After reading Road from Washington City to Buffalo, anyone driving along U.S. Route 15 or another old north-south route through New York State, Pennsylvania, and Maryland can better appreciate the formidable engineering task of road building in that region during the early days of the nation. This slim volume, originally published in 1827, is a rich source of information (including place names) of the Washington – Buffalo “corridor” in the 1820s.
The report begins with a very helpful index (more like a table of contents) that corresponds to the 77 numbered paragraphs comprising the main text, in which is described not only the area’s terrain in terms of the proposed highway construction, but also its current state of agriculture, industry, and settlement. The report could also serve as a catalog for future development (mineral deposits, timber, creeks & rivers, etc.) For example, paragraph 51 (“Soil”) begins “A very large proportion of this district (48) is possessed of a soil well adapted to cultivation. That of the valleys is generally argillaceous, containing much vegetable mould. The flats within the principal valleys, especially those connected with the valley of the Genesee, are endued with extraordinary fecundity.” And so on.
The five tables are extremely illuminating in breaking down all the particulars of the four grand routes proposed (Eastern, Western, Painted Post, and Pine Creek), including alternate subordinate routes between each place, cost estimates, and price analyses. Table 1 is particularly informative, listing the geographical coordinates for each part of the route, the distance between each preceding place (with a running tally of miles from Washington), general “Characters of the Routes” (from “waving, seldom winding” to “very winding, serpentine”), grades, length of bridges necessary, and details such as Aspect, Soil, Rocks, Natural growth, and Products. Table 3 analyzes the populations surrounding each grand route and its possible variations, perhaps as a way to measure costs vs. benefits. A map referenced as accompanying material “C” in Macomb’s prefatory letter is not included in this binding, but can be viewed at http://www.raremaps.com/gallery/enlarge/33381.
The report was completed by Major S.H. Long, Topographical Engineer, and submitted to Congress by Major General Alex. Macomb, United States’ Chief Engineer (War Dept.)
This work, originally published in 1827, is reprinted by Milne Library at the State University of New York College at Geneseo as part of the Genesee Valley Historical Reprints series. The Genesee Valley Historical Collection is Milne Library’s largest and most accessible collection of local history materials. Its geographical scope covers the eight counties surrounding the Genesee River in New York State: Allegany, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Steuben and Wyoming. For more information, see: http://go.geneseo.edu/gvhr.