DECATUR COUNTY – Sure, we complain about potholes and pay a toll to travel some roads, but would we complain if we paid a toll for a dirt road?
Talking with Gene McCoy, I was reminded of what Mary Carr Hanna wrote about how First Presbyterian Church got started from Kingston Presbyterian Church. She told how, until the Greensburg church was built, Presbyterians from Greensburg would go to the Kingston Church when weather permitted.
"We can only imagine what the trip from Greensburg to Kingston was like. During the summer, when the paths were dry, perhaps it was a pleasure to ride horseback, or even to walk the distance from Greensburg to Kingston. But winter and spring was a time of impassable trails."
Kingston Presbyterian Church is the home church of Gene McCoy's ancestors on all sides of his family. That church congregation was started in 1823.
Gene told about the road from Greensburg to Kingston. It was called "the pike" for years. He said at one time many of the farmers had pastures along the road which they nicknamed "Long Pasture Road," and later "The Concrete Road." Now, it is officially 80 NE.
The 1882 Atlas of Decatur County states that although the county had been continuously growing in wealth (since it was formed in 1821) it was literally "in the mud" as of the 1860s. But then John E. Robbins and 52 others filed a petition with the county commissioners to allow them to build a turnpike along the Vernon Road from Greensburg. The roots of trees and bushes made for some rough riding but served one use - they kept wagons from sinking so deep into the mud that they couldn't move at all.
Believe it or not, to travel on those dirt or mud roads out of Greensburg you had to pay a toll. This is what a toll pass stated in 1884. "GREENSBURG, KINGSTON & CLARKSBURG TURNPIKE Co. Pass for year 1884. NOTICE: This pass is for Buggy, Carriage, Spring Wagon or horseback travel and includes the unmarried members of the family only. The holder is not permitted to pass any person's team with whom he may be riding." The toll pass George Morgan showed me was for Ed S. Fee and it was signed by E Hamilton.
Years passed and the commissioners decided people needed something to "lift us out of the mire and the clay." In about 1917, the commissioners, which included Gene's grandfather George C. Hamilton, decided it was time to go beyond what had already been tried to improve the roads. This time concrete would be poured on the pike from the end of Main Street in Greensburg to a point south of Kingston where the road turned left for Kingston. It was there where Gene's family owned their farm. It was about a mile south of Kingston. Gene said that to build the road the workers got water for the concrete out of Sand Creek and then from the Hamilton home.
Dec. 12, 1922, the Daily News had big news:"CONCRETE ROAD TO CLARKSBURG IS PROPOSED. Will Give Hard Road of Twelve Miles. Petition to be Heard At Next Term of the Commissioners. The min.? of the petition on Monday for the extending of the concrete road from one mile south of Kingston to Clarksburg, a distance of 6 1/2 miles at a cost of $225,000 has been the subject of considerable discussion."
The concrete that had been poured on the road from Greensburg to a mile south of Kingston had little repair so far, although it had cracked some. "With the construction of the proposed section the distance would be 11 1/2 miles and the half mile in the city limits would make an even 12 miles from Clarksburg to the Courthouse. This road reaches the largest town in the county without a railroad and makes it possible for the people to keep in close touch with our county capital. The cost of Concrete is expensive, about $30,000 per mile, but gives good service, and holds up under the worst of weather conditions."
George Morgan said that Bill Fee has original toll passes. There was a toll booth where Rebecca Park is, Kingston (at Auburn Hill, Oscar Ewing's home) and Clarksburg. He has a photo of the Clarksburg toll booth, which had been moved from the road side south of Clarksburg to across from the Clarksburg Cemetery. It burned after catching fire because of a brush fire out of control.
Decatur County resident Pat Smith may be contacted via this publication at email@example.com.