A manuscript letter of petition from chairman of the Lincoln County Western Plank Road requesting the road’s attorney pursue a change in its charter to allow the arrest of slave-trading trespasser on the Sabbath. C. C. Henderson to Mr. J.
A manuscript letter of petition from chairman of the Lincoln County Western Plank Road requesting the road’s attorney pursue a change in its charter to allow the arrest of slave-trading trespasser on the Sabbath
A manuscript letter of petition from chairman of the Lincoln County Western Plank Road requesting the road’s attorney pursue a change in its charter to allow the arrest of slave-trading trespasser on the Sabbath

A manuscript letter of petition from chairman of the Lincoln County Western Plank Road requesting the road’s attorney pursue a change in its charter to allow the arrest of slave-trading trespasser on the Sabbath

Lincolnton, North Carolina: 1854. Envelope or Cover. This stampless folded letter, addressed to Joseph H. Wilson in Charlotte, measures approximately 16” x 8” unfolded. It is datelined “Lincolnton N.C. December 4th 1854” and bears a circular Lincolnton postmark, dated December 5 in black and a “PAID” handstamp in red. In nice shape.

This petition from the Henderson, which also discusses funding bonds, specifically requests Wilson to determine:

“If you can have inserted in the amendment of our Plank Road Charter a clause to allow us to arrest a man on the Sabath day for trespassing on our Road, I think we had better have it down, as a man may trespass on our road on Sunday and before Monday morning he may be out of the State; for instance a Negroe Trader came along on yesterday (Sunday) and laid himself liable to the Penalty of $5.00, but as it was Sunday I could do nothing with him in a civil action as I understand ours to be for the Penalty. Please examine into the matter and make provisions for such reasen and also insert a clause to swear our Tollgatherers and make it Perjury where they do not make a faithful return of all Tolls collected.”.

Very good. Item #009511

It is easy to wonder if the trespasser’s occupation as a “Negoe Trader” played a role in Henderson’s request.

Although some revisionist historians differ, it was long held that although very wealthy, civic-minded slave traders were held in high regard, less wealthy travelling slave traders were often treated as outcasts in the South.

Plank roads were used in many places; however, they were especially popular and important in North Carolina where most other roads were unreliable, especially in bad weather. To make roads suitable for wagon use year-round, plank roads were surfaced with thick lumber at a significant expense. To pay for the effort and to provide investors with a moderate profit, tolls were charged.

Henderson, the owner of a large tannery that manufactured shoes and harnesses, was one of the most prosperous merchants in western North Carolina. He was a significant investor in regional railroads, and in 1850 led a group of men in planning the construction of the Western Plank Road from Rozelle’s Ferry on the Catawba to Newton, which was incorporated the following year. (The segment from Lincolnton to Newton was never completed. The road was 12 to 22 feet wide and tool booths were scattered along the route. Tolls ranged from 5 cents for pedestrians to 25 cents for a two-horse wagon. As of 2020, there is still a street named Old Plank Road in Lincoln County, much of it and North Carolina Route 73 are the same.

For more information about this and other North Carolina plank roads see DePriest’s “Old Plank Road, a piece of our history” in the Charlotte Observer, May 13, 2007 and Sherrill’s History of Lincoln County, North Carolina.

A nice first-hand testament to mid-19th-Century road construction and the traveling slave trade.

Price: $150.00

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