The Staunton - Parkersburg Turnpike
... is an historic roadway built to provide transportation access from the upper Shenandoah Valley of Virginia to the Ohio River.
After decades of inaction on the part of the Virginia government in Richmond, the state finally acceded to demands from its western citizens and built this turnpike. The road was initially authorized in 1826, and planned and laid out by the state engineer of Virginia, Claudius Crozet. It was not actually built until the 1840s, however, with completion of the main roadway in 1848. This road, traveling over the high mountains near the birthplace of rivers, was an engineering marvel, and opened up large sections of western Virginia to settlement and commerce.
One of the earliest campaigns of the Civil War was fought for control of this turnpike, and the access it provided to the B&O Railroad. The battle of Rich Mountain gave the Federals control of the turnpike, of the Tygarts Valley, and of all of the territory of western Virginia to the north and west, including the railroad. Union General George McClellans victory brought him promotion to command the Army of the Potomac. The Federals then fortified at Cheat Summit, and the Confederates established fortifications at Bartow and Allegheny. There they faced each other over the turnpike through the fall 1861 and over the winter. General Robert E. Lees attempt to attack Cheat Summit Fort, and Federal attempts to attack Camp Bartow and Camp Allegheny, all failed to dislodge the enemy.
But the harsh winter in the mountains achieved what armies had failed, and in the spring of 1862 both armies moved on down the pike to the battle of McDowell, and on to fight what became Stonewall Jacksons Shenandoah Mountain campaign. Two years later much of the area crossed by the Pike became part of the state of West Virginia.
Following the war, control and maintenance of the road was delegated to the counties, and damage to the road and bridges was slowly repaired. Tolls continued to be collected, at least in some areas, until the 1890s. Travel, mail, and stage routes resumed, and bringing business to inns such as Travellers Repose near Camp Bartow and the hotels in Beverly.
With the coming of the railroads in the 1890s and early 1900s, new towns were founded and thrived. The lumbering and coal industries brought prosperity to the region. The turnpike itself declined in importance, but the theme of the role of transportation into the mountains remained paramount.
In the 1920s and 1930s, highways were paved to provide for automobiles. Many sections of the original turnpike remained the best available route, and the turnpike was paved as the highway. In Pocahontas and Randolph counties, today it mostly follows US Rt 250 as far as Beverly. In some cases, newer construction techniques allowed alternative routes, and sections of the turnpike were bypassed.
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