Roads and Inns of Chester County, Pa.
From: History of Chester County, Pennsylvania
By: Charles William Heathcore, A. M., Ph. D.
Department of Social Studies, State Normal School
West Chester, PA 1926

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Early roads.- It is interesting to study the old roads and trails of our county. There are many dating from its earliest history. However, we have included those which are typical and more important.

One of the most important roads in colonial Chester County, or Pennsylvania, and in many ways in colonial America, was the road which was laid out between Philadelphia and Lancaster, which was commonly known as the "Lancaster Road." The following quotation made from the document which follows is interesting as it shows conditions relating to highways and roads:- "A petition of the magistrates, grand jury, and other inhabitants of Lancaster County, was presented to the Board of Council held at Philadelphia, January 29th, 1730, setting forth that not having the conveniences of any navigable water, for bringing the produce of their labors to Philadelphia, they are obliged, at a great expense, to transport them by land carriage, which further became heavier through the want of suitable roads for carriages to pass. There arc no public roads leading to Philadelphia; yet laid out through their county, and those in Chester County, through which they now pass, are in many places incommodious. And therefore praying that proper persons may be appointed to view and lay out a road for public service, from the town of Lancaster, till it falls in with the high road in the County of Chester, leading to the Ferry of Schuylkill at High Street, (now Market Street) and that a review may be had of the said public road in the County of Chester; the prayer of which petition being granted:- It is ordered that Thomas Edwards, Edward Smount, Robert Barber, Hans Graaf, Caleb Peirce, Samuel Jones and Andrew Cornish, of the County of Lancaster, or any five of them, view and lay out by course and distance, a convenient high road from the said town of Lancaster; and that Thomas Green, George Aston, William Paschal, Richard Buffington, William March, Samuel Miller and Robert Parke, of the County of Chester, or any five of them, in continuing to lay out as aforesaid, the said road from the division line aforesaid, till it falls in with the King's high road in the County of Chester, leading to Philadelphia, and make return thereof to this board. And they, the above named persons of the County of Lancaster, or any five of them, together with the above named persons of the County of Chester, or any five of them, area further empowered jointly to review the said road within the last mentioned county, and to report to this board what alterations may be necessary to be made therein, and suit the conveniency of carriages, and for the better accommodation of the inhabitants of this province.

Those who were appointed to view and lay out the road reported to the board, October 4th, 1733, that they had carried out the task assigned them, whereupon the report was approved and affirmed. The Governor and council certified to the same, whereupon the courts ordered that the road thus laid out should be declared the King's Highway and maintained for public service.

It is also interesting to note that the first turnpike to be constructed in America was the one from Philadelphia to Lancaster which was started in 1792 and completed in 1794. The cost of construction was $465,000 or about $7,516 per mile. Compare that cost with the average cost per mile of the concrete highways which are being constructed in the state at present. It is slightly over $50,000. it became a most important highway connecting Philadelphia with the West. This same road, now known as the Lincoln Highway, is the scene of heavy traffic, particularly of the automobile.

The road from Baltimore through Oxford, Kennett Square, Chadd's Ford to Philadelphia, dates from an early period and became an important route between Baltimore and Philadelphia.

At Chadd's Ford where the road crosses the Brandywine, it was necessary to maintain a ferry. High water and ice in the winter time made crossing the Brandywine difficult and dangerous. Consequently, in 1737, John Chadd, a man of considerable wealth after whom the village was named and whose house, which was built in 1704, is still standing in a fair state of preservation, was authorized by the county commissioners to conduct a ferry, and the court authorized him (1737) to charge rates, some of which we quote, as follows:- For every horse and rider, four pence; every hog, three half pence; every coach, wagon or cart, one shilling and six pence; and every single person on foot three pence. Chadd died in 1760 and more than likely maintained the ferry until his death. When it ceased operations is not known.

Later, a covered wooden bridge was built across the Brandywine, but the date of constructing the first one is not known. In 1920 and 1921, a beautiful concrete bridge was constructed at a cost of about $78,000. The road from Wilmington to Reading, by way of West Chester, was established very early and was an important road, crossing as it did Philadelphia and Baltimore, and Lancaster and Philadelphia roads.

The road and later the turnpike (1803) which started at Dominingtown and extended through Honey Brook, Ephrata to Harrisburg, became known as the "Horseshoe Pike."

