We don’t usually like to acquire a single letter, primarily because it has lost its context. Well, we made an exception this time, because the letter was so interesting (dare I say fun?) and we have lots of other James Hillhouse papers in the Research Center.
The letter was written byJames Hillhouse from Washington, DC on January 24, 1804, to Dwight Foster. That is not the fun part. Hillhouse is writing about the Hartford and New Haven turnpike in which both men were investors. It seems they were having trouble collecting tolls. He writes:
On account of the vast multitude of cross roads, it has been found very difficult to fix on the places for erecting toll gates, so as to prevent their being shunned by Travelers, and we have been obliged to divide two of the gates, and four half gates, agreeable to the provisions of our Act of incorporation.
Evidently their plan worked because the amount collected had been at the rate of $2400 per year. That was no small amount in 1804; it would keep the investors happy. The investors also voted a certain sum to be used to improve the turnpike, primarily the bridge abutments and the sluices which kept giving way. Too bad the state and federal governments can’t find money for infrastructure the same way today.
The Research Center has records of toll companies, but nothing with the kind of detail found in this one letter. When the content is like this, we bend our policy a bit and do indeed take the single letter. Please ask for Ms 101765 if you wish to see this document in person.