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Bills were introduced in the state legislature for appropriations to supplement the receipts of the toll gates. While these measures were heartily favored by members from the counties through which the road passed, they were defeated because a majority in the legislature came from counties that were not benefited. Then the state tried letting the road out by sections to contractors, through competitive bidding, who would agree to keep their sections in good condition for a certain number of years. The plan proved a failure and the state relieved the contractors before their leases had all expired. The state then had the road back on its hands in worse condition than ever.
Becomes a County Road
In 1876 the state decided to pass over to each county that part of the road that fell within its boundaries. The county commissioners were authorized to raise money to keep it in repair, by charging toll, levying taxes, or both. The grand old National Road had fallen- humiliated by being made a mere county road. But it had lost its prestige anyway; the railroad had taken its glory. The commissioners were permitted to keep toll gates at an average of not more than one in ten miles. The receipts were comparatively small. The toll gates were removed. Property owners did not want to pay taxes to keep the road in repair. The old National Road was neglected. Eventually it had very little of which to boast, excepting its name.
Effect of the Automobile on the Road
Then came the automobile. The old National Road with its bumps, breakers (or "thank-you-mams," as they were called) on every hill, provided very little comfort to the motorist. The county commissioners indicated their inability to put it in proper condition so back to the state it went again.
Following this, help for improving the road came from another source, the abutting property owner. State money, some county money, and assessments were used for its restoration. Many of its old curves and kinks were straightened out, its way was repaved, and its mileposts were repaired. Its glory began to revive.
Then the national government began to take an interest in the road it had built and passed over to the state a century before, and which the state, in turn, had passed over to the county. The old road was given a more modern name-"Federal Highway No. 40." While its maintenance is under the jurisdiction of the state highway department, the federal government furnishes the funds.
Toll Gates on the National Road
Rate of Toll Was Determined by Amount of Damage Done. Just as those who use the roads today pay a gasoline tax for their maintenance, so did those who traveled the National Road in the early days pay a toll in order that there might be funds for keeping it in good condition. It was rightly reasoned that the rates of toll should be determined by the wear on the road, and consequently, each vehicle or animal was taxed in proportion to the damage it might do to the road-bed. A greater toll was charged for cattle than for sheep or hogs; for wagons of narrow tires than those of wide tires; and for a carriage drawn by four horses than for one drawn by two.
Toll rates were changed frequently. A schedule in effect in Guernsey county as well as in other Ohio counties, in 1832, is here given, in part, as follows
score of sheep or hogs,     .05
score of cattle,                .10
horse and rider,               .04;
every sulky or chaise drawn by one horse, .08
and .04 for every additional horse;
every chariot or coach, .12 l/2,
and .03 for every horse in addition;
every vehicle with wheels under four inches in breadth, .061/4,
and .02 additional for every horse drawing same;
every vehicle with wheels exceeding six inches in width, free.
Exemptions Were Granted.
Exemptions from paying toll were granted persons going to or returning from church, a funeral, a place of election, their ordinary places of business if in the county, to mill and to market. Clergymen went through free, as did children on their way to or from school. This, of course, included the vehicles in which they traveled and the animals drawing them. A stage and horses carrying United States mail were passed through free. Stage companies took advantage of this privilege by putting a mail sack on each passenger coach. It is said that bids as low as one cent a year were submitted for carrying the mail. This abuse was later corrected by a law requiring that passengers on stage coaches should pay toll.
Toll Gates in Guernsey County.-There were four toll gates in Guernsey county on the National Road. They were intended to be located about ten miles apart in Ohio; however, this was the average distance. Coming into the county from the east, one reached the first gate at Bridgewater; the second, a short distance west of Washington; the third, a short distance east of Cambridge; and the fourth, about two miles west of Cambridge. That two were placed so close to Cambridge was probably for the purpose of getting toll from persons coming into town from either direction.
Toll-gate keepers were appointed by the governor at first, but later by the
commissioners. In 1832 the salary was $180 per year. This was afterwards
increased to $200, with an additional five per cent of all tolls collected in
excess of $1,000. Extra compensation by the commission plan proved
unsatisfactory, and the salary again dropped back to the $200.