A Manual of the Principles and Practice of Road-making, p. 229 (1872)
William Mitchell Gillespie


A very good road has been lately made through a swampy forest, by felling and burning the timber, and covering the surface with the charcoal thus prepared.

"Timber from six to eighteen inches through 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 coal-pits. 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 thus made in Michigan cost $660 per mile, and is said to be very compact and free from mud or dust. At a season when the mud on the adjoining earth road was half axletree deep, "on the coal road, there was not the least 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 was not drained from the ditches, and yet there were no ruts or inequalities in the surface of the coal road, except what was produced by more compact packing on the line of travel. 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 limestone."