Index to Road Petitions 

Washington County PA

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As pioneers and settlers moved into new areas, they needed to establish vestiges of civilization, including:
  • township divisions
  • Church buildings for congregations
  • Schools for pupils and teachers
  • Centers for Law (i.e. Court House; designation of Tax Collector; designation of Justice of the Peace; election process)
  • Basic Infrastructure, such as roads
  • Mercantile - places to buy needed goods and establishing service occupations (blacksmith, furrier, shoemaker, tanner)
  • Personal farms and laborers

The "infrastructure" ALSO needed to include roads--in the 1700s to early 1800s these may have been no more than muddy lanes.  Some roads were covered with stone if a quarry was nearby.  Later, in bituminous coal mine areas, reddog was the cheapest and frequent choice for road coverings.  Later, Washington County also used an oil base to cover the road, then covered the oil with small gravel.

From the earliest settlers, citizens could petition through the Clerk of Courts Office at the Court House to "pray" (request) a new road be surveyed and made onto ("layed out") or near various private properties.  The Old National Road had already been completed and saw heavy use from the beginning as people made their ways into new locations and to new homes.  Many road petitions involved lands near the National Pike, but certainly were not limited to adjoining the Pike, since people county-wide needed to create the basic infrastructure.  

Road Petitions can aide genealogy researchers in many ways.  Petitions usually include neighbors as joint petitioners, especially if the new road needed to run through their properties. The original record contains actual signatures of the petitioners--a rather neat find to see your ancestor's own handwriting! The original also contains a hand-drawn map created by one of the petitioners and done before the survey.

Some citizens affected by a proposed road could also petition against the road, if they chose to do so.

After citizens filed their petitions at the Clerk of Courts, a county surveyor went out and "laid" the road on paper, using surveyor's directions, just as Deed mets and bounds describe land boundaries. Only after the surveyor's work was completed did the road get started (actually "laid" or built).  It could take a few months to complete the process--up to 2 years or more.

If you never investigated Road Petitions, you might want to search these records.  They are indexed and filed by YEAR+the person's NAME (onto whose property the road would benefit most, usually the main requestor).  You have to search the index volumes by hand--the office does not do research over many years.  If you have a specific YEAR+NAME, you can pay $10.00 for a basic search (non-refundable even if a negative search).  The Office then notifies you if they found the item and the cost for copies, which you remit before they send you the Xeroxes.

 

I am typing Road Petitions that involved my BAKER line.  If anyone else has a Road Petition, you may send it for me to include on the website.  Please type all of the record for me (please transcribe "as is", without correcting any "errors" you might see).  Send scans of the map -- or of the whole record.  I will include what I can on the web.

 

Records in this web section:

Washington County PA Court House Index to Roads Volume Book for Amwell Twp. 1787 to 1835

Road - 1811 No 14 Road from Baker's Lane to Horn's or Coleman's 21 pages

 

 

 

 

Index to Road Petitions

 

 

Page added Dec. 6, 2008

 

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History of this website - The first PAGenWeb Washington County coordinator was Jean Suplick Matuson [who developed Chartiers.com. She was followed by Georgeann Malowney [who took over Chartiers.com], then Peggy Tebbetts, and lastly, Christina Hunt who each held prior copyrights over this website.  Each coordinator has contributed much to the preservation of Washington County genealogical information/history.

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