The Paths of Inland Commerce, A Chronicle of Trail, Road,
Archer B. Hulbert

Part 1 out of 3

Kelly Library Of St. Gregory's University; Thanks To Alev Akman.

Scanned by Dianne Bean. Proofed by Doris Ringbloom.


By Archer B. Hulbert


If the great American novel is ever written, I hazard the guess
that its plot will be woven around the theme of American
transportation, for that has been the vital factor in the
national development of the United States. Every problem in the
building of the Republic has been, in the last analysis, a
problem in transportation. The author of such a novel will find a
rich fund of material in the perpetual rivalries of pack-horseman
and wagoner, of riverman and canal boatman, of steamboat promoter
and railway capitalist. He will find at every point the old
jostling and challenging the new pack-horsemen demolishing wagons
in the early days of the Alleghany traffic; wagoners deriding
Clinton's Ditch; angry boatmen anxious to ram the paddle wheels
of Fulton's Clermont, which threatened their monopoly. Such
opposition has always been an incident of progress; and even in
this new country, receptive as it was to new ideas, the
Washingtons, the Fitches, the Fultons, the Coopers, and the
Whitneys, who saw visions and dreamed dreams, all had to face
scepticism and hostility from those whom they would serve.

A. B. H.

Worcester, Mass.,
June, 1919.




CHAPTER I. The Man Who Caught The Vision

Inland America, at the birth of the Republic, was as great a
mystery to the average dweller on the Atlantic seaboard as the
elephant was to the blind men of Hindustan. The reports of those
who had penetrated this wilderness--of those who had seen the
barren ranges of the Alleghanies, the fertile uplands of the
Unakas, the luxuriant blue-grass regions, the rich bottom lands
of the Ohio and Mississippi, the wide shores of the inland seas,
or the stretches of prairie increasing in width beyond the
Wabash--seemed strangely contradictory, and no one had been able
to patch these reports together and grasp the real proportions of
the giant inland empire that had become a part of the United
States. It was a pathless desert; it was a maze of trails,
trodden out by deer, buffalo, and Indian. Its great riverways
were broad avenues for voyagers and explorers; they were
treacherous gorges filled with the plunder of a million floods.
It was a rich soil, a land of plenty; the natives were seldom
more than a day removed from starvation. Within its broad
confines could dwell a great people; but it was as inaccessible
as the interior of China. It had a great commercial future; yet
its gigantic distances and natural obstructions defied all known
means of transportation.

Such were the varied and contradictory stories told by the men
who had entered the portals of inland America. It is not
surprising, therefore, that theories and prophecies about the
interior were vague and conflicting nor that most of the schemes
of statesmen and financiers for the development of the West were
all parts and no whole. They all agreed as to the vast richness
of that inland realm and took for granted an immense commerce
therein that was certain to yield enormous profits. In faraway
Paris, the ingenious diplomat, Silas Deane, writing to the Secret
Committee of Congress in 1776, pictured the Old Northwest--
bounded by the Ohio, the Alleghanies, the Great Lakes, and the
Mississippi--as paying the whole expense of the Revolutionary
War.* Thomas Paine in 1780 drew specifications for a State of
from twenty to thirty millions of acres lying west of Virginia
and south of the Ohio River, the sale of which land would pay the
cost of three years of the war.** On the other hand, Pelatiah
Webster, patriotic economist that he was, decried in 1781 all
schemes to "pawn" this vast westward region; he likened such
plans to "killing the goose that laid an egg every day, in order
to tear out at once all that was in her belly." He advocated the
township system of compact and regular settlement; and he argued
that any State making a cession of land would reap great benefit
"from the produce and trade" of the newly created settlements.

* Deane's plan was to grant a tract two hundred miles square at
the junction of the Ohio and the Mississippi to a company on the
condition that a thousand families should be settled on it within
seven years. He added that, as this company would be in a great
degree commercial, the establishing of commerce at the junction
of those large rivers would immediately give a value to all the
lands situated on or near them.

** Paine thought that while the new State could send its exports
southward down the Mississippi, its imports must necessarily come
from the East through Chesapeake Bay because the current of the
Mississippi was too strong to be overcome by any means of
navigation then known.

There were mooted many other schemes. General Rufus Putnam, for
example, advocated the Pickering or "Army" plan of occupying the
West; he wanted a fortified line to the Great Lakes, in case of
war with England, and fortifications on the Ohio and the
Mississippi, in case Spain should interrupt the national commerce
on these waterways. And Thomas Jefferson theorized in his study
over the toy states of Metropotamia and Polypotamia--brought his

...trees and houses out
And planted cities all about.

But it remained for George Washington, the Virginia planter, to
catch, in something of its actual grandeur, the vision of a
Republic stretching towards the setting sun, bound and unified by
paths of inland commerce. It was Washington who traversed the
long ranges of the Alleghanies, slept in the snows of Deer Park
with no covering but his greatcoat, inquired eagerly of trapper
and trader and herder concerning the courses of the Cheat, the
Monongahela, and the Little Kanawha, and who drew from these
personal explorations a clear and accurate picture of the future
trade routes by which the country could be economically,
socially, and nationally united.

Washington's experience had peculiarly fitted him to catch this
vision. Fortune had turned him westward as he left his mother's
knee. First as a surveyor for Lord Fairfax in the Shenandoah
Valley and later, under Braddock and Forbes, in the armies
fighting for the Ohio against the French he had come to know the
interior as it was known by no other man of his standing. His own
landed property lay largely along the upper Potomac and in and
beyond the Alleghanies. Washington's interest in this property
was very real. Those who attempt to explain his early concern
with the West as purely altruistic must misread his numerous
letters and diaries. Nothing in his unofficial character shows
more plainly than his business enterprise and acumen. On one
occasion he wrote to his agent, Crawford, concerning a proposed
land speculation: "I recommend that you keep this whole matter a
secret or trust it only to those in whom you can confide. If the
scheme I am now proposing to you were known, it might give alarm
to others, and by putting them on a plan of the same nature,
before we could lay a proper foundation for success ourselves,
set the different interests clashing and in the end overturn the
whole." Nor can it be denied that Washington's attitude to the
commercial development of the West was characterized in his early
days by a narrow colonial partisanship. He was a stout Virginian;
and all stout Virginians of that day refused to admit the
pretensions of other colonies to the land beyond the mountains.
But from no man could the shackles of self-interest and
provincial rivalry drop more quickly than they dropped from
Washington when he found his country free after the close of the
Revolutionary War. He then began to consider how that country
might grow and prosper. And he began to preach the new doctrine
of expansion and unity. This new doctrine first appears in a
letter which he wrote to the Marquis de Chastellux in 1783, after
a tour from his camp at Newburg into central New York, where he
had explored the headwaters of the Mohawk and the Susquehanna: "I
could not help taking a more extensive view of the vast inland
navigation of these United States [the letter runs] and could not
but be struck by the immense extent and importance of it, and of
the goodness of that Providence which has dealt its favors to us
with so profuse a hand. Would to God we may have wisdom enough to
improve them. I shall not rest contented till I have explored the
Western country, and traversed those lines, or great part of
them, which have given bounds to a new empire."

"The vast inland navigation of these United States!" It is an
interesting fact that Washington should have had his first
glimpse of this vision from the strategic valley of the Mohawk,
which was soon to rival his beloved Potomac as an improved
commercial route from the seaboard to the West, and which was
finally to achieve an unrivaled superiority in the days of the
Erie Canal and the Twentieth Century Limited.

We may understand something of what the lure of the West meant to
Washington when we learn that in order to carry out his proposed
journey after the Revolution, he was compelled to refuse urgent
invitations to visit Europe and be the guest of France. "I found
it indispensably necessary," he writes, "to visit my Landed
property West of the Apalacheon Mountains.... One object of
my journey being to obtain information of the nearest and best
communication between Eastern & Western waters; & to facilitate
as much as in me lay the Inland Navigation of the Potomack."

On September 1, 1784, Washington set out from Mount Vernon on his
journey to the West. Even the least romantic mind must feel a
thrill in picturing this solitary horseman, the victor of
Yorktown, threading the trails of the Potomac, passing on by
Cumberland and Fort Necessity and Braddock's grave to the
Monongahela. The man, now at the height of his fame, is retracing
the trails of his boyhood--covering ground over which he had
passed as a young officer in the last English and French war--but
he is seeing the land in so much larger perspective that,
although his diary is voluminous, the reader of those pages would
not know that Washington had been this way before. Concerning
Great Meadows, where he first saw the "bright face of danger" and
which he once described gleefully as "a charming place for an
encounter," he now significantly remarks: "The upland, East of
the meadow, is good for grain." Changed are the ardent dreams
that filled the young man's heart when he wrote to his mother
from this region that singing bullets "have truly a charming
sound." Today, as he looks upon the flow of Youghiogheny, he sees
it reaching out its finger tips to Potomac's tributaries. He
perceives a similar movement all along the chain of the
Alleghanies: on the west are the Great Lakes and the Ohio, and
reaching out towards them from the east, waiting to be joined by
portage road and canal, are the Hudson, the Susquehanna, the
Potomac, and the James. He foresees these streams bearing to the
Atlantic ports the golden produce of the interior and carrying
back to the interior the manufactured goods of the seaboard. He
foresees the Republic becoming homogeneous, rich, and happy.
"Open ALL the communication which nature has afforded," he wrote
Henry Lee, "between the Atlantic States and the Western
territory, and encourage the use of them to the utmost...and
sure I am there is no other tie by which they will long form a
link in the chain of Federal Union."

Crude as were the material methods by which Washington hoped to
accomplish this end, in spirit he saw the very America that we
know today; and he marked out accurately the actual pathways of
inland commerce that have played their part in the making of
America. Taking the city of Detroit as the key position,
commercially, he traced the main lines of internal trade. He
foresaw New York improving her natural line of communication by
way of the Mohawk and the Niagara frontier on Lake Erie--the
present line of the Erie Canal and the New York Central Railway.
For Pennsylvania, he pointed out the importance of linking the
Schuylkill and the Susquehanna and of opening the two avenues
westward to Pittsburgh and to Lake Erie. In general, he thus
forecast the Pennsylvania Canal and the Pennsylvania and the Erie
railways. For Maryland and Virginia he indicated the Potomac
route as the nearest for all the trade of the Ohio Valley, with
the route by way of the James and the Great Kanawha as an
alternative for the settlements on the lower Ohio. His vision
here was realized in a later day by the Potomac and the
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, the Cumberland Road, the Baltimore and
Ohio Railway, and by the James-Kanawha Turnpike and the
Chesapeake and Ohio Railway.

Washington's general conclusions are stated in a summary at the
end of his Journal, which was reproduced in his classic letter to
Harrison, written in 1784. His first point is that every State
which had water routes reaching westward could enhance the value
of its lands, increase its commerce, and quiet the democratic
turbulence of its shut-in pioneer communities by the improvement
of its river transportation. Taking Pennsylvania as a specific
example, he declared that "there are one hundred thousand souls
West of the Laurel Hill, who are groaning under the
inconveniences of a long land transportation.... If this
cannot be made easy for them to Philadelphia...they will seek
a mart elsewhere.... An opposition on the part of [that]
government...would ultimately bring on a separation between
its Eastern and Western settlements; towards which there is not
wanting a disposition at this moment in that part of it beyond
the mountains."

