The evolution of Virginia's economic and social life is revealed in the story of transportation. The earliest settlers, having built their homes beside bays, rivers, creeks, or inlets, traveled by water. The first roads followed Indian trails and temporarily slaked the thirst of commerce. Then iron highways suddenly shot through productive sections and dominated the scene until the advent of the macadamized road.
During the sixteenth century several navigators cruised along the Atlantic coast and presumably saw the Virginia shore: Verrazzano (1524), Gomez (1525), and Thevet (1556); and Menendez (1570), who ascended the Potomac River almost to its navigable head. Bartholomew Gosnold, who skirted the Virginia shore in 002, came again in 1607 bringing some of the first settlers to Jamestown. In the next year came the exploration and mapping of Virginia rivers and the Chesapeake Bay by Captain John Smith; and, as the colonists pushed their shallops and pinnaces up the navigable waterways to barter with the natives for corn, the history of transportation in Virginia began.
In John Rolfe's tobacco garden, planted in 1612, were sown the seeds of Virginia's economic future. By 1620 40,000 pounds of tobacco were shipped to England. As civilization began its slow sweep up the James, York, Rappahannock, and Potomac toward the fall line, vessels from Glasgow, Bristol, and London became as familiar sights as the native craft. Traffic increased, despite such obstacles as the Navigation Act (1660), a tornado that demolished many tobacco barns about 1666, the wanton destruction of boats in rivers by invading Dutch fleets (1667 and 1673), and Bacon's Rebellion (1676). At the dawn of the eighteenth century the population, spread from Tidewater to mountains, numbered between 60,000 and 70,000 persons, including some 6,000 Negroes. On the tobacco leaf had been built a prosperous agricultural community that used water as its medium of transportation. The river barons reached the full tide of success early in the eighteenth century, and the marshes in front of their palatial homes were spanned with wharves that welcomed ships of commerce ready to exchange the luxuries of Europe for a cargo of golden leaf.
For the first century and a half of Virginia's history land transportation in the Tidewater section existed more in theory than in fact. Horses, brought over first in 1610 and intermittently thereafter, multiplied, furnishing the only means by which land trips of any consequence could be undertaken. Yet a few roads developed early. By 1624 Jamestown Island had not only a cartway but two roads-one, subsequently called the 'Old Greate Road,' leading from Back Street of 'New Towne' to the blockhouse at the head of the island, and another that passed along the river side. Communication with other settlements-all on the James River or Accomac: shore-was by boat or sloop. In 1633, the year the act was passed for 'Seatinge of the Middle Plantation' (Williamsburg) and two years after the first settlement was established on the York River, the general assembly ordered highways to be laid out 'according as they might seem convenient.' Settlements had begun to spring up in the interior, reached first on horseback over Indian trails and then, later, by carts. As the population increased-by 1652 it was approximately 20,000-and new counties were formed, the parish churches, courthouses, ferries, and ordinaries (taverns) became the focal points for roads that led from crude interplantation lanes.
In 1658 surveyors of roads were appointed, and in 1662 vestries were given the power to 'order out laborers in proportion to the tithables.' These men worked under surveyors ordered to keep the roads 40 feet wide. Nathaniel Bacon in 1676 doubtless used the Iron Bound Road leading from Jamestown to Williamsburg (starting point of an old Indian trail that traversed the peninsula to the Pamunkey River), and Governor Spotswood had a road built to haul crude iron from his furnaces at Germanna to his wharf below Fredericksburg. By 1772 'most families of any note in Williamsburg had a coach, chariot, Berlin or chaise,' according to Hugh Jones, 'and every ordinary person' kept a horse. In 1738 regulations by Alexander Spotswood establishing definite postal routes fostered permanency.
