(Continued From Yesterday)
Three brick toll houses were erected after the pike was turned over to the
state—one at Beallsville, one across the road from the old Carrons homestead,
and one east of West Alexander. These were the original toll gates of the
early pike era in Washington County. Tolls collected were used for maintenance
of the road, but after stage coaches and Conestoga wagons had passed from the
scene the income was from local travel, but this was small in comparison to the
golden years. Most of the local travel came into the pike from side roads and left
by the same routes. This caused a large loss in revenue, and more toll gates
A pike commissioner was appointed by the state in each county. He in turn
elected the toll keepers, and collected the tolls from them.
John McDowell, a prominent farmer and sheep raiser who lived at the site
for many years in the 1880s and 1890s. His old homestead, still standing on a knoll
on the south side of the pike about four and a half miles west of Washington, is
one of the old landmarks of that section. It was built more than a hundred years
His grandson, Harry M. McDowell, who lives across the road, was a valuable
source of information on the gates of later years, for as a boy he frequently
accompanied his grandfather on trips over the pike; and when he was older he was
frequently sent to collect the tolls from the gate keepers.
On the opposite side of the road from each gate was a long pole that
worked on a pivot in a post, with a rope from the top across the pike to the toll
house. This pole could be pulled down, and the road blocked, which was frequently
done, especially at night. This made it necessary for a late traveler to arouse
the gate keeper and pay his toll before he could continue his journey.
At that time, there were seven gates in Washington County, the first
of which was at the foot of the hill below West Alexander. Mr. McDowell told me
that Miss Lucy Maria Rose Warren was in charge as early as 1856, probably when
the gate was first established and she remained until toll was removed in 1905.
He knew her well in her later years as gate keeper, and she frequently told
him interesting incidents that occurred in that region during the Civil War.
Miss Warren died June 5, 1926, at the age of 97 in the Altenheim Home, Woodsdale,
Wheeling, West Virginia.
The next was the old brick tollhouse east of West Alexander. Some
people have wondered why the original gates were built with a tower, an interesting
query which Mr. McDowell explained. This was so that the keeper could watch the
road. A history of this gate has already been given.
Gate No. 8 was just east of Claysville, opposite the cemetery entrance.
During Mr. McDowell’s time a Civil War veteran named Hoon was in charge.
Gate No. 4 was at the top of West Chestnut street hill, on the site of
Tobin’s Service Station. On June 1, 1881, a Mr. Billingsley, a brother of Captain
Billingsley, was appointed keeper of this gate to succeed Samuel Kelly, pike
commissioner in the 1870s. William Seaburn was keeper at the gate at one time;
but in June 1891, he was replaced by Mrs. Benjamin Porter. Mr. McDowell remembers,
that a Civil War veteran named Martin had charge during his time. After West
Washington became a borough a very heated dispute arose between the borough officials
and the state as to who had jurisdiction. Several times the toll house, a small
frame building about the size of a railroad watchman’s box, was upset at night.
The dispute was finally settled when the gate was moved to Hayes avenue, just over
the borough line, where it remained until toll was removed. It was probably during
this period that Martin had charge.
Gate No. 5 was at the end of East Maiden street, near the present corner
of Dunn avenue. On January 28, 1878, John Armstrong, keeper of this gate for many
years, reported the January travel as the dullest he had ever known. On June 1,
1879, Commissioner Samuel Kelley replaced him with David Orr; and in 1882, when
Orr resigned on account of ill health, Major John H. Wolfe took charge on June 1.
He was succeeded two years later by Miss Mattie Doak. On June 2, 1893, she reported
that during the previous nine years she had collected $25,645. Mr. McDowell well
remembers Miss Doak, who was there for many years, probably until toll was removed.
Gate No, 6 was the old brick toll house just east of Beallsville. Searight
mentions David Mitchell as collector for many years, probably during the era of
pike travel; but during 1879 and 1880 Mrs. Mary A. Reed was the keeper, and on June
1, 1881, Peter Hickman, pike commissioner, appointed a Mr. Jenkins. How long
he remained is not known; and Mr. McDowell does not recall the name of the keeper
in his time.
Gate No. 7 was near the top of the hill west of West Brownsville. The
early keepers are not known, but on April 1, 1878, Commissioner Samuel Kelley appointed
James Worrall in place of Mrs. McCoy, effective June 1. Commissioner Hickman
reappointed Worrall on June 1, 1881. When Mr. McDowell remembers this gate a Mr.