Washington's second proposal was the achievement of a new and
lasting conquest of the West by binding it to the seaboard with
chains of commerce. He thus states his point: "No well informed
mind need be told that the flanks and rear of the United
territory are possessed by other powers, and formidable ones
too--nor how necessary it is to apply the cement of interest to
bind all parts of it together, by one indissoluble
the middle States with the Country immediately back of them--for
what ties let me ask, should we have upon those people; and how
entirely unconnected should we be with them if the Spaniards on
their right or Great Britain on their left, instead of throwing
stumbling blocks in their way as they do now, should invite their
trade and seek alliances with them?"

Some of the pictures in Washington's vision reveal, in the light
of subsequent events, an almost uncanny prescience. He very
plainly prophesied the international rivalry for the trade of the
Great Lakes zone, embodied today in the Welland and the Erie
canals. He declared the possibility of navigating with oceangoing
vessels the tortuous two-thousand-mile channel of the Ohio and
the Mississippi River; and within sixteen years ships left the
Ohio, crossed the Atlantic, and sailed into the Mediterranean.
His description of a possible insurrection of a western community
might well have been written later; it might almost indeed have
made a page of his diary after he became President of the United
States and during the Whiskey Insurrection in western
Pennsylvania. He approved and encouraged Rumsey's mechanical
invention for propelling boats against the stream, showing that
he had a glimpse of what was to follow after Fitch, Rumsey, and
Fulton should have overcome the mighty currents of the Hudson and
the Ohio with the steamboat's paddle wheel. His proposal that
Congress should undertake a survey of western rivers for the
purpose of giving people at large a knowledge of their possible
importance as avenues of commerce was a forecast of the Lewis and
Clark expedition as well as of the policy of the Government today
for the improvement of the great inland rivers and harbors.

"The destinies of our country run east and west. Intercourse
between the mighty interior west and the sea coast is the great
principle of our commercial prosperity." These are the words of
Edward Everett in advocating the Boston and Albany Railroad. In
effect Washington had uttered those same words half a century
earlier when he gave momentum to an era filled with energetic
but unsuccessful efforts to join with the waters of the West the
rivers reaching inland from the Atlantic. The fact that American
engineering science had not in his day reached a point where it
could cope with this problem successfully should in no wise
lessen our admiration for the man who had thus caught the vision
of a nation united and unified by improved methods of

CHAPTER II. The Red Man's Trail

For the beginnings of the paths of our inland commerce, we must
look far back into the dim prehistoric ages of America. The
earliest routes that threaded the continent were the streams and
the tracks beaten out by the heavier four-footed animals. The
Indian hunter followed the migrations of the animals and the
streams that would float his light canoe. Today the main lines of
travel and transportation for the most part still cling to these
primeval pathways.

In their wanderings, man and beast alike sought the heights, the
passes that pierced the mountain chains, and the headwaters of
navigable rivers. On the ridges the forest growth was lightest
and there was little obstruction from fallen timber; rain and
frost caused least damage by erosion; and the winds swept the
trails clear of leaves in summer and of snow in winter. Here lay
the easiest paths for the heavy, blundering buffalo and the
roving elk and moose and deer. Here, high up in the sun, where
the outlook was unobstructed and signal fires could be seen from
every direction, on the longest watersheds, curving around river
and swamp, ran the earliest travel routes of the aboriginal
inhabitants and of their successors, the red men of historic
times. For their encampments and towns these peoples seem to have
preferred the more sheltered ground along the smaller streams;
but, when they fared abroad to hunt, to trade, to wage war, to
seek new, material for pipe and amulet, they followed in the main
the highest ways.

If in imagination one surveys the eastern half of the North
American continent from one of the strategic passageways of the
Alleghanies, say from Cumberland Gap or from above Kittanning
Gorge, the outstanding feature in the picture will be the
Appalachian barrier that separates the interior from the Atlantic
coast. To the north lie the Adirondacks and the Berkshire Hills,
hedging New England in close to the ocean. Two glittering
waterways lie east and west of these heights--the Connecticut and
the Hudson. Upon the valleys of these two rivers converged the
two deeply worn pathways of the Puritan, the Old Bay Path and the
Connecticut Path. By way of Westfield River, that silver
tributary which joins the Connecticut at Springfield,
Massachusetts, the Bay Path surmounted the Berkshire highlands
and united old Massachusetts to the upper Hudson Valley near Fort
Orange, now Albany.

Here, north of the Catskills, the Appalachian barrier subsides
and gives New York a supreme advantage over all the other
Atlantic States--a level route to the Great Lakes and the West.
The Mohawk River threads the smiling landscape; beyond lies the
"Finger Lake country" and the valley of the Genesee. Through this
romantic region ran the Mohawk Trail, sending offshoots to Lake
Champlain and the St. Lawrence, to the Susquehanna, and to the
Allegheny. A few names have been altered in the course of years--
the Bay Path is now the Boston and Albany Railroad, the Mohawk
Trail is the New York Central, and Fort Orange is Albany--and
thus we may tell in a dozen words the story of three centuries.

Upon Fort Orange converged the score of land and water pathways
of the fur trade of our North. These Indian trade routes were
slowly widened into colonial roads, notably the Mohawk and
Catskill turnpikes, and these in turn were transformed into the
Erie, Lehigh, Nickel Plate, and New York Central railways. But
from the day when the canoe and the keel boat floated their bulky
cargoes of pelts or the heavy laden Indian pony trudged the
trail, the routes of trade have been little or nothing altered.

Traversing the line of the Alleghanies southward, the eye notes
first the break in the wall at the Delaware Water Gap, and then
that long arm of the Susquehanna, the Juniata, reaching out
through dark Kittanning Gorge to its silver playmate, the dancing
Conemaugh. Here amid its leafy aisles ran the brown and red
Kittanning Trail, the main route of the Pennsylvania traders from
the rich region of York, Lancaster, and Chambersburg. On this
general alignment the Broadway Limited flies today toward
Pittsburgh and Chicago. A little to the south another important
pathway from the same region led, by way of Carlisle, Bedford,
and Ligonier, to the Ohio. The "Highland Trail" the Indian
traders called it, for it kept well on the watershed dividing the
Allegheny tributaries on the north from those of the Monongahela
on the south.

Farther to the south the scene shows a change, for the Atlantic
plain widens considerably. The Potomac River, the James, the
Pedee, and the Savannah flow through valleys much longer than
those of the northern rivers. Here in the South commerce was
carried on mainly by shallop and pinnace. The trails of the
Indian skirted the rivers and offered for trader and explorer
passageway to the West, especially to the towns of the Cherokees
in the southern Alleghanies or Unakas; but the waterways and the
roads over which the hogsheads of tobacco were rolled (hence
called "rolling roads") sufficed for the needs of the thin
fringes of population settled along the rivers. Trails from
Winchester in Virginia and Frederick in Maryland focused on
Cumberland at the head of the Potomac. Beyond, to the west, the
finger tips of the Potomac interlocked closely with the
Monongahela and Youghiogheny, and through this network of
mountain and river valley, by the "Shades of Death" and Great
Meadows, coiled Nemacolin's Path to the Ohio. Even today this
ancient route is in part followed by the Baltimore and Ohio and
the Western Maryland Railway.

A bird's-eye view of the southern Alleghanies shows that, while
the Atlantic plain of Virginia and the Carolinas widens out, the
mountain chains increase in number, fold on fold, from the Blue
Ridge to the ragged ranges of the Cumberlands. Few trails led
across this manifold barrier. There was a connection at Balcony
Falls between the James River and the Great Kanawha; but as a
trade route it was of no such value to the men of its day as the
Chesapeake and Ohio system over the same course is to us. As in
the North, so in the South, trade avoided obstacles by taking a
roundabout, and often the longest route. In order to double the
extremity of the Unakas, for instance, the trails reached down by
the Valley of Virginia and New River to the uplands of the
Tennessee, and here, near Elizabethton, they met the trails
leading up the Broad and the Yadkin rivers from Charleston, South

To the west rise the somber heights of Cumberland Gap. Through
this portal ran the famous "Warrior's Path," known to wandering
hunters, the "trail of iron" from Fort Watauga and Fort Chiswell,
which Daniel Boone widened for the settlers of Kentucky. To the
southwest lay the Blue Grass region of Tennessee with its various
trails converging on Nashville from almost every direction. Today
the Southern Railway enters the "Sapphire Country," in which
Asheville lies, by practically the same route as the old
Rutherfordton Trail which was used for generations by red man and
pioneer from the Carolina coast. In our entire region of the
Appalachians, from the Berkshire Hills southward, practically
every old-time pathway from the seaboard to the trans-Alleghany
country is now occupied by an important railway system, with the
exception of the Warrior's Trail through Cumberland Gap to
central Ohio and the Highland Trail across southern Pennsylvania.
And even Cumberland Gap is accessible by rail today, and a line
across southern Pennsylvania was once planned and partially
constructed only to be killed by jealous rivals.

These numerous keys to the Alleghanies were a challenge to the
men of the seaboard to seize upon the rich trade of the West
which had been early monopolized by the French in Canada. But the
challenge brought its difficult problems. What land canoes could
compete with the flotillas that brought their priceless cargoes
of furs each year to Montreal and Quebec? What race of
landlubbers could vie with the picturesque bands of fearless
voyageurs who sang their songs on the Great Lakes, the Ohio, the
Illinois, and the Mississippi?

In the solution of this problem of diverting trade probably the
factor of greatest importance, next to open pathways through the
mountain barriers, was the rich stock-breeding ground lying
between the Delaware and the Susquehanna rivers, a region
occupied by the settlers familiarly known as the Pennsylvania
Dutch. In this famous belt, running from Pennsylvania into
Virginia, originated the historic pack-horse trade with the "far
Indians" of the Ohio Valley. Here, in the first granary of
America, Germans, Scotch-Irish, and English bred horses worthy of
the name. "Brave fat Horses" an amazed officer under Braddock
called the mounts of five Quakers who unexpectedly rode into camp
as though straight "from the land of Goshen." These animals,
crossed with the Indian "pony" from New Spain, produced the wise,
wiry, and sturdy pack-horse, fit to transport nearly two hundred
pounds of merchandise across the rough and narrow Alleghany
trails. This animal and the heavy Conestoga horse from the same
breeding ground revolutionized inland commerce.

The first American cow pony was not without his cowboy. Though
the drivers were not all of the same type and though the
proprietors, so to speak, of the trans-Alleghany pack-horse trade
came generally from the older settlements, the bulk of the hard
work was done by a lusty army of men not reproduced again in
America until the picturesque figure of the cow-puncher appeared
above the western horizon. This breed of men was nurtured on the
outer confines of civilization, along the headwaters of the
Susquehanna, the Potomac, the James, and the Broad--the country
of the "Cowpens." Rough as the wilderness they occupied, made
strong by their diet of meat and curds, these Tatars of the
highlands played a part in the commercial history of America that
has never had its historian. In their knowledge of Indian
character, of horse and packsaddle lore, of the forest and its
trails in every season, these men of the Cowpens were the kings
of the old frontier.

An officer under Braddock has left us one of the few pictures of
these people*:

* "Extracts of Letters from an Officer" (London, 1755).

