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A Maximum of Good Results: Martin Dodge and the Good Roads Trains
Southern Railway Good Roads Train (con't)
The train arrived in Charlottesville on March 24 for the final stop of the Southern Railway Good Roads Train. Dodge and Colonel Moore, who wanted this stop to be special, had invited many prominent officials to attend. Good Roads Magazine reported that, "Two special trains on successive days took about 150 congressmen and department officers down from Washington." ["The Southern Railway Good Roads Train," Good Roads Magazine, June 1902, p. 7]
The convention, April 2 through 4 in the Monticello Guard Armory, was under the joint auspices of the OPRI, the NGRA, the South Railway, and the Jefferson Memorial Association. The association, one of the earliest "named road associations" (a common feature of good roads promotion beginning in the 1910's), supported construction of a good road connecting Thomas Jefferson's home at Monticello to the University of Virginia.
The road experts, supervising a crew of about 100 men, worked on the road, as described in the bulletin:
Despite the fact that several days were lost in the work on account of storms, a large amount of work was accomplished, consisting of grading, stone crushing, and macadamizing, with the building of some culverts. The grading work covered three-fourths of a mile. A stretch of about 1,600 feet, 16 feet wide, was macadamized in the usual manner, an excellent quality of trap rock being used for the purpose. [Bulletin 23, p. 88]
OPRI Bulletin No. 23 listed speakers but did not reprint their speeches. The text noted that, "Many of the visitors took advantage of the opportunity to visit Monticello, the home and tomb of Jefferson." However, OPRI Bulletin No. 25 was devoted to the proceedings of the Jefferson Memorial and Interstate Good Roads Convention. The introductory letter, presenting the proceedings to Secretary Wilson for publication, stated:
The Jefferson Memorial and Interstate Good Roads Convention . . . was one of the greatest and most successful meetings ever held in this country for the consideration of highway improvement. Its national scope was shown by the fact that fifteen States were represented, including Maine, Oregon, and Florida. The convention was addressed by governors, members of Congress, generals of the U.S. Army, the Assistant Secretary of Agriculture, presidents of universities and of railway companies, and others . . . . These addresses brought out much valuable information relating to highway improvement which will be of interest through the United States, and I hereby respectfully recommend that the same be published as bulletin No. 25 of this Office. [Proceedings of the Jefferson Memorial and Interstate Good Roads Convention, OPRI Bulletin No. 25, 1902, p. 3]
The bulletin began with a letter, prepared in December 1902, from R. E. Shaw, civil engineer in charge of the Jefferson Memorial Road, regarding the project:
The idea of building an ideal highway to connect the city of Charlottesville with the home and tomb of Thomas Jefferson originated with Hon. Martin Dodge, in a conversation some two years ago with certain citizens of Albemarle County, Va., who were earnest advocates of good roads. These gentlemen were much impressed with the vast amount of good which would accrue to their section with such a highway in daily use. Preliminary surveys were made in the early summer of 1901, and a petition for a relocation of the " Old Monticello Road" was placed before the county authorities. Their action was very slow, and it was the middle of autumn before matters began to take definite shape, and the Jefferson Memorial Road Association was formed for the purpose of building this road as a memorial to the great American . . . .
Through the cooperation of the Office of Public Road Inquiries of the Department of Agriculture and the Southern Railway Company, the "good roads train," then touring the South, was listed to make the last stop of its schedule at Charlottesville, and arrangements were made for holding the Jefferson Memorial and Interstate Good Roads Convention.
With only 5 weeks to go before the Good Roads Train, the association undertook to prepare the road for the experts. One of the keys was to make a 5-foot cut through rock within the city limits, sufficient for the width of a single track to save money. It could be further widened to 40 feet when funds "should be more plentiful." Even using convict labor, this would be a costly proposition "but the outbreak of smallpox among the convicts" prevented their use. More expensive free labor would have to be used:
The gentlemen having charge of the good roads train, however, urged the desirability of having the memorial road the proper width, not in the country only, but also for the half mile of its length within the city limits, including this rock cut. It was, therefore, decided to risk the additional expensive and give the roads its proper width from its beginning at the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway station.