Burkhart was the collector.
Mr. McDowell recalls that the rate of toll was one-half cent a mile for
horse and rider; one cent for a single horse and buggy; one and one-half cents for
a two-horse buggy, carriage or wagon and one cent additional for each extra team.
Tool was the only revenue, as the state made no appropriations for upkeep of the
road. Mr. McDowell well remembers seeing great droves of hogs, sheep and cattle
driven to market over the road; and his father told him that when he was a boy
he had seen large flocks of turkeys on their way to furnish Thanksgiving and
I found some interesting statistics in The Reporter files of toll collected.
At Gate No. 5, in East Maiden street, $133.43 were received in October 1877, and
$184.70 in October 1878. During the last three months of 1879 the receipts showed
an increase of $53.49 over the corresponding months of 1878; and the gains for the
same period at Gate No. 4, in West Chestnut street, were $16.58 for the same period
In 1879 a total of $4,575.34 was received from five gates in Washington
County; West Brownsville hill, $615.95; Beallsville, $662.74; East Maiden street,
Washington, $1,922.83; West Chestnut street hill, $1,147.07; old brick toll house east
of West Alexander, $226.76. The other two were not mentioned.
The total receipts in 1880 amounted to $4,861.42 from; west Brownsville,
$709.75; Beallsville, $645.35; East Maiden street, $2,069.97; West Chestnut street,
$1,201.13; West Alexander, #235.22. The other two gates were not mentioned.
The old road was reported in better condition during the 1879-1880 period than
for many years.
The receipts for the year ending July 1, 1881, were $4,880.93 from five
gates: West Brownsville, $696.95; Beallsville, $591.07; East Maiden street,
$2,134.57; West Chestnut street, $1,190.61; West Alexander, $267.73.
The receipts for the year ending May 31, 1882, were $4,988.10 from
five gates: West Brownsville, $884.30; Beallsville, $730.66; East Maiden stree,
$2,166.88; West Chestnut street, $972.80; West Alexander, $233.66.
The total amount of tolls collected in 1891, was $9.000; but the gates were
The reason that five gates were listed instead of seven is not clear, as
there was a gate at Claysville, and one at the foot of the West Alexander hill.
The act of July 9, 1897, fixing the rates of toll on the National Pike made
no changes. It simply repeated the old acto of 1831, not even eliminating oxen,
although they had passed from the scene as a means of transportation many
years before. Perhaps the law makers of 1897 thought that a [next two or three
words blackened out of photocopy] come along.
Since the passage of the act of 1831, traction engines had appeared on the
scene. Although they had been traveling over the roads for many years before 1897,
especially during the thrashing season, it appears that the law makers of that year
had just awakened to the fact, that there was such a machine, and the new act set
the rate of five cents a mile or fraction of the same for a traction engine.
Another addition to the original act gave the pike commissioners power
to commute the rates of toll with any person or persons, by taking of him or
them, a certain sum annually, in lieu of tolls.” Farmers and others who traveled
the pike regularly were greatly benefited by this provision.
By an act of the legislature, signed April 12, 1905, by Governor Pennypacker
the pike in Pennsylvania was freed of tolls. This bill was drawn up by Hon. James I.
Brownson, later President Judge of the Courts of Washington County, and introduced
by Hon. D.M. Campsey, of Claysville. The act carried an appropriation of
$1000,000 for improvement of the old road. Another appropriation of $100,000 was
made later, and on April 9, 1909, and additional $100,000 was appropriated, making
a total of $300,000 after the removal of tolls in 1905.
In 1909, the
State Highway Commissioner estimated that it would cost $10,000 a mile for $300,000
to rebuild the pike and reconstruct many of the bridges and culverts. The length
of the road in Pennsylvania was given as 80 miles, 40 miles of which are in
THE WESTERN TELEGRAPH
Few people today know that the first telegraph line to reach Washington came
in over the National Pike from Baltimore in 1848. This was just 11 years after Samuel
F. B. Morse had invented his electron-magnetic telegraph and only four years
after he built his first telegraph line between Washington City and Baltimore.
