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A great philosopher once stated that, "The development 
of a section of the country is told by the development of 
its roads." A comparison at intervals of the development 
of Maryland during the last three hundred years will make 
evident the applicability of the above statement. The 
sparsely settled almost impenetrable Maryland of yester- 
day is replaced by many large cities bound together by a 
network of roads, great and small, that are the channels 
of intercourse of an advanced and prosperous commonwealth. 
The main highway of early Maryland was the Chesapeake Bay, 
and the earliest roads were mere paths from plantation to 
river landings, or from the adjacent settlements to the 
little capitol at St. Mary's, These paths were privately 
owned and their upkeep was in private hands. 


As the colonial settlements gradually expanded to such 
a degree that the arrangement of highways could no longer 
be left in the hands of private concerns, there were two 
sources upon which the lav/makers might draw for effective 

The first source was the road laws of Virginia, which 
left the regulation of highways to the discretion of the 


Governor and Council or, the Commissioners of the monthly 
courts. The other possibility was the system which pre- 
vailed in England. The growth and the maintaining of roads 
in that country depended upon the respective parishes. 


The first road-law in frlaryland was passed in 1666. 
This act ordered that the commissioners of each county 
meet in order to determine which highways should be made. 
After the establishment of the road-lav/ of 1666, little 
progress was made and travel was very difficult until 1696, 

The act of 1696 was the first important advance upon 
the act of 1666. This act remained in use for nearly 
fifty years. The ascertainments of the 17th century are 
merited by the absence of highways and the fact that the 
inhabitants saw the need for better roads and endeavored 
to supply them. 


About 1730, the colonies began to move westward and 
coincident with this movement came the cry for better lines 
of communication. Following the westward advance, the north 
and south were gradually settled. The people soon became 
aware of the fact that in order to bind the commonwealth 
together an adequate road system was needed. Consequently 
for ten years after the Revolutionary V/ar many laws concern- 
ing the upkeep and erection of the highways were passed, 
but no material progress was made. It was not until 1787 


that the Legislature arrived at a policy of internal im- 
provement which was steadily pursued and eventually proved 

The new system was the turnpike or toll system. This 
system prior to 1787 had been used in England with good 
results. A turnpike road is generally understood to have 
three characteristics. 

1. An improved surface or road-bed, 

2. A system of toll-gates placed at certain intervals. 

3. An incorporated company furnishing capital for the 
construction of the road. 

By the legislature of 1787 commissioners were appoint- 
ed to survey and construct a public road from Baltimore 
towards Frederick in as straight a line as the nature of 
the country would permit. Similarly other commissioners 
were to lay out roads from Baltimore to Reistertown, from 
Reistertown to Westminster, from Reistertown to Hanover, 
and a road from Baltimore towards York to the line of Balti- 
more County. 

These highways possessed two of the three usual char- 
acteristics of a turnpike road; special provisions were 
made for the improvement of the road-beds, and the erection 
of toll gates were ordered. The construction and subse- 
quent management of these roads was entrusted, however, 
not to a private company incorporated for that purpose, 


but to numerous officials to "be appointed by the court 
of Baltimore county. 

This plan of turnpiking under county supervision was 
upon the whole unsuccessful. Within fourteen years the 
act of 1787 was amended no less than ten times. Finally 
the influence of the legislation for counties led to a 
law empowering the Commissioners of Review to appoint one 
or more supervisors for the roads in question and permitt- 
ing the substitution of personal labor for the payment of 
the tax authorized in 1787. This, instead of reducing the 
evils of the earlier law, merely increased the division 
of authority that already existed; and finally in 1801, 
provision was made for better keeping of the executive 
part of the law. It was now decided to dispense with the 
numerous officials of the earlier law, and the management 
of the turnpike roads was given to a superintendent who 
should be appointed by the court of Baltimore county. 
Still no successful plan of turnpiking had been formulated. 

When the failure of the experiment of turnpiking 
under county authority became apparent, efforts were made 
to attract private capital to investment in the construction 
of turnpike roads. For some time, however, these attempts 
proved fruitless. The first turnpike company in Maryland, 
incorporated in 1796, to build a turnpike road between 
Baltimore and Washington apparently accomplished nothing 


and those immediately following seemed to have "been no 
more fortunate. 


