Franklin Ellis.

History of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men online

. (page 57 of 193)
Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 57 of 193)
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one mile and ninety-six rods east from the Mononga-
hela at Brownsville), though the section extending from
this latter poiut Lo another point about two miles westof
the Monongahela (including a large amount of heavy
work on the approaches to the river,- particularly on

L for the passage of


the east side of it) hail been let by Col. Eli Williams,
as agent for the I'nited States, in March, 1817, the j
same time when he contracted with McGiffin, Baird,
and Campbell for the work west from Washington, i
On the 1.5th of May, 1819, David Shriver, superin-
tendent, advertised for proposals to build the road
west from Uniontown to the vicinity of Washington,
excepting the short section on both sides of the Mo-
nongahela. The work from Uniontown to the west
end of the eastern division was let by him to Kincaid
& Co., while McGiffin, Baird, and Campbell, as before
mentioned, took the work in Washington County, ex- |
tending from the river section westward to their pre-
vious contract.

These contracts were the last to be let on the road
between Cumberland and the Ohio. The work was I
commenced without delay, and vigorously prose- [
cuted during the remainder of 1819 and the spring
and summer of 1820, the road being finished and made
ready for use in its entire length in the fall of the
latter year. An announcement of the fact, dated
Dec. 19, 1820, is found in the Uniontown Genius of
Liberty of that time, as follows: "The commissioner
appointed by the government of the United States,
Thomas. McGiffin, Esq., has been engaged for a week
or two past in examining the United States turnpike,
made under contract with government by James Kin-
caid & Co., between this place and AVashington, who
has approved of it, and ordered the same to be given j
up by the contractors for public use. The National
turnpike is now completed and in the use of the public
from Cumberland, in the State of Maryland, to Wheel-
ing, in the State of Virginia, a distance of about one '
hundred and thirty miles."

The National road to the Ohio, when completed, j
had cost tlie I'nited States government nearly one
million seven hundred thousand dollars, and it was
one of the best and most substantial turnpike roads
ever built in this country. Its width, grades, and the
manner of its construction are shown by the specifi-*'
cations of the wmk rcipiiri'd from the contractors,
among which wiic iiirliidcd tlie following, viz.: "The
natural surface <<l' tlic iiroiind to be cleared of trees

and otlirr \v Icn 'jrowtli, and .also of logs and brush,

the wlii'li- wiiltli ol' sixty-six feet, the bed of the road
to be niadr cv.ii 1 liiii y-twn feet in width, the trees and
stumps to be griililx d oul, the jiraduntimi not to ex-
ceed five degrees in ele\iitinii and depre-si.m, and In
be straight from point to pnint, as hiid off and direete.i
by the superintendent of the work. Twenty feet in
width of the graduated part to be covered with stone,
eighteen inches in depth at the centre, tapering to
twelve inches at the edges, which are to be supported
by good and solid shoulders of earth or curbstone, the
upper six inches of stone to be broken so as to pass
through a ring of three inches in diameter, and the
lower stratum of stone to be broken so as to pass
through a seven-inch ring. The stone part to be
well covered with gravel, and ndled with an iron-

faced roller four feet in length and made to bear
three tons' weight. The acclivity and declivity of
the banks at the side of the road not to exceed
thirty degrees."

It was to be expected that the opening of such an
excellent road — a main thoroughfare between the East
and the West, easy, direct, and free to the use of any
and all, without cost or charge— would attract to it an
immense amount of travel; but all the expectations
which could have been previously entertained of the
vast volume of travel and traffic wdiich would pass
over the National road between the Ohio and the Po-
tomac were trebly verified by the result. There were
the stage-coaches, carrying the mail and passengers,
loaded to their utmost capacity from the first, and con-
stantly increasing in number from that time until the
opening of the railroads banished them forever. By
these conveyances, all the prominent public men of
the West, and many of those from the South, — Presi-
dents-elect from Tennessee, Ohio, and Louisiana, on
their way to inauguration ; Presidents in office, pass-
ing to and fro between the city of Washington and
their Southwestern homes ; ex-Presidents, on their
way to the shades of private life ; Senators, members
of Congress, and numberless officials of lesser grade,
all making the National road their highway to and
from the national capital. Then there were the
long, almost interminable lines of Conestoga wagons,
laden on their eastward trips with flour, whisky,
bacon, and other produce, and returning west with
loads of iron, salt, and every kind of merchandise,
their numbers being swelled on the return to the West
by the addition of equally numerous trains of the same
kind of wagons, freighted with the families and house-

