Friday, June 7, 2013

The Bladensburg Turnpike - 1812

 The Bladensburg Turnpike

               Just prior to the War of 1812 a new Washington Turnpike Company was incorporated in December of 1812. This incorporated the Bladensburg Turnpike section which names four shareholders from Bladensburg:

An act to incorporate a company to make a Turnpike Road from the District of Columbia to the city of Baltimore,
SEC 1. BE IT ENACTED by the General Assembly of Maryland, That a company shall be incorporated for making a turnpike road from the district of Columbia to the city of Baltimore; and for making the said road a subscription shall be opened for a capital of one hundred thousand dollars, in shares of fifty dollars each, under the direction of George Calvert, Richard Ross, Thomas Bowie and William Fitzgerald, at Bladensburgh; Archibald Dorsey, Richard G.Stockett, John S. Belt and Thomas Lee, Junr. At M'Coy's tavern; and William Lorman, Henry Payson, George Lindenberger and Jacob Giles Smith, in the city of Baltimore.
AND BE IT ENACTED, That the commissioners shall lay out a road from the city of Baltimore to the district of Columbia, byway of Norwood's ferry, on the Patapsco river, M'Coy's tavern, Vansville, White House, Ross' tavern and Bladensburgh, on as straight a line between each of said places as the nature of the country will admit.[1]  

               The charter first directed that public subscriptions should be opened for the sum of $500,000, divided into shares, and appointed managers to receive them. As soon as a specified number of shares should be sold the subscribers were to meet and elect twelve directors, who were in turn to meet and elect a president from among the stockholders. The latter were incorporated as the Turnpike Company. The president and directors were then authorized to appoint five commissioners to lay out and mark the road. Damages and compensation for land, stone, gravel, etc., were to be assessed by agreement with the owners, if possible, by condemnation proceedings if necessary.
The prescribed method of road construction was quite elaborate and scientific. In this particular the charters of 1796, 1797, and 1804-5 were practically identical. The roads were to be:

"Sixty-six feet wide, twenty-one feet whereof in breadth, at least, shall be made an artificial road, which shall be bedded with wood, stone, gravel, or any other hard substance, well compacted together, a sufficient depth to secure a solid foundation to the same; and the said road shall be faced with gravel, or stone pounded, or other small hard substance, so as to secure a firm, and, as near as materials will admit, an even surface, rising towards the middle by a gradual arch; and the said road shall be made so nearly level in its progress as that it shall in no place rise or fall more than will form an angle of 4 degrees with an horizontal line, and shall ever thereafter maintain and keep the same in good and perfect order and repair."

As different sections of the roads should be finished, toll gates might be established by the directors, and tolls not to exceed certain prescribed maximums might be exacted. A curious item was that fixing the toll for "every single horse, camel, ass or mule". These tolls might be farmed out. Driving around the gates to avoid payment of tolls was punished by fines, as had been done by the Act of 1787.

Provided by: Aeon Preservation Services LLC Final 6-02-2013

[1] Maryland State Archives. Volume 618, Page 72.

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