Too many crossroads

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.

A group of six uncut tickets for the Hartford and New Haven turnpike with a black left the for the number of the gate.

A group of six uncut tickets for the Hartford and New Haven turnpike with a black left the for the number of the gate.

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.

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About Barbara

Barbara Austen is the Archivist at CHS and is responsible for all of the incoming manuscripts, which means she gets to read people's diaries or mail. She has a master's Degree in Library and Information Science and has been working in the museum and historical society world for 30 years.

3 thoughts on “Too many crossroads

  1. Pingback: Too many crossroads | Connecticut History | Sco...

  2. thats cool; I don’t remember but tolls were still in CT for a while. I think they got rid of them because of traffic but I know there has been much discussion of brining them back. Having the tolls back in CT would certainly slow down traffic but I wonder if the monetary value that it could bring to CT be worth it.

  3. Yes, you are correct, Connecticut had toll roads until there was a horrible accident at a toll booth and people were killed. They took them all down, but now there is talk of possibly re-instituting tolls in order to raise revenue for infrastructure improvements. With the state’s track record, however, I can see those funds being used elsewhere (like the gasoline tax that is supposed to be used for roads!).

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