The decision increased the cost from the preliminary estimate of $940 to $3,641.97:
The good roads train spent a week at Charlottesville and during that time the metal was laid upon about 1,000 feet of the road, which was a very satisfactory result, considering that about half of the time was lost on account of bad weather, rain, and snow. Owing to the numerous springs in this rock cut, the side ditches had to be carried down ahead of the main roadbed. The close proximity of the houses and the shallowness of the cut made blasting unsafe. About 18 inches of cobblestone (the result of 50 or perhaps 100 years of road mending) had to be removed from the old roadbed. All these conditions made the work tedious and expensive.
A good deal of earth excavation was done by the machinery of the good roads train on the first half mile beyond the city limits, and after the departure of the train, this work was carried on by the use of the county road machines, and plows and wheel scrapers, the teams and labor being contributed by the neighboring farmers, so that at present (December 1902), in addition to the completion of the half mile within the city limits, the grading for a large part of the next mile has been finished, and the right of way has been paid for, the total expense to date being $4,570.
Much work remained to be done, including two cuts, replacement of the wooden bridge over Moores Creek, and relocation of the roadbed for a quarter mile onto an alignment that "rises gradually along the sunny southern slopes of the hills, thus giving a series of beautiful views, escaping the sharp ascents of the foothills, and finally rejoining the old road high above the valley."
Shaw estimated that completing the memorial road would cost about $20,000, but considerably less if the association could purchase its own crushing and metaling outfit. [p. 9-11]
Following Shaw's letter, the bulletin began the proceedings of the convention with the opening address of General Fitzhugh Lee, president of the Jefferson Memorial Road Association. (Lee, a nephew of Robert E. Lee, had served on the Confederate side during the Civil War. After the war, he was a farmer, writer, biographer of his uncle, Governor of Virginia (January 1, 1886, to January 1, 1890), and Consul-General to Havana beginning in 1896 before being reactivated as a Brigadier General for the Spanish-American War in 1898. He retired from the Army in 1901.) After calling the convention to order, General Lee explained the association's twofold purpose:
(1) To give the people of this section of Albemarle County and the city of Charlottesville a lesson in making good roads, and to show them the latest modern improvements in road-making machinery; and (2) to connect the home and tomb of Thomas Jefferson and the University of Virginia and Charlottesville with a splendid broad avenue, in which work we have now made a beginning.
Lee saw no need to extol the value of good roads. "We all know that; but the problem is how to secure the funds to build the roads." He said:
I think the time has come when the National Government should make a great big annual appropriation for public roads in the various States of the Union [applause]; and this is one of the objects in getting these Senators and Representatives here to address us. They don't know much about making good roads; they could throw stone into a stone crusher; they couldn't drive a wagon and distribute the stone, nor run a steam roller to compact it. But we want them interested in this subject of good roads so that when a bill is brought before Congress it can receive their support.
He thought the government appropriation should be divided among the States based on population "or in proportion to its desire to be helped in some way to build good roads." The States would then distribute the money among the counties that were willing to raise a certain amount for the work.
General Lee referred to the appropriation for rivers and harbors:
Now, I am told that nine-tenths of everything that goes either by rail or water transportation goes over the common roads first. Therefore, if you improve the roads, you begin at the foundation of prosperity for the people . . . . Now, inasmuch as good roads are the basis of prosperity both in country and city, why should not the Government appropriate an adequate sum of money annually for road improvement?
Before closing, General Lee returned to the subject of the Jefferson Memorial Road. He knew that some wondered why the memorial road should be the object-lesson road when other county roads needed repair, too. "Very true; but other roads in the county can not get outside money to the same extent that this does, for it is of great historical interest. So, we selected that road for the object lesson, and we think we have made a very wise choice." It was also a practical choice because it illustrated the value of relocation that would apply to many country roads. "We are carrying out this idea between here and Monticello. The old road goes up the hill and down again with a 16-foot grade, but by going around the hill a little way we have got a 4-foot grade." He added:
This road was selected for improvement because some of us, indeed all of us, revere the memory of that great statesman, Thomas Jefferson. We believe that a memorial road to his home and grave will prove an inestimable blessing to all this section of the country. It will bring an increased number of visitors. These visitors will return to their homes filled with patriotic inspiration by the thoughts and deeds of this great statesman. [Applause.] If the great Jefferson, who is sleeping so quietly there at Monticello, could revisit these scenes and find that his countrymen, seventy-six years after his death, are designing this memorial which will stand in lasting attestation to his name and fame, he would surely consider it as the highest compliment that could be paid to him!