An English traveler in 1746 found that the roads from Yorktown to Williamsburg and Hampton were 'infinitely superior' to most roads in England. Still, most travelers in Tidewater from 1776 to 1782 discovered that the roads were 'not being kept in repair.' As soon as one was in bad order, another was made in a different direction. During wet seasons the roads were 'hopeless seas of mud with archipelagoes of stumps.' Private coaches-Sir William Berkeley possessed one in 1677--soon grew in number and were manufactured in Richmond by 1786, the year in which slow stagecoaches were already lumbering southward from Portsmouth and Alexandria to Petersburg, and from Richmond to Hampton. These vehicles, covered with mud from top to wheel, rattled Along, sometimes overturning, frequently sinking into bogs, and always uncomfortable.
From an Indian trail along the Potomac emerged the Potomac path, along which developed Dumfries, Colchester, and Alexandria. Branching from this road at Cameron Run on Hunting Creek was a road, known as 'the new Church road' in 1742, that extended by Falls Church to Vestal's (now William's) Gap, and then to Winchester. The Ox Road ran southeastward from inland Occoquan. In 1752 Lewis Elzey and others were ordered to open a road 'from Alexandria to Rocky Runn Chappell.' Called the Newgate Road, it became, after 1755, Braddock's Road. The Halifax Road led from Petersburg south; and the Carolina Road was developed, after many changes, from the Shenandoah Hunting Path (extending in the seventeenth century from Conoy Island in the Potomac to Occaneeche Island in the Roanoke), from the Monocacy Trail, and the Iroquois Trail. Starting at Bull Run Mountains, it ran through Louisa County to Norman's Ford on the Rappahannock and then into Prince William and Caroline Counties. Known as the Rogues' Road throughout the last part of the eighteenth century, it finally became little more than a path.
Tobacco was responsible for the development of many of the early roads. The leaves were packed in huge hogsheads fitted with a shaft at each end that allowed the unwieldy container to be rolled along the ground behind an ox or a horse. Recognition of these paths was made by the general assembly in 1712 and 1720. Soon 'rolling roads' leading to 'public warehouses' at markets generally located in Tidewater ports, such as Leedstown and Falmouth, became as much a part of the landscape as the increasing network of ferries. But, withal, water remained the preferred carrier, and boats transported the tobacco from the warehouses at the fall line to the down-river settlements. By the middle of the eighteenth century, when there were some 330 ships and 3,000 sailors in the tobacco trade between Virginia and England, transportation was quickened by packhorse travel. Moving in single file along the narrow trails called 'toteroads,' 'pack-roads,' or 'horse-ways,' the horses carried traffic between the older towns and the frontier posts that had suddenly become more numerous. The numerous small agriculturists in the Tidewater area, stifled by the large-scale production of tobacco that low-priced Negro labor had made possible, had begun an exodus to fresher fields. Many went to the vague mountain section that had already unveiled its charms to such explorers as Major (later Major General) Abraham Wood, between 1650 and 1671, and Governor Spotswood in 1716. Up river and over Indian trails flowed the mass of yeomen. As the pioneers trekked westward, extending the transportation system from water across the land, the heads of navigation at the fall line of the principal rivers became cargo transfer points, thus creating Petersburg, Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Alexandria.
In the mountainous sections, trails gradually became roads. In 1760, William Byrd III, leading an expedition against the Cherokee, cut a path through southwestern Virginia. The 'tote-paths,' following usually a welldefined system of primitive traces, widened into crude wagon roads to accommodate the gaily caparisoned and swaying Conestoga freight wagons that had appeared. By 1782 carriages could cross the Blue Ridge by Rock Fish Gap. The war path of the Delaware and Catawba Indians that ran the length of the Shenandoah Valley was known at the beginning of the nineteenth century, when organized migration began, as the Indian Road, a name subsequently discarded for the Wagon Road, then for the Valley Road, and after 1840 for the Valley Turnpike. Along the foothills of the Alleghenies ran Back Road, to the east of which, at an early date, was the Ox Road (later called the Middle Road) that stretched from Harrisonburg to Woodstock. The Wilderness Road, over which so many pioneers trekked to Kentucky, began some miles northeast of Fort Chiswell, crossed the New River at Ingles' Ferry, and continued beyond Abingdon to Block House. Vehicles began to pass over its length only after the legislature made it a wagon road in 1795. On the east side of the Blue Ridge ran a parallel road that led down the Piedmont, a section traversed by such roads from the Tidewater as the Three Chopt (or Three Notched) Road and the River Road, both beginning at the falls of the James and extending by different routes into Albemarle County, terminus likewise of the Mountain Road that began just north of Richmond. From these trunk lines diverged lateral routes, ever pushing into virgin territory and increasing in importance as the land travel changed from north-south to east-west-especially after 1773 when Virginians changed the course of empire westward through Cumberland Gap.
