History of the County

The Cumberland or National Road first opened in 1818 and until 1852 was the main route and method of travel to the West. Wagons, stages, herds of cattle, flocks of sheep, travelers on horseback and slaves, tied together and on foot, moved on the road.

Because of such heavy use, the deteriorating condition of the surface became an issue Congress needed to address. Legislation authorizing the repair and maintenance of the National Road passed Congress and was sent to President Monroe for signature. On May 4, 1822, President Monroe vetoed the bill on the grounds that Congress did not, under the Constitution, have the authority to establish turnpikes with gates and enforce the collection of tolls.

On January 27, 1824, Andrew Stewart in a floor speech convinced Congress that it was the right of government to construct roads and canals necessary to carry the mail, allow the movement of the military to protect the citizenry and commercial powers to serve the citizens of the expanding country, and that the Constitution did not envision the federal government to be dependent on the states to provide the ability to deliver the mail, and defend the seaboard. Stewart prevailed. Other advocates for the reconstruction of the National Road were Andrew Stewart, Fayette County; T.M.T. Mc Kennan, Washington, PA; General Henry W. Beeson, Representing Greene and Fayette Counties in Congress; Lewis Stenrod of Wheeling, VA, and Senator Daniel Sturgeon, Uniontown

In 1831 the Commonwealth of PA passed legislation that would assume responsibility of maintaining the condition of the road and managing the construction of tollhouses and toll gates on the road that was within the state boundaries, once the federal government restored the surface of the road and appropriated funds for the construction of the gates and tollhouses. On July 3, 1832 the US Congress agreed to the Pennsylvania plan. On July 23, 1832 Lt. J.K. F. Mansfield, Corps of Engineers was assigned to be superintendent of the repairs of the road east of the Ohio River. Differences in plans for the repair method caused Lt. Mansfield to be replaced by Captain Richard Delafield on October 5, 1832.

Information for this article has been gleaned from five main sources:

"Fayette at the Crossroads" by Walter J. Storey, Jr. PA Heritage Quarterly, Fall, 1983; the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

"The Old Pike A History of the National Road", T. B. Searight

"Annals of Southwestern Pennsylvania" Lewis Clark Walkinshaw

"Cloud By Day A History of Coal and Coke and People " Muriel Earley