The History of Caroline County, Maryland, From Its Beginning, 1920, pp. 28-34


ROADS, FERRIES, BRIDGES, FENCES and GATES

ROADS

        Even before the formation of Caroline County, roads and bridges lying within her bounds, had been provided for by this Act passed in September, 1704, which was for the benefit of the entire province.

        "WHEREAS it is thought convenient, and very much for the benefit of the inhabitants of this province, that roads and paths he marked, and the heads of rivers, creeks and branches, be made
passable.
        "BE IT THEREFORE ENACTED, by the Queen's most excellent majesty, by and with the advice and consent of her Majesty's Governor, Council and Assembly of this province, and the authority of the same, that all public and main roads be hereafter cleared, and well grubbed, fit for traveling, twenty feet wide; and good and substantial bridges made over all heads of rivers, creeks, branches and swamps, where need shall require, at the discretion of the Justices of the county courts.
        AND, for the better ascertaining what is or shall be deemed public roads, be it LIKEWISE ENACTED, by the authority aforesaid, that the justices of the county courts shall set down and ascertain in their records, once every year, what are the public roads of their respective counties, and appoint overseers of the same; and that no persons whatsoever shall alter or change any such public roads, without leave or license of the Governor or Council, or justices of the county courts, upon penalty of five hundred pounds of tobacco.
        AND, that all the roads that lead to any ferries, courthouse of any county, or to any church shall be marked on both sides of the road with two notches.  And the roads that lead to any county Court house, shall have two notches on the trees on both sides of the road as aforesaid, and another notch a distance above the other two.  And any road that leads to a church, shall be marked at the entrance into the same, and at the leaving any other road, with a slip cut down the race of the tree, near the ground.  Any road leading to a ferry, and dividing from other public roads shall be marked with three notches of equal distance at the entrance into the same."
        In one of these Acts overseers of plantations were required to fell "all dead trees on each side of the main roads, whose limbs hang over the road, to prevent any danger that may happen by falling on travelers."
        In November 1798 the Assembly enacted that,
        "WHEREAS the present mode of repairing the public roads in Caroline County is found by experience to be expensive, and inadequate to the purpose Intended; and It has been found necessary that proper regulations should forthwith be made for keeping the roads of the said county in due repair; therefore, overseers, not exceeding five in any hundred, shall be appointed."
        "AND BE IT ENACTED, that is shall be the duty of the said overseers to keep all the public roads in the said county well and sufficiently cleared and grubbed, fit for traveling, twenty feet wide at the least, and to make and keep good and substantial bridges over all the heads of rivers, creeks, branches and swamps, where the same shall be necessary for the convenient and easy passage of travelers, with their wagons, carts, carriages, horses and cattle, and to remove all nuisances which may obstruct or annoy their passage, and well and sufficiently to causeway, all and singular such places in and upon the said roads as shall require the same, at the discretion and by the direction of the said justices; and for this purpose the said justices, or some one or more of them, in their respective neighborhoods, shall be and they are hereby authorized and required, from time to time, to superintend the making and repairing of the said roads, bridges and causeways, and to direct and advise the overseers in the execution of this Act."
        These overseers had the right when roads needed repair to call upon the inhabitants of the county for the necessary labor.  Should those called refuse to go, they must send a substitute or pay a fine of one dollar for each day's absence.  That there might be no shirking of  work the same fine was imposed if the person attending did not perform a reasonable amount of labor. The owners or overseers of slaves were responsible for their attendance and work.

         An Act to build a bridge and open a road in Caroline County.

January, 1802

        "WHEREAS it is represented to this General Assembly, by the petition of sundry inhabitants of Caroline County, that they labor under many Inconveniences for want of a bridge over a branch of the Northwest Fork River, at a place known by the name of  The Old Bloomery, in said county, and  road to lead from Douglasses mill across the said bridge, until it Intersects the main road leading from the Northwest Fork Bridge to Marshyhope bridge; and the prayer or the said petitioners appearing reasonable, therefore,

        BE IT ENACTED, by the General Assembly of Maryland, that George Collins, Charles Ross and James Houston, be, and they are hereby appointed commissioners for the purpose of building and completing a new bridge at the same place where the old bridge now stands, over said branch, and the said commissioners, or a majority of them, are hereby empowered to agree and contract with any person or persons, upon the best and cheapest terms they can, to finish and complete the said bridge in a good substantial and workman like manner."

