XVII. Roads
History of Hamilton County Ohio
pages 221-225
transcribed by Joan Asche

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The ROAD is that physical sign or symbol by which you will best understand any age or people. If they have no roads they are savages; for the road is a creation of man and a type of civilized society. If you inquire after commerce, look at the roads, for roads are the ducts of trade. If you wish to know whether society is stagnant, learning scholastic, religion a dead formality, you may learn something by going into universities and libraries—something also by the work that is doing on cathedrals and churches, or in them; but quite as much by looking at the roads. For if there is any motion in society, the road, which is the symbol of motion, will indicate the fact. Where there is activity, or enlargement, or a liberalizing spirit of any kind, then there is intercourse and travel; and these require roads. So if there is any kind of advancement going on, if new ideas are abroad and new hopes rising, then you will see it by the roads that are building. Nothing makes an inroad without making a road. All creative action, whether in government, industry, thought, or religion, creates roads.

REV. HORACE BUSHNELL, D. D. "The Day of Roads."


It is interesting to note that the very first publication, in any relation to the founding of Cincinnati, brings in the mention of a road. September 6, 1788, when Messrs. DENMAN & FILSON put forth through the Kentucky Gazette a prospectus for the laying-off a town "upon that excellent situation" opposite the mouth of the Licking, "on the northwest side of the Ohio," they accompanied it with this announcement: "The fifteenth day of September is appointed for a large company to meet in Lexington and make a road from there to the mouth ofthe Licking, provided Judge SYMMES arrives, being daily expected." The judge did not go to Lexington at that time; but the party was nevertheless formed without his presence, and executed its purpose within a week, Judge SYMMES meeting it when he "landed at Miami" (the site of Cincinnati) on the twenty-second of the same month, and enjoying its company and protection as an escort during his explorations to the northward, until their discontent at his unwillingness to let them destroy a small Indian camp, with its wretched inhabitants, sent them home. But, however well marked or "blazed" was their road through the wilderness, it was little used at first by the Losantiville people or their occasional visitors. The common way from the Miami settlements to Lexington continued to be by Limestone Point (Maysville), going thither by boat, keeping carefully on "the Virginia (Kentucky) side," through fear of the lurking savage, and

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thence sixty-four miles to the metropolis of the infant State, all the way through almost pathless and uninhabited woods, except at the Blue Licks, where a man named LYONS had established a station and was engaged in salt-making. At Lexington, if a person wished to go to the east, it was customary to post written notices upon the trees that at such a date a party would be made up at Crab Orchard to traverse the wild country beyond that; and when a sufficient company had assembled to give reasonable promise of successful defence against any ordinary war-party of Indians, it would take its departure from that point, bearing all needed supplies with them. Occasionally travellers would go to Limestone and pole, paddle, or pull their way up to Wheeling; but the other is said to have been the way usually preferred. After the organization of Hamilton county, the public officers who lived at Columbia commonly came down to Cincinnati in canoes or crossed and walked " on the Virginia side," crossing again when they reached the mouth of the Licking. Even the canoe journey was not always safe, as an incident related in chapter VIII of this work shows. As for the densely wooded road or trail along the north bank between the two places, it was long unsafe, as the blood thirsty savage still haunted the hillsides and thickets. The first road out of Losantiville in this direction ran nearly upon the subsequent line of the turnpike—as it needs must, from the narrowness of the strip much of the way between the hills and the river. It was, of course, not far from the river bank, and was but wide enough for the movement of a single wagon. Approaching the town above Deer creek, near the foot of Mount Adams, it descended westwardly about four hundred feet, crossed the creek, trended off in a southerly direction along its west bank with an ascending grade, which led up to the line of the present Symmes street, thence running directly toward and past Fort Washington, diverging east of it, at the intersection of Lawrence, going on both sides of the fort, and so entering the village.