j hold effects of emigrants from the East, bound to new
homes beyond the Ohio. Besides these, the road was
crowded with various other descriptions and kinds of
wagons, laden and unladen, with horsemen and pri-
vate carriages innumerable. " But the passengers on

•' foot outnumbered and out-ate them all. The long
lines of hogs, cattle, sheep, and horses working their
way on the hoof by the month to an Eastern market
was almost endless and countless. They were gath-

j ered in from the Wabash, the Scioto, the Muskingum,

! and the Ohio Valleys, and the men, all tired and dry
and hungry, had to be cared for at a great cost, for it
was like leeding an army every day and night."

Tn fiirrii-h food and other accommodations for all
this vast throng of travelers, brute and human, a
great number of public-houses were needed, and these
sprang up immediately along the road. The stage-
houses, for the entertainment of passengers by the
coaches, were located in Washington, Uniontown,
Brownsville, and other towns on the route, and at
stated points between the villages where these were
distant from each other. Then there were houses
which did scarcely any business other than tlie sell-
ing of whisky to thirsty wayfarers. And there were
along the route numerous taverns wdiich made no



specialty, other than to give fair and decent enter-
tainment for man and beast. Tliese had no patronage
either from the stage passengers or wagoners upon the
road. The hitter with the drovers always clustered
together at houses having capacious wagon-yards,
and kept especially for that class of customers. The
number of public-houses of all kinds which the
National road brought into existence was fully equal
to one for each two miles of its entire length from
Cumberland to the Ohio. It was said that in the
mountain portion of the route the average was one to
every mile, but in the part west of the Laurel Hill
they were less frequent. The keepers of these houses,
like the wagoners and the drivers of stages, and, in
fact, like the greater part of the people living along
the route, looked upon the Cumberland Road as being
among the chiefest of earthly blessings, and would
have regarded with affright the idea that it would
ever be abandoned or superseded by other avenues
and modes of travel.

It was a general belief that the substantially built
National road, with its firm foundation of packed
stone, would remain smooth and serviceable for at
least a quarter of a century, while some thought it
would last for double that length of time, but the re-
sult proved the fallacy of this belief. In five years
from the time of its opening the ceaseless beating of
hoofs and the never-ending roll and crunch of heavy
wheels had worn out its solid bed, so that in many
places it was almost impassable. This was particu-
larly the case in the vicinity of the Monongahela
River, and also in the mountain region of the route,
where much of the roadbed had been formed of soft
sandstone. An appropriation was made by Congress,
and extensive repairs were made on the road, putting
the worst parts of it in good condition. But it was
of short duration.' From that time frequent appro-
priations were called for, and continually repairs on
the road were necessary.

It became evident that the road would be a per-
petual and ever-increasing expense to the United
States, without producing any income to pay for re-
pairs. It had been built for the purpose of satisfying
Ohio and the West generally, and thus preventing
that section from fostering projects of secession from
the Union. But that danger was now past, and the
National road had become a heavy burden upon the
government. In 1829, Gen. Jackson was inaugurated

i"In February of 1826 it was cstiiuated Ihiit tlie sum of 8278,988
would be sufficient to repair tlie whole road on llie McAdani plan, and
in May, 1827, a period of sixteen months, the superstratum or cover of
reduced stone had been worn and washed away to an extent almost in-
credible, and proved that too great a reliance was placed upon the biyer
of large stone, as there were not many of them of as good a quality as
was first supposed. To have effected the repair in 1827, as was contem-
plated in 1826, would have required an additional sum of $50,000, making
$;J28,988 necessary to repsiir the road upon the best information to be
•obtained at that period. Tlie utter destruction of the road was foreseen
at that time unless measures were taken to repair it thoroughly, it
being then in a most wretched condition."— flejjort of Richard Ik-l:firUt,
capldn V. S. Eiinhf ers, liid l„f,n Omitresl: in Decauher, lS:i:',.