"From the Heart of the Settlements we are now got into the
Cow-pens; the Keepers of these are very extraordinary Kind of
Fellows, they drive up their Herds on Horseback, and they had
need do so, for their Cattle are near as wild as Deer; a Cow-pen
generally consists of a very large Cottage or House in the Woods,
with about four-score or one hundred Acres, inclosed with high
Rails and divided; a small Inclosure they keep for Corn, for the
family, the rest is the Pasture in which they keep their calves;
but the Manner is far different from any Thing you ever saw; they
may perhaps have a Stock of four or five hundred to a thousand
Head of Cattle belonging to a Cow-pen, these run as they please
in the Great Woods, where there are no Inclosures to stop them.
In the Month of March the Cows begin to drop their Calves, then
the Cow-pen Master, with all his Men, rides out to see and drive
up the Cows with all their new fallen Calves; they being weak
cannot run away so as to escape, therefore are easily drove up,
and the Bulls and other Cattle follow them; and they put these
Calves into the Pasture, and every Morning and Evening suffer the
Cows to come and suckle them, which done they let the Cows out
into the great Woods to shift for their Food as well as they can;
whilst the Calf is sucking one Tit of the Cow, the Woman of the
Cow-Pen is milking one of the other Tits, so that she steals some
Milk from the Cow, who thinks she is giving it to the Calf; soon
as the Cow begins to go dry, and the Calf grows Strong, they mark
them, if they are Males they cut them, and let them go into the
Wood. Every Year in September and October they drive up the
Market Steers, that are fat and of a proper Age, and kill them;
they say they are fat in October, but I am sure they are not so
in May, June and July; they reckon that out of 100 Head of Cattle
they can kill about 10 or 12 steers, and four or five Cows a
Year; so they reckon that a Cow-Pen for every 100 Head of Cattle
brings about 40 pounds Sterling per Year. The Keepers live
chiefly upon Milk, for out of their Vast Herds, they do
condescend to tame Cows enough to keep their Family in Milk,
Whey, Curds, Cheese and Butter; they also have Flesh in Abundance
such as it is, for they eat the old Cows and lean Calves that are
like to die. The Cow-Pen Men are hardy People, are almost
continually on Horseback, being obliged to know the Haunts of
their Cattle". "You see, Sir, what a wild set of Creatures Our
English Men grow into, when they lose Society, and it is
surprising to think how many Advantages they throw away, which
our industrious Country-Men would be glad of: Out of many hundred
Cows they will not give themselves the trouble of milking more
than will maintain their Family."

With such a race of born horsemen, every whit as bold and
resourceful as the voyageurs, to bear the brunt of a new era of
transportation, all that was needed to challenge French trade
beyond the Alleghanies was competent and aggressive leadership.
The situation called for men of means, men of daring, men closely
in touch with governors and assemblies and acquainted with the
web of politics that was being spun at Philadelphia,
Williamsburg, New York, London, and Paris. Generations of
tenacious struggle along the American frontier had developed such
men. The Weisers, Croghans, Gists, Washingtons, Franklins,
Walkers, and Cresaps were men of varied descent and nationality.
They had the cunning, the boldness, and the resources to
undertake successfully the task of conquering commercially the
Great West. They were the first men of the colonies to be
unafraid of that bugbear of the trader, Distance. We may aptly
call them the first Americans because, though not a few were
actually born abroad, they were the first whose plans, spirit,
and very life were dominated by the vision of an America of
continental dimensions.

The long story of French and English rivalry and of the war which
ended it concerns us here chiefly as a commercial struggle. The
French at Niagara (1749) had access to the Ohio by way of Lake
Erie and any one of several rivers--the Allegheny, the Muskingum,
the Scioto, or the Miami. The main routes of the English were the
Nemacolin and Kittanning paths. The French, laboring under the
disadvantages of the longer distance over which their goods had
to be transported to the Indians and of the higher price
necessarily demanded for them, had to meet the competition of the
traders from the rival colonies of Pennsylvania and Virginia,
each of them jealous of and underbidding the other.

When Celoron de Blainville was sent to the Allegheny in 1749, by
the Governor of New France, his message was that "the Governor of
Canada desired his children on Ohio to turn away the English
Traders from amongst them and discharge them from ever coming to
trade there again, or on any of the Branches." He sent away all
the traders whom he found, giving them letters addressed to their
respective governors denying England's right to trade in the
West. To offset this move, within two years Pennsylvania sent
goods to the value of nine hundred pounds in order to hold the
Indians constant. The Governor had already ordered the traders to
sell whiskey to the Indians at "5 Bucks" per cask and had told
the Indians, through his agent Conrad Weiser, that if any trader
refused to sell the liquor at that price they might "take it from
him and drink it for nothing." There was but one way for the
French to meet such competition. Without delay they fortified the
Allegheny and began to coerce the natives. Driving away the
carpenters of the Ohio Company from the present site of
Pittsburgh, they built Fort Duquesne. The beginning of the Old
French War ended what we may call the first era of the pack-horse

The capture of Fort Duquesne by the English army under General
Forbes in 1758 and the final conquest of New France two years
later removed the French barrier and opened the way to expansion
beyond the Alleghanies. Thereafter settlements in the Monongahela
country grew apace. Pittsburgh, Uniontown, Morgantown,
Brownsville, Ligonier, Greensburg, Connellsville--we give the
modern names--became centers of a great migration which was
halted only for a season by Pontiac's Rebellion, the aftermath of
the French War, and was resumed immediately on the suppression of
that Indian rising. The pack-horse trade now entered its final
and most important era. The earlier period was one in which the
trade was confined chiefly to the Indians; the later phase was
concerned with supplying the needs of the white man in his
rapidly developing frontier settlements. Formerly the principal
articles of merchandise for the western trade were guns,
ammunition, knives, kettles, and tools for their repair,
blankets, tobacco, hatchets, and liquor. In the new era every
known product of the East found a market in the thriving
communities of the upper Ohio. As time went on the West began to
send to the East, in addition to skins and pelts, whiskey that
brought a dollar a gallon. Each pony could carry sixteen gallons
and every drop could be sold for real money. On the return trip
the pack-horses carried back chiefly salt and iron.

Doddridge's "Notes", one of the chief sources of our information,
gives this lively picture:

"In the fall of the year, after seeding time, every family formed
an association with some of their neighbors, for starting the
little caravan. A master driver was to be selected from among
them, who was to be assisted by one or more young men and
sometimes a boy or two. The horses were fitted out with
packsaddles, to the latter part of which was fastened a pair of
hobbles made of hickory withes,--a bell and collar ornamented
their necks. The bags provided for the conveyance of the salt
were filled with bread, jerk, boiled ham, and cheese furnished a
provision for the drivers. At night, after feeding, the horses,
whether put in pasture or turned out into the woods, were hobbled
and the bells were opened. The barter for salt and iron was made
first at Baltimore; Frederick, Hagerstown, Oldtown, and Fort
Cumberland, in succession, became the places of exchange. Each
horse carried two bushels of alum salt, weighing eighty-four
pounds to the bushel. This, to be sure, was not a heavy load for
the horses, but it was enough, considering the scanty subsistence
allowed them on the journey. The common price of a bushel of alum
salt, at an early period, was a good cow and a calf.

Thus, with the English flag afloat at Fort Pitt, as Duquesne was
renamed after its capture, a new day dawned for the great region
to the West. Beyond the Alleghanies and as far as the Rockies, a
new science of transportation was now to be learned--the art of
finding the dividing ridge. Here the first routes, like the
"Great Trail" from Pittsburgh to Detroit, struck out with an
assurance that is in marvelous agreement with the findings of the
surveyors of a later day. The railways, when they came, found the
valleys and penetrated with their tunnels the watersheds from the
heads of the streams of one drainage area to the streams of
another. Thus on the Pennsylvania, the Baltimore and Ohio, the
Southern, the Chesapeake and Ohio, and other railroads, important
tunnels are to be found lying immediately under the Red Man's
trail which clung to the long ascending slope and held
persistently to the dividing ridges.

Even this necessarily brief survey shows plainly how that
preeminently American institution, the ridge road, came about.
East and west, it was the legitimate and natural successor to the
ancient trail. With the coming of the wagon, whose rattle was
heard among the hills as early as Braddock's campaign, the
process of lowering these paths from the heights was inevitably
begun, and it was to the riverways that men first looked for a
solution of the difficult problems of inland commerce. Eventually
the paths of inland commerce constituted a vast network of
canals, roads, and railway lines in those very valleys to which
Washington had called the nation's attention in 1784.

CHAPTER III. The Mastery Of The Rivers

It would perhaps have been well, in the light of later
difficulties and failures, if the men who at Washington's call
undertook to master the capricious rivers of the seaboard had
studied a stately Spanish decree which declared that, since God
had not made the rivers of Spain navigable, it were sacrilege for
mortals to attempt to do so. Even before the Revolution, Mayor
Rhodes of Philadelphia was in correspondence with Franklin in
London concerning the experiences of European engineers in
harnessing foreign streams. That sage philosopher, writing to
Rhodes in 1772, uttered a clear word of warning: "rivers are
ungovernable things," he had said, and English engineers "seldom
or never use a River where it can be avoided." But it was the
birthright of New World democracy to make its own mistakes and in
so doing to prove for itself the errors of the Old World.

As energetic men all along the Atlantic Plain now took up the
problem of improving the inland rivers, they faced a storm of
criticism and ridicule that would have daunted any but such as
Washington and Johnson of Virginia or White and Hazard of
Pennsylvania or Morris and Watson of New York. Every imaginable
objection to such projects was advanced--from the inefficiency of
the science of engineering to the probable destruction of all the
fish in the streams. In spite of these discouragements, however,
various men set themselves to form in rapid succession the
Potomac Company in 1785, the Society for Promoting the
Improvement of Inland Navigation in 1791, the Western Inland Lock
Navigation Company in 1792, and the Lehigh Coal Mine Company in
1793. A brief review of these various enterprises will give a
clear if not a complete view of the first era of inland water
commerce in America.

The Potomac Company, authorized in 1785 by the legislatures of
Maryland and Virginia, received an appropriation of $6666 from
each State for opening a road from the headwaters of the Potomac
to either the Cheat or the Monongahela, "as commissioners...
shall find most convenient and beneficial to the Western
settlers." This was the only public aid which the enterprise
received; and the stipulated purpose clearly indicates the fact
that, in the minds of its promoters, the transcontinental
character of the undertaking appeared to be vital. The remainder
of the money required for the work was raised by public
subscription in the principal cities of the two States. In this
way 40,300 pounds was subscribed, Virginia men taking 266 shares
and Maryland men 137 shares. The stock holders elected George
Washington as president of the company, at a salary of thirty
shillings a year, with four directors to aid him, and they chose
as general manager James Rumsey, the boat mechanician. These men
then proceeded to attack the chief impediments in the Potomac--
the Great Falls above Washington, the Seneca Falls at the mouth
of Seneca Creek, and the Shenandoah Falls at Harper's Ferry. But,
as they had difficulty in obtaining workmen and sufficient liquor
to cheer them in their herculean tasks, they made such slow
progress that subscribers, doubting Washington's optimistic
prophecy that the stock would increase in value twenty per cent,
paid their assessments only after much deliberation or not at
all. Thirty-six years later, though $729,380 had been spent and
lock canals had been opened about the unnavigable stretches of
the Potomac River, a commission appointed to examine the affairs
of the company reported "that the floods and freshets
nevertheless gave the only navigation that was enjoyed." As for
the road between the Potomac and the Cheat or the Monongahela,
the records at hand do not show that the money voted for that
enterprise had been used.