To the north and northwest of the town, the valley of Mill creek offered the only routes over which a road could reach the city without climbing steep hill and descending sharp declivities. Out this way, accordingly, the old "Hamilton road" gradually pushed—at first to Ludlow's station, and then, under military auspices, to Fort Hamilton, and so on through the chain of military posts to the Maumee. In its use for the march of the legions of the United States this road, for some years in the last decade of the last century, deserved almost the fame of the great Roman ways by which the conquering eagles were carried to the very borders of the empire. For many years it furnished the only convenient avenue of access to the back country; and in 1841 it is noted by Mr. CIST as, what it may still be considered, being the most important wagon road out of Cincinnati. About that time a turnpike of twenty-five miles length was constructed upon its line.

One of the early wagon roads of greatest importance to Cincinnati was the "Anderson State road," connecting it with Chillicothe. It was a common road, cut through the woods at the expense of the State (about eighteen dollars a mile, exclusive of bridges), by Colonel Richard C. ANDERSON, of Chillicothe. It was made about forty feet wide, and was long the great thoroughfare between Cincinnati and the east. The "Milford pike" runs near its line for a large part of the distance.

One of the first acts of the territorial legislature, sitting in Cincinnati in the fall of 1799, was for the maintenance of a road from Marietta to that place, and to provide generally for the opening of roads and highways. Almost ten years before this, at the very first assembling of the general court of quarter sessions of the peace for Hamilton county, created by Governor ST CLAIR, and meeting a month afterwards (February 2, 1790) in Cincinnati, prompt attention had been given to similar matters. A "road or path" was ordered to be opened from the village to "the city Miami," by way of Ludlow's trace and Stone lick, and down the west side of Mill creek and along the south foot of the Ohio river hills to the said "city Miami,"—Symmes' prospective city, now occupied in part by the villages of North Bend and Cleves. The citizens of the eastern terminus were to be called out to open and finish the road to the west border of Cincinnati township; and Mr. Darius Curtis ORCUTT was appointed commissioner of highways to rally for a similar purpose, at their end of the line, the good people of Miami township. The whole was to be finished within two months. On the petition of citizens of Columbia, another road was ordered to be opened—one from Fort Miami to "the south corner of Captain MERCER' lots," thence to the Little Miami, and along that stream to William FLINN' house, and thence by Turkey bottom to the most convenient ford to WICKERSHAM' mill. This was to be completed in one month. The overseer of roads for Miami township reported a road as completed from North Bend to South Bend.

Now came the tug of war. Then, as later, there was vigorous shirking of road duty. At the next session of the court came James GOUDY, overseer of highways for Cincinnati township, and reported that he had duly notified the citizens within his bailiwick to turn out for the construction of the road to South Bend, but that " the greatest majority refused to attend on his notification, and in consequence the road remains unfinished." Whereupon the court promptly mulcted the recusant Cincinnati township in the sum of one hundred "Spanish milled dollars."

By the same authority, under a jurisdiction which would be considered quite unique in these days, certain streets were directed to be opened through Columbia and the adjoining lands. Luke FOSTER, Ephraim KIBBY, and Joseph REEDER were appointed commissioners to "regulate the streets" in that village, and similarly Isaac MARTIN, Jacob REEDER, and James CUNNINGHAM were appointed to open and clear out the streets of Cincinnati.

At a session of the court in 1792, the opening of a road, petitioned for by the Cincinnatians, was ordered to be made nearly on a direct line on Mill creek, by " Lud-

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low's station, White's improvement, CUNNINGHAM' section of land, and as far as Runyan's improvement."

The following items, never before published, have been carefully abstracted from the most authentic records and traditions, and are alike instructive and interesting, inasmuch as they inform the reader at once of the first roads in the Symmes purchase. In connection are found the old army traces, location of first stations, and names of pioneer surveyors, and their assistants. Where names are given in clusters of two or three, the name of the principal surveyor comes first; and herein many readers will find, for the first time, perhaps, their grandfather's, or great-grandfather's, name in print:

1790. Road laid out from Cincinnati, northwest along Ludlow's trace to Mill creek, two miles above its mouth, thence towards the Ohio an on to the city Miami. Surveyor, Darius ORCUTT.

1790. Road from Fort Miami, by Captain MERCER' to Little Miami river, by William FLINN' house, along Turkey bottom to WICKERSHAM' mill.

