Roads of Marshall (jd)

Marshall Historical Society

Roads in the Town of Marshall
By Janet Dangler, November 2020

Today, in 2020, we take paved roads for granted, so much so that if we encounter a pot-hole, or come across rough road somewhere, we feel it is our right to complain. But just imagine yourself over 100 years ago. Then, there were no roads as we know them now. They were muddy and difficult to travel. Early roads followed old Indian trails or waterways. A mention of the roads in the Deansville Notes in mid-1800s Waterville Times tells us that "the highway from Forge Hollow to Waterville is said to be in a bad condition — which is not a subject for much wonderment." Loose stones of all sizes were part of the problem as well as the mud, making the roads difficult if not dangerous to travel. Most people had horses and carriages, and in the wintertime sleighs, to get them places. Back then, going somewhere was dependent upon the weather: if it rained, or if the snow melted, the roads were too risky and muddy to travel. Also, riding the roads to a place which would take us maybe 20 minutes today might have taken half the day then. We've come a long way!

At about 1847, the Utica-Waterville Plank Road Company built a plank road between Waterville through Deansboro (then called Deansville). There was a toll-gate every five miles to help pay for road maintenance and to pay the interest on the stock, shares of which were purchased. These toll gates, or toll houses, were private homes close to the road. These houses had a gate which would open when the toll was paid. The tolls were 5 cents for one horse, whether ridden or pulling a cart or 10 cents for a pair of horses. Pedestrians were not charged, nor were funeral processions.

In 1848, a plank road was built between Deansville and Cassidy Hollow (Oriskany Falls). These plank roads were constructed over road beds which were graded. Two parallel trenches were dug, and the tracks were filled with large hemlock timbers and firmly bedded down in the trenches. Soil was packed alongside them until level with them. Hemlock planks about 3" thick and about 10-12" in length were laid across the embedded timbers, and the road was done. The plank roads were about 8-10 feet wide.

The plank roads, while welcome when they were new and hailed as valuable improvements, were not a success. The planks did not stand the test of time and wear and soon deteriorated, developing large holes which were filled with gravel and stone. In a few years, the entire road became covered with gravel, leaving those who had invested in the plank road stock a few hundred dollars poorer. Not enough income was derived from the tolls to pay the toll-keepers or for repairs. Dividends on the Utica-Waterville stock, which cost $50.00 a share, paid up to 10% and dwindled to 2%. By 1878, the roads were basically stone dust and cinders, although there were still some plank roads here and there, in the entire Oneida County. The roads were turned over to the towns to maintain.

Inevitably, complaints were heard about the conditions of the highways, mostly about the sluices on Main Street, Deansboro, and how difficult it was to navigate heavy loads over the stone dust roads. The roads to Waterville and to Clinton were called by older inhabitants "the worse shape they had ever seen it." The upkeep of the roads was still by subscription, until the repair and maintenance of some of them was taken over by the state.

The road between Deansboro and Waterville was built by the state in 1911. The bridges along there were repaired and in some cases built, where before there were just guard rails which had broken down. Also improved when the state took over the Deansville-Waterville Road, or Mill Street, was the road by the Hop Extract Works just outside of Waterville. The road used to run over the hill behind the extract works (now Suburban Propane bulk tanks) to meet Buell Ave. in Waterville. The proposal was for the new road to follow the valley next to the Oriskany Creek where the grade will be less gradual, entirely circumventing the hill with its winding road and sharp grade. Because the road was raised, grading was necessary for some residents to have ready access to their homes and businesses. Improvements were done in 1923 on the Deansboro-Waterville Road, to the tune of $12,000, paid for by the State. The work was done with state-owned pressure distributors mounted on motor tracks, with bituminous macadam one foot in thickness and 16 feet wide. It was called Route 315. Work also started on what was come to be known as Route 12B from Clinton through Deansboro to Oriskany Falls. Travel was shut off to the south of Clinton toward Deansboro, as the bridge over the Oriskany Creek, just west of the old dyke, was taken down while a new one was built.

A highway map was released in 1929, which showed which roads were listed for further improvements. They included the Paris-Deansboro highway through Peck's corner (Shanley Road and Peck Road) and Moore's corners (Shanley Road and Gridley-Paige Road). That road would connect to Route 12, Hanover Road, and the Deansboro-Waterville Road. The Board of Supervisors, to whom the map was presented, was warned that it may take a number of years to complete the project. The Oneida County Civil Works Administration came to the rescue with a large number of workers in order to relieve the unemployment situation. The Town of Marshall supervisor then was William R. Small, and the town was among the first to apply for CWA funds and labor. Small brought to the attention of the Board of Supervisors the poor condition of the roads, calling for an appropriation to "get the farmers out of the mud."

At that point, the Board of Supervisors determined which roads which would become state highways, and which would become under the auspices of the county and town. They also mapped out how far each road would go and in what direction. Projects set up in the Town of Marshall included he widening of shoulders and the straightening of several roads. Route 315 was widened from 16 feet to 20 feet, and a 450-foot retaining wall was erected at the caves at Forge Hollow in preparation to widen the highway.

Over the intervening years, more and more improvements and changes were made to the roads in the Town of Marshall. Today county roads are around 50 feet wide, or 25 feet from the center line; state roads are approximately 40-50 feet wide. Traffic signals were installed at the corner of Routes 315 and 12B in 1938, flashing amber on Route 12B and red on Route 315. I don't remember this at all. Does anyone remember when they were taken down? There is not a traffic light until Route 315 ends at Waterville, and Route 12B goes to Oriskany Falls and Clinton, although the subject of a traffic light in Deansboro has been brought up many times.

We have barely scratched the surface of the history of roads in the Town of Marshall, but hopefully someone out there can help fill in the bare spots.

See also: Roads in the Town of Marshall by Dorothy McConnell
Deansboro-Waterville Road
(Rt 315) coming in to Deansboro
Deansboro-Waterville Road
(Rt 315) looking toward Waterville
Main Street
(Rt 12B) looking south from West Hill Road
Main Street
(Rt 12B)looking north from West Hill Road

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