Ferries and bridges were necessarily an early part of Virginia transportation. From Jamestown a ferry crossed the James River at an early date. In 1702, antedating by about 20 years many ferries on the James, York, and Rappahannock Rivers, a ferry line was established between Portsmouth and Norfolk; it exists today as the Portsmouth and Norfolk County Ferry Company. In 1748, 1760, 1764, and almost every year thereafter until the Revolution, the general assembly passed acts authorizing new 'publick ferries' to transport pedestrians, hogsheads of tobacco, livestock, coaches, chariots, wagons, and carts. In the mountainous sections were such early ferries as Castleman's (1764), Snicker's (1766), and Buchanan's (1811). When traffic became heavy, bridges were built. William Byrd crossed bridges in southern Virginia in 1728. In 1752 the general assembly passed an act permitting the Appomattox to be spanned for the first time, and in 1785 Mayo's bridge cast its shadow over the route that Patrick Coutts's ferry had long used between Manchester and Richmond. During the turnpike era-the first decades of the nineteenth century-many covered bridges were built, particularly in the mountains.
In the first half of the nineteenth century Virginia's attempts to encourage water transportation resulted in the construction of canals. During the preceding century, George Washington, recognizing the necessity for commercial routes across the Appalachian range to connect the waters of eastern Virginia with the Ohio River, had urged public developments of both waterways and highways. After the general assembly had passed acts in 1772 for opening the falls of both the James and the 'Potomack' Rivers, the Revolution intervened. The projects, therefore, lapsed and were not carried out until 1784, when two canal companies-the James River and the Potomac-were incorporated.
The James River Company, promoted by such men as George Washington, Edmund Randolph, and John Marshall, opened in 1790 the first commercial canal in the United States, stretching from Richmond to Westham and paralleling the James for seven miles. The Potomac Company's plan of linking by a canal Alexandria and Georgetown to Cumberland at the base of the Alleghenies began to materialize in 1802, when the first section was completed past the falls of the Potomac. Soon the aqueduct, constructed under the supervision of Claude Crozet, spanned the Potomac from Georgetown to the Virginia side. When the canal was finished, some $12,000,000, had been spent by Maryland and Virginia.
After appointing commissioners in 1810 to 'view certain rivers within the Commonwealth' with the idea of developing more water transportation, the general assembly, in 1816, created the Board of Public Works to supervise such transportation enterprises and turned over to this unit a 'Fund for Internal Improvement,' from which the State subscribed to the stock of eight water transportation companies. The Dismal Swamp Canal, though chartered by Virginia and North Carolina in 1787, was not completed until 1828. This canal, which connects Chesapeake Bay with Albemarle Sound, fell into disuse for some time but was reopened from Deep Creek to South Mills, North Carolina, in 1899, and in 1929 was acquired by the Federal Government, which also owns the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal connecting Elizabeth River with North Landing River.
