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9. Tollgate Lore from Upstate New York A Contribution to Folk-Cultural Studies David J. Winslow This study of tollgate lore is essentially a folk-cultural study in that it sheds light on many aspects of the total culture of the Upstate New York region in the nineteenth century. Historically, this investigation offers information on the modes oftransportation and the early transportation routes that linked rural areas to each other and to the cities. It also becomes involved in examining such cultural patterns as architectural differences of tollhouses, the conduct offarming, the amusements ofrural people, religion, superstitions, place names, folktales, and other elements relating to folklife studies. Parallels from the British Isles were found in many instances, and these are offered for comparative purposes. In addition to the historical approach, contemporary informants offer oral material on the subject, and, whenever possible, the relevance of tollgates to present-day life and thought has been noted. The spiritual heritage ofYorkers was in evidence, too, even if some of their material culture was destroyed when an angry mob gathered near Waterford on a hot day in July 1863 and tore down the last remaining tollgate on the Stillwater-Waterford Turnpike. Public antagonism to the turnpike company reached a climax in this act and reflected a burgeoning discontent with most turnpike and plank-road companies throughout Upstate New York during the last half of the nineteenth century. Probably this was one of only a handful of cases where a tollgate was torn down as a result ofpublic violence, but nearly all the rustic structures have disappeared in one way or another from the landscape. The tollhouses are fascinating for the antiquarian, but most travelers on the old roads thought of them only as places to be detained while on a journey and where "you had to show the color of your money," as one old-timer put it.1 For a few, the old tollhouses were places for conversation , companionship, and recreation. Quite a few of the original structures still survive in New York State, but they either have been abandoned and moved or have been drastically renovated to serve other purposes. A few old photographs and pictures from rare postcards are still extant to show how the once-common landmarks appeared. Most persons would agree that there was good reason for the angry crowd to tear down the tollgate on the Stillwater-Waterford Turnpike (originally the Waterford-Whitehall Turnpike), which stretched for approximately sixty-four miles. In February 1849 the turnpike company was indicted and convicted for maintaining a public nuisance. It was said to have neglected just about everything "except the taking of tolls," and over the subsequent years the road was not maintained to the satisfaction of the public, its condition becoming very bad.2 Elsewhere violent measures were being taken against the turnpike companies , but before pointing out a few ofthese incidents, the functions of 2 0 9 David J. Winslow a turnpike company should be explained, and the concept ofa turnpike company as a public utility should be clarified. In the early years of the nineteenth century, the chartered turnpike took precedence over all other schemes for roadmaking. There was much that was substantially uniform in the charters of these old turnpike companies. To save repetition in individual cases, and because here we are not primarily interested in the technical aspects of turnpikes and their social and economic impact, some of the main points the charters possessed in common will be given. The charter was issued by the state to a number of men, whose names were given on the document ; commissioners were appointed to receive subscriptions; the stock was to consist of a specific number of shares, the value of which was usually fixed at twenty dollars each, and a certain amount of it was to be paid at the time of subscribing. When subscribers had obtained a certain number of shares, the commissioners were to give notice of a meeting for the election of directors, at which meeting the commissioners would preside and the stockholders would elect nine directors. The president and the directors, who were to hold office for one year, were to call for installments on the shares of stock at their discretion, and failure on the part of the stockholders to respond within thirty days would result in forfeiture of the payment already made. The president and the directors were to enact such by-laws and regulations as they thought necessary, so long as...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781477303535
Related ISBN
9780292703087
MARC Record
OCLC
967552937
Pages
312
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-05
Language
English
Open Access
No
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