Skip to main content

Full text of "A history of the Baltimore-Frederick turnpike / by E.F. De Atley."

See other formats








Since roads are built to answer the needs of a country, 
a good record of the history of any nation may be found in a study 
of the development of its highways. Roads are built to answer the 
needs of conquest and commerce, and the history of a particular 
road should give some light upon the need for its existence. It 
is with this idea in mind, as well as the view from the engineering 
side that this paper is written. 

The origin of the Baltimore-Frederick road cannot be 
exactly ascertained. It is supposed that it was originally a 
trail used by the war parties and hunting expeditions of the 
Mono c a Indians who inhabited the territory about the Monocacy 
River, in their raids on villages at tidewater. 

The town of Baltimore was laid out in 1730, and 
Frederick, or Freaericktown, was laid out fifteen years later. 
Settlements had been made for some years, however, and communi- 
cation between the towns was maintained either by pack-horse 

over the trail, or by the "Monocacy Trail" to the Potomac River. 

o4 the 
The settlements around Frederick were slow because *, difficulty 

of communication with the settlements at tidewater. Ho settle- 
ment inland from navigable water had been made until the Germans 
settled in Western Maryland in 1710. The same conditions existed 
in all the colonies on the Atlantic seaboard; Maryland was not 
alone. The mother country provided no improvements that "cost 
money" fas it was said), and forced the settlers to provide their 
own methods of transportation. For the first hundred years of 


American settlement, all intercourse was carried on by pack trains 
and boats. 

With the gradual increase in population in the towns near 
the bay on what is now the Baltimore Frederick Pike, the need for 
better roads was keenly felt. As early as 1666 an act was passed 
by the Assembly for making trails "passable for horse and foot". 
Overseers were appointed, and taxes of tobacco or labor were placed 
upon the taxable people of each county. People were required to 
work a certain number of days each year upon improvement of the 
trails. Substitutes might be hired by one. Heavy fines were 
levied for non-performance of duties. The highways that the people 
of this era worked upon were scarcely more than tracks through the 
forest. Transportation by wagon was as yet unknown . 

With the gradual increase of wealth and population of 
the colonies the use of carriages was increased. As early as 1739 
the inhabitants about the Monocacy River petitioned that a road be 
cleared through the country to enable them to bring their grain and 
other commodities to eastern markets. The original trackways were 
cleared so as to allow the passage of vehicles. It has been as- 
certained that sometime soon after 1745 and previous to 1760, a 
semblance of a road was established between Frederick and Baltimore. 
This road could not have been in elegant condition, since an early 
writer states that Braddock upon leaving Fredericktown in 1755 
"in a cumbersome chariofin which he thought to ride in great style, 
discovered that the road was ill adapted to a conveyance of that 
character . 


In 1774 "an improvement of the principal market roads 
of the counties of Anne Arundel, Baltimore , and Frederick" was 
considered necessary. Among the roads mentioned in an act passed 
at this time was the road under discussion. Bills of credit were 
issued by which money was loaned to the counties to pay for these 
improvements. For repayment of these a tax of tobacco was col- 
lected by the sheriff from each taxable inhabitant. Eight pounds 
of tobacco per capita were collected in Frederick Oounty; twelve 
pounds in Baltimore, and four pounds in Anne Arundel. 

During the next decade many petitions were sent to 
Maryland's legislative body requesting adoption of the turnpike 
system. In many of the backward sections of the East, especially 
in Virginia, old roads will be found still known and operated as 
"turnpikes". The term "turnpike" was used because pointed gates 
or "pikes" were placed at intervals along the roads and were used 
to bar the travelers path. These "pikes" were lifted or turned 
upon payment by the traveler of a certain sum or toll. The money 
thus collected was used for road improvements, or, in the ease 
of privately owned roads, to give a return on the investments of 
the owners* 

These old# roads have their place in history because 
connected with them are old romantic traditions of the glory of 
the stage-coach days; and along their rights of way may be found 
old dilapidated building^roarking the temporary stopping-places of 
great men. These roads are also historic for the part they played 
in the settlement of the West before the railroads and canals be- 


came common carriers. 