Production and commerce having increased with the opening of the Canal, the James River Company was by 1808 an exceedingly profitable enterprise. But by 1820 the lean years had come and the canal was taken over by the State. In 1835, the canal property and rights were acquired by the James River and Kanawha Canal Company, chartered in 1832 to carry out the original plans and construct the canal to the Ohio waters. By 1840 this company had extended the narrow waterway to Lynchburg; and regular lines of packet or passenger boats, pulled by horses six to eight miles an hour, plied the 156 miles to Richmond.
In 1851 the canal was continued to Buchanan, the limit of its extension. Here the James River and Kanawha Turnpike across the Appalachian range provided access to the Kanawha and Ohio Rivers. Paralleling the James and constructed at a cost of more than $8,000,000, the canal was one of Virginia's most important early public works and the greatest freight and passenger carrier in the State. It was mutilated, however, during the War between the States; almost swept away by the flood of 1877; considered financially worthless in 1879; and, having been sold in 1880 to the Richmond and Allegheny Railroad, was acquired along with that road in 1888 by its competitor, the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway.
As the heavy traffic caused dirt roads to become all but impassable, especially in winter, the necessity for adequate thoroughfares became evident. The result was the turnpike, created by chartered companies that charged a toll for using it. From 1802 to 1818 eight turnpike companies were incorporated to establish roads out of Richmond: Manchester Turnpike (1802) to Falling Creek; Richmond Turnpike (1804) running by the Deep Run Coal Pits to the Three Notched Road at Short Pump; Richmond and Columbia Turnpike to Goochland Courthouse; Brook Turnpike (1812) to Williamson's Tavern (now Solomon's Store); Westham Turnpike (1816) from Richmond to Leonard's Tavern near Westham; Manchester and Petersburg Turnpike (1816) laid out by Claude Crozet; Mechanicsville Turnpike (18117); and the Richmond and Osborne's Turnpike (1818), running to a ferry that crossed the James to Osborne's Wharf. By 1828 the State, from its 'Fund for Internal Improvement,' had subscribed to stock in 12 turnpike companies. In mid-century many miles of hard-surfaced roads were completed, particularly in the mountainous section. One of the most ambitious of these enterprises, a corollary to the James River Canal, was the turnpike constructed in 1830 from Rockfish Gap to Scottsville. The peak of this attempt to hurry traffic over land was reached in 1850 when the road down the Shenandoah Valley was macadamized from Winchester to Staunton. During this same decade appeared many of the planked roads, such as the Jerusalem, Orange, and Boydton.
With the advent of canals and turnpikes came transformation on the water, peacefully content up to the War of 1812 with its sloops and swift sailing packets. Only twice had the supremacy of the sailing vessel been questioned. In 1784 Virginia granted James Rumsey the right to construct and navigate boats 'upon his model' for a period of 10 years in the waters of the State. The year that Rumsey operated successfully his, ingenious device on the Potomac (1787), John Fitch obtained the privilege of operating steamboats on Virginia waters for 14 years. These sporadic attempts soon gave way to commercial steamboats on Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. In 1813 were launched the Washington and the Richmond, the first running from Washington to Marlboro and the second from Washington to Richmond. The Eagle began its round trips between Baltimore and Richmond in 1815, and the Powhatan its regular trips between Richmond and Norfolk in 1816. The run between Baltimore and Norfolk was appreciably reduced in time by the Virginia, built in 1817, and the Norfolk, put in service in 1819, the year the Washington extended its run to Norfolk. During the two decades preceding the War between the States, the Union ran between Washington and Norfolk; the Osceola plied weekly from Baltimore to Norfolk; the Columbia, largest boat on the river, ran regularly after 1837 for many years on the Washington-Norfolk-Baltimore route; and the William Selden linked Baltimore to Fredericksburg. Between Aquia Creek and Washington ran such early vessels as the Chesapeake, Augusta, and Washington. The boats of the Baltimore Steam Packet Company (the Old Bay Line) organized in 1840, running between Norfolk and Baltimore, competed with the iron ship Philadelphia, which ran between Norfolk and Seaford, Delaware. In 1852 the Merchants and Miners Transportation Company was organized. In 1859, the Mount Vernon, of 700 tons, opened a regular service between New York and Washington. When war came, several of the substantial Potomac ships were impressed by the Federal Government. Between 1869 and 1873 the Plant Line operated the Lady of the Lake and the Jane Mosely between Washington and Norfolk. In 1874 the boats of the Chesapeake Steamship Company connected Baltimore with West Point, Virginia, and between 1871 and 1891 the Potomac Steamboat Company operated the George Leary and the Excelsior between Washington and Norfolk. A continuation of this company is the Norfolk and Washington Steamboat Company, chartered in 1890. The boats of this line, the Old Bay Line, the Chesapeake Steamship Company, and the Merchants and Miners Transportation Company still plow the Bay, its tidal rivers and numerous estuaries served now, as formerly, by an adequate system of freight boats, foremost among which are those of the Buxton Lines, Inc., and the Eastern Steamship Lines, the York River Line, and the Philadelphia and Norfolk Steamship Company.