The Potomac Company nevertheless had accomplished something: it
had acquired an asset of the greatest value--a right of way up
the strategic Potomac Valley; and it had furnished an object
lesson to men in other States who were struggling with a similar
problem. When, as will soon be apparent, New York men undertook
the improvement of the Mohawk waterway there was no pattern of
canal construction for them to follow in America except the
inadequate wooden locks erected along the Potomac. It is
interesting to know that Elkanah Watson, prominent in inland
navigation to the North, went down from New York in order to
study these wooden locks and that New Yorkers adopted them as
models, though they changed the material to brick and finally to

Pennsylvania had been foremost among the colonies in canal
building, for it had surveyed as early as 1762 the first lock
canal in America, from near Reading on the Schuylkill to
Middletown on the Susquehanna. Work, however, had to be suspended
when Pontiac's Rebellion threw the inland country into a panic.
But the enterprise of Maryland and Virginia in 1785 in developing
the Potomac aroused the Pennsylvanians to renewed activity. The
Society for Promoting the Improvement of Roads and Inland
Navigation set forth a programme that was as broad as the
Keystone State itself. Their ultimate object was to capture the
trade of the Great Lakes. "If we turn our view," read the
memorial which the Society presented to the Legislature, "to the
immense territories connected with the Ohio and Mississippi
waters, and bordering on the Great Lakes, it will appear...
that our communication with those vast countries (considering
Fort Pitt as the port of entrance upon them) is as easy and may
be rendered as cheap, as to any other port on the Atlantic tide

Pennsylvania, lying between Virginia and New York, occupied a
peculiar position. Her Susquehanna Valley stretched
so directly west as did the Potomac on the south and the Mohawk
on the north. This more northerly trend led these early
Pennsylvania promoters to believe that, while they might "only
have a share in the trade of those [the Ohio] waters," they could
absolutely secure for themselves the trade of the Great Lakes,
"taking Presq' Isle [Erie, Pennsylvania] which is within our own
State, as the great mart or place of embarkation."

The plan which the Society proposed involved the improvement of
water and land routes by way of the Delaware to Lake Ontario and
Lake Otsego, and of eight routes by the Susquehanna drainage,
north, northwest, and west. A bill which passed the Legislature
on April 13, 1791, appropriated money for these improvements.
Work was begun immediately on the Schuylkill-Susquehanna Canal,
but only four miles had been completed by 1794, when the
Lancaster Turnpike directed men's attention to improved highways
as an alternative more likely than canals to provide the desired
facilities for inland transportation. The work on the canal was
renewed, however, in 1821, when the rival Erie Canal was nearing
completion, and was finished in 1827. It became known as the
Union Canal and formed a link in the Pennsylvania canal system,
the development of which will be described in a later chapter.

In New York State, throughout the period of the Old French and
the Revolutionary wars, barges and keel boats had plied the
Mohawk, Wood Creek, and the Oswego to Lake Ontario. Around such
obstructions as Cohoes Falls, Little Falls, and the portage at
Rome to Wood Creek, wagons, sleds, and pack-horses had
transferred the cargoes. To avoid this labor and delay men soon
conceived of conquering these obstacles by locks and canals. As
early as 1777 the brilliant Gouverneur Morris had a vision of the
economic development of his State when "the waters of the great
western inland seas would, by the aid of man, break through their
barriers and mingle with those of the Hudson."

Elkanah Watson was in many ways the Washington of New York. He
had the foresight, patience, and persistence of the Virginia
planter. His "Journal" of a tour up the Mohawk in 1788 and a
pamphlet which he published in 1791 may be said to be the
ultimate sources in any history of the internal commerce of New
York. As a result, a company known as "The President, Directors,
and Company of the Western Inland Lock Navigation in the State of
New York," with a capital stock of $25,000, was authorized by act
of legislature in March, 1792, and the State subscribed for
$12,500 in stock. Many singular provisions were inserted in this
charter, but none more remarkable than one which stipulated that
all profits over fifteen per cent should revert to the State
Treasury. This hint concerning surplus profits, however, did not
cause a stampede when the books were opened for subscriptions in
New York and Albany. In later years, when the Erie Canal gave
promise of a new era in American inland commerce, Elkanah Watson
recalled with a grim satisfaction the efforts of these early
days. The subscription books at the old Coffee House in New York,
he tells us, lay open three days without an entry, and at Lewis's
tavern in Albany, where the books were opened for a similar
period, "no mortal" had subscribed for more than two shares.

The system proposed for the improvement of the waterways of New
York was similar to that projected for the Potomac. A canal was
to be cut from the Mohawk to the Hudson in order to avoid Cohoes
Falls; a canal with locks would overcome the forty-foot drop at
Little Falls; another canal over five thousand feet in length was
to connect the Mohawk and Wood Creek at Rome; minor improvements
were to be made between Schenectady and the mouth of the
Schoharie; and finally the Oswego Falls at Rochester were to be
circumvented also by canal. All the objections, difficulties, and
discouragements which had attended efforts to improve waterways
elsewhere in America confronted these New York promoters. They
began in 1793 at Little Falls but were soon forced to cease owing
to the failure of funds. Under the encouraging spur of a state
subscription to two hundred shares of stock, they renewed their
efforts in 1794 but were again forced to abandon the work before
the year had passed. By November, 1795, however, they had
completed the canal and in thirty days had received toll to the
amount of about four hundred dollars.

The total actual work done is not clearly shown by the documents,
but it is evident that the measure of success achieved was not
equaled elsewhere on similar improvements on a large scale. From
1796 to 1804 the tolls received at Rome amounted to over fifteen
thousand dollars, and at Little Falls to over fifty-eight
thousand dollars--a sum which exceeded the original cost of
construction. Dividends had crept up from three per cent in 1798
to five and a half per cent in 1817, the year in which work was
begun on the Erie Canal.

No struggle for the mastery of an American river matches in
certain respects the effort of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation
Company to bridle the Lehigh and make it play its part in the
commercial development of Pennsylvania. The failures and trials
of the promoters of this company were no less remarkable than
was the great success that eventually crowned the effort. In 1793
the Lehigh Coal Mine Company was organized and purchased some ten
thousand acres in the Mauch Chunk anthracite region, nine miles
from the Lehigh River. It then appropriated a sum of money to
build a road from the mines to the river in the expectation that
the State would improve the navigation of the waterway, for
which, it has already been noted, an appropriation had been made
in 1791, in accordance with the programme of the Society for
Promoting the Improvement of Roads and Inland Navigation. Nothing
was done, however, to improve the river, and the company, after
various attempts at shipping coal to Philadelphia, gave up the
effort and allowed the property, which was worth millions, to lie
idle. In 1807 the Lehigh Coal Mine Company, in another effort to
get its wares before the public, granted to Rowland and Butland,
a private firm, free right to operate one of its veins of coal;
but this operation also resulted in failure. In 1813 the company
made a third attempt and granted to a private concern a lease of
the entire property on the condition that ten thousand bushels of
coal should be taken to market annually. Difficulties immediately
made themselves apparent. No contractor could be found who would
haul the output to the Lehigh River for less than four dollars a
ton, and the man who accepted those terms lost money. Of five
barges filled at Mauch Chunk three went to pieces on the way to
Philadelphia. Although the contents of the other two sold for
twenty dollars a ton, the proceeds failed to meet expenses, and
the operating company threw up the lease.

But it happened that White and Hazard, the wire manufacturers who
purchased this Lehigh coal, were greatly pleased with its
quality. Believing that coal could be obtained more cheaply from
Mauch Chunk than from the mines along the Schuylkill, White,
Hauto, and Hazard formed a company, entered into negotiation with
the owners of the Lehigh mines, and obtained the lease of their
properties for a period of twenty years at an annual rental of
one ear of corn. The company agreed, moreover, to ship every year
at least forty thousand bushels of coal to Philadelphia for its
own consumption, to prove the value of the property.

White and his partners immediately applied to the Legislature for
permission to improve the navigation of the Lehigh, stating the
purpose of the improvement and citing the fact that their efforts
would tend to serve as a model for the improvement of other
Pennsylvania streams. The desired opportunity "to ruin
themselves," as one member of the Legislature put it, was granted
by an act passed March 20, 1818. The various powers applied for,
and granted, embraced the whole range of tried and untried
methods for securing "a navigation downward once in three days
for boats loaded with one hundred barrels, or ten tons." The
State kept its weather eye open in this matter, however, for a
small minority felt that these men would not ruin themselves.
Accordingly, the act of grant reserved to the commonwealth the
right to compel the adoption of a complete system of slack-water
navigation from Easton to Stoddartsville if the service given by
the company did not meet "the wants of the country."

Capital was subscribed by a patriotic public on condition that a
committee of stockholders should go over the ground and pass
judgment on the probable success of the effort. The report was
favorable, so far as the improvement of the river was concerned;
but the nine-mile road to the mines was unanimously voted
impracticable. "To give you an idea of the country over which the
road is to pass," wrote one of the commissioners, "I need only
tell you that I considered it quite an easement when the wheel of
my carriage struck a stump instead of a stone." The public mind
was divided. Some held that the attempt to operate the coal mine
was farcical, but that the improvement of the Lehigh River was an
undertaking of great value and of probable profit to investors.
Others were just as positive that the river improvement would
follow the fate of so many similar enterprises but that a fortune
was in store for those who invested in the Lehigh mines.

The direct result of the examiners' report and of the public
debate it provoked was the organization of the first interlocking
companies in the commercial history of America. The Lehigh
Navigation Company was formed with a capital stock of $150,000
and the Lehigh Coal Company with a capital stock of $55,000. This
incident forms one of the most striking illustrations in American
history of the dependence of a commercial venture upon methods of
inland transportation. The Lehigh Navigation Company proceeded to
build its dams and walls while the Lehigh Coal Company
constructed the first roadway in America built on the principle--
later adopted by the railway--of dividing the total distance by
the total descent in order to determine the grade. Not to be
outdone in point of ingenuity, the Lehigh Navigation Company,
then suffering from an unprecedented dearth of water, adopted
White's invention of sluice gates connecting with pools which
could be filled with reserve water to be drawn upon as navigation
required. By 1819 the necessary depth of water between Mauch
Chunk and Easton was obtained. The two companies were immediately
amalgamated under the title of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation
Company and by 1823 had sent over two thousand tons of coal to

As most of the efforts to improve the rivers, however, met with
indifferent success and many failures were recorded, the pendulum
of public confidence in this aid to inland commerce swung away,
and highway improvement by means of stone roads and toll road
companies came into favor in the interval between the nation's
two eras of river improvement and canal building.

CHAPTER IV. A Nation On Wheels

In early days the Indian had not only followed the watercourses
in his canoe but had made his way on foot over trails through the
woods and over the mountains. In colonial days, Englishman and
Frenchman followed the footsteps of the Indian, and as settlement
increased and trade developed, the forest path widened into the
highway for wheeled vehicles. Massachusetts began the work of
road making in 1639 by passing an act which decreed that "the
ways" should be six to ten rods wide "in common grounds," thus
allowing sufficient room for more than one track. Similar broad
"ways" were authorized in New York and Pennsylvania in 1664;
stumps and shrubs were to be cut close to the ground, and
"sufficient bridges" were to be built over streams and marshy
places. Virginia passed legislation for highways at an early
date, but it was not until 1669 that strict laws were enacted
with a view to keeping the roads in a permanently good condition.
Under these laws surveyors were appointed to establish in each
county roads forty feet wide to the church and to the courthouse.
In 1700, Pennsylvania turned her local roads over to the county
justices, put the King's highway and the main public roads under
the care of the governor and his council, and ordered each county
to erect bridges over its streams.

