CUMBERLAND ROAD, also known as the National Road, was the first national road in the United States. It had tremendous influence of the development of the Ohio River Valley and the Northwest Territory. Congress passed enabling acts in 1802 and 1803 before Ohio's admission into the Union that set aside 5 percent of the net proceeds of the public lands sold by Congress within Ohio for building a national road to and through the state of Ohio. In March 1806, Congress authorized the accumulated funds for the marketing and construction of a road from Cumberland, Maryland, through Wheeling, Virginia, to Ohio.
The construction of the road began in 1811, and by 1818 the U.S. mail was running over the 130 miles to Wheeling, now in West Virginia. Immediately the popularity of the road was tremendous, and stagecoach, carriage, and livestock traffic proved that maintenance costs would be high. Congress soon voted money for repairs and, in March of 1825, appropriated funds for extending the road from Wheeling to Zanesville, Ohio, following the first road built in Ohio, Zane's Trace.
The road reached Columbus in 1833, but by this time, canals were eclipsing roads for federal interest and investment. The road reached its terminus in Vandalia, Illinois, through private aid, and control of the road was turned over to the states through which it passed.
Ierley, Merritt. Traveling the National Road: Across the Centuries on America's First Highway. Woodstock, N.Y.: Overlook Press, 1990.
Jordon, Phillip Dillon. The National Road. Indianapolis, Ind.: Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1948.
Raitz, Karl B., ed. The National Road. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.
Francis PhelpsWeisenburger/h. s.