The turnpikes as existing in the latter part of the 

eighteenth century were considered to have three characteristics; 

namely, (l). a , system of .toll-gates placed at certain intervals; ( 2 J 
a sysizvY) of fori- qaTci placed «t aLYrain mfe.r\/als j 

(3) an incorporated company with shares of stock, furnishing capital 

for the oonstruction of the road. 

Acting upon the petitions sent in^the Legislature of 

Maryland appointed commissioners to "examine*, survey, lay out, 

and mark a public road from Baltimoretown to the Baltimore county 

line in the direction of Fredericktown in Frederick County." 

This road was to be "sixty-six feet wide, and on as straight a 

line as the nature of the country* would permit. This improvement 

was considered expedient because of the impassable condition of 

the road in winter. It was thought that building up the turnpike 

would increase commerce safe raise the value of the land.besides 

greatly reduce the price of the carrying of freight by land. 

This road had two of the characteristics of a turn- 
pike since it ivas to be improved and toll gates were erected. It 
was not, however, operated by a corporation. The construction, 
maintenance, and management was given over to officials appointed 
by the court of Baltimore County. This road was to be cleared 
the total width of the right of way; the bed^was to be forty feet 
wide with a crown of eighteen inches at the center. There necessary 
the bed was to be covered with small stones or coarse gravel. Mile- 
stones, and guide-posts were to be set up. 

Two means were provided for meeting expenses of con- 


struction and management. One method was by means of the toll col- 
lected. The other way was by a property tax of three shillings nine 
pence per hundred pounds the first year, and two shillings sixpence 
for every year following for Baltimore County. Provisions were made 
for "Commissioners of Roads", "Commissioners of Review", a "Collector 

of Tolls", and a "Surveyor". 


The Jjenal statute of 1788 gave the Commissioners a means 

of obtaining laborers. This law authorized them to put convicts on 

the road gangs. The accounts show that the labor of these prisoners 

in a large measure constructed the Baltimore County section of the 

Baltimore-Frederick Turnpike. Further labor was furnished by the 

Act of 1790 which allowed personal labor in payment of the tax levied 

by the Act of 1787. In these early ti"nes the improvements consisted 

mainly of filling holes with brush and covering ^^over with clay. 

In Chapter XIX of the Acts of Assembly (1798) the entire 

road existing from time immemorial from Baltimore to Frederick by 

way of Dillon's Field's, Ellicott's Upper Mills, Cummings new build- 

ings. Fox's Red Horse Tavern, Cook's Tavern, and Poplar Spring was 

definitely established as a public road. 

The plan of operating turnpikes under county authority 
was almost entirely unsuccessful. Frequent amendments were passed 
in the years around 1800, but no improvement was gained, ffhen it 
became evident that the experiment with this arrangement was a fail- 
ure, the Legislature tried to find private capital which would be 
willing to invest in turnpike roads. 

An act passed in 1804 incorporated "companies to make 


several turnpike roads through Baltimore County." Three corporations 
were formed under this act; they were: (1) the Baltimore-Frederick- 
town Turnpike Company ;($the Baltimore-Re isterstown-fianover Company; 
and\%he Bait imore-Yorkt own Company. These corporations required 
several years to complete their building programs. Baltimore County 
reserved the right to collect toll through its Levy Court until the 
Turnpike Companies had built their^ roads ten miles from the city of 
Baltimore . 

When Albert Gallatin, the Secretary of the Treasury, 
investigated the turnpike conditions in 1807 in complying with a 
resolution by the United States Senate, he reported favorably on 
the Frederick Pike. 

The capital stock of the Baltimore and Fredericitown 
Turnpike Company was $500,000. The company secured a further privi- 
lege of extending its pike to Boonesboro beyond the Blue Ridge, 
sixty-two miles from Baltimore. Specifications were furnished the 
company concerning the building and maintenance of way. All angles 
of ascent were to be less than four degrees; the road must have a 
convexity of nine inches; and on a breadth of twenty-two feet was 
to be covered with a stratum ten inches thick of pounded stones 
not exceeding three inches in diameter over which were to oe spread 
two inches of gravel and coarse sand. The first twenty miles on the 
Baltimore end cost at the rate of nine thousand dollars per mile. 
The next seventeen miles were contracted for at a rate of seven 
thousand dollars per mile. 

The true history of the Baltimore-Frederick Turnpike 


cannot really be given without tracing its history above Frederick, 
because this pike became the easterly end of the Great national 
Turnpike which extended from Baltimore to Ohio. 