President of the United States, and the principles of
the Democratic party became the rule of public policy.
The States Rights doctrine of that party demanded
the transfer of the National road from the general gov-
I ernment to the States through which its route was laid.
! It was proposed that the road from Cumberland to
\ Wheelingbesurrenderedto the States of Pennsylvania,
I Maryland, and Virginia. The people of the sections
contiguous to the road were in dread that the United
i States would abandon the making of repairs and
I suffer the road to fall into disuse, but if turned over
i to the States its continuance and preservation would
be assured, because, while the United States could not
erect toll-gates and collect tolls upon the road, the
I States loould have the power to do so, and thus secure
a revenue from the road, to keep it in preservation
and repair. Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia,
would accept the road from the United States on cer-
tain conditions, among which was this, that Congress
should first make an appropriation sufficient in amount
to put it in good condition by macadamizing the road-
I way in nearly its entire length, irom Cumberland to

the Ohio.
I In 18.31 the Assembly of Pennsylvania passed "an
I act for the preservation and repair of the Cumberland
I road," approved April 4th in that year, reciting in its
1 preamble that " Whereas, that part of the Cumber-
land road lying within the State of Pennsylvania is
in many parts in bad condition for want of repairs,
and as doubts have been entertained whether the
United States have authority to erect toll-gates on
said road and collect toll, and as a large proportion
of the people of this commonwealth are interested in
said road and its constant continuance and preserva-
tion ; Therefore" [it proceeded to declare and enact]
" that as soon as the consent of the government of
the United States shall have been obtained, as here-
inafter provided, William F. Coplan, David Downer,
of Fayette County, Stephen Hill, Benjamin Ander-
son, of Washington County, and Thomas Endsley,
of Smithfield, Somerset Cn., shall be and they are
hereby appointtMJ miiiiiii^^ioiiers ... to build toll-
houses and fri.'ri 1(>1I-l;:iIc - at suitable distances on so
much of the Cuuibcrlaud luad as lies within the State
of Pennsylvania. . . . That this act shall not have
any force or effect until the Congress of the United
States shall assent to the same, and until so much of
the said road as passes through the State of Pennsyl-
vania be first put in a good state of repair, and ap-
propriation made by Congress for erecting toll-houses
and toll-gates thereon, to be expended under the au-
thority of the commissioners appointed by this act."
Acts similar to this in effect, with regard to the accept-
ance of the National road, were passed by the Legis-
latures of Maryland and Virginia, respectively on the
23d of January and 7th of February, 1832.

These acts of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Vir-
ginia caused a decision by the government in July,
1832, to repair the road etfectnally from end to end,



and then to. cede it to the three States, after which the
repairs were to be met by the tolls collected upon it.
"The system adopted," said Capt. Richard Delafield,
the engineer who had charge of the work of repair,
"was that extensively used in England, and known
by the name of its inventor, McAdam. The condi-
tion of the road at this period made very exten-
sive repairs necessary, commencing from the grade,
there being neither side drains, ditches, nor culverts
for draining the water, presenting no better condition
for the basis of repairs on the McAdam system than
what is called a ' rough grade,' with the large bridges.
Rather than make a partial repair by distributing the
sum appropriated over the whole line of one hundred
and thirty-two miles, the parts through the mountains,
being in the worst condition, and from the face of
the country most difficult to travel, were first com-
menced. The supposition of finding good stone in the
bed of the road wherewith to make macadamized
metal proved fallacious: not a perch was found
through the whole mountain district, the bed being
composed of soft san(Ntnno. Tlii< when lirnkcn to
four-ounce pieces and vned fir a covering is in the
course of three months reduced to sand and washed
away by the heavy rains from the road into the
ditches and drains, making it worse than useless to
depend upon any of the varieties of sandstone. Un-
der these circumstances but one course was left, and
that was to procure the only suitable material the
country [iroduced, — limestone. The natural position
of this stiine is under the sandstone, and found
only in the lowest valleys, often in the beds of creeks
covered with several feet of earth, and distant from
the line of the mad. Through the mountain it is
found in few positions. The expense of repairing the
road with a good material, and the only one of this
character found in the country, is for greater than an-
ticipated before these facts were known. Another
heavy item in the expense of repair is the condi-
tion of the masonry ; this having been exposed for
a long time to the weather without coping to throw
off the rain and snow, is in a dilapidated condi-
tion, requiring a considerable portion to be renewed.
Under these eirrumslanees the cost of putting the
road in such a enndiliuii as will justify toll being
exacted is so f:ir l.cyonil tliat at first anticipated as
to make it proper to draw the partienlur attention of
Congress to the estimate for the year, li.iscd npon
the facts herein stated. It will lie perreived that the
sum asked for the serviee of tin- year is to finish all
that part lying between ( 'unilierland and the Monon-
gahela River and the Virginia line, and to finish the
sixteen miles in Virginia, making the sum required
to repair the whole road on the McAdam plan not
less than §64-=i,0(io, of which the resources of that re-
gion of country will mlvantageously admit of $300,000
being expended durin;.; the year."

