Illinois Genealogy Trails History Group

Clark County Illinois
Genealogy and History


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Chapter 6
Internal Improvements

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The History of Crawford and Clark County
W. H. Perrin, O. L. Baskin & Co., 1883

Transcribed by Kevin Ortman


[Chapter 6, starts on pg 273]

The Old National Road
THE old National Road and its construction created as much interest in its day not only in this county, but in all the country through which it passed, as any internal improvement ever inaugurated in the State of Illinois, perhaps. It was originally called the Cumberland Road, after the old stage road from Washington, D. C., to Cumberland, Md., a great highway in its time, and forming the eastern division and terminus. This road was a national work. It had been provided for in the reservation of five per cent of the sale of public lands in Illinois and other States, and biennial appropriations were its dependence for a continuance to completion. When Congress made any appropriation for this road, it required that “said sums of money shall be replaced out of any funds reserved for laying out and making roads, under the direction of Congress, by the several acts passed for the admission of the States of Ohio. Indiana, Illinois and Missouri into the Union, on an equal footing with the original States.

The work was commenced on the road in this county in 1827-’28, by the cutting out of the timber on the line, and was pushed to practical completion as far west as nearly to the east line of Fayette County. Then with scattering work at the streams as far west as Vandalia, such as a levee across the Okaw bottom, and several bridges at that place had exhausted the appropriations of Congress, and the people of Illinois, becoming crazed over the foolish State policy, were divided in sentiment to the extent (some wanted it to go to St. Louis and others to Alton) that no further appropriations were procured, and the great work was stopped. To this portion of the country it was a most important public work. It gave the people access to the out side world, where, before, they had been pent up by almost impossible obstacles. People could go to Terre Haute, and even to St. Louis, and thus reach markets and sell the little portable stuff they had, and buy such things as their necessities demanded and haul them home. But the growth of county improvements was slow indeed. The county, like the people generally, was poor, and while they made commendable efforts, yet often the money was wasted through being expended by inexperienced or ignorant men.

In after years, it may be of interest to some, to know which of the public highways passing through Clark County, was once known as the old National Road, and just where it was located. It is the road passing east and west through Marshall, on the north side of the public square, and known as Cumberland or Main street within the corporate limits, taking its name from the original title of the road. It was a great thoroughfare before the era of railroads, and was intended to cross the continent, even as railroads now cross it. But railroads were invented a little too soon for its entire completion, amid its importance in this age of steam, is no greater than any ordinary county or State road. A branch diverged from the main line at Zanesville, Ohio, and crossed the Ohio River at Maysville, Ky., passing through Lexington, thence to Nashville, Tenn., and on to New Orleans. Thus the country was to be spanned from east to west and to the extreme south.

Railroads --- [to be continued]




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