1790. Road reported completed from North to South Bend.

1790. Streets improved in Columbia. Ephraim KIBBY, Joseph REEDER, James MATTHEWS, assistants.

1790. Road out through western Cincinnati. Supervisor, James GOUDY.

1790-1. Cincinnati streets cleared and improved. Isaac MARTIN; Jacob REEDER, James CUNNINGHAM, assistants.

1792. Road from Cincinnati up Mill creek, by Ludlow's station (now the north part of Cumminsville) thence to White's station at the third crossing of Mill creek (upper Carthage now), and on to Cunningham's, and thence to RUNYAN' improvement. John WALLACE; John VANCE, Daniel GRIFFIN, assistants.

[This track has been marched over by parts of four armies—dark's in 1780; HARMAR' left wing, 1790; ST. CLAIR' main body in 1791, and WAYNE' center and left wing in 1793.]

1792. Road from WICKERSHAM' mill to Mercersburgh (Newtown). Ichabod B. MILLER; James FLINN, Captain Benjamin DAVIS, assistants.

1792. Road from Cincinnati to the mouth of the Little Miami river.
John S.GANO; Hon. William MCMILLAN, John LUDLOW, assistants.

1792. Road from Nine Mile run, on ST. CLAIR' trace, to Fort Hamilton, by DUNLAP' station. John DUNLAP; John SHAW, Mr. BARREN, assistants.

1792. John WALLACE' time extended on the road to Runyan's, till February, 1793.

1792. Improvement of the road from Columbia by CRANE' tan-yard by KIBBY' saw-mill, in the direction of White's trace to Mill creek, and along St. Clair's trace to Fort Hamilton. Ephraim KIBBY Daniel GRIFFIN Jacob WHITE, assistants.

1793. Survey of a road from near John LUDLOW' and Samuel RUBERTSON'
in Cincinnati, up Front street to the Little Miami. John S. GANO; William MCMILLAN, John LUDLOW, assistants.

1793. Streets cleared in Cincinnati towards GORDON' inn and James WALLACE' place, in the western part of the town.

1793. Road ordered from KIBBY' draw-well, in Columbia, to Crawfish creek, thence to Duck creek, thence to a run in Samuel BONNELL' section, thence to the "great road" (now Lockland avenue, Carthage) thence northeast to WHITE' a distance of six miles from Columbia to WHITE' station. John REILY; William BROWN, Aaron MERCER, assistants.

1793. Road laid out from " the Garrison," at Mercersburgh (Newtown), to Dry run, thence by BROADWELL' clearing to the Little Miami, three miles and thirty-six poles, Ichabod MILLER; Moses BROADWELL, Isaac MORRIS, assistants.

1793. Road improved from the mouth of Mill creek west to North Bend. James GOUDY; David E. WADE, Samuel DICK, assistants.

1793. Road corrected and improved from Cincinnati up to Columbia. Ephraim KIBBY; Francis DUNLAVY, William BROWN, assistants.

1793. Road surveyed .and reported, "beginning at the meeting-house in Cincinnati," thence towards Mill creek, thence to the fifth mile tree at Ludlow's station, thence northeast to Mill creek (second crossing), thence to the seventh mile tree, to the eighth mile tree, thence to WHITES' ford, thence to the tenth, eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth mile trees at Runyan's. John WALLACE, John VANCE.

1793. Survey of road from Cincinnati to the mouth of the Big Miami, Aaron CALDWELL; John BRASHER, Ephraim BROWN, assistants.

1793. Road from Cincinnati by MILLER' tan-yard to Deer creek. Levi WOODWARD; Jacob REEDER, Samuel MARTIN, assistants.

1793 Cincinnati streets ordered cleared from Front street, near MC-MILLAN' and FREEDMAN' to the hill tops, near Winthrop SARGENT' house.

1794. Road laid out from John LUDOW' place in Mount Pleasant, eastward to Griffin's station, on Mill creek (now the western part of Carthage), thence to Tucker's station, thence to the great road leading to Hamilton. John WALLACE; John VANCE, Henry TUCKER, assistants.

