Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Chains stretched across Columbia streets in 1919

My parents lived east of downtown Columbia when I was born, and we have traveled East Broadway for employment, shopping, schools, entertainment and more during all of my 86 years. My early memory of East Broadway is that there was a chain across the street at the bottom of a steep hill. The chain marked the beginning of a privately owned gravel road, and we had to pay to use it. We paid at the tollhouse, which was almost in the road, near a small store operated by the Strodes.

The chain, tollhouse and store were closer to downtown than is Eastgate or the beautiful Larry Young sculpture. That was farmland!

Of course there were few autos in 1919. Dad wanted a truck, and the Ford garage sold him a car in 1917, then removed the touring body and put on a panel truck body. Tollhouses sold tickets at 3 cents for a person on horseback or a horse and buggy, 6 cents for a team and empty wagon and 10 cents for a loaded wagon or automobile. Sometimes the chain was on the ground, and Dad drove over it without stopping because he paid weekly.

Moss Street, which is now closed and sodded over, crossed Broadway near the tollhouse. Several dirty, ragged children played in the street, giving that area the name Happy Hollow. They lived in a row of shanties near Hinkson Creek and threw mud balls or rotten potatoes at passers-by. My brother and I were not allowed out of the car.

Another tollhouse and chain blocked the same road at Harg, six or seven miles east of Happy Hollow where a dirt road crossed Fulton Gravel. It was a no-name community with a log blacksmith shop, one log home and Olivet Christian Church, which was built in 1874. The crossroads location was named for the large McHarg family who moved there from Ireland. Then people called it Harg, and it was included on the state road map.

Later, William McHarg built a new store across from his blacksmith shop. The store received Star Route mail delivery, and people often walked or rode horseback to get the mail there. No roads were paved. The toll road, with rocks and poles in its muddiest places, was The Columbia Road to Fulton residents and The Fulton Road to Columbians. Graveled, they became "Fulton Gravel" and "Columbia Gravel." Surprisingly, this gravel road became part of the shortest route between New York City and Los Angeles; cross country travelers drove right down Broadway. Local business boomed.

Another tollhouse was located at the entrance to The Ashland Pike, a road from Columbia’s College Avenue to Jefferson City by way of Ashland. To drive this today, go south on College Avenue to Hospital Street, turn left and wind downhill past the University of Missouri-Columbia Cow Palace and cross the Outer Loop; continue south on more steep, downhill curves to Hinkson Creek - with no crossing. Historians record it as "The Ashland Pike, an early toll road which connected Columbia with Jefferson City by way of Ashland."

Beginning in 1851, the "plank road mania" struck Missouri, including Boone County. A serious plan was in the making to build a plank road from Glasgow to St. Louis via Columbia, but the project failed. However, a unique toll road, extending southwest from Columbia to Providence, was contracted in 1854 to two Hannibal men for $30,000. It was paved with wooden planks and completed in 12 months as planned, but it was ruined by rot in a few years. A street in Columbia is still called Old Plank Road.

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