From Mifflinburg Telegraph Weekly Newspaper|
Trail of History for Week of April 19, 2012
Apr 20, 2012 - 1:46:54 PM
The Mifflinburg Toll House
When we think of a turnpike we think of modern travel at 70 mph, but in 1819 when the turnpike was beginning it was for a horse or buggy or walking.
In March, 1819 the General Assembly stated five companies should be formed to build between Northumberland and the mouth of Andersons’ Creek, the road that had first been authorized in 1812. One of these companies was empowered to build the portion of the road between Northumberland and Mifflinburg by way of Lewisburg. When as many as thirty persons had subscribed for 205 shares of the stock in this company, the Governor would be empowered to incorporate these subscribers under the name of the Northumberland and Youngmanstown Turnpike Company and to subscribe for 200 shares of stock in the company. This company did not come into being.
In April, 1826 there were two companies to construct a turnpike between Northumberland and Youngmanstown, one of which companies should build from Northumberland to the east end of the Lewisburg bridge and the other from the west end of that bridge to Mifflinburg. Within a period of less than three years after the enactment of this law, the Lewisburg and Mifflinburg Turnpike Company was incorporated. The commissioners had designated five men and had empowered them to accept subscribers from both individuals and corporations.
When twenty or more persons had subscribed for 120 shares, each such share have a par value of $50; the commissioners were required to certify this fact to the governor who thereupon would incorporate the subscribers. Having collected the required subscribers and having certified that fact to the governor, who thereupon issued letters patent to the Lewisburg and Mifflinburg company, Nov. 11, 1828, the commissioner’s turnpike advertised a meeting to be held at the house of Jacob Musser in Lewisburg, Dec. 15, 1828 for the purpose of electing officers for the new company.
The meeting was held and Dr. Thomas Valvazah was elected President. Robert Hayes was elected treasurer and clerk and twelve other men elected managers. Then there was a charter. The board of managers now had the job of getting the road constructed and approved by the state for upon such approval the company would receive a substantial contribution from the state, as well as the right to take tolls. The board resolved that the managers are to receive as a compensation for their service in locating the road and the business for the company generally $1.25 per day and that the President be authorized to contract with a surveyor to layout the road at the rate of $2.25 per day and the road be laid out in half mile sections.
Between Dec. 22 and 25 the board occupied itself in exploring routes, and Christmas Day selected one of three routes proposed. On Dec. 26 and 27 it located the road from Mifflinburg as far east as the cross road leading to New Berlin. The work of locating the rest of the road was turned over to a committee and after completing its task, reported to the board Jan. 3, 1829 at which time the board approved the road as surveyed and drafted. On Jan. 20 and 21, the board met to receive construction bids, and on the last named day accepted the bid of John Maclay. On Jan. 27, Dr. Vanvalzah signed with John Maclay, Robert P. Maclay and John Forster, articles of agreement and the company promised to pay the contractors $3.90 a perch (24-3/4 feet) for construction of the road and the contractors in turn bound themselves by a bond of $5,000 to complete the road according to the specifications not later than Nov. 1, 1829.
The board at a meeting on Oct. 23, 1829, authorized the President to advertise for contracting for building a toll house, 26 feet length, by 17 feet width one and one half story high, the lower story to be 7 feet in height to be constructed of frame or logs to have an overshot of 3 feet in front with the necessary windows and doors and a toll gate.
On Nov. 10, the board voted the toll house be built near the southeast corner of John Rockey’s field on the north side of the turnpike. The contract for building it was let to Henry Barnheart and on Jan. 30, 1830 he received on account toll house the sum of $70 and on Feb. 8, 1830 the further sum of $100 in full for the toll house. I don’t know if it was frame or logs.
On Nov. 25, 1829 the governor of Pennsylvania was informed that the road was completed and appointed James Dale, Robert Barber, Jr. and Hugh Wilson, Esq. as commissioners to inspect the road— the whole distance being nine miles and ninety perches. The road was approved. Feb. 3, 1830 and the company was authorized to erect gates and collect toll. It was a road twenty feet wide and made of firm, compact and substantial materials, composed of wood, gravel, pounded stone or other small hard substance, in such a manner as to secure a solid foundation, and an even surface. The company was required to keep it in repair, and if not, the right to collect tolls would be withdrawn. If a collector overcharged a person, he was subject to a fine. No toll was collected from a person passing or re-passing from one part of his or her farm to another, or to and from any place of worship or funerals or for militia men on days of training, or going to or from general elections.