1794. Road laid out from near GANO' and STITES' houses, in Columbia, to Round Bottom. Ira DUNLAVY, John GERRARD.

1794. Fourteen miles of road improved between WHITE'ford and Fort Hamilton. John WALLACE; Jacob WHITE, John WINANS, assistants.

1794. Road granted from Covalt's station, on the Little Miami, to White' station, on Mill creek. Abraham HIGHLY; John DUNLAP, Jacob WHITE, assistants.

1795. Road laid out from Main street, Cincinnati, northeast nearly on Harmar's trace (six miles,) "to the road connecting Columbia and White's station."

[General HARRISON went out over this trace in 1793, with the right wing of WAYNE' army.]

1795. Road established and improved from Captain BENHAM' lot, in Cincinnati, eastward by HUNT' tan-yard, five miles to Columbia. Levi WOODWARD; George GORDON, James COX, assistants.

1795. Road laid out from mouth of Little Miami three miles, to WICKERSHAM' mill. Ichabod MILLER; Ignatius ROSS, Richard HALL, assistants.

1795. Streets cleared for village of Manchester (now in Adams county). Nathaniel MASSIE; William LUDSON, George EDGNTON, assistants.

1795. Road surveyed from Cincinnati, by Freeman's station, on Mill creek, to the Big Miami.

1795. Road from Fairfield, seven miles, to Colerain. Ephraim KIBBY, Benjamin DAVIS, Charles BRUCE, assistants.
1796. Road laid out from the mouth of the Little Miami, up the Ohio river, thirty-two miles. Ichabod MILLER; John WHETSTONE, Ignatius ROSS, assistants.

1796. Road from "Wallace's run on Fort Hamilton road," nine miles, to Morrill's station. Henry WEAVER; Joseph WILLIAMS, James CUNNINGHAM, assistants.

The attention given to roads in this county in the early day and as the county filled up, is further shown by the fact that, of the eighteen acts passed by the State legislature relating to Hamilton county, between the years 1803 and 1846, seven concern the opening or maintenance of wagon roads. The act of February 11, 1829, authorized the county commissioners to levy any sum not exceeding one and one-third mills upon the dollar, on the grand levy, for road purposes, for the permanent improvement of roads leading from the city of Cincinnati; "provided, the taxes levied in said county for road and county purposes shall not in any one year exceed three mills upon the dollar, on the grand levy or tax duplicate." Another act, approved February 6, 1832, further authorizes the commissioners to levy road taxes, but modified the act of 1829 so as not to allow the tax to be discharged by labor upon the roads. (There was evidently some shirking more than a generation after Overseer GOUDY made his report.) Another, of March 2, 1840, provides that such part of the road taxes as are collected in Cincinnati shall be paid into the treasury of the city, and be expended for the construction and repair of bridges therein

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and the clearing of market spaces; and for no other purpose. March 7, 1842, was approved an act authorizing the commissioners to make a graded road from the town of Carthage to the head of Vine street, Cincinnati—the famous "Carthage road," furnishing perhaps the most pleasant drive out of Cincinnati and one of the most useful of wagon-ways for other purposes. The same day another act permitted the taking of stone, gravel and other materials, to make and repair roads in Hamilton county, from any neighboring uncultivated lands, or to make drains and ditches through such lands for the improvement of the roads; the owner or occupant of the lands to designate the place whence the materials were to be taken, or the commissioner, if he refused or failed to do so; a fair compensation in money was to be paid; and if the parties could not agree upon the same, the amount was to be determined by three disinterested freeholders, mutually chosen by the parties.. The same day, too—which seems to have been prolific in benefits to Hamilton county highways—the county commissioners were authorized by the legislature to contract with the Cincinnati & Harrison Turnpike company to allow the citizens of the western part of the county to use the three miles of their road next the city free of toll, in consideration of the transfer to said company of any or all stock in it held by the city. A similar act, January 10, 1843, allowed the sale to the county of two miles of said turnpike, nearest the city, for six thousand dollars in the stock of the company and the payment of not exceeding two thousand dollars into the bridge fund. February 15, 1844, the commissioners were enabled to make and advertise the public of rules and regulations to prevent the "tight locking" of any wagon carrying wood or stone into Cincinnati, over any of the macadamized roads, if the loads exceeded fifteen hundred pounds; a violator of the law to pay a fine not exceeding one dollar for the first offence or two dollars for subsequent offences. They might also adopt any rules and regulations for the protection of bridges, not conflicting with the Federal and State constitutions— which seems a rather superfluous provision. But enough, perhaps, of legislation in behalf of local roads.

