Bucyrus Telegraph-Forum, 2012

In September 2009, street crew workers made quite a discovery — they just didn’t realize it until it was too late.

Workers digging up the North Sandusky Avenue area near Plymouth Street to lay new sewer lines for the city unearthed what used to be part of the Columbus-Sandusky Turnpike — a corduroy road made of tree trunks in the early 1800s.

Only a small amount was able to be preserved, and Tuesday night Thomas Grooms of the Ohio Historical Preservation Society spoke to a packed room about the find at the Bucyrus Public Library.

According to Grooms, a charter was created as the brainchild of Col. James Kilbourne to put down a road from Columbus to Sandusky, stretching 106 miles.

The charter would apply for grants to help build the road, then charge tolls to travelers.

The tolls varied widely. Grooms said a four-wheel cart drawn by two horses or oxen would cost 25 cents, and a two wheel cart led by the same would cost 18 3/4 cents. It was an additional 6 1/4 cents per horse or oxen.

“Sometimes the roads weren’t always kept up very well, and there were cases of people tearing down the toll booths in protest,” Grooms said. “The expectations of the locals were not met when they built this road. It was nearly impassable in rainy and wet conditions.”

The corduroy roads had their famous detractors as well. Legendary writer Charles Dickens traveled the turnpike and once wrote: “It was made by throwing trunks of trees into a marsh, and leaving them to settle there.”

Originally there were supposed to be planks to hold the larger portions in place, and some of those pieces also were unearthed.

Grooms said the road was finished in 1834, but sometime in the 1840s, the charter was given up and tolls were no longer collected.

“What hurt this road was the canal that was put in, and what hurt the canal was the railroad after that,” Grooms said.

The trees that were used to cover marshy areas in Bucyrus were among the biggest that have been discovered.

“Typically the trees used were smaller,” Grooms said. “The ones that were down there were obviously cut with axes and had the branches removed. It is hard to say if the road workers knew that they were pulling this up or not.”

Still some of what was taken out has been preserved. Three different preservation societies have pieces of the road, several of which were on display Tuesday night.

“The trees were massive. They could be hundreds of years old,” Grooms said. Grooms also said the marshy conditions preserved the logs as long as they did. “It was those conditions that locked out the conditions that usually make the wood deteriorate.”

Leave a Reply