The line to Washington was the first one built across the mountains into
the western country, and was known as the Western Telegraph. It arrived in Washington
in 1848, at a time when stage coach and Conestoga wagons were still traveling over
the pike in large numbers. The date is shown in the files of The Reporter.
In the issue of Saturday, June 10, 1848, the following notice appears:
Mr. Smith, the agent for the original patentees of the telegraph, Messrs.
Morse, F.G.J. Smith & Company, was in our town last Thursday obtaining subscriptions
and making arrangements for the extension of the telegraph from Baltimore to Wheeling.
It appears there are two companies, one chartered in Maryland to extend from Baltimore
to Wheeling, the other in Tennessee to extend from New Orleans to Pittsburgh. These
two are to be united thus making one continuous line from Baltimore to New
Orleans. At Baltimore it will connect with other lines, extending through
all the eastern cities and at some point west, with a line extending to the
lakes. They propose having a station in Washington and a line from here to Pittsburgh.
Should these arrangements be completed this will give to Washington all the
connections and advantages we could possibly desire. We honestly hope our business
men will take hold of this matter in the right spirit. It requires a subscription
of 30 shares only, to secure a station here. Certainly this amount can easily
be obtained. More of this subject later.
The first telegraph line in the United States was opened for business on May
24, 1884. The line built along the pike was incorporated by the Maryland legislature
as the Magnetic Telegraph Company. It would be interesting to know if the 39 shares
necessary to secure an office in Washington were subscribed and the name of the
stockholders. They evidently were purchased for the office was opened in September
The progress of construction is described in The Reporter of Wednesday,
August 2, 1848:
The Messrs. Townsend are progressing rapidly with their line of Western
Telegraph. The holes have been dug from Baltimore to Uniontown, and the poles
delivered for the same distance. Already is Frederick in communication
with Baltimore, and in two or three weeks Cumberland will enjoy the same advantage.
O’Reilly’s Bedford connection is already nearly completed, and as
Mr. O’R. was himself here the other day, the next thing we expect to see is
the fighting.—From The Cumberland Civilian.
Last week, the hands employed in digging the holes reached our town
(Washington), and passed on their way to Wheeling, at the rate of about three
miles and a half per day. In a few weeks the posts are to be planted and the
wires suspended. An office is to be established here and a branch line,
connecting us with Pittsburgh. By this arrangement, we shall be enabled to receive
eastern or western news as early as at Pittsburgh. What a thought—to have
lightning writing messages for us.
The opening of the local office is noted in The Reporter of Saturday,
September 27, 1848:
The office was opened in this place last Saturday, and messages transmitted
to, and received, from Brownsville, Uniontown and Baltimore,--Yesterday the
communication was opened with Wheeling.
This shows beyond all doubt that the first telegraph office was opened
in Washington on Saturday, September 20, 1848, at which time the first messages were
sent and received. The old account mentions that messages were sent to and received
from Baltimore, this establishing the first telegraphic communication
with the East. It would be interesting to know who sent the first message and
the name of the operator.
THE FIRST OPERATOR?
In the Centennial Edition of The Reporter, August 15, 1908, is a
reproduction of Daguerreotype of the “First Telegraph Operators in Washington.”
This account states that the first telegraph office was opened in 1849, and that it
was a private enterprise, both of which are mistakes. The first office was opened
in 1848, as shown above, and it was not a private enterprise, The operators shown
in the old picture were Alexander Wilson and Freeman Brady Jr. It is more than
likely that they were the operators of the Western Telegraph office when it was
opened here on September 20, 1848. Both were members of the Washington Bar, and
in 1908, Mr. Wilson was still living, but Mr. Brady had been dead for several
years. The present owner of this Daguerrotype is not known, but we would like to
locate it. It shows the big, old-fashioned telegraph machine of that time.
The first telegraph received printed the message by cutting the Morse
code of dots and dashes into the tape. Operators soon learned to distinguish the
sound of the code by ear and thus could write the message down faster that the
machine could receive it. This eliminated a translation of the dots and dashes.
From this the telegraph sounder was developed, and in a few years all messages
were received by ear. The modern printing machine on which telegraph messages
is really only an improvement of Morse’s dot and dash receiver of the 1840s. The
modern machine prints the message in letters, and the old-time telegraph operator
has passed from the scene.
For part 28 of The National Pike Story For part 1 of The National Pike Story