Commissioner's Report to the President, Jan. 15, 1808
The following report was found in Archer Hulbert's book "The Cumberland Road" (1904)...
Jan, 15, 1808
In the gradation of the surface of the route (which became necessary) is ascertained the comparative elevation and depression of different points on the route, and taking a point ten feet above the surface of low water in the Potomac river at Cumberland, as the horizon, the most prominent points are found to be elevated as follows, viz. :
Summit of Wills mountain . . 581.3 Feet
The law requiring the commissioners to report such parts of the route as are laid on the old road, as well as those on new grounds, and to state those parts which require the most immediate attention and amelioration, the probable expense of making the same passable in the most difficult parts, and through the whole distance, they have to state that, from the crooked and hilly course of the road now traveled, the new route could not be made to occupy any part of it (except an intersection on Wills mountain, another at Jesse Tomlinson's, and a third near Big Youghiogheny, embracing not a mile of distance in the whole) without unnecessary sacrifices of distances and expense.
That, therefore, an estimate must be made on the route as passing wholly through new grounds. In doing this the commissioners feel great difficulty, as they cannot, with any degree of precision, estimate the expense of making it merely passable ; nor can they allow themselves to suppose that a less breadth than that mentioned in the law was to be taken into the calculation. The rugged deformity of the grounds rendered it impossible to lay a route within the grade limited by law otherwise than by ascending and descending the hills obliquely, by which circumstance a great proportion of the route occupies the sides of the hills, which cannot be safely passed on a road of common breadth, and where it will, in the opinion of the commissioners, be necessary, by digging, to give the proper form of thirty feet, at least in the breadth of the road, to afford suitable security in passing on a way to be frequently crowded with wagons moving in opposite directions, with transports of emigrant families, and droves of cattle, hogs, etc., on the way to market.
Considering, therefore, that a road on those grounds must have sufficient breadth to afford ways and water courses, and satisfied that nothing short of well constructed and completely finished conduits can insure it against injuries, which must otherwise render it impassable at every change of the seasons, by heavy falls of rain or melting of the beds of snow, with which the country is frequently covered; the commissioners beg leave to say, that, in a former report, they estimated the expense of a road on these grounds, when properly shaped, made and finished in the style of a stone-covered turnpike, at $6,000 per mile, exclusive of bridges over the principal streams on the way; and that with all the information they have since been able to collect, they have no reason to make any alteration in that estimate.
The contracts authorized by, and which have been taken under the superintendence of the commissioner, Thomas Moore (duplicates of which accompany this report), will show what has been undertaken relative to clearing the timber and brush from part of the breadth of the road. The performance of these contracts was in such forwardness on the 1st instant as leaves no doubt of their being completely fulfilled by the first of March.
The commissioners further state, that, to aid them in the extension of their route, they ran and marked a straight line from the crossing-place on the Monongahela, to Wheeling, and had progressed twenty miles, with their usual and necessary lines of experiment, in ascertaining the shortest and best connection of practical grounds, when the approach of winter and the shortness of the days afforded no expectation that they could complete the location without a needless expense in the most inclement season of the year. And, presuming that the postponement of the remaining part till the ensuing spring would produce no delay in the business of making the road, they were induced to retire from it for the present.
The great length of time already employed in this business makes it proper for the commissioners to observe that, in order to connect the best grounds with that circumspection which the importance of the duties confided to them demanded, it became indispensably necessary to run lines of experiment and reference in various directions, which exceed an average of four times the distance located for the route, and that, through a country so irregularly broken, and crowded with very thick under wood in many places, the work has been found so incalculably tedious that, without an adequate idea of the difficulty, it is not easy to reconcile the delay.
It is proper to mention that an imperious call from the private concerns of Com missioner Joseph Kerr, compelled him to return home on the 2gih of November, which will account for the want of his signature to this report.
All of which is, with due deference, submitted, this 11th day of January, 1808.
ELI WILLIAMS, THOMAS MOORE.
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