The word "roadmaking" was capable of several interpretations. In
general, it meant outlining the course for the new thoroughfare,
clearing away fallen timber, blazing or notching the trees so
that the traveler might not miss the track, and building bridges
or laying logs "over all the marshy, swampy, and difficult dirty

The streams proved serious obstacles to early traffic. It has
been shown already that the earliest routes of animal or man
sought the watersheds; the trails therefore usually encountered
one stream near its junction with another. At first, of course,
fording was the common method of crossing water, and the most
advantageous fording places were generally found near the mouths
of tributary streams, where bars and islands are frequently
formed and where the water is consequently shallow. When ferries
began to be used, they were usually situated just above or below
the fords; but when the bridge succeeded the ferry, the primitive
bridge builder went back to the old fording place in order to
take advantage of the shallower water, bars, and islands. With
the advent of improved engineering, the character of river banks
and currents was more frequently taken into consideration in
choosing a site for a bridge than was the case in the olden
times, but despite this fact the bridges of today, generally
speaking, span the rivers where the deer or the buffalo splashed
his way across centuries ago.

On the broader streams, where fording was impossible and traffic
was perforce carried by ferry, the canoe and the keel boat of the
earliest days gave way in time to the ordinary "flat" or barge.
At first the obligation of the ferryman to the public, though
recognized by English law, was ignored in America by legislators
and monopolists alike. Men obtained the land on both sides of the
rivers at the crossing places and served the public only at their
own convenience and at their own charges. In many cases, to
encourage the opening of roads or of ferries, national and state
authorities made grants of land on the same principle followed in
later days in the case of Western railroads. Such, for instance,
was the grant to Ebenezer Zane, at Zanesville, Lancaster, and
Chillicothe in the Northwest Territory. These monopolies
sometimes were extremely profitable: a descendant of the owners
of the famous Ingles ferry across New River, on the Wilderness
Road to Kentucky, is responsible for the statement that in the
heyday of travel to the Southwest the privilege was worth from
$10,000 to $15,000 annually to the family. But as local
governments became more efficient, monopolies were abolished and
the collection of tolls was taken over by the authorities. The
awakening of inland trade is most clearly indicated everywhere by
the action of assemblies regarding the operation of ferries, and
in general, by the beginning of the eighteenth century, tolls and
ferries were being regulated by law.

But neither roads nor ferries were of themselves sufficient to
put a nation on wheels. The early polite society of the settled
neighborhoods traveled in horse litters, in sedan chairs, or on
horseback, the women seated on pillions or cushions behind the
saddle riders, while oxcarts and horse barrows brought to town
the produce of the outlying farms. Although carts and rude wagons
could be built entirely of wood, there could be no marked advance
in transportation until the development of mining in certain
localities reduced the price of iron. With the increase of travel
and trade, the old world coach and chaise and wain came into use,
and iron for tire and brace became an imperative necessity. The
connection between the production of iron and the care of
highways was recognized by legislation as early as 1732, when
Maryland excused men and slaves in the ironworks from labor on
the public roads, though by the middle of the century owners of
ironworks were obliged to detail one man out of every ten in
their employ for such work.

While the coastwise trade between the colonies was still
preeminently important as a means of transporting commodities, by
the beginning of the eighteenth century the land routes from New
York to New England, from New York across New Jersey to
Philadelphia, and those radiating from Philadelphia in every
direction, were coming into general use. The date of the opening
of regular freight traffic between New York and Philadelphia is
set by the reply of the Governor of New Jersey in 1707 to a
protest against monopolies granted on one of the old widened
Indian trails between Burlington and Amboy. "At present," he
says, "everybody is sure, ONCE A FORTNIGHT, to have an
opportunity of sending any quantity of goods, great or small, at
reasonable rates, without being in danger of imposition; and the
sending of this wagon is so far from being a grievance or
monopoly, THAT BY THIS MEANS AND NO OTHER, a trade has been
carried on between Philadelphia, Burlington, Amboy, and New York,
which was never known before."

The long Philadelphia Road from the Lancaster region into the
Valley of Virginia, by way of Wadkins on the Potomac, was used by
German and Irish traders probably as early as 1700. In 1728 the
people of Maryland were petitioning for a road from the ford of
the Monocacy to the home of Nathan Wickham. Four years later Jost
Heydt, leading an immigrant party southward, broke open a road
from the York Barrens toward the Potomac two miles above Harper's
Ferry. This avenue by way of the Berkeley, Staunton, Watauga, and
Greenbrier regions to Tennessee and Kentucky--was the longest and
most important in America during the Revolutionary period. The
Virginia Assembly in 1779 appointed commissioners to view this
route and to report on the advisability of making it a wagon road
all the way to Kentucky. In 1795, efforts were made in Kentucky
to turn the Wilderness Trail into a wagon road, and in this same
year the Kentucky Legislature passed an act making the route from
Crab Orchard to Cumberland Gap a wagon road thirty feet in width.

>From Pennsylvania and from Virginia commerce westward bound
followed in the main the army roads hewn out by Braddock and
Forbes in their campaigns against Fort Duquesne. In 1755,
Braddock, marching from Alexandria by way of Fort Cumberland, had
opened a passage for his artillery and wagons to Laurel Hill,
near Uniontown, Pennsylvania. His force included a corps of
seamen equipped with block and tackle to raise and lower his
wagons in the steep inclines of the Alleghanies. Three years
later, Forbes, in his careful, dogged campaign, followed a more
northerly route. Advancing from Philadelphia and Carlisle, he
established Fort Bedford and Fort Ligonier as bases of supply and
broke a new road through the interminable forest which clothed
the rugged mountain ranges. From the first there was bitter
rivalry between these two routes, and the young Colonel
Washington was roundly criticized by both Forbes and Bouquet, his
second in command, for his partisan effort to "drive me down," as
Forbes phrased it, into the Virginia or Braddock's Road. This
rivalry between the two routes continued when the destruction of
the French power over the roads in the interior threw open to
Pennsylvania and her southern neighbors alike the lucrative
trade of the Ohio country.

>From the journals of the time may be caught faint glimpses of
toils and dangers of travel through these wild hill regions. Let
the traveler of today, as he follows the track that once was
Braddock's Road, picture the scene of that earlier time when, in
the face of every natural obstacle, the army toiled across the
mountain chains. Where the earth in yonder ravine is whipped to a
black froth, the engineers have thrown down the timber cut in
widening the trail and have constructed a corduroy bridge, or
rather a loose raft on a sea of muck. The wreck of the last wagon
which tried to pass gives some additional safety to the next.
Already the stench from the horse killed in the accident deadens
the heavy, heated air of the forest. The sailors, stripped to the
waist, are ready with ropes and tackle to let the next wagon down
the incline; the pulleys creak, the ropes groan. The horses, weak
and terror-stricken, plunge and rear; in the final crash to the
level the leg of the wheel horse is caught and broken; one of the
soldiers shoots the animal; the traces are unbuckled; another
beast is substituted. Beyond, the seamen are waiting with tackle
attached to trees on the ridge above to assist the horses on the
cruel upgrade--and Braddock, the deceived, maligned,
misrepresented, and misjudged, creeps onward in his brave
conquest of the Alleghanies in a campaign that, in spite of its
military failure, deserves honorable mention among the
achievements of British arms.

Everywhere, north and south, the early American road was a
veritable Slough of Despond. Watery pits were to be encountered
wherein horses were drowned and loads sank from sight. Frequently
traffic was stopped for hours by wagons which had broken down and
blocked the way. Thirteen wagons at one time were stalled on
Logan's Hill on the York Road. Frightful accidents occurred in
attempting to draw out loads. Jonathan Tyson, for instance, in
1792, near Philadelphia saw a horse's lower jaw torn off by the
slipping of a chain.

Save in the winter, when in the northern colonies snow filled the
ruts and frost built solid bridges over the streams, travel on
these early roads was never safe, rapid, nor comfortable. The
comparative ease of winter travel for the carriage of heavy
freight and for purposes of trade and social intercourse gave
the colder regions an advantage over the southern that was an
important factor in the development of the country.

No genuine improvement of roads and highways seems to have been
attempted until the era heralded by Washington's letter to
Harrison in 1784. But the problem slowly forced itself upon all
sections of the country, and especially upon Pennsylvania and
Maryland, whose inhabitants began to fear lest New York,
Alexandria, or Richmond should snatch the Western trade from
Philadelphia or Baltimore. The truth that underlies the proverb
that "history repeats itself" is well illustrated by the fact
that the first macadamized road in America was built in
Pennsylvania, for here also originated the pack-horse trade and
the Conestoga horse and wagon; here the first inland American
canal was built, the first roadbed was graded on the principle of
dividing the whole distance by the whole descent, and the first
railway was operated. Macadam and Telford had only begun to show
the people of England how to build roads of crushed stone--an art
first developed by the French engineer Tresaguet--when
Pennsylvanians built the Lancaster Turnpike. The Philadelphia and
Lancaster Turnpike Road Company was chartered April 9, 1792, as a
part of the general plan of the Society for the Improvement of
Roads and Inland Navigation already described. This road,
sixty-two miles in length, was built of stone at a cost of
$465,000 and was completed in two years. Never before had such a
sum been invested in internal improvement in the United States.
The rapidity with which the undertaking was carried through and
the profits which accrued from the investment were alike
astonishing. The subscription books were opened at eleven o'clock
one morning and by midnight 2226 shares had been subscribed, each
purchaser paying down thirty dollars. At the same time Elkanah
Watson was despondently scanning the subscription books of his
Mohawk River enterprise at Albany where "no mortal" had risked
more than two shares.

The success of the Lancaster Turnpike was not achieved without a
protest against the monopoly which the new venture created. It is
true that in all the colonies the exercise of the right of
eminent domain had been conceded in a veiled way to officials to
whose care the laying out of roads had been delegated. As early
as 1639 the General Court of Massachusetts had ordered each town
to choose men who, cooperating with men from the adjoining town,
should "lay out highways where they may be most convenient,
notwithstanding any man's property, or any corne ground, so as it
occasion not the pulling down of any man's house, or laying open
any garden or orchard." But the open and extended exercise of
these rights led to vigorous opposition in the case of this
Pennsylvania road. A public meeting was held at the Prince of
Wales Tavern in Philadelphia in 1793 to protest in round terms
against the monopolistic character of the Lancaster Turnpike.
Blackstone and Edward III were hurled at the heads of the "venal"
legislators who had made this "monstrosity" possible. The
opposition died down, however, in the face of the success which
the new road instantly achieved. The Turnpike was, indeed,
admirably situated. Converging at the quaint old "borough of
Lancaster," the various routes--northeast from Virginia, east
from the Carlisle and Chambersburg region and the Alleghanies,
and southeast from the upper Susquehanna country--poured upon the
Quaker City a trade that profited every merchant, landholder, and
laborer. The nine tollgates, on the average a little less than
seven miles apart, turned in a revenue that allowed the
"President and Managers" to declare dividends to stockholders
running, it is said, as high as fifteen per cent.

The Lancaster Turnpike is interesting from three points of view:
it began a new period of American transportation; it ushered in
an era of speculation unheard of in the previous history of the
country; and it introduced American lawmakers to the great
problem of controlling public corporations.

Along this thirty-seven-foot road, of which twenty-four feet were
laid with stone, the new era of American inland travel
progressed. The array of two-wheeled private equipages and other
family carriages, the stagecoaches of bright color, and the
carts, Dutch wagons, and Conestogas, gave token of what was soon
to be witnessed on the great roads of a dozen States in the next
generation. Here, probably, the first distinction began to be
drawn between the taverns for passengers and those patronized by
the drivers of freight. The colonial taverns, comparatively few
and far between, had up to this time served the traveling public,
high and low, rich and poor, alike. But in this new era members
of Congress and the elite of Philadelphia and neighboring towns
were not to be jostled at the table by burly hostlers, drivers,
wagoners, and hucksters. Two types of inns thus came quickly into
existence: the tavern entertained the stagecoach traffic, while
the democratic roadhouse served the established lines of
Conestogas, freighters, and all other vehicles which poured from
every town, village, and hamlet upon the great thoroughfare
leading to the metropolis on the Delaware.

