Marking The Trail

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A loyal reader asked me a while ago about the markers along the Post Road that read "Fairfield X Miles". I  remembered an article in the Greenwich Time, which discussed the stones.  In the August 26th, 2003, issue, I found a rather comprehensive explanation.

Most people know that The King's Highway was a very important route between Boston and New York in early colonial times. Over time it's been called the Main Country Road, the Ordinary Road, the Stage Road, the Turnpike Road and the Westchester Path.  A Toll House was set up on the road in 1792 near where Post Road Iron Works exists today.  In 1799, the Selectmen were told to sell the "useless road" since it hadn't generated enough money. 

Since there was no bridge over the lower Mianus River near River Road like there is now, riders and wagons had to go up Valley Road and cross over the bridge to Palmer Hill in North Mianus.  This road was the country's first postal route. Historical accounts state that Benjamin Franklin - co-Postmaster General of the 13 colonies - placed the mile markers himself. It was said he had invented an early odometer which could be attached to a wagon to measure the number of miles traveled.  In 1753 he took a 10-week trip to New England to place the stone markers. He was probably trying to settle disputes about the distance between post offices since postage was determined by mileage.  Since his salary was based on profits from postage, he had an additional incentive to get it right!  Interestingly enough, inns and taverns began springing up near these markers.

   

Mile Stone0001.jpgFive of the original markers can be seen along Route 1.  Originally the stones had the name of the location and the distance to the next largest town.  At one time, Fairfield was the county seat for Fairfield County.  It was an important town on the "Post Road".  Even though other markers were set up in later years, the original stones are still the most prominent.   One stone is located in Byram, near the corner of West Putnam Avenue and Western Junior Highway.  Another stone can be found in a "pocket park" near Edgewood Avenue and one near Pickwick Plaza at the top of Greenwich Avenue.  There's a stone on a traffic island separarting Valley Road and Orchard Street in Cos Cob.  Since the current Post Road is not the original King's Highway, not all the stones can be seen along Route 1.  One is found on Palmer Hill Road, which was a section of the Highway. 

In preparation for the Bicentennial in 1976, relicas replaced the original markers.  Funding was obtained from the Housing and Urban Development department, the town's Bicentennail Commission and the Soroptimist International.  The Soroptimists club was a group of women philanthropists who provided bronze plaques identifying the 30-inch-tall granite markers. 

It is estimated that there are approximatley 70 stones between New York and Boston. Some have never been maintained.  They could be considered milestones since they display the distance between points.  The stones are also directional markers.  They replaced bits of paper and other covert trail markings used to show mail riders where to head.   

Today, these milestones are more for historic decoration than fuction. The interstate highway system has replaced the rocky dirt roads, which once carried postal riders between the big cities.  Trucks, ships and airplanes also carry mail, but eletronic mail may eventually preclude the need for paper. 

Some may feel a little nostalgic about these stones.  The mile markers are remnants of a romantic era when America was still young with great promise.  They are symbols of American determination and ingenuity - qualities that have made this country great. 
 

SOURCE:   Greenwich Time (Hearst Corp.)

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

 

2 Comments

The mile marker that was replaced on Valley Road and Orchard Street is spelled "Fairfeild."

Thank you for pointing that out. Too bad they didn't have "spell check" back then!

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Carl White published on June 10, 2011 4:53 PM.

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