Other County Histories | Civil War | 1886 | 1913 Vol. 2 | 1916 | Depression |
Past and Present of Livingston County
Volume 1. History

by Major A. J. Roof. 1913

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Page 134

Our state highway engineer, the Hon. Curtis Hill, furnishes our history with the following brief report on roads:

"The state of Missouri has approximately 108,000 miles of public wagon roads, 100,000 culverts and 20,000 bridges. Mileage enough to reach across the state four hundred times or for forty roads across the United States. The bridges, if continuous, would make 240 miles of bridging, enough to span the state. Upon all these roads, bridges and culverts there has been expended not less than one hundred million dollars. During the last five years we have expended about three million dollars annually in road, culvert and bridge work.

"The state has a total of between 4,000 and 5.000 miles of improved roads, good, bad and indifferent. The greatest mileage of permanent roads is in the counties of St. Louis, Jackson and Jasper. If to these we add Pike, St. Charles, Lincoln, Franklin, Jefferson, St. Francois, Gasconade, Cole, Cape Girardeau, Buchanan, Greene, Lawrence, Boone, Moniteau, Marion and Pettis, we have almost covered the mileage of permanent roads. The rest are scattered over the state, a few miles to the county.

"The road drag is used quite generally throughout the state, Here and there will be found a community, a district or a township which has the dragging work well organized and systematized. Fifty per cent of the road mileage of the state is adaptable to the use of the drag - the best maintenance tool known for earth roads. This is especially true in the rich lands of western, central and northern Missouri. Hard surfacing material is scarce in parts of the north, north central and northwest portions of the state, but in many of these parts paving brick material is found. Gravel and crushed limestone roads are built in the central, western, eastern, northeastern and most all of the southern counties; in the southwest, limestone, flint-boulders, mining chats, gravel and chert are used; in the central southeastern part, mining chats, gravel and decomposed granite; in the southeast, crushed limestone, gravel, decomposed limestone, sand-gumbo. Oil is used on the roads of Jasper, Jackson and St. Louis counties.

"It is no longer so much a question of the advantages of good roads as it is how to obtain the means with which to build them and how best to expend these means. Thought and action are turning to special district organizations followed by bond issues to pay the cost of construction and to township and county bonds. About one hundred and forty of these special districts are now in operation in the state with several more likely to be formed in the near future."


This subject embraces a large amount of history which has become so thoroughly crystallized that the American people are more or less familiar with the location and route of these trails. The Trans-continental Old Trails Road from our present national capital to San Francisco is perhaps better known than any highway in the country. There are, however, several links in this old trail. The Braddock Road, the Cumberland Pike and the National Highway, extending westward to St. Louis, Missouri, are embraced in the chain that go to make up the trail from the extreme east to the Pacific coast. The Old Boone's Lick Road in this state and the Santa Fe Trail between Booneville, Missouri, and the capital of New Mexico, a distance of one thousand miles, has been marked by the devoted Daughters of the American Revolution, while a bill was recently introduced in Congress at the suggestion of these good colonial women, soliciting aid for the purpose of improving, as national highways,, the old historic trails from the eastern to the western extremes of the continent.

The bill, as introduced in the House, thus designates the various branches or links of the trail and includes the Brad dock or Washington Road from the seaboard to Cumberland, Maryland; the Cumberland Road, or National Pike, from Cumberland, Maryland, to the Mississippi river; the Boone's Lick Road from thence to Franklin in the central part of Mis souri; the celebrated Santa Fe Trail from there to Santa Fe, New Mexico; the route of General Kearney's march from Santa Fe westward to the Pacific coast. Added to this is the Oregon Trail, which diverged from the Santa Fe Trail near Gardner, Kansas, and ran from thence northwest to the Pacific ocean at the Valley of the Columbia.

The Braddock's Road really began at Portsmouth, Virginia, and extended into the Valley of the Ohio. Although it is popularly known as Braddock's Road, it is more properly, in every sense, Washington's Road. It was the first pathway across the Allegheny mountains and into the Valley of the Ohio at the time when the entire western slope of the mountains was in the actual possession of the French.

Elbert Gallatin, a Swiss emigrant, was believed to have been the father of the Cumberland Road, although Henry Clay identified himself with the project and later with its construction. The road was begun in 1806 by an act of Congress approved and signed by Thomas Jefferson. Its construction was under national authority, Congress appropriating funds for the work from time to time until it reached a point in Indiana. The survey was by way of Vandalia, Illinois, to Jefferson City, Missouri. Approximately, about seven million dollars of the public funds was spent in building the road. A portion of this sum was realized by the sale of public lands in Ohio, Illinois and Indiana.

The development of the country through which this road passed was largely due to its construction and was worth many times its cost commercially and politically. In an address recently delivered in this state the author claims that it was the entering wedge of commerce, travel and advancing civilization. About 1834 it was turned over to the states through which it ran and has been preserved after a fashion as state highways.