As the settlers moved west into Ohio, the need of roads 
connecting to navigable waters was again keenly felt. Federal aid 
was given to build a road from Cumberland to Wheeling. This was the 
first time Federal assistanoe had been given to highways. 

A movement was started to open a road from Philadelphia 
to Wheeling via Hagerstown. To combat this and save the freight 
for Baltimore export, the Baltimore-Frederick Company secured per- 
mission to extend its road to Big Conococheague, but was unable to 
do so because of insufficient funds. 

The leanness of the company's treasury was caused by 
the immense drain of building the bridge over the Monoeacy Creek. 
The company was refused permission by the Assembly to charge extra 
toll for passage over the new structure. 

The Banks of Hagerstown and Baltimore in 1822 built an 
extension to Hagerstown under tte name of the Boonesboro Turnpike 
Company. The completed Cumberland or National Road was made up 
further of the Hagerstown and Conococheague Turnpike Bridge and 
Road Corporation, extension to Big Conococheague, the section built 
by banks to Cumberland, and the federal aid road to Wheeling, Ohio. 

An enormous amount of traffic passed over this road 
almost from the opening day. This was the first all land connection 
with any large seaport. The through freight wagons from Baltimore 
to Wheeling were able to make the hitherto unheard of average time 


of ten miles per hour. The largest of these were mammoth affairs 
capable of carrying ten tons and drawn by twelve horses. They had 
rear wheels ten feet high with tires one foot wide to prevent sinking 
in the soft ground. About 1850 a contemporary writer states that about 
sixteen coaches passed each way per day, while droves of cattle, sheep, 
and canvas-covered wagons were hardly out of sight of each other. 
Within a mile of the pike the country was a wilderness, but on the 
highway the traffic was as dense and as continuous as a main street 
of a town. 

The turnpike prospered until the Baltimore and Ohio Hail- 
road tapped Frederick December 1, 1850. With the completion of the 
G. & 0. Canal and the extension of the B. & 0. to Cumberland in 
1853, the through traffic on the pike dropped considerably. The 
importance of turnpikes dwindled, and they became mere feeders to 
the railroads and canals. 

Toward the latter part of the nineteenth century consid- 
erable feeling was raised against the toll roads. In 1896 a bill was 
passed giving the State Geological Commission the Job of investigating 
the subjeot of road building and the advisability of assuming control 
of the turnpikes. 

Letters were sent to those who used the pikes as well as 
to the presidents of the companies owning them ? as^mj opinions. 

The Report made in 1899 favored State control of these 
pikes, since continuing under private ownership was not desired by 
the people. They called attention to the fact, however, that the 
private rights and property values of the turnpikes should be con- 


sidered, and a fair compensation should be paid to the private 
interests for the property assumed. 

A State Roads Commission was created by an act of the 
General Assembly in 1908, This commission was authorized to begin 
negotiations for buying the turnpikes and abolishing the toll-gates. 

The purchase of the Baltimore and Frederick turnpike was made in 

i * erf 
1911 «T A Gost ^ about .#90,000. including preliminary surveys. This 

consisted of sixty miles of improved road. Money was provided for 
the operation of the State Roads Commission from three sources; 
(1) the State appropriations; (£) by automobile Registration Law 
(1910); (3) by Federal Aid (50;I by U.S; 40% by State; 10% by resi- 
dents near improvement). In the beginning. a bond issue was floated 
and §3,500,000 worth had been sold before the end of the year 1911. 
The pike has been constantly improved since the control 
by the State. By 1915, it formed part of an improved highway ex- 
tending across the State from Oakland in the West to Crisfield in 
the East. In 1915, part of the pike had to be resurfaced with five 
or six inches of hard stone and macadamized. Considerable resurfacing 
was done in 1918 after the Great War, because of the wear by the 
heavy traffic, mainly the large trucks. The increased production of 
the automobile showed the pikato be inadequate. It was found that a 
great number of accidena* occurred due to the excessive crown and 
narrow width. From 1918 to 1921, three foot concrete shoulders were 
placed on each side from Frederick to a point nine miles east at a total 
cost of ^90,000. This widened the road from fourteen to twenty feet. 
This will make an adequate two -lane road for the wide busses and large 


trucks engaged in long distance hauling. Widening and banking of 
several sharp curves were planned, "but the plans miscarried because 
of lack of funds. £0" x 30" signs have been placed as guide posts 
for tourists and warnings have been built at sharp curves. The 
white lines in the road centers at curves also dttt a decided factor 
in the prevention of accidents. It is hoped that this Improvement 
will continue the entire length of the pike. 