The above is fmni <_'a|>t. Delaficld's report, sub-
mitted in December, 1S.33, liavin- reference to the

general repairs of the Cumberland road, commenced
in 18.32, and continued, under his supervision (assisted
by Capt. — afterwards General — George W. Cass), to
the 30th of September, 1833. The further appropria-
tion which he recommends " for the service of the
year" has reference to 1834. Congress took favor-
able action on the recommendation of the engineer,
and made the required appropriation by an act passed
in June of that year. The parts of that act relative
to the appropriation for repairs on the National road
in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, and to the
cession of the road to those States when the proposed
repairs should be completed, are here given, viz. :

•'Section 3. That for the entire completion of repairs of the
Cumberland road east of the Ohio River, and other neclful im-
provements on said road, to carry into etTect the provisions of
an act of the General Assembly of Pennsylvania, eniitled 'An
act for the preservation of the Cumberland road,' passed the
fourth day of April, 1831, and of an act of the General Assem-
bly of the Slate of Maryland, entitled ' An act for the preserva-
tion and repair of that part of the United States road within
the limitsof the State of Maryland,' passed the 23d day of Jan-
uary, 1S32, also an act of the General .\ssenibly of Virginia,
entitled ' An act concerning the Cumberland road,' passed Feb-
ruary the 7ih, 1S32, the sum of three hundred thousand dollars
be and the same is hereby appropriated, to be paid out of any
money in the treasury not otherwise appropriated, to be ex-
pended under the direction of the Secretary of War, the money
to be drawn out of the treasury in such sums and at such times
a« m,ay be required for the performance of the work.

"Sectiu.v 4. That as soon as the sum by this act appropri-
ated, or so much thereof as is necessary, shall be expended in
the repair of said road, agreeably to the provisions of this act,
the s.ame sh.all be surrendered to the Slates respectively through
which said road passes, and the United States shall not there-
after be subject to any expense for repairing said road."

Capt. Delafield, in his report, — or, as it is termed,
" Memoir on the Progress of the Repairs of the Cum-
berland Road East of the Ohio to the 30th of Sep-
tember, 1834," — says that the " nature and progress of
the operations"' of 1833 were continued to December
of that year, " when, the available means being ab-
sorbed, a cessation was put to the work, and all the
stock and tools collected at points on the road favor-
able for renewing the work in the spring" of 1834.
He continues that the spring proved very unfavorable,
that the road was found to have been badly washed
and damaged during the winter, that it had been
hoped means would have been available to recom-
mence work with the opening of the season, but that,
" being disappointed in this particular, it became in-
dispensable to dispose of all the stock and every arti-
cle of property that would command cash or materials,
and apply the limited means thus raised to the drain-
age of the road ;" that " it was not until July of 1834
that funds were made available for continuing the re-
pairs," but that " by about the middle of August most
of the contractors had commenced their operations,"
and that at the date of the report " the repair on the
whole line of the road was in active progress," that



quarries of good limestone, before unlcnown, had been j
discovered, that " the crops of the farmer were above
mediocrity, laborers were more numeroua than usual,
owing to completion of parts of the Chesapeake and
Ohio Canal and Baltimore and Ohio Railroad," and,
finally, that " with the means now available the work
on the road will in all probability be brought to a
close (the bridges on the new location excepted) by
the date fixed in the contracts, the 31st of December." j

