Newsletter of
The Maryland State Archives
Vol. 16, No. 18
October 15, 2002

Page 2
The Archivists' Bulldog
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 Williams, overseer

of part of South River Hundred, asked the court to summon several men, named in the minutes, for not furnishing labor. 

The 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. 

Given 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. 

County 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. 

Citizens 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 part that 
went through his plantation. The court approved

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The Archivists' Bulldog 
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ROADS (continued from Page 2)

the request. Fourteen years later, Mrs. Elizabeth Battie wanted to include part of the roadway in a cornfield. The justices ordered a route change. 

At the court session in March 1702/03, an even older road was the subject of a petition filed by Ann Jobson who claimed that a pathway to her house on the Severn River had existed for thirty years and was currently being blocked by a fence built by John Brice. Brice defended himself by saying there were so many paths through and around his cornfield that it was hard to determine which was the original road. The court appointed two justices to decide a proper route. 

Sometimes the path of a roadbed changed before it was even constructed. Inhabitants near the head of the South River and Patuxent River filed a petition in November 1708 concerning a road, mandated by law, from the head of Beards Creek at the South River to Taylors Landing at the Patuxent River. They wanted the highway to go to the town of Kilkenny just above Taylors Landing. The court agreed. Within five years, parts of the road had become enclosed by gates and used for crops. Two justices were ordered to view the route and direct the overseer in making changes. 

Most petitions to change the route of a road resulted from interference with use of the landowner's property. After one such request and a subsequent investigation, a report was filed in August 1743 about a road through the cornfield of Vachel Denton. Witnesses testified that the gate next to Ferry Creek and near the main road to Severn Ferry was being left open, allowing hogs and horses to eat the corn. The court allowed Denton to close the gate and to clear a road through Mr. Brices's land along Campbells Fence. 

Six years later, several inhabitants of Broad Neck in Westminster Parish requested a road to Westminster Church that had been laid out by Nicholas Maccubbin and and then closed off 

by Vachel Denton. The justices ordered that the road from Broad Neck to the church turn at the top of the hill by the structure built as a school house near Ferry Creek Branch and go up the hill along a ridge until it came to the main road from Severn Ferry to the Patapsco River, then to the gate that  went into Denton's pasture near the church. 

Not unexpectedly, some requests from landowners pertained to rolling roads to transport tobacco to landings. In January 1705/06, Richard Harrison, a resident of Calvert County, wanted to establish a rolling road from his plantation in Anne Arundel County through an old field or pasture of Josias Towgood who was denying access. Two justices were appointed to view the route and report back to the court. 

Roger Beele operated a plantation on Anne Arundel Manor and , in March 1740/41, petitioned for a rolling road from the road to Mt. Pleasant between the plantations of Capt. Thomas Harwood and Benjamin Lane and to intersect another road near the plantation of John Sheckles. The court appointed two justices to lay out the road. 

Occasionally, the court rejected petitions. In August 1711, Charles Carroll asked for authority to alter one of the two roads going through his plantation to lessen interference with his cornfield. Two justices were appointed to view the road and report their findings. Three months later, the court rejected the request as being unreasonable. Before November 1717, the court had ordered a road laid out through the land of Richard Galloway, Jr. in West River Hundred. Galloway objected because a report on the road was not filed. His petition for a reexamination and assessment of damages was turned down. 

[The next installment will provide more examples of information about roads in Anne Arundel County.]