 The one hundred and fifty dollars needed for building the bridge was obtained through assessments.
        "AND BE IT ENACTED, that the said commissioners, or a majority of them, are hereby authorized and empowered, to lay out, open and clear, a road at the expense of the petitioners, or any part of them particularly interested therein, or any other persons who may voluntarily offer their assistance, not exceeding twenty four feet in width, to commence at or near Douglasses mill aforesaid, and to run from thence in the most convenient direction over the Old Bloomery, aforesaid, and through James Houston's lane or by James Wright's mill, as the said commissioners, or a majority of them, may think most expedient, until it intersects the main road leading from the Northwest Fork bridge to Marshyhope, provided, that the said road shall not go through the garden or meadow of any person or persons without his, her or their consent."


FERRIES

        In early Caroline County there were only three bridges of much size-the ones at Greensboro, Federalsburg, and Hillsboro, hence the crossing of the Choptank River below Greensboro had to be made by ferries of which there were about four, as follows: From Melvill's Warehouse across to a point near the Dunning Farm, one from Denton across a little later, from Gilpin's Point to Price's Landing (Tuckahoe Neck) and from Hog Island (below Dover Bridge) to the Talbot side.
        The Court appointed persons to keep these ferries and charge in accordance with the regulated amounts.  Tobacco was for a while the chief article of payment as per the following: Court order of Talbot County in 1760: Ordered that if Deborah Nichols doth not keep sufficient boat and hands to transport the inhabitants of this county from Barker's Landing to Hog Island or from Hog Island to Barker's Landing, and give a good attendance to the said ferry that her allowance next November Court shall be reduced to one-half.  (Allowance of 4000 lbs. of tobacco per year.)  This amount was paid by the County in addition to the fees paid by everyone outside the county travelling by said ferry.
        The rates of non-residents in crossing the Denton Ferry in the year 1800 were as follows: Foot passengers 08c, horses 16c, two wheel carriage, horse and passengers 35c, four wheel phaeton, horses and passengers 75c, black cattle 12c.  Persons that owned land in the county but not residing therein were not charged for ferriage.

BRIDGES

        The three bridges in the County were evidently constructed very early as evidenced by some legislation concerning these structures as follows:

        "WHEREAS the inhabitants of Talbot, Queen Anne's and Caroline counties by their petition to this General Assembly have set forth that the bridge over Tuckahoe creek is in a ruinous and almost impassable condition and have in their petition stated their advantages that would result by the erection of a new bridge over said creek, about three hundred years [sic] below the place of the old bridge, and it appearing that by building the new bridge, as prayed for, and altering part of the public road as may be necessary so as to pass over same, will shorten the distance for travelers, and add to the convenience and advantage of the said three counties; And whereas the bridge heretofore built was done and kept up at the expense of the said three counties, the said petitioners have prayed for a new one to be erected, and that the sum of one hundred and fifty pounds may be levied on the said counties respectively for the purpose aforesaid; wherefor to carry the same into effect,
        BE IT ENACTED, by the General Assembly of Maryland That for Talbot County John Roberts, for Queen Anne's County Henry Pratt, for Caroline County Philemon Downes, shall be and they are hereby appointed commissioners, for the purpose of building and completing the said new bridge; and the said commissioners, or a majority of them, are by this act authorized and empowered, as soon as it may be conveniently in their power, to cause the said new bridge to be built over the said creek, opposite a place formerly known by the name of The Old Rolling House, lying on the east side of the said creek.................................which said new bridge shall be built and completed in the best and most substantial manner it can for the money hereby to be granted; and the said commissioners, or a majority of them, are by virtue of this act, fully authorized and empowered, as they in their discretion shall think best, to agree for the said work with a contractor or contractors, for the whole, or in parcels, or they may purchase materials and hire workmen and laborers to complete the said work; and the said commissioners, or a majority of them, are also empowered to open and lay out, on the east side of said creek, from some fit and convenient part of the old road, a new road to lead to and across over the said new bridge to the Talbot side."
        An Act to erect a new bridge over Great Choptank River, in Caroline County, passed January 15, 1808.
       "WHEREAS the old bridge over the Choptank River, at the village of Greensboro, in said county, is in a ruinous condition, and nearly impassable, and as it is found absolutely necessary that a new one be built at, or near, the place where the old one stands, therefore,
        BE IT ENACTED, by the General Assembly of Maryland, that George Reed, Nehemiah Townsend and William Whitely be, and they are hereby appointed commissioners for the purpose of building and completeing the new bridge as aforesaid, at or near the place where the old one now stands; and the said commissioners, or a majority of them, are by this Act employed to agree and contract with any person or persons, upon the best and cheapest terms, to finish and complete the said new bridge."
        In 1810 inhabitants of Talbot and Caroline counties living near Dover Ferry petitioned the Assembly "for the convenience of the public" to incorporate a company for erecting a bridge over the Choptank River at that point.  The bridge was built and is commonly known as Dover Bridge.
        An Act to incorporate a company for building a bridge over Choptank River at or near Denton Ferry (about 1812).
        "WHEREAS it is represented to this General Assembly, by the petition of sundry inhabitants of Caroline county, that he convenience of the public would be greatly promoted by erecting a bridge over Choptank river at, or near, Denton Ferry, and that sundry persons, by articles of voluntary association have contracted and agreed each with the other, to erect a bridge at the place aforesaid, and have subscribed and paid considerable sums of money towards the same, and pray that a law may pass to incorporate the said association; and it appearing reasonable, therefore,
        BE IT ENACTED by the General Assembly of Maryland that the subscribers or proprietors of shares for building said bridge, as well as those who may hereafter become stockholders, their successors and assigns shall be, and are hereby created and made a corporation and body politic, by the name and style of The President and Directors of the Denton Bridge Company.
        AN BE IT ENACTED, that the captial stock of said Company is hereby declared to be the sum of three thousand dollars, to be divided into six hundred shares of five dollars each."
        It seems that the Denton Bridge was not built for several years after 1812, probably about 1820, until which time a ferry was used.
        In 1849 theh people of the county tiring of the disadvantages arising from a privately owned bridge, had the General Assembly enact a measure which provided for the Levy Courts buying and making it a public bridge.  Soon after this it was either thoroughly overhauled or rebuilt and stood until about 1875 when the new iron bridge was erected.
        After many years of use and inconvenience on account of the narrowness of the draw this bridge was in 1913 replaced by the modern concrete structure now in use.

