Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Main roads once were private tollways

My early memory of East Broadway, known then as Fulton Gravel, is of a chain across the road at the bottom of a steep hill. That chain marked the beginning of a privately owned gravel road that we had to pay to use.

We paid at a tollhouse that was almost in the road, near a small store operated by the Strodes. The chain, tollhouse and store were closer to downtown than Stephens Lake Park or the beautiful Larry Young sculpture. That was farmland!

Of course there were few autos in 1919. Dad needed a truck, but he bought a car from the Ford garage in 1917. He removed the touring body and put on a panel truck body. Tollhouses sold tickets; 3 cents for a person on horseback or horse and buggy, 6 cents for a team and empty wagon, and 10 cents for a loaded wagon or automobile. Dad paid weekly.

Moss Street crossed Broadway near the tollhouse. Today Moss is closed and sodded over. Several dirty, ragged children always played in the street, giving that area the name Happy Hollow. They lived in a row of shanties near Hinkson Creek and often threw mudballs or rotten potatoes at passersby. 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 Road. Harg began as a no-name community with one log home, a blacksmith shop and Olivet Christian Church, which had been built there in 1874. This crossroad was eventually named for the large McHarg family who had moved there from Ireland. People called it Harg, and it was soon 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 on horseback to get the mail there. No roads were paved!

The Harg toll road, with rocks and poles in its muddiest places, was on what was called "The Columbia Road" to Fulton residents and "The Fulton Road" to Columbians. Once graveled, it 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 road today, go south on College Avenue to Hospital Street, turn left and wind downhill past the MU Cow Palace and cross Stadium. Continue south on another steep, downhill curve to Hinkson Creek. There’s no crossing there now.

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 the town of Providence, was contracted in 1854 to two Hannibal men for $30,000.

They paved the route with wooden planks, and it was completed in 12 months as planned. In only a few years it was ruined by rot, but the name stuck because a familiar Columbia street is still called Old Plank Road.

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