The legislature reserved the right to gain possession of the road at any time after 1830 by purchase following an appraisal of the property. The company could collect a fine of $15 from anyone attempting to evade paying tolls. For every space of five miles toll was 4 cents a score of sheep; 6 cents a score of hogs; 12 a score of cattle (score is 20). Every horse or mule ladened or unladened with a rider or not was .03. a two-wheeled vehicle drawn by one horse was .06, drawn by 2 horses was .09. Prices were cheap then.
John Linn was elected the toll keeper Dec. 28, 1829. For more than 13 years the company maintained only one toll gate and employed only one toll collector. In August 1843, two toll houses were built: one on the hill west of Lewisburg along John Brown’s field and the other at the east end of Mifflinburg.
William Cameron, Esq. was to build one at Lewisburg and Frederick Pontius the one at the east end of Mifflinburg, to have a gate erected at his house and collect the toll. On Oct. 20, 1843 the board resolved that a toll gate be immediately erected at the new toll house where the turnpike crossed the west line of the borough of Lewisburg and Alexander Lewis was appointed to collect the toll at this gate until the first of April next, and receive $25 for his service and the company find him two loads of coal and a stove to burn it in. Before the end of the year, William Fehrer was collecting tolls at the upper or west gate. From 1846 on they were called the east and west gates.
In later years the company erected other toll houses. On March 1, 1847 the board authorized a committee to purchase from Joseph H. Smith, a lot adjacent the east toll gate house and on Dec. 18 the treasurer paid Mr. Smith $85 for a toll house lot. Five years later the board authorized another committee to purchase a piece of land from Francis Wilson not exceeding an acre to erect a toll house instead of the present eastern gate. On March 3, 1856 another toll gate lot was suggested and on Sept. 2, 1857 Francis Wilson was paid $110 for a lot.
On March 2, 1857 the board authorized William Cameron and James F. Linn to erect a toll house on the lot of ground near the crossroads that the company purchased from Francis Wilson for that purpose and move the eastern gate as soon as completed. At the west end of the road it appears that the company had no toll house of its own before 1874 as on March 2, E.B. Walter was authorized to cause to be erected a new dwelling house for the gatherer at the west gate. On March 1, 1875 Mr. Walter was paid for building this house $155.82 and was authorized to erect a suitable stable.
Of the toll gate men I find only a little about Francis Wilson in the “Annals of Buffalo Valley.” He may have been a son of Hugh Wilson, who died Oct. 1845. Francis Wilson died Feb. 15, 1874, age 73 years so he was born about 1801.
The annual receipts of the company were never large. Not until the middle of the 1850’s was the annual income as much as a thousand dollars. In the 1870’s one year the income was fifteen hundred dollars. From the time of the Civil War to 1904, it was somewhat less than $1,300. The condition of the company was such that it could not pay a dividend at all until 16 years after the road was completed. In the end the state had paid more than half the cost of building the turnpike road.
When the first dividend of the company was declared, March 23, 1846, there were 277 shares of stock. William Cameron owned 155 shares. The state between June 14, 1837 to July 30, 1840 paid to the company in four installments the sum of $2,400. Some of the share holders were: John B. Packer, William Hayes, George F. Miller and his sons- Bright and Barron, J. Merrill Linn, William L. Harris, E.B. Walter, Daniel D. Boyer, William Wertz. J. Merrill Linn’s shares went to his son, John Blair Linn. In 1857 dividends were 50 cents— the largest dividends were $2.75 in 1863. In 1864 they were $2.60.
During the whole time of its existence the company only elected six men as President. The first was Dr. Vanvalzah, Dec. 15, 1828- June 5, 1837. Alexander Graham died in office before the annual meeting in 1840. Between June 1, 1840 and March 5, 1849 was Henry S. Graham. He was succeeded by George Schnabel from March 5, 1849 to March 1, 1858. George Miller from March 1, 1858- Oct. 21, 1885 when he died. March 1, 1886 his son D. Bright Miller to the end of the company.
The first clerk and treasurer was Robert Hayes, Dec. 15, 1828 to June 4, 1832. Then James F. Linn who served until his death Oct. 8, 1869. March 7, 1870 William L. Harris to Jan. 7, 1903 when he resigned due to health. March 2, 1903, Philip B. Linn to the end of the company. The man who stayed the longest on the board of Managers was J. Frederick Pontius from 1834-1870. Twenty years service on the board of managers were: Martin Dreisbach, John N. Pontius, J. Merrill Linn and Philip Frederick. At first there were twelve managers, later only four. Compensation to a manager was almost nothing and in later years they were allowed to travel the turnpike for nothing.
—Ref. “THE LEWISBURG AND MIFFLINBURG TURNPIKE,” by Oliphant and Linn in 1948.
© Copyright 2012 by Mifflinburg Telegraph Weekly Newspaper