. . . Now, then, is it not the duty of those who survive, of all who admire the magnificent character and splendid deeds of that man, to do what they can to connect his university with his home and tomb by a big broad way, over which the pilgrims can annually go and drink at a fountain that never goes dry? [Great applause.] [p. 11-13]
After Mayor C. W. Allen of Charlottesville welcomed delegates to his city, Dr. P. B. Barringer, president of the University of Virginia, spoke on "Lessons from Mecklenburg County, North Carolina." In brief, Dr. Barringer, a native of Mecklenburg County, said:
To make this convention a success we have got to change. That is the long and short of it . . . . If you will do the two things I have said: (1) Declare that you will not waste money on impassable grades and in repairing mud holes, and (2) determine to put in during this next year 2 miles or more of public road well macadamized, you will lay the foundation for future prosperity in this county such as you have never dreamed. [p. 15]
Stuyvesant Fish, president of the Illinois Central Railroad Company, addressed the delegates on "Importance of Getting Together." Fish, who served as president of the railroad company from 1887 to 1906, was a strong backer of good roads; his company had sponsored the first Good Roads Train. Born and educated in New York, Fish said that he had been devoting his time to railroad interests in the South of late. Therefore, he had a basis for comparing the North, where "everything requiring considerable capital was done by a community of interest and a community of capital," and the South, which "inherited the ideas and traditions of large landed properties without proper means of transportation from one to the other, where on each great property the whole work of a town or a village had to be done." He was struck by the lack of a community of interest:
I have been trying for years to get our friends in the extreme South, in the Lower Mississippi Valley, to combine their capital and combine their efforts on these various matters of common interest. You people of the South have opportunities for advancement which are superabundant. You have soil, you have climate, you have standing timber, you have iron and coal in your mountains, but you lack the capacity of getting together in your combined strength and seizing the opportunity. [Applause.]
He explained his interest in good roads:
True, I have labored as the representative of a great railroad corporation, but as such I have always known that no means of transportation, be it a navigable river, canal, railroad, or toll road, can live in prosperity unless its patrons are prosperous, unless the farmer, the miner, the manufacturer, and the proprietor of the sawmill shall continue to produce in increasing quantities valuable commodities for shipment . . . . We do not need more wagon roads, but we need better wagon roads.
Noting that at the time George Washington was elected President of the United States he was serving as president of a transportation company (the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company), Fish concluded:
Now, surely the business of transportation is something worthy the attention of intelligent, patriotic, high-minded citizens of this Republic. [p. 15-16]
Martin Dodge was the next speaker, addressing delegates on "Removing the Burden of Bad Roads." He started by mentioning that he had heard Captain Alexander, author of the Mecklenburg County road law, speak of the difficulty of convincing people that the benefits of good roads outweighed the difficulties:
You simply deceive yourselves when you imagine that you bring burdens upon yourselves by undertaking to improve the highways in a stable and scientific manner. We know very well from the testimony of all persons who are informed upon this matter, that instead of bringing burdens upon the community improved roads invariably raise these burdens from the community. You have these burdens, but you can overcome them. The most encouraging part of the system we are advocating is that these beneficial results can be obtained much more easily than you imagine.
