Opening of Terra Alta-Kingwood Road

Papers and Discussions at Meeting of County Commissioners and the State Road Commission of West Virginia, Charleston, W. Va. February 9-10, 1922 (Charleston, WV: The State Road Commission of West Virginia, c1922)

Address by Hon. Ephriam F. Morgan, Governor of West Virginia.

Governor Morgan reviewed briefly the history of the old turnpikes constituting the first through roads across the State of West Virginia.

"We first had Indian trails in different parts of the State - Seneca, Pocahontas, Kanawha, McCullough and Warrior - Many of them doubtless were traveled first by wild animals and generally followed lines of least resistance, along streams or ridges, and through the low gaps across mountain ranges. The Indians were followed by early settlers and soldiers. Some of these old trails later became roads such as:

1. "The James River and Kanawha Turnpike." Connected the south central section of what is now Virginia, with the Kanawha Valley and finally extended on to the Ohio River at Point Pleasant and to the mouth of the Big Sandy.

2. "The Wilderness Road, passing from the Atlantic seaboard to the lower Ohio Valley through the famous Cumberland Gap.

3. The Staunton and Parkersburg Pike passed through the central section of the State via Durbin, Beverly, Buckhannon and Weston to the Ohio River at Parkersburg.

4. "The Northwestern Turnpike extended from Winchester Va. to Parkersburg via Romney, Grafton, Clarksburg and West Union. This road and also the James River and Kanawha was located by Col. Crozet, a French military engineer under Napoleon.

"The National or Cumberland Road was perhaps the most important, extending originally from Washington to Cumberland and later to Wheeling. These old roads are still in use. Parts of them have been improved and hardsurfaced in recent years. The day is not far distant when the most important of these routes will constitute the main arteries of motor travel across the state over improved roads.

"Someone has said: The old mud road is a road that leads down to perdition. The improved road leads upward to a better land; to better homes; to a better and broader civilization."

"85% of our roads - main roads - are yet unimproved with a hard surface. The state and counties have a tremendous task before them to provide good traffic facilities to all communities and get the people out of the mud; to let the farmer get to town at all seasons; to make schools and markets accessible; to make possible central organization and cooperation, so that farm products may be marketed to best advantage for fair profits and avoidance of waste in perishable foodstuffs. To provide for communities getting together for social advantages; to make country life more pleasant and inviting thus helping to keep young people on the farm. These things are essential to the economic welfare of the commonwealth and can be brought about only by the development of adequate transportation facilities in each community and throughout the state at large.

"The immediate benefit of a road construction program at this time will be to relieve the unemployment situation and provide work for the needy and destitute which will react favorably upon business conditions. I sincerely hope that the county commissioners of the industrial counties where there is unemployment will use every effort to furnish work on the roads for all who can work and are unable to get employment elsewhere and I hope the State Road Commission will assist in every way possible to extent even of having repair work done on roads that have not yet been contracted; in short, that everything possible be done to help those who are needy arid deserving.

"The State Road Commissioners were selected as clean cut able business men of highest integrity, peculiarly qualified for the work to be done; men who have the confidence of the people in the large task they are undertaking. They must also have your cooperation in order to carry out this, the State's greatest enterprise, successfully. They are broadminded men who will view this thing from the standpoint of the interest of the whole state and I hope will be unswerved from their duty by any political or local influences.

"The proposed state road system must first of all serve the people of West Virginia. When the county seats are linked up across the state and these roads extended to connect with neighboring states the convenience for outside tourist travel to cross our borders will naturally follow and will be not only welcomed but encouraged, but the primary object of the proposed road system is to develop West Virginia by connecting agricultural and industrial communities with markets and trade centers.

"An attempt should not be made to build mileage at sacrifice of good construction and durability. I want future generations to point to these roads and say 'There are roads that were constructed in the pioneer stage of road building in West Virginia under the first State Road Commission after the first comprehensive system was established; and they have endured to this day.'

"To preserve the people's investment in these modern highways and to make them safe for travel we must see that the laws are enforced against those who would wilfully destroy both life and property. A first class pavement costing from $20,000 to $30,000 per mile cannot be permitted to be destroyed by one or more trucks overloaded or otherwise operating in violation of the law. Neither should the safety of the traveling public be endangered by speed fiends and reckless drivers, particularly persons driving while intoxicated. Traffic laws and regulations must be enforced and to this end there must be active cooperation with the Commission on the part of local authorities in each county.

"Some idea of the importance of improved roads and the demands being made for transportation facilities may be gained from the following statistical information:

The automotive industry, fourth largest in the country, with 368 manufacturing plants capitalized at $1,204,378,642 and employing 325,000 workmen; having an annual output of 2,205,197 passenger cars and trucks valued at $3,594,814,620, and supplemented, as it is, by 1,900 firms producing auto parts valued at $300,000,000 a year, together with 1,000 firms manufacturing annually 35,000,000 tires valued at $1,000,000,000, is absolutely dependent upon the condition of our highways for stability and upon increased road mileage for greater expansion. In addition, 33,000 distributors of automobiles are involved as well as 45,800 dealers in automobile accessories and 35,000 dealers in tires. Our roads are now traversed by 9,211,295 licensed automobiles and trucks. These motor-vehicles consumed 3,200,000,000 gallons of gasoline last year.

Very few people realize that highway construction has become one of the country's greatest industries, ranking well up with construction in general and manufacturing in particular, There are identified with it 80,000 Federal, State, county, township and city officials; 7,000 road contractors, 2,000 bridge contractors; 1,196 manufacturers and dealers in road building machinery, materials and appliances; 15,000 civil and highway engineers.*****

There are 206 firms manufacturing Portland cement for road building, with an annual output of 125,000,000 barrels valued at $375,000,000 and total capital amounting to $366,914,110. There are 127 firms manufacturing paving bricks valued annually at $7,145,000 and capital invested totaling $17,620,000. The wooden paving block manufacturers number 46 and their output of 59,000,000 blocks is valued at $4,000,000. Their invested capital totals $4,500,000. There are 23 manufacturers of granite block with capital invested of $5,996,000 and an annual output of 26,000,000 blocks valued at $1,547,000. The dealers in crushed stone number 300 with an annual output of 9,700,000 tons annually for road purposes valued at $9,500,000. About $27,900,000 in capital is invested in this branch of the industry.

Three hundred and forty firms producing annually 23,000,000 tons of sand and gravel of a total value of $13,000,000 and having a grand total of $9,130,000 invested capital, are also involved in road building. *****

There are now 2,146,512 passenger automobiles in use on 1,979,564 farms. Over 30 per cent of all our farmers now own cars and more than 2 per cent now use trucks. Of the 6,448,366 farms in the United States, 3,925,095, or 60.9 per cent, are now operated by their owners; 68,525, or 1.1 per cent, by hired managers, and 2,464,746, or 38.1 per cent, by tenants. In 1910, 62.1 per cent of American farms were operated by owners, 0.9 per cent by managers and 37 per cent by tenants. In 1890 the tenantry comprised only 28 per cent.