At the Mississippi river the Cumberland Road would have met the celebrated Boone's Lick Road, the first highway to penetrate the wilderness west of the great stream. In 1797, while Louisiana was still Spanish territory, Daniel Boone, under a concession from the Spanish governor, settled a small colony of Americans about twenty miles west of the Mississippi river in what is now Warren county, Missouri. This was the first invasion of American settlers into the great Trans-Mississippi territory. In 1804, the same year that the American government took possession of Upper Louisiana, Daniel Boone’s two sons established themselves at a salt lick more than two hundred miles to the westward. They were engaged in the manufacture of salt, which was floated down the Mississippi river in rawhide canoes. The richness of the territory in which they were located attracted a large number of enterprising pioneers, mainly Kentuckians. The country became known as Boone's Lick country. In 1815 a roadway was surveyed and built from St. Charles, Missouri, to Old Franklin on the Boone's Lick Road, and was the highway over which the advancing army of pioneers entered the territory beyond the American civilization.

It was from the vigorous and enterprising community of Boone's Lick that the start was made to open up the commerce of the great Southwest. Captain William Becknell started from that point in 1821 on what is now believed to be the first successful trip on a trading expedition to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Soon after the headquarters of the Santa Fe trade were moved westward to Independence, Missouri, and from thence onward for more than a quarter of a century, until New Mexico became American territory, this great historic highway, known as the Santa Fe Trail, led from the last outlying trading point in the Missouri valley to the first great center of Spanish civilization in the Southwest. In 1824 Senator Benton had passed an act of Congress by which a survey was made of the Santa Fe Trail from Fort Osage, in Jackson county, Missouri, to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

It was down this celebrated highway that General Kearney and Colonel Doniphan led their celebrated expedition in 1846, at the outbreak of the war with Mexico. This expedition resulted in the annexing to the United States not only the New Mexican valley but all of the vast golden land of California. As soon as American supremacy was established at Santa Fe, General Kearney started westward for the Pacific coast and the last great link in the historic highways which takes the American people across the continent is the route over which General Kearney marched from Santa Fe to Monterey and California.

At a very early date, a road, probably following an Indian trail, was established, which crossed Medicine creek at Collier's old mill thence on through the Cox neighborhood to what is known at McGee's ford near the mouth of Honey creek; thence northwest to Council Bluffs, Iowa. This route was much traveled by immigrants coming into Jackson township and thence to Daviess and Harrison counties until some time after the year 1840. Previous to 1840 the mail was carried on horseback over this route by James Cobb. From 1840 to 1847 the mail from Chillicothe to Bethany in Harrison county, via Springhill, was carried on horseback by David Girdner Sr. father of David and J. M. Girdner, now residents of Chillicothe.

The eastern and southern sections of Jackson and Sampsell townships were heavily timbered, with numerous small lakes along the lowlands adjacent to the river, therefore this region of the country was the hunter's paradise. The Indians from the north and also from the Platte country, continued to visit this locality on their hunting expeditions up to about 1845.


The Cross State Highway Association was organized at Brookfield Missouri on the 28th day of February, 1912, at which time the following officers were chosen:

Frank Adams, president, Chillicothe, Missouri.

M. L. Stallard, vice-president, St. Joseph, Missouri.

Sydney J. Roy, secretary and treasurer, Hannibal, Missouri.

At the same meeting an executive committee, consisting of one member from each county through which the proposed road was to run, were named as follows:

Buchanan. – John L. Zeidler, St. Joseph.

Caldwell. – Chet. Martin, Hamilton.

Clinton. – W. N. Darby, Cameron.

DeKalb.- A. J. Culbertson, Stewartsville.

Linn.- J. 0. Van Osdol, Bucklin.

Livingston.- F. K. Thompson, Chillicothe.

Macon - John W. Riley, Macon City.

Marion - G. W. Pine, Hannibal.

Monroe.- Thomas J. Boulware, Monroe City.

Ralls.- Wm. B. Fahy, Huntington.

Shelby. - J. S. Hardy, Shelbina.

The purposes of the organization of the land owners, farmers and the business men along the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad is to effect an efficient working force for building a cross state highway from Hannibal to St. Joseph, a distance of 208 miles. It is also the purpose of the organization to stimulate and create a sentiment favorable to the construction of permanent rock roads, so that in a short time a reliable pike road will stretch across North Missouri from Hannibal to St. Joseph.

For the present the association aims to secure the cooperation of the various cities, towns and villages, the county courts and farmers along the route in opening up a "through dirt road," with all bridges and approaches thereto properly and substantially constructed and the road from one end to the other dragged and graded.

Already the road is assured and at the beginning of the year 1913, $51,762.40 has been expended in marking the route, which parallels the Burlington railroad from one terminal to the other. The population of the several counties through which the road passes, according to the census of 1910, is 305,285 and the actual valuation of the lands as per last assessments, is $405,209,244. The cities, towns and villages through which the road passes are Hannibal, Bear Creek, Withers Mill, Barkley, Palmyra, Woodland, Ely, Monroe, Hunnewell, Lakenan, Shelbina, Lentner, Clarence, Anabel, Macon, Bevier, Callao, Kern, New Cambria, Bucklin, Brookfield, Laclede, Meadville, Wheeling, Cream Ridge, Chillicothe, Utica, Mooresville, Breckenridge, Nettleton, Hamilton, Kidder, Cameron, Osborn, Stewartsville, Hemple, Easton and St. Joseph.

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