AST of Frederick, along the National Highway), about flood, "Jug Bridge" was the only one that withstood the high waters, 

three miles out, there is an interesting old bridge, well From the standpoint of masonry and expert bridge building it has been 

known as the Jug Bridge, and so-called from the huge said not to hawe an equal anywhere. Built under most adverse con. 

demijohn that guards its entrance. It spans the Monoc- ditions it stands today as a monument to its builders, who have long 

acy River, whose dangerous but alluring waters are so closely associated since passed into that land whence no man returneth. 
with one of the big battles of the Civil War. During the Johnstown 


The history of the bridges along this pike also is in- 
teresting because it really is a history of the development of high- 
way structures. 

Probably the most interesting structure is the old bridge 
oyer the Monocacy River familiarly known as "Jug Bridge" because 
of the huge monument at the end of the easterly span. This jub 
bears an inscription "Built in the years 1608-1809. Jonathan 
Elliot first produced a bold plan of this bridge." The four sixty- 
five foot arches make one of the finest examples of stone arch con- 
struction in the world. The bridge has at last shown traces of 
weakness and disintegration. According to a report by A. H. Johnson, 
highv/ay engineer, moisture has penetrated some of the joints and 
crevices and caused bulging and cracking with frost. The bulging 
of the sldewalls is particularly noticeable on the east end. 

The old wooden structure built over the Patapsco River 
at Ellicott City was washed out by a flood July 24, 1868. A hew 
white pine bridge was then built with an old shingle roof and 
weatherboarded sides. Pire destroyed this in June 1914. A make- 
shift was thrown across, however, and traffic was opened again 
within twenty-four hours. The site was changed to decrease the 
angle of approach by about thirty degrees, and two fifty-six foot 
span concrete arches were poured. The total cost of this replace- 
ment was about $17,000. 

The bridge at Gwynn's Palls was also rebuilt three times. 
The original was of timber, and withstood the traffic till 1899, 
when it was reconstructed with steel and the grade raised ten feet. 



Up to this time the bridge had been at right angles to the channel. 
In 1904 another span was added by the 'Western Maryland R. R. to 
bring the pike across its Tidewater Branch trades which were along 
the banks. 

In 1913 the alignment was straightened and two one hun- 
dred foot span concrete arches were built forty-seven feet above 
the stream bed and with a clearance of £l'-9" above the Western 
Maryland tracks. This arch also was 14' above the old grade and 
lessened the drop on each side. The architecture of this bridge 
fits well with the beauty of Gwynn's Falls Park. 

The assistance of the Baltimore-Frederick Turnpike 
in the settling of the western territories is beyond computation. 
Squally so is its value today in this era of transportation by 


tory of Travel in America. Vol, III 
Seymour Dunbar. 

•nts of . sf of the Iroquois — bsfore the Nsai Yor*. Hi 

©rical Society — 184?. Peter Wilson. 

History of the * r j.lley of the Mississippi. 

' ette. 

it Qui is" —18 


■yland Geological Survey reports on Highway Construction. 

' 98-1910 

arte of the States Po^ y] ..... 

1908-S 10-11, 

The '"i 1 rr,^ii.;3 cf i- T e« England 

;cr Frederic J.Wssd, C.E. 

Albert Gallatin's Fepsrt as Secretary of the Treasury, 

3.rch ?,,l* r ' 7 . (Investigation by resolution of the r J.s. Senate) 



01 '" t1 I onal Pike 

Harper's M»nt f»Y.1879. 

^irst Settlements 

Acts of . Dly— Chap.XI . T " T , XXXII. 

American Highways 

M . 3.Shaler. 
tcric Highways c~ *ri.2^ 

The Old Turnpike 

A. 7., fitmer. 
The First Long T '.e in the Units! States 

arles T. Landis. 

New England Magazine May, I ' 1 ? 

" ' ' it - tern Maryland 

T.T.Sch irf.