History, West Mountain Toll Gate
Frederic W. Taber
September 14th, 1910
The once famous
Pawling and Beekman Turnpike Company was created by a special act of Senate and Assembly in 1818 and seems to have had some
serious infantile trouble, for in 1824 (six years later), we find an act to revive the original act of 1818. From that
time on, however, the Company became more or less identified with the commercial interests of the Towns of Pawling and Beekman.
Its authorized capital was $7,500 consisting of 300 shares at $25 each. Evidently the enterprise was handled with skill
for the actual issue of stock was only $3,050 or 122 shares.
The aforesaid act empowered Albro Akin, John Merritt,
Gideon Slocum, Job Crawford, Charles Hurd, William Taber, Joseph Dodge, Benoni Pearce, Archibald Campbell, Joseph Arnold,
Egbert Carey, Gabriel L. Vanderburgh and Newel Dodge, Jr. to make a good and sufficient turnpike from Joseph Arnold’s
in the Town of Pawling to Nathan Miller’s, Jr. in the Town of Beekman.
The road was to be 20 feet
wide and 4 miles, 4 furlongs and 10 rods long. It was built by Sturges Sellick at $600 per mile for which he received
the sum of $2,718.75 less $300 taken in stock of the Company. The records show that David N. Leaman measured the above
for which he was paid 50 cents.
I might add at this point that there are no records of any contributions to the gentleman for the Senate and Assembly at Albany.
The Special Charter also fixed the rates of toll as follows: “Any wagon drawn by two horses, 12-1/2 cents; for
every additional horse, 3 cents. For every one- horse cart, 6 cents. For every coach, four- wheeled pleasure carriage,
or wagon with two horses, 25 cents and for every additional horse, 6 cents. For every chair or pleasure carriage with
one horse, 12-1/2 cents and for every additional horse, 6 cents. For every cart drawn by two oxen and for each additional
yoke 3 cents. For every one horse sleigh or sled, drawn by two horses or oxen, 6 cents and for every additional horse or ox,
2 cents. For every one-horse sleigh or sled, 6 cents. For every horse and rider or led horse, 3 cents. For
every score of sheep, 3 cents. For every score of hogs, 3 cents. For every score of cattle, 9 cents. The
rates at that time were no doubt considered both just and equitable. You will observe that pleasure vehicles were charged
twice the amount of those used for business purposes. As the Company was largely the result of Pawling Energy and Capital,
we can better appreciate the situation when we remember that Poughkeepsie was the objective point for the disposition of farm
produce at that time, and when the Turnpike was opened up, an easier and shorter way to the County Seat. We were informed
by the late Richard H. Hayes that the interest and enthusiasm were equal to that displayed years later when the Harlem Rail
was projected. With the advent of the Railroad and the easy access to New York’s market, Pawling farmers no longer
crowded the Turnpike, but in compensation, the wares of Poughquag and Beekman began to come this way and the Turnpike still
flourished. Years, however, passed and the New England Rail Road appeared upon the scene and with a Rail Road each side
of West Mountain, the days of the Turnpike were numbered.
Travel on the Turnpike began to undergo a change
– people had springs and leather dashboards on their wagons. These in the eyes of the Gatekeeper placed them under
pleasure rates and in consequence, the public began to kick – any small pretense was used to bring suit against the
Company (and I think all were decided in favor of the Company), in hopes they would be obliged to throw open the Gate or abandon
the Road. One of the principal bones of contention was the width of the road – which in many places through the
wear and tear and encroachments of residents along its line failed to meet the exact legal dimensions. The matter was finally
settled by the by the celebrated Judge Barnard who after inspection decided that the road was as good as could be expected
under its surrounding conditions – a position of the Turnpike seems to have been previously used for public travel for
I find recorded in 1826 that Joseph Arnold, John W. Haviland, Newel Dodge, Jr.,
Amos Mead, Cyrus H. Fletcher, Daniel
Woodin 2nd, Lucretia Woodin, Stephen Merritt, Abel Van Scoy, Peter Sickley and Anthony Ashby have severally assigned
their right to the Old Road to the necessary width to make a Turnpike for the sum of One Dollar Each. The most important
position that was opened by the Company was between the Dynamite House and Buttermilk Falls. The first gate was located
at Stephen Merritts “west of the South Road leading from Brownells.” Later in 1831, the Company purchased
an acre of land from Thomas Flagler for $10 and Henry B. Nobles received the sum of $85 for building the House and moving
the Gate. We also note that a committee was appointed to drain the cellar and lay up the foundation. This is undoubtedly
the “Old Toll Gate we all remember and which was located 7/10 of a mile west of the Stone House now occupied by J.B.
Whittick. In 1878, all that portion of the Road east of the Pawling Ore Mine was abandoned and became a town charge.
Some years after, at the request of the Ore Company, a new route was taken just above the ore bed in order that the ore beneath
the old route might be dug – without endangering the public.
It might interest some to know that in September
1829, Elihu Stewart was permitted to pass the Toll Gate with Stage and four horses for 25 cents instead of 37 cents as allowed
by law. Evidently they carried a full load in those days, for the writer remembers when William M. Waite ran the stage,
only two horses were used.
In 1906, the Towns of Pawling and Beekman purchased the road for $400 and the Gate was abandoned. - Time will not permit the
handling of details but as the old records are to be left here in charge of the Historical Association those who are
interested will find an opportunity to examine them at their leisure. I might add that after the Turnpike had been abandoned,
the Gate House mysteriously burned. The land on which it stood was sold to Mrs. Phebe Miller. A final dividend
of 31% was declared and on March 14th, 1906, the Board of Directors met for the last time. There were present
George W. Chase, Henry A. Holmes, T.J. Arnold, William H. Arnold, Joseph F. Haight, George A. Daniels and Fred C. Taber.
The business of the Company being forever ended, Mr. Haight made a motion “that the meeting adjourn for all time.”
Each member of the Board arose and gave assent standing. Thus passed into history one of the oldest and most noted enterprises
of Dutchess County.
Frederic W. Taber