Among American inventions the Conestoga wagon must forever be
remembered with respect. Originating in the Lancaster region of
Pennsylvania and taking its name either from the horses of the
Conestoga Valley or from the valley itself, this vehicle was
unlike the old English wain or the Dutch wagon because of the
curve of its bed. This peculiarly shaped bottom, higher by twelve
inches or more at each end than in the middle, made the vehicle a
safer conveyance across the mountains and over all rough country
than the old straight-bed wagon. The Conestoga was covered with
canvas, as were other freight vehicles, but the lines of the bed
were also carried out in the framework above and gave the whole
the effect of a great ship swaying up and down the billowy hills.
The wheels of the Conestoga were heavily built and wore tires
four and six inches in width. The harness of the six horses
attached to the wagon was proportionately heavy, the back bands
being fifteen inches wide, the hip straps ten, and the traces
consisting of ponderous iron chains. The color of the original
Conestoga wagons never varied: the underbody was always blue and
the upper parts were red. The wagoners and drivers who manned
this fleet on wheels were men of a type that finds no parallel
except in the boatmen on the western rivers who were almost their
contemporaries. Fit for the severest toil, weathered to the color
of the red man, at home under any roof that harbored a demijohn
and a fiddle, these hardy nomads of early commerce were the
custodians of the largest amount of traffic in their day.

The turnpike era overlaps the period of the building of national
roads and canals and the beginning of the railway age, but it is
of greatest interest during the first twenty-five years of the
nineteenth century, up to the time when the completion of the
Erie Canal set new standards. During this period roads were also
constructed westward from Baltimore and Albany to connect, as the
Lancaster Turnpike did at its terminus, with the thoroughfares
from the trans-Alleghany country. The metropolis of Maryland was
quickly in the field to challenge the bid which the Quaker City
made for western trade. The Baltimore-Reisterstown and
Baltimore-Frederick turnpikes were built at a cost of $10,000 and
$8,000 a mile respectively; and the latter, connecting with roads
to Cumberland, linked itself with the great national road to Ohio
which the Government built between 1811 and 1817. These famous
stone roads of Maryland long kept Baltimore in the lead as the
principal outlet for the western trade. New York, too, proved her
right to the title of Empire State by a marvelous activity in
improving her magnificent strategic position. In the first seven
years of the nineteenth century eighty-eight incorporated road
companies were formed with a total capital of over $8,000,000.
Twenty large bridges and more than three thousand miles of
turnpike were constructed. The movement, indeed, extended from
New England to Virginia and the Carolinas, and turnpike companies
built all kinds of roads--earth, corduroy, plank, and stone.

In many cases the kind of road to be constructed, the tolls to be
charged, and the amount of profit to be permitted, were laid down
in the charters. Thus new problems confronted the various
legislatures, and interesting principles of regulation were now
established. In most cases companies were allowed, on producing
their books of receipts and expenditures, to increase their tolls
until they obtained a profit of six per cent on the investment,
though in a number of cases nine per cent was permitted. When
revenues increased beyond the six per cent mark, however, the
tendency was to reduce tolls or to use the extra profit to
purchase the stock for the State, with the expectation of
ultimately abolishing tollgates entirely. The theories of state
regulation of corporations and the obligations of public
carriers, extending even to the compensation of workmen in case
of accident, were developed to a considerable degree in this
turnpike era; but, on the other hand, the principle of permitting
fair profit to corporations upon public examination of their
accounts was also recognized.

The stone roads, which were passable at all seasons, brought a
new era in correspondence and business. Lines of stages and
wagons, as well known at that time as are the great railways of
today, plied the new thoroughfares, provided some of the comforts
of travel, and assured the safer and more rapid delivery of
goods. This period is sometimes known in American history as "The
Era of Good Feeling" and the turnpike contributed in no small
degree to make the phrase applicable not only to the domain of
politics but to all the relations of social and commercial life.

While road building in the East gives a clear picture of the rise
and growth of commerce and trade in that section, it is to the
rivers of the trans-Alleghany country that we must look for a
corresponding picture in this early period. The canoe and pirogue
could handle the packs and kegs brought westward by the files of
Indian ponies; but the heavy loads of the Conestoga wagons
demanded stancher craft. The flatboat and barge therefore served
the West and its commerce as the Conestoga and turnpike served
the East.

CHAPTER V. The Flatboat Age

In the early twenties of the last century one of the popular
songs of the day was "The Hunters of Kentucky." Written by Samuel
Woodworth, the author of "The Old Oaken Bucket," it had
originally been printed in the New York Mirror but had come into
the hands of an actor named Ludlow, who was playing in the old
French theater in New Orleans. The poem chants the praises of the
Kentucky riflemen who fought with Jackson at New Orleans and
indubitably proved

That every man was half a horse
And half an alligator.

Ludlow knew his audience and he saw his chance. Setting the words
to Risk's tune, "Love Laughs" at Locksmiths, donning the costume
of a Western riverman, and arming himself with a long "squirrel"
rifle, he presented himself before the house. The rivermen who
filled the pit received him, it is related, with "a prolonged
whoop, or howl, such as Indians give when they are especially
pleased." And to these sturdy men the words of his song made a
strong appeal:

We are a hardy, freeborn race,
Each man to fear a stranger;
Whate'er the game, we join in chase,
Despising toil and danger;
And if a daring foe annoys,
No matter what his force is,
We'll show him that Kentucky boys
Are Alligator-horses.

The title "alligator-horse," of which Western rivermen were very
proud, carried with it a suggestion of amphibious strength that
made it both apt and figuratively accurate. On all the American
rivers, east and west, a lusty crew, collected from the waning
Indian trade and the disbanded pioneer armies, found work to its
taste in poling the long keel boats, "corralling" the bulky
barges--that is, towing them by pulling on a line attached to the
shore--or steering the "broadhorns" or flatboats that transported
the first heavy inland river cargoes. Like longshoremen of all
ages, the American riverman was as rough as the work which
calloused his hands and transformed his muscles into bands of
tempered steel. Like all men given to hard but intermittent
labor, he employed his intervals of leisure in coarse and brutal
recreation. Their roistering exploits, indeed, have made these
rivermen almost better known at play than at work. One of them,
the notorious Mike Fink, known as "the Snag" on the Mississippi
and as the "Snapping Turtle" on the Ohio, has left the record,
not that he could load a keel boat in a certain length of time,
or lift a barrel of whiskey with one arm, or that no tumultuous
current had ever compelled him to back water, but that he could
"out-run, out-hop, out-jump, throw down, drag out, and lick any
man in the country," and that he was "a Salt River roarer."

Such men and the craft they handled were known on the Atlantic
rivers, but it was on the Mississippi and its branches,
especially the Ohio, that they played their most important part
in the history of American inland commerce. Before the beginning
of the nineteenth century wagons and Conestogas were bringing
great loads of merchandise to such points on the headwaters as
Brownsville, Pittsburgh, and Wheeling. As early as 1782, we are
told, Jacob Yoder, a Pennsylvania German, set sail from the
Monongahela country with the first flatboat to descend the Ohio
and Mississippi. As the years passed, the number of such craft
grew constantly larger. The custom of fixing the widespreading
horns of cattle on the prow gave these boats the alternative name
of "broadhorns," but no accurate classification can be made of
the various kinds of craft engaged in this vast traffic.
Everything that would float, from rough rafts to finished barges,
was commandeered into service, and what was found unsuitable for
the strenuous purposes of commercial transportation was palmed
off whenever possible on unsuspecting emigrants en route to the
lands of promise beyond.

Flour, salt, iron, cider and peach brandy were staple products of
the Ohio country which the South desired. In return they shipped
molasses, sugar, coffee, lead, and hides upon the few keel boats
which crept upstream or the blundering barges which were
propelled northward by means of oar, sail, and cordelle. It was
not, however, until the nineteenth century that the young West
was producing any considerable quantity of manufactured goods.
Though the town of Pittsburgh had been laid out in 1764, by the
end of the Revolution it was still little more than a collection
of huts about a fort. A notable amount of local trade was carried
on, but the expense of transportation was very high even after
wagons began crossing the Alleghanies. For example, the cost from
Philadelphia and Baltimore was given by Arthur Lee, a member of
Congress, in 1784 as forty-five shillings a hundredweight, and a
few months later it is quoted at sixpence a pound when Johann D.
Schoph crossed the mountains in a chaise--a feat "which till now
had been considered quite impossible." Opinions differed widely
as to the future of the little town of five hundred inhabitants.
The important product of the region at first was Monongahela
flour which long held a high place in the New Orleans market.
Coal was being mined as early as 1796 and was worth locally
threepence halfpenny a bushel, though within seven years it was
being sold at Philadelphia at thirty-seven and a half cents a
bushel. The fur trade with the Illinois country grew less
important as the century came to its close, but Maynard and
Morrison, cooperating with Guy Bryan at Philadelphia, sent a
barge laden with merchandise to Illinois annually between 1790
and 1796, which returned each season with a cargo of skins and
furs. Pittsburgh was thus a distributing center of some
importance; but the fact that no drayman or warehouse was to be
found in the town at this time is a significant commentary on the
undeveloped state of its commerce and manufacture.

After Wayne's victory at the battle of the Fallen Timber in 1794
and the signing of the Treaty of Greenville in 1795, which ended
the earlier Indian wars of the Old Northwest and opened for
settlement the country beyond the Ohio, a great migration
followed into Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky, and the commercial
activity of Pittsburgh rapidly increased. By 1800 a score of
profitable industries had arisen, and by 1803 the first bar-iron
foundry was, to quote the advertisement of its owner,
"sufficiently upheld by the hand of the Almighty" to supply in
part the demand for iron and castings. Glass factories were
established, and ropewalks, sail lofts, boatyards, anchor
smithies, and brickyards, were soon ready to supply the rapidly
increasing demands of the infant cities and the countryside on
the lower Ohio. When the new century arrived the Pittsburgh
district had a population of upwards of two thousand.

One by one the other important centers of trade in the great
valley beyond began to show evidences of life. Marietta, Ohio,
founded in 1788 by Revolutionary officers from New England,
became the metropolis of the rich Muskingum River district, which
was presently sending many flatboats southward. Cincinnati was
founded in the same year as Marietta, with the building of Fort
Washington and the formal organization of Hamilton County. The
soil of the Miami country was as "mellow as an ash heap" and in
the first four months of 1802 over four thousand barrels of flour
were shipped southward to challenge the prestige of the
Monongahela product. Potters, brickmakers, gunsmiths, cotton and
wool weavers, coopers, turners, wheelwrights, dyers, printers,
and ropemakers were at work here within the next decade. A
brewery turned out five thousand barrels of beer and porter in
1811, and by the next year the pork-packing business was
thoroughly established.

