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EARLY NATIONAL PERIOD - University of Notre Dame


The National Road holds a special place in Ohio's history as well as the nation. The National Road was the first federally planned and funded interstate highway. Crossing 6 states (Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois), the road linked older eastern communities with the emerging frontier settlements of the Northwest Territory. In a generation of use, the populations of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois grew from 783,635 to over 3.72 million people.

George Washington was an early supporter of a road to the west. Even before the Revolutionary War, his extensive western travels, experiences as a military commander, and land speculating convinced him that a "smooth way" was needed to "open a wide door" to the west. After the Revolutionary War, with increasing numbers of settlers moving west, Washington soon realized there was a danger of these pioneers forming political ties with Spain and England who still had influence in the Northwest Territory.

In 1784 Washington traveled to the west, in part to contemplate the best routes for portages and roads Along the way he would ask settlers their views of the best routes for a possible road. While staying at a land agent's cabin near present-day Morgantown, West Virginia he met a young surveyor who would later play an important role in making the national road a reality, Albert Gallatin. Gallatin advised Washington on possible routes for the road and 18 years later, while serving as Jefferson's Treasury Secretary, he helped formulate the plan to fund the National Road project.

In 1806, Thomas Jefferson made that roadway a reality when he authorized an Act to regulate the laying out of a road from Cumberland, Maryland to Ohio. Construction on the National Road began in 1811 at Cumberland, extending an existing route from Baltimore. The National Road reached the Ohio River at Wheeling in 1818, poised to make its entry into Ohio. However, politics got in the way and stopped construction for several years until the political debate was resolved on whether the Federal government had the authority to build a road.

President James Monroe finally got the construction started again in 1824 when he signed a bill that authorized further spending on the National Road and ground was broken on July 4, 1825 for the first time Ohio for construction of the National Road. Ironically, this was also the same day that the Ohio & Erie and the Ohio & Miami Canals saw the first shovel full of dirt being moved.

The Federal government paid for the National Road in Ohio by selling land that it had acquired from the Native Americans living here. Although Ohio was experiencing incredible growth during this time, it was not without controversy. Native Americans living in Ohio were first defeated in battle and extended campaigns with the American military, then forced to sign treaties consigning them to specific areas of the state, and then eventually forcing them out of the area entirely.

Bones of a Basilosaurus, a genus of early whales that lived in the Eocene, the second epoch of the Paleocene era. The fossil bones are shone here with the ribs in the foreground and the vertebrae behind.

At the dawn of the Paleogene—the beginning of the Cenozoic era—dinosaurs, pterosaurs, and giant marine reptiles were conspicuously absent from the face of the Earth. Rodent-size (and perhaps larger) mammals emerged, suddenly free to fill the void. Over the next 42 million years, they grew in size, number, and diversity. As the period came to a close, life-forms still common today filled the seas, dominated the land, and had taken to the air.

During the Paleogene the continents drifted farther apart, heading toward their modern positions. Oceans widened the gaps, Europe severed its last ties with North America, and Australia and Antarctica finally parted ways. As the climate significantly cooled and dried, sea levels continued to drop from late Cretaceous levels, draining most interior seaways.

The cooling and drying trend began in earnest following a sudden temperature spike about 55 million years ago. Sea surface temperatures rose between 9 and 14 degrees Fahrenheit (5 and 8 degrees Celsius) over a period of a few thousand years, killing off numerous single-celled marine organisms called foraminifera, along with some other invertebrates. This event also profoundly affected northern forests, previously full of deciduous hardwoods with sequoias and pines. The new, more humid subtropical conditions nurtured abundant palms and guavas. Land mammals responded in kind, radiating and diversifying into many new forms.

As the climate cooled and dried following the warming, forests gave way to open woodlands and grasslands in the northern hemisphere and started to support thundering herds of grazing mammals.

Fish filled in the oceans, food to fuel sharks, which were fast ruling the waters in the absence of the giant mosasaurs and plesiosaurs of the Cretaceous. Squid and other soft-bodied cephalopods replaced their shelled relatives, which once filled the middle rung on the food chain. Sea snails and bivalves that were similar to modern forms lurked on the ocean bottom. New types of foraminifera and sea urchins replaced those that had died off in earlier mass extinctions.

The National Road holds a special place in Ohio's history as well as the nation. The National Road was the first federally planned and funded interstate highway. Crossing 6 states (Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois), the road linked older eastern communities with the emerging frontier settlements of the Northwest Territory. In a generation of use, the populations of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois grew from 783,635 to over 3.72 million people.

George Washington was an early supporter of a road to the west. Even before the Revolutionary War, his extensive western travels, experiences as a military commander, and land speculating convinced him that a "smooth way" was needed to "open a wide door" to the west. After the Revolutionary War, with increasing numbers of settlers moving west, Washington soon realized there was a danger of these pioneers forming political ties with Spain and England who still had influence in the Northwest Territory.

In 1784 Washington traveled to the west, in part to contemplate the best routes for portages and roads Along the way he would ask settlers their views of the best routes for a possible road. While staying at a land agent's cabin near present-day Morgantown, West Virginia he met a young surveyor who would later play an important role in making the national road a reality, Albert Gallatin. Gallatin advised Washington on possible routes for the road and 18 years later, while serving as Jefferson's Treasury Secretary, he helped formulate the plan to fund the National Road project.

In 1806, Thomas Jefferson made that roadway a reality when he authorized an Act to regulate the laying out of a road from Cumberland, Maryland to Ohio. Construction on the National Road began in 1811 at Cumberland, extending an existing route from Baltimore. The National Road reached the Ohio River at Wheeling in 1818, poised to make its entry into Ohio. However, politics got in the way and stopped construction for several years until the political debate was resolved on whether the Federal government had the authority to build a road.

President James Monroe finally got the construction started again in 1824 when he signed a bill that authorized further spending on the National Road and ground was broken on July 4, 1825 for the first time Ohio for construction of the National Road. Ironically, this was also the same day that the Ohio & Erie and the Ohio & Miami Canals saw the first shovel full of dirt being moved.

The Federal government paid for the National Road in Ohio by selling land that it had acquired from the Native Americans living here. Although Ohio was experiencing incredible growth during this time, it was not without controversy. Native Americans living in Ohio were first defeated in battle and extended campaigns with the American military, then forced to sign treaties consigning them to specific areas of the state, and then eventually forcing them out of the area entirely.


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