IN ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, 1703-1765: Part I
by Pat Melville
Following the usual recording
practices, information about roads in Anne Arundel County appears as short
entries in the court minutes, as recorded in (Judgment Record) in series
C91. The books contain the administrative and judicial minutes and the
recorded criminal and civil proceedings of the county court. Records prior
to 1703 were destroyed by fire, and those for 1723-1734 are not extant.
The court clerks also maintained notations in (Minutes), 1725-1775, in
series CM93, records available only on microfilm. Many entries are unreadable
because of the conditions of the originals and very few pertain to roads.
Of the county records examined
thus far, the ones for Anne Arundel County contain the most extensive materials
about roads. Lists of overseers and notations summarizing petitions and
court orders appear regularly.
The first entry in the judgment
records concerning roads listed the overseers appointed by the county justices
in March 1702/03. Each overseer was responsible for maintenance of all
roads in a hundred, the upper or lower part of a hundred, or another designated
area such as the Swamp, a reference to what is now Shady Side. Appointments
were made annually, with vacancies filled during the interim. Some vacancy
appointments provided supplemental information about the individuals. In
August 1711, the court chose
John Chew to be the overseer for Herring Creek Hundred in place of his
brother Samuel Chew who had gone to England. In August 1713, Thomas Davis
replaced Stephen Gill who had moved to Baltimore County.
By law, residents were required
to provide labor for helping the overseers keep the roads clear and bridges
in repair. Failure to do could result in fines imposed by the court. Richard
part of South River Hundred, asked the court to summon several men, named
in the minutes, for not furnishing labor.
overseers themselves could be fined for dereliction of duty. This happened
to William Liddall in June 1705 when he neglected repairs to Lyons Creek
Bridge. At the August court term, the judges ordered several overseers
to appear to answer charges of nonperformance of duties. At the November
term, the charges were dropped as the overseers presented proof of work
performed by them.
the rudimentary nature of roads during the colonial period, good maintenance
was undoubtedly an elusive goal. In March 1717/18, Evan Jones, a pressmaster
who traveled throughout the county in search of supplies for the militia,
asked the court to remind overseers of the need to remove trees and bushes
growing on the roads and objected to the number of gates erected to prevent
livestock from wandering into fields.
inhabitants filed many petitions to open roads, declare others public,
or change the paths of the roadbeds. The court usually designated two justices
to investigate a matter and report their findings or proceed directly to
have the overseer do the necessary work and then report the results. The
clerk seldom recorded the full petition or report. Most entries summarized
the request and subsequent actions. Even so, the records can be informative
and supply geographic, economic, and social data.
of Lyons Creek Hundred in March 1702/03 petitioned for restoration of the
original route of the road from Lyons Creek Bridge to the main road at
the plantation of John Batty. Abraham Birkhead had laided it out eight
to ten years earlier, and, since then, Richard Harrison had changed the
through his plantation. The court approved