Work on a National Road near the Potomac River in Cumberland, Maryland, to the Ohio River in Wheeling, Virginia (later became part of the newly created state of West Virginia during the Civil War) in 1811. This section of road was completed in 1818 though the road continued into Ohio after that.
High traffic caused lots of wear and tear on the road, making it difficult to maintain. The federal government turned over the maintenance of the road to the states in the early 1830s. To cover the cost, the states built toll houses to collect tolls.
Maryland built its first toll house, the La Vale Toll House, about six miles from Cumberland around 1833. This toll house is the state’s only one still standing on the National Road (also called Cumberland Road.)
Tollkeepers collected tolls there until the early 1900s. Included in their $200 annual salary were free living quarters.
It’s fun to read the toll rates. For example, horse and riders paid 4 cents for ten miles or 14 cents for thirty-five miles. Travelers paid 8 cents for ten miles or 28 cents for thirty-five miles for every sleigh, sled, chaise, or Dearborn “drawn by one horse or pair of oxen.”
Dearborn wagons contained four wheels generally drawn by a single horse. The vehicle usually had one seat, with top curtains and sometimes side curtains. From 1819 to 1850, truck farmers and peddlers used the affordable Dearborn.
Gateposts are all that remain of a second Maryland toll house outside of Frostburg. This one was located thirteen miles from Cumberland. There’s a nice photo of the toll house on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum site.
-Sandra Merville Hart
Day, Reed B. The Cumberland Road: A History of the National Road, Closson Press, 1996.
Edited by Raitz, Karl. A Guide to The National Road, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.
“First Toll Gate House,” The Historical Marker Database, 2017/04/22 http://www.hmdb.org/Marker.asp?Marker=442.
Schneider, Norris F. The National Road: Main Street of America, The Ohio Historical Society, 1975.
“The La Vale Toll House,” The Historical Marker Database, 2017/04/22 http://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=443.
“The National Road & Toll House near Frostburg, MD,” Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum, 2017/04/22 http://www.eduborail.org/nps-1/image-1-nps-1.aspx.