It was not until the session of 1804-5, 238 years 
after the first act of 1666, that legislation was enacted 
which had a permanent result. In that year two acts were 
passed which laid the basis of the turnpike system in 
Maryland. The first act was to incorporate several com- 
panies to make turnpike roads through Baltimore County and 
the second act comprised important provisions relating to 
the construction and upkeep of roads. 

Accordingly three companies were incorporated to 
make roads from Baltimore through New Market, Frederick 
and from Middle town to Boons borough. Roads were also to 
be made from Baltimore through Reistertown towards Hanover, 
through Westminster to the Pennsylvania line, towards 
Peters burgh, and from Baltimore toward York to the Penn- 
sylvania line. Various extensions of these lines were 
subsequently authorized. 

The text of the second act was very lengthy. Some 
of the most important provisions are as follows: 

The roads are to be made over, and upon the beds of 
the present roads as laid out and confirmed by the Commission- 
ers of Review. 

The companies are to erect posts and index hands, 


mile-stones and the distance between gates shall be mark- 
ed on the gates. 

Persons living on or adjacent to the roads and with- 
in three miles of a toll-gate are to pay toll but once 
in twenty-four hours . 

In the year 1804, the Falls Turnpike Company was in- 
corporated. This was run from the cross-roads near Richard 
Caton's limekiln in Baltimore County, nearly along the 
line of Jones' Falls to the city of Baltimore. Special 
provisions were made against the York road trade being 
diminished by the Falls turnpike. 


In the year 1807 a resolution of the Senate was 
adopted to the effect that the Secretary of the Treasury 
prepare a list of questions to acquire information con- 
cerning the turnpikes. These questions were distributed 
in the states through various federal officers. From the 
answers to these Queries much may be learned concerning 
the exact status of the Maryland turnpikes in 1807. A 
summary of the Falls Turnpike report is as follows: 
"The Falls Turnpike is expected to unite the trade of the 
North with Baltimore. It is in a direct line to Hanover 
and Carlisle. The road is not yet completed; the cost is 
estimated at $7,500 P er mile, including bridges, and the 
whole length is somewhat over nine miles. Other similar 
reports of turnpike roads were received. 


A far-reaching step in the turnpike construction in 
Maryland was taken in the years 1812-13. The president 
and directors of the several incorporate banks in the 
city of Baltimore, the president and directors of the 
Hagerstown Bank, of the Conococheague Bank, and of the 
Cumberland Bank were incorporated for the purpose of sur- 
veying, locating, and making a turnpike road from some 
point on the west bank of Big Conococheague through Han- 
cock to Cumberland. The Company was invested with all 
the rights of those incorporated in 1804. This assistance 


rendered to turnpike construction by the tofa s marked the 
beginning of a more successful turnpike era. Later other 
banks v/ere incorporated for the construction of roads. 

Meanwhile the incorporation of turnpike companies in- 
creased. Many schemes that had previously failed were 
taken up again. For example, the unsuccessful Baltimore 
and Washington Turnpike Company of 1796 was succeeded by 
a new company. Two years later, in 1815 f the Baltimore 
and Frederick Turnpike Company was authorized to open sub- 
scriptions for additional stock to the amount of ^160,000 
to construct a road from Bo onsbo rough to a point on the 
west bank of the Conococheague, at which the Cumberland 
Turnpike Road began, .at the same time the control of the 
Harper's Ferry road was taken from them. 


Three years later in 1818, Governor Charles Golds- 
borough made an address to the assembly on the subject of 
turnpike roads. A summary of the report follows: "The 
aggregate capital invested in turnpike roads is valued at 
,$2,000,000 the great part of which is owned in Baltimore. 
The stock owned by the state is yl0,000 in the Frederick Road 
and v 'o,000 in the York Road." He also stated that the turn- 
pike companies sustained a great loss from parallel roads 
which were not turnpiked or closed. He suggested that 
tolls be regulated according to the weight and according 
to the season of the year. The outcome of this communica- 
tion was a resolution authorizing the Governor and Council 
to ascertain the best terms upon which the possession of 
the road might be obtained from the state , also upon what 
terms the banks would consent to release from toll all 
wagons having tires of a certain width. 

