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Cornwall Vermont – Early Roads

One of the earliest and most imperative necessities of the early settlers was the construction of roads and bridges. As in nearly all the towns, a greater number of roads were surveyed than were ever opened, and more were opened than have been continued; so that a thorough acquaintance with the highways as they lead at present throws little light upon their ramifications of a hundred years ago.

The main north and south road from Whiting to Weybridge was laid before 1778, nearly as it now runs. A vote was passed in June, 1786, to build a road from between John Holley’s and Isaac Kellogg’s east through the swamp to Theophilus Allen’s. On account, however, of the expense and labor of constructing it the work was delayed many years. It was then prosecuted so slowly that not until 1825, and under the pressure of the necessity of Salisbury, Ripton and East Middlebury for direct communication with the lake, was the highway opened for travel.

Some time before 1815 the Middlebury Turnpike Company, so called, which proposed to extend the Hubbardton Turnpike to Middlebury, offered Cornwall the free use of the road provided the inhabitants would work out one-half of their annual tax upon it. Though the offer was accepted the road was never constructed.

On the 12th of October, 1784, it was “voted that the north and south roads be six rods wide, and the east and west road, or highway, be five rods wide.”

The main north and south road, ordered surveyed at this meeting, was laid three rods each way from the line surveyed. In 1795 the town decided to make the width of the roads discretionary with the selectmen, in the exercise of which discretion they have considerably narrowed the roads. Before the setting off of a portion of Cornwall to Middlebury, this town was responsible with Middlebury for all the bridges which it was necessary to build over the creek between the towns. Since its release from the expense of sharing in the maintenance of these bridges, the town has had occasion to make appropriations worth speaking of for only two bridges, viz., that across the Fair and the one across Beaver Brook near the old saw-mill. In December, 1785, an appropriation was made “to build a bridge over Lemon Fair, to be paid by the first day of April next, in wheat or work, wheat at 5s per bushel and work at 3s and 6d per day, finding themselves.” Though this vote was reconsidered, the records do not disclose the sequel.

On the list of 1799 a tax was imposed of two cents on the dollar, “to be paid in cattle by the first of October next, and if it is not paid by that time, to be paid in wheat or corn by the first day of January next, for the purpose of building Lemon Fair Bridge, and other town charges.” In this manner the bridges were kept passable, being rebuilt in 1823 and again in 1855. The bridge over Beaver Brook, before mentioned, was rebuilt in 1861 at an expense of one thousand dollars.

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