While most roads remained dirt and in miserable condition, the turnpikes, relying on income from travelers for their existence, were provided in most instances with gravel, broken stone, wood, or macadam surfaces.
The old Manchester Pike near Richmond had been surfaced with gravel in 1808 and was recognized as the first “artificial” or paved road in the state. The widely used macadam surface was named after its developer, John Loudon McAdam, a Scottishborn engineer who began building roads in England in the early 19th century. McAdam is credited as the first to recognize that dry soil itself generally would support the weight of traffic and that pavement was necessary only to provide a smooth riding surface and to ensure dryness.
The macadam pavement consisted of crushed rock packed tightly into thin layers, with a top surface of sand or finely crushed stone rolled to provide a well-bound surface resistant to the penetrating damage of rain, ice and snow. McAdam generally specified a uniform thickness of seven to 10 inches for the finished road, although some ranged at least to 18 inches in thickness.
The specifications for one macadam road provided for the first layer of stone to be “cast on with a shovel to a depth of six inches, after the manner of sowing grain.” It was to be compacted with a cast-iron roller, “prepared with a box, or a cart bed, to carry two or three tons of sand” and rolled until “sufficiently solid and compact to receive the second layer.” After dressing the surface “with a rake or otherwise,” the second layer, three or four inches thick was to be “put on, rolled, and prepared in all respects as the first stratum was, until in a state of firmness and solidity, proper to admit the third or last stratum, which can then be put on, and the surface raked and dressed to such shape and form as may be required, and also rolled until satisfactorily compacted.”
Part of the Lynchburg-Salem Turnpike was the first segment of road to be macadamized in Virginia. The Valley Turnpike and the Southwestern Turnpike, between Salem and Seven Mile Fork near Marion, were others.
Wooden pavements were also used widely in the turnpike era, perhaps naturally, since standing timber was abundant over much of the state.
“Corduroy” roads were built by placing small logs side by side along a cleared path and covering them with dirt for smoothness. The “plank” road was introduced in the United States from Canada, where some 500 miles were laid between 1834 and 1850. A typical plank road had a single track about eight feet wide, with the planks placed crosswise. Later, they were inclined slightly to allow rainwater to drain.
By the mid-19th century, the railroads Crozet had favored were handling much of the long-distance movement of passengers and freight. This posed a new problem for the turnpikes, many of them already financially troubled. The railroads gained such great popularity that apathy developed toward road improvements. For the turnpikes, it meant reduced use and revenue. For other roads, it meant that many remained little more than dirt paths, impassable after heavy rains or during winter thaws and raising choking clouds of dust at other times.
With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, roads and railroads became immensely important to both Confederate and Union armies. The transportation arteries often governed the outcome of battles. The armies fought over them, guarded them, rebuilt them and constructed new ones. Food, clothing, medical supplies, guns, ammunition, and men moved by road and by rail.
In September 1861, Gen. Robert E. Lee, writing from a mountain encampment to Gov. John Letcher, said, “Our greatest difficulty is the roads. It has been raining in these mountains about six weeks. It is impossible to get along. It is that which has paralyzed all our efforts.”
Two years later, then commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, Lee wrote, “It has been raining a great deal… making the roads horrid and embarrassing our operations.” Some wagons simply broke down on the road from the mud and rocks. Other military commanders on both sides could tell similar stories of how road conditions often hindered their operations.
Poor to begin with, the roads and bridges were damaged and destroyed as the armies fought over them repeatedly. The company that operated the Valley Turnpike reported that its revenue collections were negligible because “of the army destroying bridges, injuring toll houses, and we are getting very little tolls.”
For most of the turnpike companies, the war was the final blow from which they could not recover, and many passed from private to county ownership. Toll collections on most of the turnpikes never had been enough to pay operating and maintenance costs or to do much toward retiring the indebtedness, and the extensive but financially weak turnpike era was nearing an end.
A few toll facilities, the Little River and Valley turnpikes among them, somehow managed to recover sufficiently from the rages of war to remain in operation into the early 20th century. But a constitutional amendment in 1874 decreed that the state government could no longer invest in turnpike company stock. The risk was too great.
After the war, the state’s board of public works turned mainly to matters other than roads, and in the counties there developed a widely varying patchwork of road development practices. Twenty-five years after the war, Virginia’s roads were far worse than when the war began.
This was true despite the fact that, in the Reconstruction period, the General Assembly enacted much road legislation. The problem was that much of it was confusing and meaningless, and sometimes humorous. One law made it illegal to drive or lead a bear on a public highway, and another set a fine of $5 for a pedestrian who crossed a bridge at a pace greater than a walk.
A series of events late in the 19th century and early in the 20th century, however, were about to revolutionize man’s mode of travel.
Next up: The Auto Age Begins
Produced by the
Virginia Department of Transportation
Office of Public Affairs
1401 E. Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23219
Cancer in cats: signs to watch for
Did you know that cancer is one of the leading causes of death in cats? Or that cats who are exposed to the feline leukemia virus are likely to develop certain types of cancer? Luckily, in most cases this disease can be successfully treated if diagnosed early enough.
To this end, it’s important to be on the lookout for any changes in your cat’s appearance or temperament. If you notice any of the following signs, bring your cat to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
• Lumps that change in shape or size
• Sores or injuries that won’t heal
• Sudden weight loss
• Coughing or difficulty breathing
• Bad breath
• Difficulty urinating or defecating
• Chronic vomiting or diarrhea
• Uncharacteristic lethargy
If your cat is experiencing these symptoms, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have cancer. However, it’s important to get them checked out by a veterinarian to be sure. Early diagnosis can mean the difference between life and death for your feline friend.