From 1800 to 1840 the turnpikes reached the height of 
their importance. The turnpike system, after many faults 
and obstacles, had arrived at a high place of perfection. 
But hardly had the turnpike arrangement been perfected, how- 
ever, when its adequacy began to be threatened by another 
system, namely, the use of the steam railways. The above 
statement must not be understood as indicating that the era 


of turnpikes was thereby terminated. On the contrary 
very many turnpikes were afterwards constructed. But with 
the introduction of the railway system, their character was 
changed, and instead of being leading lines of communication, 
they became feeders to the railroads. 

All turnpikes were incorporated by special acts of 
Assembly until the year 1868, when a general incorporation 
law was provided. This was modified by the act of 1882 and 
continued in operation until 1907. The conditions of the 
act may be found in "The Public General Laws" (art .xsiii-233) . 
In the course of time many of the turnpikes became unprofit- 
able. The companies allowed them to lapse into the hands 
of the various counties. But it was not until the report 
of the Geological Survey for 1906-07 that the death knell 
of the turnpikes was sounded. In its report the Geological 
Survey Commission recommended the following: "That the 
present conditions have shown the importance of many of the 
turnpikes as sections of the general system (system of state 
roads) . While undoubtedly the operation of these highways 
has contributed in the past to the development of the State, 
conditions are rapidly approaching the point where their 
future existence as toll roads is entirely undesirable. Any 
legislation looking to the abolishment of the turnpikes as 
toll-roads should recognize the private rights and property 
values in the turnpikes themselves, and in all cases of assump- 

tion by the State or counties of the turnpikes, fair com- 
pensation should be made to private interests for the pro- 
perty taken from them". 

This plan was taken up and carried to a successful 
issue by Governor Crothers during the four years of his 
administration. Thus with the organization of the state 
roads Commission on April 30, 1908, the turnpike system 
was practically terminated. The remaining turnpikes were 
gradually obtained by the state, and now the last toll 
road has dissapeared. 


The development of the IPurnpike system in Maryland 
served a two -fold purpose. First, it had a marked influence 
upon the commercial welfare of the state, and secondly, the 
turnpike roads pointed out in almost every instance the 
general direction for the railroads that succeeded them. 

With the completion of turnpikes radiating from Bal- 
timore, Maryland became more and more prosperous. By these 
channels a stream of wealth rolled down to Baltimore to be 
shipped to Europe, South America, or the West Indies. The 
description of Baltimore's prosperity in the last thirty years 
of the 19th century is told by Mr. Sparks. "Within the last 
thirty years, he states, "the population of Philadelphia has 
increased to a number three times as great as it was at the 
beginning of that period; Hew York to a number four times as 
great, and Baltimore to a number five times as great. Among 
all the cities of America, there is no record of any 


one which has sprung up so quickly or to so high a degree 
of importance as Baltimore." In ascribing causes for this 
rapid development he says that the energetic spirit of the 
people in the construction of highways has added materially 
to the advance of Baltimore. He refers to seven turnpikes 
entering Baltimore city, namely, the Reistertown, York, 
Frederick, Washington, Bel Air, Havre de Grace and Wheeling. 

From the records of the turnpike roads interesting 
details of the commercial activity of the time may be ob- 
tained. Large droves of live stock were driven every year 
over the roads to Baltimore. Large wagons carrying enormous 
amounts of flour, butter, etc. arrived daily in Baltimore 
to be shipped. Thus the turnpikes served as links that con- 
nected the products of Ilaryl&nd to the outside world. 

When the steam locomotive came into operation, the 
utility of the turnpike roads was in no way terminated. The 
tracks of the railroad had to be laid upon routes that were 
the most direct and economical. In this case the toll roads 
rose to utmost importance. They performed a much greater 
service than the mere transportation of goods, as they 
pointed the direction for the railroads which succeeded them. 

Thus, with the advancement of turnpikes, we find in the 
history of Llaryland't; commercial welfare a coincident devel- 
opment. The turnpikes were the magic that facilitated the 
miraculous growth of Maryland. 

The End. 



"Reports of the State Roads Commission of Maryland" 

"The Public General Laws" (art. xxiii-233) 

"Governor Charles Goldsborough's Report to the Assem- 
bly" (1818) . 

"Maryland Geological Survey" Volume III (1899) 

"Historic Highways" by k. B. Hulbert, 

"The Turnpikes of New England."