The Cincinnati directory for this year supplies some valuable hints as to the wagon roads tributary to the place just then made a city, by its table of distances—from Cincinnati to Detroit, Vincennes, Pittsburgh, New Orleans via Lexington, Nashville, and Natchez, Greenville via Dayton, Chillicothe via Lebanon, and the same place via Williamsburgh. It notes of the bridge accommodations in and about the city, that within two or three years two bridges had been built within the limits of Cincinnati—one three hundred and forty feet long, at the confluence of Deer creek with the Ohio, the other a few squares north.. One had also been constructed over the mouth of Mill creek, near the west end of the city, by Ethan STONE. It was a toll bridge, and considered one of the finest in the State. Further notice will be given it, together with mention of other early bridges, in the third division of this book.

About 1830 the era of turnpikes, or macadamized and toll roads, set in. Several years previously, however, in 1823, a charter had been granted to the Columbus & Sandusky turnpike company, which, although aided by a Congressional land-grant in 1827, took seven years to build its road; and then it was little better than a common clay or mud road, and was almost impassable at some seasons. So loud were the complaints of the people concerning it that the legislature unconditionally repealed its charter in 1843.

In 1826 only one turnpike road was in operation in the State, though several companies had obtained charters. This was the road from the mouth of Ashtabula creek, on Lake Erie, near which is the present city of Ashtabula, to Warren. Another was building from Cleveland, through Medina, to Wooster; and still another from Cleveland via Ravenna and New Lisbon, to the Ohio. Three per cent of the proceeds of sales of public lands
in Ohio were paid in those days by the general government into the State treasury, to aid in the construction of roads.

In February, 1828, the Cincinnati, Columbus & Wooster turnpike company was chartered, with a capital of two hundred thousand dollars, in shares of fifty dollars; and
five years thereafter companies were chartered to build macadamized or turnpike roads from Cincinnati to Lebanon and Springfield, and from Cincinnati to Harrison.

By 1836 the great Cumberland or National road, built on a straight line, with stone set on edge, and culverts of cut stone, at a cost of fifteen thousand dollars per mile, "had reached Columbus, and was thereafter rapidly pushed westward to Indianapolis. It intersected several leading roads from Cincinnati, and a great impetus was given by it to turnpike building. Already, by the close of 1835, Cincinnati had the Milford turnpike, by which
connection was had with Chillicothe; the Harrison pike, running from the city twenty miles to the State line at Harrison, was in progress, to be finished the next year, and was to be carried on to Brookville, Indiana; and there were also the Cincinnati, Columbus & Wooster, and the Cincinnati, Lebanon & Springfield turnpike companies, not very active, it is true, but still holding in abeyance their rights to build roads. Covington had also now its turnpike road to Georgetown and Lexington. By 1841 the Harrison turnpike had been completed via Miamitown, and likewise the Hamilton pike; the turnpike to Lebanon and Springfield was in operation, running due north to Waynesville, and intersecting the
National road at Springfield, so making a continuous macadamized and. paved road to Columbus. The Cincinnati and Wooster pike was finished to Goshen, Clermont county, about twenty miles out. Several connecting turnpikes also brought tribute to the city.

