At the same time the ordinary mail coaches, which also

served as passenger coaches, made very much slower time:

Wheeling, Virginia ...................... 2 days 11 hours.

Columbus, Ohio  .......................... 3                           "              16              "

Indianapolis, Indiana ..................... 6                          "     20     "

Vandalia, Illinois ........................ 9                              "              10              "

St. Louis, Missouri  ......................  10                       "              4                "

Cities off the road were reached in the following time from


Cincinnati,  Ohio  ...............................  60                  hours.

Frankfort, Kentucky ............................ 72                 "

Louisville,  Kentucky  ............................  78              "

Nashville, Tennessee ............................ 100              "

Huntsville, Alabama ............................ 1151/2            "

The ordinary mail to these points made the following time:

Cincinnati, Ohio ......................... 4 days 18 hours.

Frankfort, Kentucky .................... 6                           "     18     "

Louisville, Kentucky .................... 6                           "     23     "

Nashville, Tennessee .................... 8                           "     16     "

Huntsville, Alabama ..................... 10                        "    21     "

474 Ohio Arch