One of the realities of 17th and 18th century rural England was that local landowners were responsible for the upkeep of the roads in their area.
From the Pelican History of England 7, Plumb, J. H., England in the Eighteenth Century (1714-1815), Harmondsworth, Middlesex, U. K., 1950, p. 96:
“[An obstacle] fully appreciated by contemporaries, was the state of transport. The roads were repaired by the inhabitants of the parish through which they passed, which meant that they were never repaired until they were in a desparate condition, and the eighteenth century’s idea of a desperate condition was extremely generous – men and horses were drowned in the pot-holes of the Great North Road . . .
That practice was continued in the colonies.
Below are Road orders that my persons in my ancestral line were required to fulfill. These are from the major work of historian Nathaniel Mason Pawlett, on behalf of the Virginia Highway & Transportation Research Council compiled a half century ago (published 1970).
The following preface to that work explains the initiative’s background:
“The Virginia Highway and Transportation Research Council is a cooperative organization sponsored jointly by the Virginia Department of Highways and Transportation and the University of Virginia and is located on the Grounds of the University at Charlottesville. The Council engages in a comprehensive program of research in the field of transportation. As a part of its program the Council, in December 1972, began research on the history of road and bridge building technology in Virginia. The initial effort was concerned with truss bridges; a complementary effort concentrating on roads got underway in October 1973.
“The evolution of the road system of Virginia is in many ways inseparable from the social, political and technological developments that form the history of the Commonwealth. Despite this, there are few extant serious works on the history of roads in Virginia. Those which have been produced focus on internal improvements and turnpike development before the War Between the States. Little has been done on the period from Reconstruction through the creation of the system of state highways in the earlier part of this century.
“Accordingly, it was decided to investigate the development of the roads of Albemarle County during the period 1725-1816 as a pilot project, and to use this experience to produce a History of Albemarle County Roads and a procedural handbook for the writing of Road Histories. During this project it was necessary to examine and extract all the Road Orders for the Counties from which Albemarle was formed as well as the Orders for Albemarle up to the year 1816 when the Board of Public Works was created to oversee internal improvements, and Virginia entered the turnpike and canal era.
Selections from ALBEMARLE COUNTY ROAD ORDERS 1783-1816:
13 November 1783 N.S., Ord. Bk. 1783-1785, p. 116
“Ordered that James Jones, Richard Moore, William Irvin, JAMES SUDDERTHS and their male Labouring Titheables, with those of Mr. Cockes at his quarter be added to the Gang on the Road under Elijah Mooran.
9 December 1784 N.S., Ord. Bk. 1783-85, p. 310
“Ordered that JAMES SUDDERTH, William Austin, William Mooran and Richard Moore or any three of them do View the way from Benjamin Norvells Corner of a fence to William Moorans and report to the next court the most Convenient way for a Road.
10 January 1793 N.S., Ord. Bk. 1791-93, p. 321
“William Suddarth is appointed a surveyor of the Roads in the Room of Benjamin Nowell, with the gang to which the said Nowell was lately appointed.
15 February 1793 N.S., Ord. Bk. 1791-93, p. 331
“Isaac Oaks is appointed a surveyor of the road in the Room of Talton Woodson with gang to which the said Woodson was formerly appointed.
12 April 1793 N.S., Ord. Bk. 1791-93, p. 363
. . . “To Isaac Oaks who is surveyor of the Road from Richards Woods to little D.S. the following hands are allotted, to wit, Talton Woodsonís Gang, John Taylor Menan Mills, John Luce, Isaac Hays Zepheniah Luce, Richard Woods, Edwin Gibson.
11 July 1793 N.S., Ord. Bk. 1791-93, p. 456
“Ordered that the hands of William Cole and John Cosby be taken from James Ronalds and added to the gang appointed to labour under Isaac Oaks Surveyor of the road from the little D.S to Richard Woods.
11 July 1793 N.S., Ord. Bk. 1791-93, p. 456
“Ordered that Richard Woods hands be taken from Isaac Oaks Gang and added to the said Woods gang to keep the road in repair from the D.S to the said Woods.
