The National (Toll) Road

In keeping with the way I normally write this blog, today’s will be filled with things that I found when researching yesterday’s. Except I decided to expand the coverage to the entire state. And I want to cover just one road – the National Road.

1889 map of Mount Jackson, Wayne Township,
Marion County.

Toll gates along the road had been moved from time to time. The Indianapolis News of 30 August 1875 had a single line concerning the topic: “The National road toll gate is to be set back to Mt. Jackson.” Mount Jackson, at that time, was actually a town located across the National Road from the Indiana State Insane Hospital, later to be Central State Hospital.

There was also news made when it came to the toll road. The Indianapolis News of 20 February 1877 reported that “an unknown man attempted to run the national road toll-gate near Cumberland Saturday night, and in the altercation which ensued was shot by the toll keeper, one ball taking effect in his body, the other in his leg.” 20 February 1877 was a Tuesday. The gatekeeper was fined $3, this being for assault and battery.

The whole mess, according to the Richmond Item of 25 June 1885, with the Cumberland Road was coming to a head. The Wayne Turnpike Company, having been in operation since 5 December 1848, was trying to claim that their road included 40 feet on each side of the centerline of the road. The National Road, through Maryland, Pennsylvania and (West) Virginia had been, by law, set at a width of four rods, or 66 feet. No such width was included for the additions across Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.

The Item also made sure to point out that the companies were to maintain the road, and that no toll could be collected by the owner if the road were in disrepair. And, if it should remain in disrepair, the charter would be forfeited. The original act creating the Wayne Turnpike Company stated that toll gates could not be within five miles of one another. This was amended to allow two in ten miles, to be placed at the convenience of the company. “From the first gate west of Centreville to the first gate east of Richmond, the Glen Miller gate, can’t be ten miles, yet there are four toll gates within that distance.”

The Hancock Democrat of Greenfield on 16 May 1889, made a plea for the Hancock County voters to approve the county commissioners to buy the toll roads in the county. Greenfield could, at the time, only be reached by two free routes. The National Road, according to the editorial staff, “is the principal road to be purchased to secure this happy end.”

On 19 September 1889, the Indianapolis News announced that the Cumberland Gravel Road was returned to Marion County, at least in those sections between Indianapolis and Irvington. The News pointed out that people have, for years, been avoiding the Cumberland Toll Road. Especially those going to college in Irvington. If people didn’t just blow through the toll gates without paying the fee, then just avoiding them by using English Avenue, which ends close to Irvington was possible.

Wayne County was working on returning the National Road to free status in 1893. It was announced in the Richmond Item of 10 February 1893 that the county commissioners had decided on a fair market value for some sections of the old road. The Wayne County Turnpike Company, owning the road “being known as and called the National Road,” was offered $12,000 for “all that portion of the National Road lying in the said Wayne township.” Wayne Township includes Richmond, and reaches from the state line in the east to the Greenville Treaty Line, at least along the National Road, in the west.

The 22 April 1896 issue of the Indianapolis Journal reported that a petition had been presented to the Marion County Commissioners to purchase, and make free, three miles of the Cumberland Gravel Road between Irvington and Cumberland. Admittedly, it doesn’t say WHICH three miles should be purchased. Irvington stretches from four miles east of the Circle (Emerson Avenue) to roughly 5.25 miles east of the Circle (Sheridan Avenue). Cumberland is at least ten miles east of the Circle, if you consider Cumberland starting at German Church Road. The main intersection in the town, at Muessing Street, is actually 10.75 miles east of the Circle. The difference between 5.25 and 10.75 is a little more than three miles.

I am sure there are more resources available to expand on this view of the National Road in Indiana and its toll road era. That is something that will be for a future article.

2 thoughts on “The National (Toll) Road

  1. Howdy! This article couldn’t be written any better! Going through this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept preaching about this. I’ll forward this information to him. Pretty sure he will have a great read. Thank you for sharing!

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  2. BTW the Mt. Jackson area is now part of a slightly larger neighborhood called, of all things, We Care. It goes from Tibbs to Belmont, down about to the tracks more or less. I know this because my church is nearby, a block north of Washington on Addison, in the Hawthorne neighborhood.

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