Friday, August 7, 2015

National Road, Zane Grey, and Ohio Art Pottery

This museum near Zanesville, OH has three major exhibits.
The first and most extensive is the history of the National Road, America's first interstate highway to the West.
Before the National Road was even thought of, Revolutionary War soldier, Ebenezer Zane started the first settlement on the Ohio River in 1769. Later he contracted with Congress to open a trail across Ohio for other emigrants to travel by horseback and settle the territory. Zanesville, Lancaster, and Chillicothe, Ohio were settled along Zane's Trace.
George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and their contemporaries saw a need for an improved road.
Approved by Congress in 1806, the National Road became the first federally funded road in the nation. This circa 1909 pony truss bridge was built along Zane's Trace/National Road over Salt Creek, and moved to the museum in 2000.
Mile markers were set at one-mile intervals on the north side of the road. Ohio mile markers indicated the distance to Cumberland, MD, as well as names and distances to the nearest communities in either direction.
A 136-foot diorama portrays the National Road at various stages in its history. Let's take the journey:

The year was 1806. Thomas Jefferson was President and Ohio had been admitted to statehood just 3 years prior. Congress passed an Act creating the National Road to provide an overland route from Cumberland, Maryland to the banks of the Ohio River at Wheeling, WV. Surveying began a few months later.
By 1811, construction had begun. The roadway was cleared of trees to a width of 66 feet. The roadbed was 30 feet wide and filled with broken stone to a depth of 12 to 18 inches. 
Crude bridges were built of logs and became known as "Corduroy Bridges." 
Large covered freight wagons were used to carry building materials and supplies. 
The museum has one of the freight wagons on display. The feed box on the back was placed on the wagon tongue when feeding the horses.
This kept the horses together in one place by the wagon.
When the wooden brake began to wear, soles of shoe leather were attached to the brakes…generating the term, "Brake Shoes." On the left a board could be pulled out to create a seat when needed.
 This shows a woman using the seat.
All the horses wore bells which were used as barter if repairs were needed along the way. If a wagon arrived with "bells on," it was a good trip.
This heavy solid masonry bridge was constructed of locally quarried large stone in 1834 over Wills Creek. The bridge remained in daily use until 1936 when it was replaced by a modern concrete structure.
A photo of another stone bridge.
By 1818, the road was complete to Wheeling, the next phase begun. Conestoga wagons often traveled in caravan along the route, and traffic increased making it difficult to keep up with road repairs.
By the 1830's it was evident that more money was needed if the National Road was to remain in good repair, so ownership and responsibility was passed to individual states. Their solution was to put up tollhouses.
Here are some examples of toll rates.
This Tollhouse is one of several still in existence. The unique shape immediately identifies the structure and the many windows permitted the gatekeeper a distant view in all directions.
Various Inns and taverns sprang up along the National Road offering places of rest, food, and a bed for the night. Some, like this one catered to cattle drovers.
Others, like this Stage Coach stop catered to passengers.
Barges and ferries were used to cross the river at Wheeling.
This is an example of an "S" bridge. It was easier to build a bridge perpendicular to the stream it crossed, thus the curve in the roadway.

Coming into Zanesville, travelers crossed a swinging bridge, which would swing out of the way for boat traffic on the river.
And the famous "Y" Bridge was constructed to span two rivers. Note the trolly tracks and pedestrian walkways.
The first Y Bridge was a covered bridge.
A concrete Y bridge replaced the covered bridge in 1902. 
There was also a display of vehicles and the road surfaces they traveled through the years. This 1847 coach could be equipped with sleigh skids for winter use.
About every 5 miles along the road one could find a wheelwright, 
A blacksmith,
And an Inn or tavern.
With the coming of the railroads after 1854 the National Road was relegated to a local farm-to-market road. Passengers and freight began to use the faster, cleaner trains.
With traffic diminished, bicycle use became popular on the road.

With bicycle travel's rise in popularity, came a call for improved roads in the late 1890's.
And with road improvements and the invention of the automobile, the National Road experienced a resurgence in use.

Schoolhouses, unused in summer, became the first highway rest areas.
Farmers prospered when the passing travelers stopped to buy food and a night's shelter.
Better equipment was invented to keep roads maintained.
In 1914 experimental pavement was begun from Zanesville to Hebron. Concrete was used in this section.
Traffic increased monumentally as everyone came out for the smoother ride.
Other sections were paved with brick. This depicts the city of Columbus which catered to tourists along the road with hotels and restaurants.
And with the advent of automobiles, "filling stations" sprang up along the highway.
This 1915 Ford Model T "Depot Hack" could transport passengers and their luggage from the train stations to hotels.
Other modes of transportation were also invented during this era of the early 1900s.

Better tires were produced.
Roadside Motor Courts were built.
The road and funding stopped at the then capital of Illinois, Vandalia, completing nearly 700 miles of roadway.
Made in Ohio, the 1920 Peerless touring sedan boasted an automobile for an "eager and aggressive generation."

And with the improved road came the first cross-country tourists.
You too can travel the National Road which follows much of US Route 40 through Ohio.
And as you travel along, you can sing a highway song. This is sheet music with songs written about the National Road.
The second Exhibit is a tribute to author Zane Grey who was born in Zanesville.
His father didn't think there would be future for him as a writer and encouraged him to become a dentist like himself. So Zane Grey went to college and practiced dentistry for a few years, but continued his dream of being a writer.
His wife encouraged him too self-publish his first two novels, and when they became popular, a publisher agreed to publish future works. He is best known for his westerns, but he also wrote about the early days of Ohio, primarily his grandfather, Colonel Ebenezer Zane. Many of his westerns were made into movies. 
He wrote his novels longhand, and his wife typed them for him. This is a display of the original manuscript of one of his most popular novels.
I became interested in Zane Grey when hiking in Oak Creek Canyon north of Sedona, a place Grey had visited and written about in this novel. Most of his works are now available free as Ebooks.
He traveled extensively in the west and was an avid fisherman and hunter.
His office is recreated here, showing his desk where his wife typed his manuscripts.
He sat in this chair with a lapboard to write his stories.

The final exhibit in the museum is devoted to Ohio art pottery.

Weller is a big name in pottery in this area.

Depictions of Dickens' work.
Books about local pottery companies.

1 comment:

  1. Amazing information about the National road, who knew? Love your posts.


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