In his volume representing Cincinnati in 1857, Mr. Charles CIST has the following notes on the roads of Hamilton county:

Until about 1835, the roads around Cincinnati were of that primitive character which is peculiar to all new countries. Many of them led

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over the tops of the highest hills, without any reference to grades, while all were what are now called mud roads. The invention of McAdam seemed to come as a special remedy for such highways and a great relief to a people suffering under such evils. It was not, however, until Cincinnati had attained thirty thousand inhabitants, that the macadamized roads were adopted here. Since that time every road of importance leading from the city has been macadamized, generally by chartered companies and in some instances by the county commissioners. The following arc the principal macadamized roads leading from Cincinnati: The Goshen, Wilmington, Washington and Circleville turnpike, one hundred miles; Montgomery, Rochester, Clarksville and Wilmington, fifty miles; Chillicothe and Hillsborough, only fifteen miles finished; Batavia; twenty-one miles; Lebanon, Xenia and Springfield, seventy-two miles, continued through Centreville, twenty-one miles; Great Miami turnpike to Dayton, through Monroe and Franklin, thirty-eight miles; Cincinnati and Hamilton, twenty-one miles; Colerain, Hamilton and Oxford, thirty-seven miles; Cincinnati, Carthage and Hamilton, twenty-five miles; Dayton and Springfield, twenty-four miles; Harrison turnpike, twenty miles; Covington and Williamstown, Kentucky, thirty-six miles. Total, fourteen macadamized roads, five hundred and fourteen miles. These roads proceed directly from Cincinnati, but many of them are continued, by their .connection with oilier roads, until they extend through the State. Thus the Dayton and Springfield roads, by their connection with the National road at Springfield, go through the Slate to Wheeling and over the mountains to Baltimore.

Six years after Mr. Cist wrote, there were twenty turnpikes and plank roads in Hamilton county—one hundred and seventy-three miles, covering one thousand two hundred and fifty-seven acres. In 1866 there were but sixteen turnpikes, one hundred and fifty-eight miles, still kept as toll-roads; but in 1868 there were twenty-three, of a total length of one hundred and ninety-five miles.

It would be exceedingly tedious to follow the history of Hamilton county turnpikes down in detail. The county is now full of them, longer and shorter—some near the city but a fraction of a mile in length. Many of them have been made or bought and improved by the county, whose bonded road indebtedness, on the first of January, 1880, amounted to forty-two thousand eight hundred and ninety-five dollars and forty cents. The roads are mostly free; but there still linger at least thirteen of these toll-roads in the county, with an aggregate length of one hundred and thirty-two miles, and new companies continue to be incorporated. The incorporations of this kind for the last two years have been:

The Blue Rock Turnpike company; road from Six Mile House to New Baltimore; capital stock thirty-five thousand dollars; certificate of incorporation filed May 8, 1878.

The State or Cleves Road Turnpike company; road in Green and Miami townships; certificate filed June 4, 1878.

As an appendix to this chapter, the document by virtue of which the first ferry was established across the Ohio, from any point in the present southern limit of Hamilton
county, will be read with interest.

On the thirteenth of February, 1792, the secretary of the Northwest Territory, then at Cincinnati, and, in the absence of Governor ST. CLAIR, acting governor, issued
the following proclamation:

To all persons to whom these presents shall come, greeting:—
whereas, it has been represented to me that it is necessary for the public interests, and the convenience of the inhabitants of the county of Hamilton, that a ferry should be established over the river Ohio, nearly opposite the mouth of Licking in the commonwealth of Virginia, and Mr. Robert BENHAM having requested permission to erect and keep said ferry:

Now, know ye that, having duly considered of the said representation and request, I have thought it proper to grant the same, and by these presents do empower the said Robert BENHAM, of the county of Hamilton, to erect and keep a ferry over the Ohio river, from the landing-place in the vicinity of his house-lot, which is nearly opposite the mouth of Licking, to both points of the said rivulet and upon the Virginia shore; and to ask, demand, recover and receive as a compensation for every single person that lie may transport over said
ferry...................................................... 6 cents
for a man and horse............................18 "
For a wagon and team........................100 "
For horned cattle, per head...................18 "
For hogs, each ...................... ................6 "
until those rates shall be altered by law or future instructions from the governor of this territory.

And he is hereby required to provide good and sufficient flats or boats for the purpose, and to give due attention to the same according to right and common usage, and to govern himself in the premises by all such laws as hereafter may be adopted for the regulation of ferries, as soon as such laws shall be published in the territory. Given under my hand and seal, at Cincinnati, in the county of Hamilton, the eighteenth day of February, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety-two, and of the independence of the United States the sixteenth—and to continue in force during the
pleasure of the governor of the territory.


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