Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Horse Needs a Road

The Rev. Hugh Jones wrote in 1699 that "Our soil is generally sandy, free from stone, which makes itt verry convenient for travelling. And we have noe occasion for shoeing our horses except in frosty weather. And what with the goodnesse of our little horses and with the smoothnesse of the roads, we can travell upon occasion fifty miles in a summer afternoon, and sometimes a hundred miles in a day." [1]

Jones's comment alerts us to the fact that more than a horse was required to travel on horseback over distances of more than a few miles. Travelers needed roads, ferries, and bridges in addition to the horse. Maryland's legislature first dealt with roads in 1666, when it passed An act for making high wayes & making the heads of Rivers, Creekes, Branches and Swamps passable for horse and ffoote. [2]

The act ordered the commissioners, or justices of the peace, for each county to assemble on the 20th of October to decide on the most convenient highways and paths for their respective counties. The men had the authority to appoint an overseer for each road and to levy a tax of tobacco or labor to carry out the work of improving the roads, which were not to go through anyone's yard, garden, orchard, or corn field. The commissioners could levy fines on anyone who did not comply with the terms of the law.

Compliance on everyone's part for the next three decades was minimal, but roads gradually improved as overseers supervised workers to remove underbrush, cut trees and grub out their roots, and drain marshy areas. Early roads often followed Indian trails, widened to allow for use by horses, and often traversed the ridges that ran along the necks of land.

From these higher, public routes, secondary paths (some public, some private) led to landing places, ferries, courthouses, churches and meeting houses, and grist mills. Changes in the road network took place as individuals or neighborhoods petitioned to add a new road or turn, improve, or remove an existing one.

Because roads inevitably crossed plantations, a traveler's convenience could be a property owner's inconvenience, if the road cut a field in half or required gates to protect crops that would be endangered if travelers failed to close them. Alternatively, a road that was turned to avoid cutting through a field could send a traveler on a longer or less easily-traveled route.

Management of the road network became a regular, and sometimes contentious, part of a county court's administrative duties.

In 1696 and again in 1704, the General Assembly again attempted to improve the colony's roads by enacting new legislation. These acts required that roads be a minimum of twenty feet wide, clear of underbrush, and well-grubbed to remove tree roots. The legislation directed the justices annually to record a description of the county roads and the overseers appointed to supervise them.

All residents owed a fixed number of days of labor each year under the direction of the overseers; no one could escape road work by paying a tax instead of working, although wealthy planters could send slaves or servants to fulfill their labor obligation.

The 1704 act attempted to provide directions for travelers unfamiliar with the area by establishing a system of notches to mark roads leading to Annapolis (AA) and Williamstadt ([Oxford] W).

County court proceedings generally include the road descriptions and overseers' appointments among the administrative business of the courts. The earliest record books of Anne Arundel's court burned in the State House fire of 1704, but later volumes contain extensive material about the county's road network.

Nevertheless, the only complete description of the county’s colonial roads in the Anne Arundel court records dates to August 1734. The entry listed twenty roads, seven of which passed through All Hallows and five of which began in Annapolis.

“the following roads are deemed and ascertained by the Justices of this Court to be Publick Roads (Viz)
from Annapolis over Severn Bridge to Patapsco Ferry
from Annapolis to Huntington
from Annapolis to Elk Ridge
from Annapolis Round the head of South River
From Annapolis to South River ferry
from Severn Bridge to Bells Mill
From Elk Ridge Road to Indian Landing
From Bells Mill to South River Ferry
from South River Ferry to Queen Anns Ferry
from South River Ferry to the Bay Side Road that Leads to fishing Creek
and from South River Ferry the Road that Leads through the Mannour
from Severn Ferry to Long Bridge by the Chapel to the Mountains
from Severn Ferry round the head thereof
from Patapsco Falls to Rowles’s
from Deep Run to Paptapscoe ferry
from London Town to Pigg Point Ferry
From London Town to Lyons Creek
from the head of Road River Hundred to Queen Anns Ferry
from Henry Ridgleys to the Landing at Patapscoe at the head thereof
from William Ridgleys to the said Landing at the head of patapscoe
from Catlins old fields to Carrolls Mannour
From Catlins Old Fields to the Locust Thicket” [2]