The Limestone road, the outgrowth of an old Indian trail already referred to, was gradually widened and developed by travel and hauling. It became known as the Limestone road because the farmers hauled most of their lime over the road from Pequea Valley. It seems that this road was not officially laid out. Records show that a survey was made in 1724 in order to clear the road and put it in better shape for transportation. A very fine road, as a result of rebuilding, was opened June 6th, 1925, by elaborate exercises. It extends from the Maryland line, through Oxford, Cochranville, Parkesburg, to the Lincoln highway.

Old inns. - As one looks over the old records relating to inns, one is interested in the names given to them. Many of the names are taken from famous old English inns by the settlers who came from those sections of England and gave the names to those which were established here. Along the more traveled highways, the larger number of inns were located. Some of those on the Lancaster turnpike were Spread Eagle, Bear, Swan, Rainbow, Black Horse, Unicorn, Kennett Square, Hammer and Trowel, Toughkenanion, and Red Lion, located near Willowdale, which are spoken of in Bayard Taylor's "Story of Kennett;" Buck, in Coventry; Three Tuns, in East Goshen; Eagle, in tiwchlan.

There were several in West Chester of which the two most well known were Turk's Head, also referred to in "The Story of Kennett," and the Green Tree.

Along the more heavily traveled roads, two kinds of inns were eventually established, namely stage inns which catered to the passengers of the stage coach, and the wagon inns, where the teamsters and others associated with heavy hauling sought lodging. In the yards of these latter inns there would be at night large numbers of wagons. Very frequently, in the busy seasons of long distant hauling, the inns would be over crowded with guests.

The owner of the inn was usually the landlord. He kept the place in good order, was hospitable, being anxious to maintain a good name for his inn. A volume could be written concerning the interesting things connected with these establishments.

The Conestoga wagon became a familiar sight on the highways after 1760 and was used primarily for the hauling of freight. It is likely that the wagon originated in Lancaster County in the section of the same name which is inhabited by the German Mennonites and Amish. The wagon was covered with canvas and had a curved bottom which prevented the freight from slipping backward and forward. It was drawn by six horses upon which hung strings of bells, The yards of the wagon inns presented a picturesque sight in the evening when the drivers drove in with their canvas covered wagons.

Bridges. - There are a few of the old bridges yet remaining in the county, but where changes are made, they are replaced by modern structures to meet the present demand of traffic. According to information which we have gathered from records in the office of the County Engineer, the following is of interest:-.

The oldest existing stone bridge is No. 151, at Milltown, which the records show to have been built in 1803.

There are eight stone county bridges over one hundred years old still being used.

The oldest iron bridge in existence is No. 55 (Crossan's in New Garden township), which was built in 1857 and is now sixty eight years old. There are twelve iron bridges over fifty years old.

The oldest existing timber bridge is No. 174 at William's Corner, in Schuylkill township, which was built in 1832. There are six of these over ninety years old.

So far as the records show, no covered wooden bridge has ever had a longer life than No. 174.

Post offices. - It is worthy to note that the first post office to be established in Chester County was in a town along the Lancaster pike namely at Downingtown, April 1st, 1798, and Hunt Downing was the first postmaster. Offices were established in 1803 at Cochranville. New Garden, New London, Chatham and Kennett Square. The office was established January 1st. 1804, at West Chester.

Canals. - This form of transportation was never largely developed in our county. In 1815, the State Legislature authorized a company "to make a Lock Navigation on the River Schuylkill." Finally, in 1825, the canal was opened and considerable traffic was carried on.

A canal was also constructed in 1828 from Black Rock Dam to Phoenixville.

It is interesting to note that John Pitch, of Bucks County, invented a steamboat in 1785, and by 1787, it was making regularly advertised trips between Wilmington, Chester, Philadelphia and Trenton.

Railroads.- In 1833, a railway between Columbia and Philadelphia was completed, the motive power for which was furnished by horses. In order to connect with the main line, a road was constructed 1832, from West Chester to the "Intersection," now Malvern. The rails were made of yellow pine which were firmly attached to stones.

The first locomotive of English make known as the "Black Hawk," passed over the road in 1834. In 1857 the Pennsylvania Railroad Company took over the road. The first train to pass over the railroad between Philadelphia and West Chester via Media was on November 11th, 1858. The Philadelphia and Reading Railroad was organized in the county in 1831. Other lines of railroads were eventually established and the various roads now operating in the county are familiar to all.

Today, trolley lines, auto busses and automobiles, have reduced distances in the county and require improved roads which are being constructed to meet the demands.

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