A beginner’s guide to horseback riding
Are you going horseback riding for the first time? To ensure you have a fun and safe experience, it’s recommended that you take a riding lesson. However, it doesn’t hurt to know the basics beforehand. Here’s what you should know.
Riders need sturdy shoes or boots with a slight heel, pants and a riding helmet. The horse should be outfitted with the proper saddle, bit, bridle and reins.
Sitting in the saddle
Sit up tall, but don’t be stiff. Ideally, there should be a straight line from your shoulder to your hip and through to your heel. Keep your weight equal on both sides of your body.
Riding the horse
Direct the horse to move by giving it a tap or nudge with your heels, depending on how it’s trained. Stay relaxed and keep in sync with the horse’s rhythm, allowing your hips to swing with its gait.
Horses have four gaits: walk, trot, canter and gallop. For your first time, you might want to go at a walk the entire time. However, if you’re feeling comfortable, you could advance to a trot by lightly tapping the horse with your heel.
Turning, slowing down and stopping
Gently tug the left or right rein to turn in the corresponding direction. To slow or stop the horse, pull back gently on the reins.
To dismount, take the reins in one hand, remove your feet from the stirrups, then grip the pommel and swing your leg up and over the horse before sliding down to the ground.
These are the basic things you need to know for your first day riding, but always be sure to listen to your instructor. They know their particular horses better than anyone.
Seniors in the United States: a statistical portrait
Seniors make up a growing proportion of the American population, and their numbers are projected to more than double by 2060. Here are some interesting facts about our aging population.
• As of 2016, 15 percent of the American population was aged 65 and over, which amounts to about 46 million people. By 2060, this number could escalate to 98 million people.
• In 2017, life expectancy in the United States was projected to be 76 years for men and 81 years for women.
• The life expectancy gap between men and women is narrowing. In 1990 there was a seven-year gap, but now it’s down to slightly less than five years.
• Older adults are working longer. In 2014, 23 percent of men and 15 percent of women aged 65 or older were in the workforce. By 2022, this number is expected to reach 27 percent for men and 20 percent for women.
A history of roads in Virginia: The Auto Age Begins
In Springfield, Mass., in September 1893, what generally is accepted as the first American gasoline-powered automobile was given a short road test by its builders, brothers Charles E. and J. Frank Duryea.
That same year in Washington, the Congress established the United States Office of Road Inquiry, directing the Secretary of Agriculture “to make inquiries in regard to the system of road management throughout the United States,” to investigate methods of road building and to assist in disseminating information about the nation’s roads.
Good roads societies were organized in many states, and in Virginia this movement dates at least to 1894. It was then that the Young Business Men’s League of Roanoke took leadership in forming the Virginia Good Road Association. Local meetings and statewide conventions were held, and enthusiasm grew swiftly.
In September 1895, the Duryea brothers established the first American company to manufacture gasoline driven cars, the Duryea Motor Wagon Company. In 1904 the Ford Motor Company produced 1,695 cars, and by 1907 had increased its production to 14,887.
The last decade of the 19th century was called the Gay ‘90s, and the daring new mobility was a part of the mood. What is believed to have been the first automobile of any kind operated in Virginia was driven along Norfolk streets in 1899, powered by kerosene. Eleven years before that significant event, the world’s first commercially successful streetcar system had begun in Richmond. The state’s population had grown to 1,854,184, and while the population was about 85 percent rural, Richmond could count 85,000 residents.
Throughout Virginia, as throughout the nation, the public’s delight with the automobile was mounting by leaps and bounds. But in most places, the roads weren’t ready for this “horseless carriage.”
Next up: Getting Organized for Better Road
Produced by the
Virginia Department of Transportation
Office of Public Affairs
1401 E. Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23219
Celebrating french fries
French fry lovers, it’s time to mark your calendars — Saturday, July 13 is National French Fry Day. To get you primed for the event, here are some interesting facts about french fries.
Everyone has a favorite cut
Fries come in all shapes, sizes and cuts: curly, wedge, crinkle-cut and shoestring, to name a few. According to a National Today survey, America’s favorite is the straight cut, with 21 percent preferring it. Curly fries follow close behind at 20 percent. However, there are a lot of regional variations. July 13 is the perfect day to plan a local french fry tour to sample the many types available.
Not everyone shares equally
There’s more than one way to dress a fry
Fifty-five percent of Americans say they prefer ketchup on their fries. The second most popular dip is ranch dressing at 15 percent, followed by cheese sauce at 8 percent, barbecue sauce at 7 percent and mayo dead last at 4 percent.
French Fry Day only comes once a year, so don’t miss out and be sure to stay on the lookout for deals offered by local restaurants.
How to attract birds to your yard
Do you love to wake up to the sound of songbirds? If you’d like to attract more birds to your yard, the key is to provide them with food, water and shelter. Here’s what you need to know.
It may take several weeks for the local birdlife to notice but hanging a feeder or two is a surefire way to attract them to your yard. Fill the birdfeeders with nutrient-rich seeds like black-oil sunflower, safflower and thistle. Avoid buying premixed birdseed from a big box store, as they’re usually packed with filler that birds don’t enjoy.
Wild birds need safe places to raise their young and to protect themselves from predators and the elements. You can provide roost boxes to shelter them from bad weather and birdhouses where they can nest and lay eggs.
Finally, consider planting native shrubs and flowers in your yard. These will provide both food and shelter for local birds and require very little maintenance.
How to attract hummingbirds
While native, nectar-producing flowers will help attract hummingbirds, another way to invite these tiny birds to your yard is to hang feeders filled with nectar. Simply boil four parts water with one part white sugar for about two minutes, and fill the feeder. Be sure to change the sugar-water regularly.