10 October 1793 N.S., Ord. Bk. 1791-93, p. 510
“Ordered that the following Male labouring Tythables do work on the road from the Branch at Benjamin Norvels to the fork above Harts Store, and that William Suddarth Surveyor of the said road do have them as his gang to keep the same in repair to wit, William Suddarth, Richard Moor, William Irvins, Tandy Keys, JAMES SUDDARTH SR JAMES SUDDARTH JUNR and William Davis.–
6 July 1795 N.S., Ord. Bk. 1793-95, p. 408
“John Taylor is appointed as surveyor of the road in the room of Isaac Oaks with the usual Gang
7 September 1795 N.S., Ord. Bk. 1793-95, p. 471
“Richard Moore is appointed surveyor of the road in the room of William Suddarth, the following male labouring hands to wit, William Suddarths hands, Tandy Keys Ditto, the Reverand William Irvins Ditto, JAMES SUDDARTHS Ditto, JAMES SUDDARTHS JR Ditto, William Davis’s Ditto Richard Moors Ditto Richard Parsons Ditto, to keep the same in repair
3 July 1797 N.S., Ord. Bk. 1795-98, p. 345
“Samuel Irvin jr is appointed Surveyor of the Road from the County line to the Top of the green mountain in the Room of Benjamin Harris, with the following gang to keep the same in repair to wit, Isham Bailey and son, Sandy Hawsleing, Samuel Hensley, Samuel Irvin Ser. Edward Thomas, William Burford, William Hensley William Eubank, James Thurmond, William Suddarth, John Milton, William Galding, Merideth Sanders, George Norvell, Benjamin Johnson, William Thurmond Jesse Thomas, Ralph Bowman, and Benjamin Harrisís
5 June 1798 N.S., Ord. Bk. 1798-1800, p. 36
“William Davis is appointed surveyor of the road from Harts lane to Jonesís mill and cross road to the Cave road with the following male labouring Tytheables to keep the said road in repair to wit James Jones, William Irvins Tandy Keys Thomas Keys JAMES SUDDARTHS William Suddarthís John Pembertons George Martins Jane Murrills Richard Moores & said William Davisís
2 July 1798 N.S., Ord. Bk. 1798-1800, p. 43
“On the Petition of John Marrs for the view of a way leading from his house to James Jones Mill Tandy Key George Martin Abraham Martin and William Suddarth or any three of them being first sworn are appointed to view the said way and make report to this Court of the conveniences and inconveniences that will attend the opening the same
5 February l799 N.S., Ord. Bk. 1798-1800, p. 179
“Ordered that Samuel Murrel inquire into the state of the road from Busters upper bridge to where the road leading by William Suddarths intersects the same, and report what hands will be necessary to keep the same in repair
1 April l799 N.S., Ord. Bk. 1798-1800, p. 201
“Samuel Murrel who was appointed to examine into the state of the road from Busters upper bridge to where the said road leading by William Suddarths intersects with the same, this day made a report, Whereupon It is ordered by the Court that James Suddarth jr be appointed Surveyor thereof with the following male Laboring tytheables to wit, JAMES SUDDARTH JR. Joseph Southerland Sens. Hugh Rice Morriss, David Hickss & James Claybrookss and the said Joseph Southerland jr to Keep the same in repair according to Law, and it is further ordered that the hands working under James Clarkson surveyor of a road to assist in opening the same in the direction it formerly ran
7 October 1799 N.S., Ord. Bk. 1798-1800, p. 325
“On the motion of Barbara Martin for the view of a road from the South fork of Hard ware River near Benjamin Norvills thence to Keys Meeting house, the nearest and best way, Benjamin Norville, Skiler Harris, William Suddarth and Joseph H Jones [?]or any three of them being first sworn are appointed to view the same and make report thereof to this Court of the conveniences and inconveniences as well public as private that will attend the opening of the said road
8 April 1800 Ord. Bk. 1800-1801, p. 11
“On the Petition of William Turner for the view of a Road leading from the upper part of his plantation to Jones Mill; Benjamin Norvill, William Suddearth, Robert Page and Richard Moore or any three of them being first sworn are appointed to view the same and make report to this court of the conveniences and inconveniences as well public as private that will attend the opening of the said road
2 December 1800, Ord. Bk. 1800-1801. p. 248
“On the Petition of JAMES SUDDEARTH for leave to turn the road leading through his Land so that the same shall pass by his house and Mill, Skiler Harris, Tandy Key, Richard Moore and Abraham Morton or any three of them being first sworn are appointed to view the said Way and make report to this Court of the conveniences and inconveniences as well public as private that will attend the opening of the same
5 October 1801, Ord. Bk. 1801-1802, p. 78
“Ordered that the hands of JAMES SUDDARTH be added to the gang of William Suddarth to keep the road in repair whereof the said William is the surveyor.
4 November 1802, Ord. Bk. 1801-1802, p. 467
“The Commonwealth of Virginia } Against } The surveyor of road from Wm Sudderths } to Jno Everitts } . . .
These presentments are dismissed.
