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National Road Politics

The Northwest Ordinance passed in 1789, specified 5% of the proceeds from public land sales be used to build a road within the first new state north of the Ohio River. As the paperwork was being prepared for Ohio's statehood, Treasury Secretary Gallatin inserted a provision in the statehood bill, a provision for a road to be built from the eastern seaboard across the breadth of the new state.

When originally proposed by federal legislators, the National Road was to pass through all the state capitals in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, in as straight a line as possible. This made a lot of people angry because the straightest path meant the road and all the revenue and traffic generated from the road, would pass them by.

Dayton Ohio was one town that would be by-passed and left in the dust. As you may remember from your history books, Dayton has always been home to some pretty creative thinkers, so when the National Road refused to pass through town and instead opted for the more direct route through Vandalia and Englewood, Dayton created a classic deception.

Eaton and Dayton together decided to build their own pike, a counterfeit pike. In 1838 a replica road was built that looked to all practical purposes identical to the original National Road, right down to the same roadbed, bridges, tollgates, culverts, even the mile markers were the same.

So effective was the counterfeit road, that all those business that normally sprung up along the rest of the National Road, failed to materialize on that section bypassing Dayton. Instead, they developed on the counterfeit.

One of those businesses was the Pennsylvania House which is located on the west side of Springfield. Pennsylvania House was built right where the counterfeit road turned off the main pike.

Newark and Granville get passed

Newark and Granville city leaders were not happy when the road engineers and surveyors passed just south of their towns, even though existing stage coach lines already passed through both towns on their way to Columbus. No matter how much they argued, the surveyors wouldn't budge. However, Newark and Granville got the last laugh.

By late the 1880s, the National Road had already peaked in popularity. It would take another 20 - 30 years for the road to become heavily used again. By the 1880s, interurban electric trolleys were being constructed across the state.


Interior of an interurban car

The first interurban line in the United States connected Newark and Granville, Ohio. The builders had wanted to build their interurban line along the National Road, however, when they tried to purchase right-of-ways, property owners wanted too much money, so the builders opted for the Newark/Granville route. By World War I, 2,798 miles of interurban track existed within Ohio. Ohio's mileage exceeded the next closest state by approximately 1000 miles.

Interurban Detail

The term "interurban" is Latin for "between cities " The early interurban's were an extension of city horse-drawn car lines, into the countryside to another town. Along the rural stops were little shanties and platforms where farmers loaded milk, produce and poultry. Freight cars came frequently to collect this merchandise and at night would return and deposit the empty milk cans and chicken crates.