Missouri State Board of Agriculture, Monthly Bulletin, 9:59-60 (April, 1911)
Missouri State Highway Commission

ROADBUILDING—THE PAST AND THE PRESENT
S. W. Ravenal, Boonville, Mo.

I asked the highest authority on road building in the State a few weeks ago, if he had ever heard of a charcoal road, and he shook his head and said, no; so I will assume that some of you have not and proceed to tell you about it and the practical efforts of its builders at a subgrade.

In road building, as in the progress of all else, we have ages, when certain customs seemed to be the rage and in roads we have the earth road age—good and bad—which, like the poor, we have had always with us, but we have had also the wooden, the rock and the brick and concrete ages. The charcoal road of the old times evidently belongs to the wooden age. The charcoal road, as a hard surface road, was made by burning green timber along the roadway, and covering the roadbed with the charcoal thus obtained. The charcoal was burnt in the middle of the road for a very evident reason, by piling the green timber in stacks on end, in pits dug for their reception along the middle of the roadway, covering it with earth and then firing it. The earth for covering the stacks was taken out of the middle of the road. When the wood was charred it was uncovered and this earth was banked on each side of the roadbed, forming a shoulder and berm, and leaving a rudely made trough, or subgrade, the entire length of the road for the required width of the roadbed. The charcoal was then spread in this trough thus made very practically, though not scientifically, down the middle of the roadway, after which it was carefully distributed and packed over the sixteen-foot roadbed, two feet thick in the middle and one foot thick at each edge. So in the past, even for this old charcoal roadbed, they prepared what we call today, in technical terms, a subgrade, again linking yesterday—the past, with today—the present.