4 November 1802, Ord. Bk. 1801-1802, p. 467
upon a Presentment
2 August 1803, Ord. Bk. 1803-1804 p. 177
“Commonwealth } against } Upon a Presentment
Surveyor of the road from Harts Store } to JAMES SUDDARTHS }
These presentments are dismissed
3 March 1806, Ord. Bk. 1806, p. 23
“Commonwealth } Against The Surveyor of the road from JAMES } SUDDERTHS to Busters bridge } & The Commonwealth }} On a presentment of Grand Jury against } The Surveyor of a road from a new bridge near Stephen Moores to } William Woods }} On a presentment of Grand Jury
These presentments are dismissed
3 June 1807 , Ord. Bk. 1806, p. 220
“John Bolling, Joseph Sutherland, and William Suddarth three of the Persons appointed by an order of this Court granted on the Petition of Richard P. Watson the Seventh day of October One Thousand eight hundred and five for the view of a road, made a report in the following words, to Wit, ìIn obedience to the within order We John Bolling and Joseph Suddarth and and William Suddarth being first sworn have Proceeded to view the road to us directed leading from Richard P. Watsons into the Warren Road, and have determined that the Present Bridle Way leading from the said Watsons shall stand Provided Mr Hart will make it a good Carriage way, otherwise that the Old road Shall be openedî James P Cocke John Bolling, Samuel Hamner Jr. and Stephen Moore persons appointed to view a Road Petitioned for by Andrew Hart in obediance to an order dated the fourth day of February One Thousand eight hundred and Six. made a report in the following words to Wit, ìAs directed by the within order we have viewed the way leading from Richard Watsons into the Warren Road and we are of opinion that the best and most Convenient way may be made
5 September 1808, Ord. Bk. 1808-1810, p. 67
“Joseph Sutherland is Appointed Surveyor of the road leading from Busters bridge to JAMES SUDDERTHS With the usual gang as Per list to Keep the Same in good repair
3 September 1810, Order Book 1810-1811, p. 233
“On the petition of JAMES SUDDERTH for a view of a road from the Cove road to his plantation at Christians old place or Bullocks mountain Joseph Sutherland John Irvin William Mooran and William Hamner or any three of them being first sworn are appointed to view the proposed road and make report thereof to this Court
1 October 1810, Order Book 1810-1811, p. 245
“John Irvin William Mooran and Joseph Sutherland who were appointed by a former Order of this Court to view a road petitioned for by JAMES SUDDERTH this day made their report And Thereupon It is Ordered that James P Cocke Senr. James Cocke (Pohatan) William Robertson Samuel Gay and William Leake Or any three of them be appointed to review the said road and make report thereof to this Court
4 March 1811, Order Book 1810-1811, p. 371
“It is Ordered by the Court that the hands of JAMES SUDDERTH at his quarter be attached to the gang directed to work under William Leake surveyor of the road
2 April 1811, Order Book 1810-1811, p. 432
“James P Cocke, James Cocke & Samuel Gay Commissioners appointed to review a road petitioned for by James Sudderth this day made their report, The Court thereupon Order that the said Commissioners have leave to open a road from his plantation Begining at the lower end thereof on the side of the mountain & Continuing on the mountain Side to the cove road
2 March 1813, Order Book 1811-1813, p. 416
“It is ordered by the court that Wm. Harris be appointed Surveyor of the road from opposite Rice Smiths Schoolhouse to the forks of the road above Tandy Keys and with the hands of Lewis Roberson Tandy Suddarth, Jarrott Suddarth, Leonard Drumheller Tandy Key Nehemiah Hunley, Lewis Hunley, and Mrs. Harris to keep the same in Good repair.
6 December 1813, Order Book 1813-1815, p. 269
“On the petition of Alexander Blair to change the road leading from Harts store to Nelson Court house John Irvin William Suddarth, William Boyd and William Hamner or any three of them being first sworn are appointed to view the proposed change and make report thereof to this court.
6 June 1815, Order Book 1815-1816, p. 20
“The Commonwealth of Virginia against The Surveyor of the road from William Woods to William Simpsons} } Presentment } }
This presentment is continued untill next term, and it appearing to the Satisfaction of the Court that Harry Oaks and Pleasant Gillum, the Commonwealths witnesses in this presentment, have been Duly Summoned to attend this term as such, being Solemnly Called and not appearing, It is Ordered by the court that they be fined eight Dollars each for their non attendance unless they shew cause to the contrary on or before the next term
7 August 1815, Order Book 1815-1816, p. 69
On the petition of Mary Ann Norvell for a view to turn the road to run by her house begining at the Widow Morans treading yard to a broad rock below her house, Robert Page William Suddarth and John Irvin are appointed being first sworn to view the proposed road, and make report thereof to this court