American Penny Magazine, 1: 250-251 (1845)

A Charcoal Road

The process of making such a road is described by a writer in the Cleveland Herald as follows:

Timber from six to eighteen inches in thickness, is cut twenty-four feet long, and piled up lengthwise in the centre of the road about five feet high, being nine feet wide at the bottom and two at the top, and then covered with straw and earth in the manner of coalpits. The earth required to cover the pile, taken from either side, leaves two good sized ditches, and the timber although not split, is easily charred, and when charred, the earth is removed to the side of the ditches, the coal raked down, to a width of fifteen feet, leaving it two feet thick at the centre, and one at the sides, and the road is completed.

A road of this kind is now being made in the Cottonwood Swamp, near Blissfield in Michigan. From the writer above quoted we learn that about seventy rods are completed, twenty of which have been used for the last seven months; and as it is on the great thoroughfare West, and as in addition, on an average, sixteen heavy loaded teams, to and from an ashery, pass over it daily, it has been very well tried during the winter and spring, and yet there is now no appearance of ruts, but it presents an even, hard surface.

The Company making the road pay the contractors at the rate of $660 a mile. The road is said to become very compact and to be free from mud or dust. Hon. Elisha Whittlesy, and Mr. Newton, an engineer who inspected the Blissfield road above mentioned, say they passed over it the morning after a rain.

felly: Rim (or part of the rim) into which spokes are inserted.
axletree: A crossbar or rod supporting a vehicle, such as a cart, that has terminal spindles on which the wheels revolve.

"At each end of the different sections of the coal road the mud on the causeway was felly deep, where there was that depth of earth; and nearly or quite half axletree deep where the logs were broken; when on the coal road, there was not the least water standing, and the impress of the feet of a horse passing rapidly over it, was like that made on hard washed sand, as the surf recedes, on the shore of the lake. The water is not drained from the ditches, and yet there are no ruts or inequalities in the surface of the coal road, except what is produced by more compact packing on the line of travel. We think it is probable that coal will fully compensate for the deficiency of limestone and gravel in many sections of the West; and where a road is to be constructed through forest land, that coal may be used at a fourth of the expense of lime stone."


The New-Yorker, 5:27 (March 31, 1838)
MICHIGAN: The Legislature of this State has chartered a Company for the construction of a Macadamized road from Blissfield to Morenci, in the county of Lenawee, on a charcoal foundation.

Public and Local Acts of the Legislature of the State of Michigan (1838)
An Act to Incorporate the Blissfield and Morenci Macadamized or Turnpike Road Company.

History and Biographical Record of Lenawee County, 1: 290 (1879)
Dr. Henry Wyman
In 1841 he went south and settled in Ripley, Tipton county, Mississippi, where he remained until 1843, when he came north and located in Blissfield, on the 15th day ot August. He immediately associated himself with Dr. James W. Holmes, in the practice of medicine and surgery. During the session of the Legislature of 1843-4, he was sent to Detroit by the citizens of Blissfield as a "lobby member" in behalf of the act to build a "turnpike" road from Blissfield to Sylvania, Ohio. The bill was finally passed and Drs. Wyman and Holmes took the contract to build the road through the eottonwood swamp, the material used being mostly charcoal and burnt clay. In 1844 he was elected to the State Legislature. He was the first man in the United States to introduce a bill establishing a law for the purpose of draining low lands, and spent much time and money in his efforts until it was made a law. The first law passed, only authorized the ditching and draining of five townships in Lenawee county, Ogden, Riga, Blissfield, Palmyra and Ridgeway, but the good results from the system soon became apparent to all, and there is now a state law.