In an editorial printed 20 February 1869 in the Cecil Whig the paper commented on the state of several of the roads in the county. The article was printed shortly before the Good Roads Movement would result in a radical transition to improve and then modernize the roads. All over the United States. Cecil County documented the petition of and building of such roads in well-kept books that have since been digitized and serve as a great resource for doing historical research in the county.

“Abandoned Roads.—Not a few of the roads in this county which were opened at a large outlay of public money, we are led to believe from observation and inquiries made from time to time, have been virtually abandoned, or are so little used that they might as will be closed for all the advantage they are to the public. We were traveling on the Charlestown and West Nottingham road a short time since with a gentle man well acquainted with the different roads which travel’s that section of country lying north of Charlestown and North East, when he pointed out an opening through the bushes, which he informed us was a public road connecting the Charlestown, and North East roads, a short distance above the latter town. This cross road, about 2 miles in length was opened a few years ago by an enterprising party, who being out of work got up a petition to the Commissioners “numerously signed,” and the road was pronounced a public necessity and opened at a very heavy expense to the county, and an annual levy for repairs. A short time before this road was pointed out to us it had been cleared of the bushes which had been allowed to acquire two or three year’s growth. When we saw it there wasn’t a hoof or wheel track to be seen on I it, but a mere avenue opened through the dense undergrowth of that neighborhood. There is no travel nor ever has there been across that part of the country demanding such a road to be opened, and the clearest evidence of this fact is that the bushes were allowed to grow in the bed of the road after it had been formally opened. We have no doubt that the county has large numbers of such roads which ought to lie stopped up and the expense of supervisions saved. The tax-payers have been put to an enormous expense in opening these useless roads to serve some private or individual enterprise, and are still taxed that corps of bungling supervisors may spend the public money by hiring boys to walk over them, carrying axes and shovels on their shoulders. In other places some very convenient and useful roads have been allowed to get into such a horrible condition as to drive travel almost entirely away from them, into old established thoroughfare which from the mere pressure of constant necessity are kept in a condition that is at last passable. Cannot this wretched wasteful, ruinous system of highways in the county be reformed and made both cheaper and better? Half the number of good roads would much better accommodate the public, than our present numberless bad ones. We would not be understood as opposing the opening of any new roads in future that the public interest and travel unquestionably demanded. Such cases will occur as the county resources become more largely developed, but no more roads should be opened until it is ascertained beyond a doubt by the County Commissioners, that such roads would be a permanent public benefit.”

Access to the digital newspaper collection of the Cecil County Historical Society is free to members and is included in the $5 library fee for non-members. While we are currently only open by appointment, please visit www.cecilhistory.org for news and updates.

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