Louisville, the "Little Falls" of the West, was the entrepot of
the Blue Grass region. It had been a place of some importance
since Revolutionary days, for in seasons of low water the rapids
in the Ohio at this point gave employment to scores of laborers
who assisted the flatboatmen in hauling their cargoes around the
obstruction which prevented the passage of the heavily loaded
barges. The town, which was incorporated in 1780, soon showed
signs of commercial activity. It was the proud possessor of a
drygoods house in 1783. The growth of its tobacco industry was
rapid from the first. The warehouses were under government
supervision and inspection as early as 1795, and innumerable
flatboats were already bearing cargoes of bright leaf southward
in the last decade of the century. The first brick house in
Louisville was erected in 1789 with materials brought from
Pittsburgh. Yankees soon established the "Hope Distillery"; and
the manufacture of whiskey, which had long been a staple industry
conducted by individuals, became an incorporated business of
great promise in spite of objections raised against the "creation
of gigantic reservoirs of this damning drink."

Thus, about the year 1800, the great industries of the young West
were all established in the regions dominated by the growing
cities of Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Louisville. But, since the
combined population of these centers could not have been over
three thousand in the year 1800, it is evident that the adjacent
rural population and the people living in every neighboring creek
and river valley were chiefly responsible for the large trade
that already existed between this corner of the Mississippi basin
and the South.

In this trade the riverman was the fundamental factor. Only by
means of his brawn and his genius for navigation could these
innumerable tons of flour, tobacco, and bacon have been kept from
rotting on the shores. Yet the man himself remains a legend
grotesque and mysterious, one of the shadowy figures of a time
when history was being made too rapidly to be written. If we ask
how he loaded his flatboat or barge, we are told that "one squint
of his eye would blister a bull's heel." When we inquire how he
found the channel amid the shifting bars and floating islands of
that tortuous two-thousand-mile journey to New Orleans, we are
informed that he was "the very infant that turned from his
mother's breast and called out for a bottle of old rye." When we
ask how he overcame the natural difficulties of trade--lack of
commission houses, varying standards of money, want of systems of
credit and low prices due to the glutting of the market when
hundreds of flatboats arrived in the South simultaneously on the
same freshet--we are informed that "Billy Earthquake is the
geniwine, double-acting engine, and can out-run, out-swim, chaw
more tobacco and spit less, drink more whiskey and keep soberer
than any other man in these localities."

The reason for this lack of information is that our descriptions
of flatboating and keel boating are written by travelers who, as
is always the case, are interested in what is unusual, not in
what is typical and commonplace. It is therefore only dimly, as
through a mist, that we can see the two lines of polemen pass
from the prow to the stern on the narrow running-board of a keel
boat, lifting and setting their poles to the cry of steersman or
captain. The struggle in a swift "rife" or rapid is momentous. If
the craft swerves, all is lost. Shoulders bend with savage
strength; poles quiver under the tension; the captain's voice is
raucous, and every other word is an oath; a pole breaks, and the
next man, though half-dazed in the mortal crisis, does for a few
moments the work of two. At last they reach the head of the
rapid, and the boat floats out on the placid pool above, while
the "alligator-horse" who had the mishap remarks to the scenery
at large that he'd be "fly-blowed before sun-down to a certingty"
if that were not the very pole with which he "pushed the
broadhorn up Salt River where the snags were so thick that a fish
couldn't swim without rubbing his scales off." Audubon, the
naturalist-merchant of the Mississippi, has left us a clear
picture of the process by which these heavy tubs, loaded with
forty or fifty tons of freight, were forced upstream against a
swift current:

"Wherever a point projected so as to render the course or bend
below it of some magnitude, there was an eddy, the returning
current of which was sometimes as strong as that of the middle of
the great stream. The bargemen, therefore, rowed up pretty close
under the bank and had merely to keep watch in the bow lest the
boat should run against a planter or sawyer. But the boat has
reached the point, and there the current is to all appearance of
double strength and right against it. The men, who have rested a
few minutes, are ordered to take their stations and lay hold of
their oars, for the river must be crossed, it being seldom
possible to double such a point and proceed along the same shore.
The boat is crossing, its head slanting to the current, which is,
however, too strong for the rowers, and when the other side of
the river has been reached, it has drifted perhaps a quarter of a
mile. The men are by this time exhausted and, as we shall suppose
it to be 12 o'clock, fasten the boat to a tree on the shore. A
small glass of whiskey is given to each, when they cook and eat
their dinner and, after resting from their fatigue for an hour,
recommence their labors. The boat is again seen slowly advancing
against the stream. It has reached the lower end of a sandbar,
along the edge of which it is propelled by means of long poles,
if the bottom be hard. Two men, called bowsmen, remain at the
prow to assist, in concert with the steersman, in managing the
boat and keeping its head right against the current. The rest
place themselves on the land side of the footway of the vessel,
put one end of their poles on the ground and the other against
their shoulders and push with all their might. As each of the men
reaches the stern, he crosses to the other side, runs along it
and comes again to the landward side of the bow, when he
recommences operations. The barge in the meantime is ascending at
a rate not exceeding one mile in the hour."

Trustworthy statistics as to the amount and character of the
Western river trade have never been gathered. They are to be
found, if anywhere, in the reports of the collectors of customs
located at the various Western ports of entry and departure.
Nothing indicates more definitely the hour when the West awoke
to its first era of big business than the demand for the creation
of "districts" and their respective ports, for by no other means
could merchandise and produce be shipped legally to Spanish
territory beyond or down the Mississippi or to English territory
on the northern shores of the Great Lakes.

Louisville is as old a port of the United States as New York or
Philadelphia, having been so created when our government was
established in 1789, but oddly enough the first returns to the
National Treasury (1798) are credited to the port of Palmyra,
Tennessee, far inland on the Cumberland River. In 1799 the
following Western towns were made ports of entry: Erie, Sandusky,
Detroit, Mackinaw Island, and Columbia (Cincinnati). The first
port on the Ohio to make returns was Fort Massac, Illinois, and
it is from the collector at this point that we get our first hint
as to the character and volume of Western river traffic. In the
spring months of March, April, and May, 1800, cargoes to the
value of 28,581 pounds, Pennsylvania currency, went down the
Ohio. This included 22,714 barrels of flour, 1017 barrels of
whiskey, 12,500 pounds of pork, 18,710 pounds of bacon, 75,814
pounds of cordage, 3650 yards of country linen, 700 bottles, and
700 barrels of potatoes. In the three autumn months of 1800, for
instance, twenty-one boats ascended the Ohio by Fort Massac, with
cargoes amounting to 36 hundredweight of lead and a few hides.
Descending the river at the same time, flatboats and barges
carried 245 hundredweight of drygoods valued at $32,550. When we
compare these spring and fall records of commerce downstream we
reach the natural conclusion that the bulk of the drygoods which
went down in the fall of the year had been brought over the
mountains during the summer. The fact that the Alleghany
pack-horses and Conestogas were transporting freight to supply
the Spanish towns on the Mississippi River in the first year of
the nineteenth century seems proved beyond a doubt by these
reports from Fort Massac.

The most interesting phase of this era is the connection between
western trade and the politics of the Mississippi Valley which
led up to the Louisiana Purchase. By the Treaty of San Lorenzo in
1795 Spain made New Orleans an open port, and in the next seven
years the young West made the most of its opportunity. But before
the new century was two years old the difficulties encountered
were found to be serious. The lack of commission merchants, of
methods of credit, of information as to the state of the market,
all combined to handicap trade and to cause loss. Pittsburgh
shippers figured their loss already at $60,000 a year. In
consequence men began to look elsewhere, and an advocate of big
business wrote in 1802: "The country has received a shock; let us
immediately extend our views and direct our efforts to every
foreign market."

One of the most remarkable plans for the capture of foreign trade
to be found in the annals of American commerce originated almost
simultaneously in the Muskingum and Monongahela regions. With a
view to making the American West independent of the Spanish
middlemen, it was proposed to build ocean-going vessels on the
Ohio that should carry the produce of the interior down the
Mississippi and thence abroad through the open port of New
Orleans. The idea was typically Western in its arrogant
originality and confident self-assertion. Two vessels were built:
the brig St. Clair, of 110 tons, at Marietta, and the Monongahela
Farmer, of 250 tons, at Elizabeth on the Monongahela. The former
reached Cincinnati April 27, 1801; the latter, loaded with 750
barrels of flour, passed Pittsburgh on the 13th of May.
Eventually, the St. Clair reached Havana and thus proved that
Muskingum Valley black walnut, Ohio hemp, and Marietta
carpenters, anchor smiths, and skippers could defy the grip of
the Spaniard on the Mississippi. Other vessels followed these
adventurers, and shipbuilding immediately became an important
industry at Pittsburgh, Marietta, Cincinnati, and other points.
The Duane of Pittsburgh was said by the Liverpool "Saturday
Advertiser" of July 9, 1803, to have been the "first vessel which
ever came to Europe from the western waters of the United
States." Probably the Louisiana of Marietta went as far afield as
any of the one hundred odd ships built in these years on the
Ohio. The official papers of her voyage in 1805, dated at New
Orleans, Norfolk (Virginia), Liverpool, Messina, and Trieste at
the head of the Adriatic, are preserved today in the Marietta
College Library.

The growth of the shipbuilding industry necessitated a
readjustment of the districts for the collection of customs.
Columbia (Cincinnati) at first served the region of the upper
Ohio; but in 1803 the district was divided and Marietta was made
the port for the Pittsburgh-Portsmouth section of the river. In
1807 all the western districts were amalgamated, and Pittsburgh,
Charleston (Wellsburg), Marietta, Cincinnati, Louisville, and
Fort Massac were made ports of entry.

The Louisiana Purchase in 1803 gave a marked impulse to inland
shipbuilding; but the embargo of 1807, which prohibited foreign
trade, following so soon, killed the shipyards, which, for a few
years, had been so busy. The great new industry of the Ohio
Valley was ruined. By this time the successful voyage of Fulton's
steamboat, the Clermont, between New York and Albany, had
demonstrated the possibilities of steam navigation. Not a few men
saw in the novel craft the beginning of a new era in Western
river traffic; but many doubted whether it was possible to
construct a vessel powerful enough to make its way upstream
against such sweeping currents as those of the Mississippi and
the Ohio. Surely no one for a moment dreamed that in hardly more
than a generation the Western rivers would carry a tonnage larger
than that of the cities of the Atlantic seaboard combined and
larger than that of Great Britain!

As early as 1805, two years before the trip of the Clermont,
Captain Keever built a "steamboat" on the Ohio, and sent her down
to New Orleans where her engine was to be installed. But it was
not until 1811 that the Orleans, the first steamboat to ply the
Western streams, was built at Pittsburgh, from which point she
sailed for New Orleans in October of that year. The Comet and
Vesuvius quickly followed, but all three entered the New
Orleans-Natchez trade on the lower river and were never seen
again at the headwaters. As yet the swift currents and flood
tides of the great river had not been mastered. It is true that
in 1815 the Enterprise had made two trips between New Orleans and
Louisville, but this was in time of high water, when counter
currents and backwaters had assisted her feeble engine. In 1816,
however, Henry Shreve conceived the idea of raising the engine
out of the hold and constructing an additional deck. The
Washington, the first doubledecker, was the result. The next year
this steamboat made the round trip from Louisville to New Orleans
and back in forty-one days. The doubters were now convinced.

For a little while the quaint and original riverman held on in
the new age, only to disappear entirely when the colored
roustabout became the deckhand of post-bellum days. The riverman
as a type was unknown except on the larger rivers in the earlier
years of water traffic. What an experience it would be today to
rouse one of those remarkable individuals from his dreaming, as
Davy Crockett did, with an oar, and hear him howl "Halloe
stranger, who axed you to crack my lice?"--to tell him in his own
lingo to "shut his mouth or he would get his teeth sunburnt"--to
see him crook his neck and neigh like a stallion--to answer his
challenge in kind with a flapping of arms and a cock's crow--to
go to shore and have a scrimmage such as was never known on a
gridiron--and then to resolve with Crockett, during a period of
recuperation, that you would never "wake up a ringtailed roarer
with an oar again."