FENCES AND GATES

        To protect the property in the county from damage done by live stock the General Assembly enacted,

        "That from and after the first day of August 1824, corn fields and all grounds kept for enclosure in Dorchester and Caroline counties, shall be fenced, (here followed a description of fences required) and if any live stock of any kind or description whatsoever, shall break into any person's enclosure, the same being the height and sufficiency aforesaid, then the owner or owners of such live stock shall be liable to make good all such damages to the owner or owners of such enclosure, as shall be found and awarded by two or more judicious persons who may view the same under their oath or affirmation, made before some justice of the peace in said counties."
AN ACT relating to gates on the public roads in Caroline County.
        "BE IT ENACTED, by the General Assembly of Maryland, that from and after the passage of this Act, it shall an may be lawful for any of the citizens of Caroline county to keep on the public roads in said county all such gates as are now erected on the public roads, for their own private use and convenience, upon the express conditions following: all and every owner or owners of a gate or gates hung on good and sufficient iron hinges, and shall keep the same and that part of the said road which they occupy in good order and repair, so as to impede as little as possible persons traveling with carriages of pleasure or burden."

        "AND BE IT ENACTED, that if any person or persons after the passage of this Act, shall cut down, destroy, wilfully leave fixed open, or remove any of said gates, they shall, upon conviction thereof before a magistrate, forfeit and pay to the owner of such gate a sum not less than one, nor exceeding ten dollars for every such offence, to be recovered as small debts are out of court."

        "AND BE IT ENACTED, that if any slave shall cut down, destroy, injure, or wilfully leave fixed open, any gate upon the public roads, such slave shall be punished for every offence on conviction of a justice of the peace by the oath of one or more witnesses, by whipping on his or her back, in the discretion of the said justice, not exceeding for each offense the number of ten lashes; Provided always, that the master or mistress of such slaves, or any other person in their behalf, may redeem said slave so convicted from punishment by the payment of the fine to the owner or owners of such gate, imposed by this Act, upon free persons for like offense."

        "AND BE IT ENACTED, that on all gates authorized by this Act to be kept on the public roads, the owner or owners thereof shall pay annually a tax of one dollar for each and every gate by him, her or them kept on the public roads in said county."

        Gates on public roads were abolished between 1860-1870, much to the relief of travelers.


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