In November, the justices appointed the overseers for the various roads, designating them for geographic areas rather than specific roads (as was often done in other counties):
David Macklefresh for Road River hundred
Thomas Homewood for Lower part of Broad Neck hundred
Thomas Baldwin for Lower part Middle Neck Hundred
Richard Warfield Jr for Lower pt Severn Hundred
William Ander for South River hundred
William Waters for Lyons Creek hundred
Samuel Chambers for Road River Hundred
Abell Hill for West River Hundred
Edward Parish for the Swamp
William Simmons for Herring Creek Hundred
John Gray Sr for Broad Neck Hundred
John Campbell for upper part Town Neck Hundred
Henry Ridgley for upper pt Huntington Hundred
John Ashman for Upper Pt Patapsco Hundred
James Crouch for Lower pt Paptapsco Hundred
Gideon Howard for Lower pt Elk Ridge Hundred
John Hammond son of Charles for Patuxent Hundred
William Ridgley son of Charles for Middle River Hundred
Edward Dorsey Jr for that pt Elk Ridge Hundred lately in the precinct of John Dorsey son of Edward
John Howard for Upton Road

The following March, the court made a change in one assignment. William Waters, the overseer for Patuxent Hundred, being in the custody of the sheriff, was replaced by Richard Davis.

Other road business came before the court in the same session. First, “A Representation being made to the Court here that a new Road from above the Plantation called Units to come to the Main road a little below Mirey Swamp bridge will be necessary and convenient to Several of the Inhabitants of this County, it’s Ordered that the Overseer of the High Ways Clear the same according to the directions of Mr. John Howard,” one of the justices.

Then, “Mr. Henry Ridgley and Capt. John Howard being some time past appointed by this Court to View a Road Prayed for by Richard daviss and Other the Inhabitants of this County from below said Davisses to Queen Caroline Church make Return to this Court that the Same is very Necessary wherefore it is Ordered that the Overseers of the Hundred clear the said Road accordingly.”

Further, “Mr. Henry Ridgley and Capt. John Howard being some time past appointed by this Court to View a Road which was Prayed for by Several of the Inhabitants of this County from the foarding Place of Patuxent river by Nathan Hammond’s Plantation make Report that the Same is very needful, wherefore it is Ordered by the Justices here that the Overseers of the Hundred clear the said Road accordingly.”

County residents, traveling on horseback, needed convenient roads to reach bridges and fords or to attend church services on Sunday. Far from being dependent on boats for transportation, they relied on their horses and the county's road network to go about their daily business.

[1] Earle, Tidewater Settlement System, 143-44.

[2] Anne Arundel County, Judgments, IB 1, 1734-1736, 78.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Modern Horse

Modern horses belong to the species E. caballus within the genus Equus, the only extant genus of the family Equidae. Within the genus Equus, horses, asses, and zebras are the only surviving species.

The genus Equus evolved into its present form on the North American continent, as documented in continent’s fossil record. During a period of major glaciation during the Pliocene epoch (2.6 million years ago), some Equus species crossed from North America to the eastern hemisphere.

In Africa, they diversified into modern zebras; those who spread to Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa developed as desert-adapted asses, both domesticated and wild (onagers). True horses, E. caballus, spread through Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

In the western hemisphere, horses became extinct about 10,000 years ago, at a time in the late Pleistocene when a series of extinctions eradicated most of the large mammals, including not only all of the horses in North and South America, but also mammoths and saber-tooth tigers. A combination of climatic changes and overhunting by H. sapiens, a recent arrival in the hemisphere, is believed to have been responsible.

Extant species within the genus Equus are E. burchelli, the Plains zebra of Africa; E. zebra, the Mountain zebra of South Africa; E. grevyi, Grevy’s zebra; E. caballus, the true horse; E. hemionus, the desert-adapted onagers; and E. asinus, the true asses and donkeys of north Africa.

Horses were reintroduced into the western hemisphere by European explorers, conquerors, and settlers. Juan Ponce de Leon brought horses, as well as cattle and hogs, to the Gulf Coast of Florida in 1521. Nineteen years later, Francisco Coronado carried horses into the southwestern part of what is now the United States.

Native Americans in this area acquired horses from breeding stocks that developed from the horses that had originally been brought by the Spanish. But there were no horses in the eastern part of the continent north of Florida when the first settlers arrived at Roanoke(1584)and at Jamestown(1607).

The wild ponies of Assateague and Chincoteague may be descendants of survivors of a wrecked Spanish ship. Spanish fleets traveled to the new world carrying horses for the armies that conquered Mexico, Peru, and other parts of the Caribbean, Central, and South America; these fleets returned home by a route that took them along the coast of North America. While they would not have carried many horses on this part of their journey, some could have been aboard a ship that was wrecked.