Virginia's policy of subscribing to the capital stock of companies engaged in public transportation had its most beneficial effect between 1828 and 1861 when the railway came to deliver traffic from the semiparalysis of coach and canal. Because of the great need to connect hinterland with Tidewater, these swift land carriers were built rapidly, lacing through the productive areas and stimulating commerce. The confirmation by the assembly, on March 8, 1827, of the charter granted by Maryland to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company was Virginia's first official railroad record, but that road did not begin operating in Virginia until after 1839. In 1831, when there were little more than 100 miles of railroad completed in the United States, the horse-drawn Chesterfield Railroad, chartered three years earlier, was opened to haul coal from mines in Chesterfield County to Richmond. The charter of this pioneer company, which was operated throughout its existence by horsepower, antedated by only two years the charter of the Petersburg Railroad Company, the first steam railroad to operate in the State. Its terminus, Weldon, North Carolina, became also the terminus of the Portsmouth and Roanoke Railroad, chartered in 1832, completed in 1837, and now the oldest unit in the Seaboard Air Line Railway Company. In 1832 a charter was granted also to the Winchester and Potomac Railroad Company, which completed its tracks through the fertile Shenandoah Valley to the Potomac River at Harpers Ferry in 1836. In 1848 it was purchased by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. The Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad Company, chartered in 1834, developed its route by a series of progressions and did not reach Washington until after the War between the States. In 1837 the tracks were extended to Fredericksburg, where passengers took a coach to Marlboro Point on Potomac Creek and thence traveled to Washington by steamboat. In 1872 the line was extended to join the Alexandria and Washington Railroad and thus form an all-rail route from Richmond to Washington. Among other carriers of this early epoch were the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad Company and the Louisa Railroad Company, both chartered in 1836. The tracks of the Louisa Railroad (oldest unit in the present Chesapeake and Ohio Railway system) opened the following year to Frederick Hall. The company announced in unabashed manner an 'Unrivalled Line to Charlottesville, Staunton and the Virginia Springs,' although the railroad stopped short of Charlottesville by 44 miles and passengers were conveyed the rest of the way by coach. The South Side Railroad Company, chartered in 1846, was completed in 1854 between Petersburg and Lynchburg. Fostered by the State , the Blue Ridge Railroad Company was chartered in 1849. Under the direction of Claude Crozet the tracks, passing through several long tunnels, were completed in 1858 from Blair Park to Waynesboro. The mountainous and isolated southwest was opened up in 1856 by the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, a company chartered in 1849; while, in the opposite side of the State, the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad by 1858 was hurrying traffic to the sea.