The riverman, his art, his language, his traffic, seem to belong
to days as distant as those of which Homer sang.

CHAPTER VI. The Passing Show Of 1800

Foreign travelers who have come to the United States have always
proved of great interest to Americans. From Brissot to Arnold
Bennett while in the country they have been fed and clothed and
transported wheresoever they would go--at the highest prevailing
prices. And after they have left, the records of their sojourn
that these travelers have published have made interesting reading
for Americans all over the land. Some of these trans-Atlantic
visitors have been jaundiced, disgruntled, and contemptuous;
others have shown themselves of an open nature, discreet,
conscientious, and fair-minded.

One of the most amiable and clear-headed of such foreign guests
was Francis Baily, later in life president of the Royal
Astronomical Society of Great Britain, but at the time of his
American tour a young man of twenty-two. His journey in 1796-97
gave him a wide experience of stage, flatboat, and pack-horse
travel, and his genial disposition, his observant eye, and his
discriminating criticism, together with his comments on the
commercial features of the towns and regions he visited, make his
record particularly interesting and valuable to the historian.*
Using Baily's journal as a guide, therefore, one can today
journey with him across the country and note the passing show as
he saw it in this transitional period.

* "Journal of a Tour in Unsettled Parts of North America in 1796
and 1797" by the late Francis Baily (London, 1856).

Landing at Norfolk, Virginia, Baily was immediately introduced to
an American tavern. Like most travelers, he was surprised to find
that American taverns were "boarding-places," frequented by
crowds of "young, able-bodied men who seemed to be as perfectly
at leisure as the loungers of ancient Europe." In those days of
few newspapers, the tavern everywhere in America was the center
of information; in fact, it was a common practice for travelers
in the interior, after signing their names in the register, to
add on the same page any news of local interest which they
brought with them. The tavern habitues, Baily remarks, did not
sit and drink after meals but "wasted" their time at billiards
and cards. The passion for billiards was notorious, and taverns
in the most out-of-the-way places, though they lacked the most
ordinary conveniences, were nevertheless provided with billiard
tables. This custom seems to have been especially true in the
South; and it is significant that the first taxes in Tennessee
levied before the beginning of the nineteenth century were the
poll tax and taxes on billiard tables and studhorses!

>From Norfolk Baily passed northward to Baltimore, paying a fare
of ten dollars, and from there he went on to Philadelphia, paying
six dollars more. On the way his stagecoach stuck fast in a bog
and the passengers were compelled to leave it until the next
morning. This sixty-mile road out of Baltimore was evidently one
of the worst in the East. Ten years prior to this date, Brissot,
a keen French journalist, mentions the great ruts in its heavy
clay soil, the overturned trees which blocked the way, and the
unexampled skilfulness of the stage drivers. All travelers in
America, though differing on almost every other subject,
invariably praise the ability of these sturdy, weather-beaten
American drivers, their kindness to their horses, and their
attention to their passengers. Harriet Martineau stated that, in
her experience, American drivers as a class were marked by the
merciful temper which accompanies genius, and their perfection in
their art, their fertility of resource, and the gentleness with
which they treated female fears and fretfulness, were exemplary.

In the City of Brotherly Love Baily notes the geniality of the
people, who by many travelers are called aristocratic, and
comments on Quaker opposition to the theater and the
inconsequence of the Peale Museum, which travelers a generation
later highly praise. Proceeding to New York at a cost of six
dollars, he is struck by the uncouthness of the public buildings,
churches excepted, the widespread passion for music, dancing, and
the theater, the craze for sleighing, and the promise which the
harbor gave of becoming the finest in America. Not a few
travelers in this early period gave expression to their belief in
the future greatness of New York City. These prophecies, taken in
connection with the investment of eight millions of dollars which
New Yorkers made in toll-roads in the first seven years of this
new century, incline one to believe that the influence of the
Erie Canal as a factor in the development of the city may have
been unduly emphasized, great though it was.

>From New York Baily returned to Baltimore and went on to
Washington. The records of all travelers to the site of the new
national capital give much the same picture of the countryside.
It was a land worn out by tobacco culture and variously described
as "dried up," "run down," and "hung out to dry." Even George
Washington, at Mount Vernon, was giving up tobacco culture and
was attempting new crops by a system of rotation. Cotton was
being grown in Maryland, but little care was given to its culture
and manufacture. Tobacco was graded in Virginia in accordance
with the rigidity of its inspection at Hanover Court House,
Pittsburgh, Richmond, and Cabin-Point: leaf worth sixteen
shillings at Richmond was worth twenty-one at Hanover Court
House; if it was refused at all places, it was smuggled to the
West Indies or consumed in the country. Meadows were rapidly
taking the place of tobacco-fields, for the planters preferred to
clear new land rather than to enrich the old.

At Washington Baily found that lots to the value of $278,000 had
been sold, although only one-half of the proposed city had been
"cleared." It was to be forty years ere travelers could speak
respectfully of what is now the beautiful city of Washington. In
these earlier days, the streets were mudholes divided by vacant
fields and "beautified by trees, swamps, and cows."

Departing for the West by way of Frederick, Baily, like all
travelers, was intensely interested upon entering the rich
limestone region which stretched from Pennsylvania far down into
Virginia. It was occupied in part by the Pennsylvania Dutch and
was so famous for its rich milk that it was called by many
travelers the "Bonnyclabber Country." Most Englishmen were
delighted with this region because they found here the good old
English breed of horses, that is, the English hunter developed
into a stout coach-horse. Of native breeds, Baily found animals
of all degrees of strength and size down to hackneys of fourteen
hands, as well as the "vile dog-horses," or packhorses, whose
faithful service to the frontier could in no wise be appreciated
by a foreigner.

This region of Pennsylvania was as noted for its wagons as for
its horses. It was this wheat-bearing belt that made the common
freight-wagon in its colors of red and blue a national
institution. It was in this region of rich, well-watered land
that the maple tree gained its reputation. Men even prophesied
that its delightful sap would prove a cure for slavery, for, if
one family could make fifteen hundred pounds of maple sugar in a
season, eighty thousand families could, at the same rate, equal
the output of cane sugar each year from Santo Domingo!

The traveler at the beginning of the century noticed a change in
the temper of the people as well as a change in the soil when the
Bonnyclabber Country was reached. The time-serving attitude of
the good people of the East now gave place to a "consciousness of
independence" due, Baily remarks, to the fact that each man was
self-sufficient and passed his life "without regard to the smiles
and frowns of men in power." This spirit was handsomely
illustrated in the case of one burly Westerner who was "churched"
for fighting. Showing a surly attitude to the deacon-judges who
sat on his case, he was threatened with civil prosecution and
imprisonment. "I don't want freedom," he is said to have replied,
bitterly; "I don't even want to live if I can't knock down a man
who calls me a liar."

Pushing on westward by way of historic Sideling Hill and Bedford
to Statlers, Baily found here a prosperous millstone quarry,
which sold its stones at from fifteen to thirty dollars a pair.
Twelve years earlier Washington had prophesied that the
Alleghanies would soon be furnishing millstones equal to the best
English burr. As he crossed the mountains Baily found that
taverns charged the following schedule: breakfast, eighteen
pence; dinner and supper from two shillings to two shillings and
sixpence each. Traversing Laurel Hill, he reached Pittsburgh just
at the time when it was awakening to activity as the trading
center of the West.

In order to descend the Ohio, Baily obtained a flatboat,
thirty-six feet long and twelve feet broad, which drew eighteen
inches of water and was of ten tons burden. On the way
downstream, Charleston and Wheeling were the principal
settlements which Baily first noted. Ebenezer Zane, the founder
of Wheeling, had just opened across Ohio the famous landward
route from the Monongahela country to Kentucky, which it entered
at Limestone, the present Maysville. This famous road, passing
through Zanesville, Lancaster, and Chillicothe, though at that
time safe only for men in parties, was a common route to and from

On such inland pathways as this, early travelers came to take for
granted a hospitality not to be found on more frequented
thoroughfares. In this hospitality, roughness and good will,
cleanliness and filth, attempts to ape the style of Eastern towns
and habits of the most primitive kind, were singularly blended.
In one instance, the traveler might be cordially assigned by the
landlord to a good position in "the first rush for a chance at
the head of the table"; at the next stopping place he might be
coldly turned away because the proprietor "had the gout" and his
wife the "delicate blue-devils"; farther on, where "soap was
unknown, nothing clean but birds, nothing industrious but pigs,
and nothing happy but squirrels," Daniel Boone's daughter might
be seen in high-heeled shoes, attended by white servants whose
wages were a dollar a week, skirting muddy roads under a
ten-dollar bonnet and a six-dollar parasol. Or, he might emerge
from a lonely forest in Ohio or Indiana and come suddenly upon a
party of neighbors at a dreary tavern, enjoying a corn shucking
or a harvest home. Immediately dubbed "Doctor," "Squire," or
"Colonel" by the hospitable merrymakers, the passer-by would be
informed that he "should drink and lack no good thing." After he
had retired, as likely as not his quarters would be invaded at
one or two o'clock in the morning by the uproarious company, and
the best refreshment of the house would be forced upon him with a
hilarity "created by omnipotent whiskey." Sometimes, however, the
traveler would encounter pitiful instances of loneliness in the
widespreading forests. One man in passing a certain isolated
cabin was implored by the woman who inhabited it to rest awhile
and talk, since she was, she confessed, completely overwhelmed by
"the lone!"

Every traveler has remarked upon the yellow pallor of the first
inhabitants of the western forests and doubtless correctly
attributed this sickly appearance to the effects of malaria and
miasma. The psychic influences of the forest wilderness also
weighed heavily upon the spirits of the settlers, although, as
Baily notes, it was the newcomers who felt the depression to an
exaggerated degree. As he says:

"It is a feeling of confinement, which begins to damp the
spirits, from this complete exclusion of distant objects. To
travel day after day, among trees of a hundred feet high, is
oppressive to a degree which those cannot conceive who have not
experienced it; and it must depress the spirits of the solitary
settler to pass years in this state. His visible horizon extends
no farther than the tops of the trees which bound his plantation-
-perhaps five hundred yards. Upwards he sees the sun, and sky,
and stars, but around him an eternal forest, from which he can
never hope to emerge:---not so in a thickly settled district; he
cannot there enjoy any freedom of prospect, yet there is variety,
and some scope for the imprisoned vision. In a hilly country a
little more range of view may occasionally be obtained; and a
river is a stream of light as well as of water, which feasts the
eye with a delight inconceivable to the inhabitants of open

In direct contradiction to this longing for society was the
passion which the first generation of pioneers had for the
wilderness. When the population of one settlement became too
thick, they were seized by an irresistible impulse to "follow the
migration," as the expression went. The easy independence of the
first hunter-agriculturalist was upset by the advance of
immigration. His range was curtailed, his freedom limited. His
very breath seems to have become difficult. So he sold out at a
phenomenal profit, put out his fire, shouldered his gun, called
his dog, and set off again in search of the solitude he craved.

Severe winter weather overtook Baily as he descended the Ohio
River, until below Grave Creek floating ice wrecked his boat and
drove him ashore. Here in the primeval forest, far from "Merrie
England," Baily spent the Christmas of 1796 in building a new
flatboat. This task completed, he resumed his journey. Passing


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