FIRST OUTSIDE PRIDLE ROAD IN CALHOUN 1820 - GILMER, RIPLEY AND OHIO TURNPIKE STARTED 1850

(09/14/2022)
FIRST OUTSIDE ROAD THROUGH CALHOUN COUNTY WAS A HORSE PATH, BUT THINGS GOT MORE SERIOUS IN 1850

In the 1820s, Mason county officials awarded William Parsons a contract to "cut a good bridle road" from Letart Falls to the mouth of Steer Creek on the upper portion of the Little Kanawha River in hopes of attracting settlers from the Monongahela Valley to Mason county.

This road amounted to little more than a wide path and had fallen into disuse - lost in the undergrowth - when construction of the new turnpike started in the summer of 1850.

The Gilmer, Ripley and Ohio Turnpike was chartered March 19, 1850, by the State of Virginia, with a $30,000 appropriation and was completed about 1852. It ran some 61 miles from West Columbia, Mason County via Jackson Court House to New California (Spencer), then it followed much of the route of present Route 33 to Glenville.

In March 1850, the Virginia General Assembly approved organization and funding of The Gilmer, Ripley and Ohio Turnpike Company. The company was to supervise construction of the road beginning in Glenville, running through Arnoldsburg and Ripley and ending at West Columbia in Mason County. The turnpike was to follow generally the bridle road created earlier by Parsons.

Specifications for the new turnpike called for a road not less than fifteen nor more than twenty feet wide, and nowhere exceed a grade of four degrees. George W. Smith, of Ravenswood and Samuel Lewis Hays, of Glenville agreed to supervise the work, on what is now known as the cost-plus plan. Although Mr. Hays had no instruments for surveying or making the grades, he based his calculations on the accuracy of his eye, and the results could hardly have been improved with the most exact of instruments. When this road was upgraded years later only one change was made.

Samuel Lewis Hays had very few advantages such as modern colleges and technical schools could confer. He had a wonderful mind, was man of understanding and assimilated a vast quantity of information acquired by reading and contact with men and affairs.

The road was opened from New California (Spencer) to Ripley in 1853; however construction on the Glenville end was delayed when the Board of Public Works discovered that George W. Smith was serving as both President and Treasurer of the Gilmer, Ripley and Ohio Turnpike Company and refused to release a three thousand dollar draft, until the situation was resolved.

In 1858 Smith reported that fifty-six miles of new turnpike was completed and under toll; and the remainder of the road was being maintained by local residents.

It was nearly impossible to keep the dirt in good enough condition at times to justify the payment of tolls. The heavy traffic over these roads during the Civil War so damaged them that they didn't recover until the 1870s.

The tolls allowed by law for travel on this turnpike were as follows: On each section of five miles - for one horse, mule or jennet (when not hitched to a vehicle) three cents; for five or more such animals - one cent each; for 20 sheep or hogs - five cents; for 20 cattle - ten cents; one wagon (if tires be less than five inches in width) and for each animal drawing it - three cents; if tires be more than four but less than seven inches in width - two cents; if seven inches or more in width - one cent. The more narrow wheels width would tend to rut the roads more than the wider ones, hence the higher price.

Of course, until the era of covered bridge building after the Civil War, there were no bridges on any of these roads, except across Mill Creek, at Ripley, in the late 1840s.

Traveling from East to West (out of Glenville), when the turnpike came to Cedar Creek - instead of crossing where it does now - it traveled down Cedar Creek about two miles to Paddy Run, crossed over the hill to Hardman Fork, then up Grass Run to Road Run, where it probably went up Road Run, down the right fork of Owens Run and over the hill to Normantown.

When the turnpike came to the right-hand fork of Steer Creek, instead of going down through Stumptown, it went up behind the Oral Stevens place and crossed the Right Fork of Steer Creek at the "low water crossing" in front of the Elihu Stump house, then downstream to the swinging bridge and over the hill to Little Bear Fork at the old Cary Stump home, then generally following present Route 33 over Sand Ridge hill to Arnoldsburg and Spencer.