The work, however, was not completed at the speci-
fied time. The division extending from a point five |
miles east of the borough of Washington westward [
! to the Virginia line still lacked its macadamized |
j covering, and was not finished until late in the fol- j
I lowing year; but as all the work east of this division j
had been done, and as this western part was then 1
under contract for completion without delay, it was I
considered that the United States government, by j
the passage of the act of Congress of Jhne, 1834, and
I by providing for the thorough repair of the Cumber-
land road in its entire length east of the Ohio River,
nearly all of which had already been actually accom-
plished, had complied with all the conditions imposed
by the States of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Vir-
ginia in their acts of 1831 and 1832. All that re-
mained then to be done to complete the transfer of 1
the road by the general government was its formal ;
acceptance by the States, and this was done on the
part of Pennsylvania by the passage by the General ;
Assembly of " An Act for the preservation and re- [
pair of the Cumberland Road," approved April 1, j
1835, the third section of which act provided and de- I
clared that " The surrender by the United States of
so much of the Cumberland Road as lies within the i
State of Pennsylvania is hereby accepted by this
State, and the commissioners to be appointed under
this act are authorized to erect toll-gates on the whole
or any part of said road, at such time as they may
deem it expedient and proper to do so."

The two commissioners appointed by the Governor
under this act proceeded, in 1835, to erect toll-gates,'
as provided, and the collection of toll on the great
road was commenced immediately. This had the ef-
fect to clear the road almost entirely (except in the !
mountain districts of the route) of the immense droves ,
of horses, cattle, sheep, and hogs which had passed
over it while it was a free tiiorough fare. But through
the mountains there was no other route, and so the
drovers were compelled to use that part of the road ,
and pay the tolls. The new system also brought into
use upon this road very heavily built wagons, with
wheels nine inches broad, drawn by six, and some-
times by eight, horses. Wagons having wheels of
this breadth of rim, and carrying loads not exceeding
five tons' weight each, were allowed to pass on a much

' Tron g.ites were first erecteil, but most of tliese were displaced many
ars ago by wooden ones. The mile-posts along the line of the road
're also of iron, and many of tliese are still standing.

less (proportionate) rate of toll than was charged for
narrow-wheeled wagons, which were far more de-
structive to the road-bed. It was this discrimination
which brought the broad wheels into extensive use on
the Cumberland road. " I have frequently seen,"
says a former resident^ on the line of the Cumberland
road, " from forty to fifty great Conestoga six-horse
teams, carrying from five to six tons each, picketed
around over-night [at one of the roadside taverns] in
the yards and on the commons, and all the other tav-
erns about equally full at the same time. There were
often two men with a team, who carried their own
bedding, but all these men and horses had to be fed
and cared for." Scarcely a day passed that did not
see the main streets of the principal towns on the
route crowded from end to end with these immense
wagons, each of which had about one-half the carry-
ing capacity of a modern railway-car. On the road
between the towns they passed in almost continuous

There was, as early as 1835, an "Adams Express"
running over the line of the Cumberland road, being
started in the fall of that year by Alvin Adams
(founder of the now omnipresent " Adams Express

Company"), Green, of Baltimore, and Maltby &

Holt, oyster dealers of the same city. It was first
known along the road as the " Oyster Line," being
started with a main purpose of supplying the West
with fresh oysters from Baltimore during the fall and
winter of 1835-36. Soon afterwards it became a reg-
ular express, not only continuing the oyster traflic,
but carrying packages, and prosecuting a business
similar to that of the express lines of the present day.
They ran express-wagons, each drawn by four horses,
and having relays of teams at stations ten or twelve
miles apart, and the business was continued in this
way on the road until the opening of the Pennsylva-
nia Railroad.

" In 1837 a war with France was imminent, and the

Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 57 of 193)