In 1861 Virginia's investments in 'Public Works' ceased. The State had purchased a total of $48,000,000 worth of stock in turnpike, ton bridge, canal, and water and rail transportation. During the war the railroads, operating 1,290 miles of track, were the most sought-after prize of the contending armies. The important Baltimore and Ohio lines, comprising two-thirds of Virginia's mileage and controlled by Union sympathizers, became a Federal bulwark. The military requirements of the Confederacy fell heavily on the remaining roads, particularly on the Petersburg and Weldon, the Richmond and Danville, and the Virginia Central--so important as arteries of supply for Lee's army that about them centered Federal offensive and Confederate defensive movements.
Following the war numerous railroads began to consolidate into the great 'through lines' that gird the State today. In z885 the 32 railroads in Virginia had an aggregate length Of 2,430 miles. Mileage increased steadily until 1915, and then dropped when 10 short systems disappeared. The present group of railroads, owning some 7,242 miles of track, includes 18 separate companies ranging from the Nelson and Albemarle Railroad with 18 miles of track to those with an elaborate system. The Norfolk and Western Railway is a vast system that started with the merger in 1870 Of three railroads extending from Norfolk to Bristol. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad consists in Virginia of the former Valley Railroad, chartered in 1866, and the Winchester and Potomac Railroad. The Seaboard Air Line Railway had its beginning in 1900 with the purchase of the Virginia and Carolina Railroad. The Southern Railway, incorporated in 1894, took over the lines of the Richmond and Danville Railroad, and in 1899 those of the Atlantic and Danville Railway. The Atlantic Coast Line Railroad is a continuation of the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad, chartered in 1836. The Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad has developed since 1869 from the Virginia Central Railroad and the unfinished Covington and Ohio Railroad. The Virginian Railway is a continuation of the Tidewater Railway, chartered in 19o4. The Norfolk Southern Railroad developed from the Elizabeth City and Norfolk Railroad, incorporated in 1875. The tracks of the hardy Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad are used by trains of the Seaboard Air Line Railway and the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad.
At the beginning of the twentieth century Virginia's roads were poor. In 1919, however, the State highway commission took over road construction, and now an excellent primary system Of 9,250 miles includes 24 United States highways, which form the principal interstate traffic arteries, and a secondary system Of 37,000 miles, which reaches even the remotest parts of the State. With the improvement of the State highways since 1923 transportation by public motor vehicles has developed rapidly. The early short lines have been extended and consolidated into great corporations. While they were started to furnish transportation in sections where other facilities were lacking, the great preponderance of motor common carrier operations now closely parallel the railroads and have become their most formidable competitors. Since 1923 the State corporation commission has issued 384 certificates to freight common carriers and 1,112 certificates to common carriers of passengers, chief among which are the Greyhound System, Peninsula Transit Corporation, Norfolk Southern Bus Corporation, and Virginia Stage Lines, Inc.
The ports surrounding Hampton Roads, termini for eight railroads, handle a vast tonnage of export, import, coastwise, and intercoastal freight passing through the Virginia Capes not only on foreign ships but also on the five regular steamship lines that use the numerous docks and coal piers. Deep water terminal docks on the James near Richmond are in the process of construction. Steam ferries link the cities of Hampton Roads and extend the service to Cape Charles; other ferries connect the Potomac, James, and Rappahannock Rivers, making 13 in the State. Across the mouth of the James River the Newport News-James River Bridge, finished in 1928 at a cost of $5,500,000, is the 'world's longest all-over-water bridge'; and over the Rappahannock River is the long Downing Bridge, finished in 1927, that has opened up the isolated Northern Neck section. Commercial aviation, the last phase of the transportation scene, has developed slowly in Virginia since the Eastern Air Transport, Inc. established in 1928 a pioneer mail line from New York to Atlanta via Richmond. Its passenger service was begun August 18, 1930. By 1936 the planes of two companies, flying 3,640 air miles daily over Virginia, served four cities in the State in addition to the Washington Airport, on the Virginia bank of the Potomac. Today, by private, municipal, and Federal funds, 36 airports have been licensed, emergency landing fields provided, and air mileage has been lighted.