Despite spending millions of dollars on roads in the early 19th century, Dodge said, the Federal Government more recently had "done very little, making only small appropriations from year to year for the purpose of securing useful information and disseminating that among the people." He explained how he came to be involved in the Jefferson Memorial Road work:
I see Lieutenant [C. P.] Shaw [U.S. Navy, retired] sitting in the audience here, and I will say that he first called my attention to the desire on the part of citizens of this vicinity to have something done in highway improvement. He asked me if we could not build an object-lesson road here that would display the essential principles of such work; and I replied that I thought it would be very useful if such an object-lesson road could be built from your city to Monticello. He agreed at once with that, and I sent an expert here to make an examination . . . . He found that the road running up to Monticello had a maximum grade of 16 per cent, and we determined right away that it would be a waste of money, and a display of ignorance, for us to recommend or assist in the improvement of such a road. So I stated that we would not undertake to do anything on the part of the Government unless there could be a relocation reducing the grade to a reasonable maximum. A skillful engineer was employed, and he had made a relocation of that road so that it will be possible to make the ascent with a maximum of only 4 feet in 100 instead of 16 as heretofore. That relocation having been made, I was very glad to do everything in my power to aid in the construction of this road which will become an object-lesson to people in distant places as well as to those in this vicinity . . . .
(Shaw had been an early convert to the cause of good roads. On November 12, 1892, an article in The New York Times reported that reading about General Stone's activities in the Times had prompted him to write to the General. The article said, "Lieut. C. P. Shaw, (retired.) United States Navy, who lives in Albemarle County, Virginia, wrote to Gen. Stone that he had read the article in the Times relating to good roads, and he asked in his communication that he might become a member [of the National League for Good Roads formed by General Stone and associates during a convention in held in October 1892 in Chicago], saying also that he wanted to subscribe to the magazine Good Roads, and would do all in his power to carry out the aims of the league.")
Dodge acknowledged the cooperation of property owners who "have been liberal in giving the right of way," the City Council members and County Commissioners who appropriated funds, the road-machine companies that furnished the equipment, and the Southern Railway Company, which transported the machinery free:
We did not expect to be able to accomplish the entire result of building this road from Charlottesville to the gates at Monticello, but we did expect to locate and begin it so that it will be possible to complete it in the most admirable way . . . . I am greatly encouraged by what I see. I am ready to believe that the results will be more beneficial than almost any of us expected.
Although able to help with object-lesson roads, the OPRI is "not able to build roads, but only to assist, through such cooperation as we have here." In view of the limited appropriations for the work, Dodge explained:
It is said "The Lord helps them who help themselves." Similarly the Government of the United States is endeavoring to help them who are willing to help themselves.
He discussed a common concern:
There is a feeling in some quarters that the Government might be led to do too much, that it might spend too much money, and that it might do things which the State itself had better do.
In response, he pointed out that the low rates of transportation possible by water and rail were supplemented by millions of government dollars. "We have in fact made less progress in improving our highways than in any other direction, and yet there is more need for improvement along this particular line than in any other." He favored the principle of State aid, which tended to equalize the burden of taxation among rural and city residents. [p. 16-21]
The next speaker, Colonel Moore, spoke on the "Work of the Good Roads Train," praising Fish for initially being "the only railroad president having the true conception of the great road problem and the beneficent results that would follow such educational work." In Moore's view, "The road question is the biggest proposition before the people." It would, he thought, be included in the party platforms during the presidential year of 1904 and "when you get these things in the platforms in a short time you will get the best men of the community to take up this road cause and get better results out of the money you are spending."
As for the road to Monticello, Moore said that, 'When we came here we found the road to Monticello in the same fix as it was when Thomas Jefferson used it." The work to improve this road would inspire memorial roads to the homes of James Monroe and James Madison-encouraging Americans to travel to Virginia rather than spend $50 million a year in Europe:
I believe that you can make it pay, because you will bring thousands of pilgrims here that will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in your midst. [p. 21-23]
After Colonel Moore's presentation, Dodge took to the podium for an introduction:
I now have the pleasure of introducing to you my predecessor in the Office of Public Road Inquiries, Gen. Roy Stone. He was virtually the founder of that Office, and is a gentleman of great experience in all lines of road building and perfectly in sympathy with your cause. [p. 23]
Speaking on "The Necessity of Congressional Action in Road Improvement," General Stone explained:
This occasion . . . has a peculiar interest for me, for it carries me back through ten years of my life-years which have been devoted almost entirely to the one object for which we are assembled here to-day-and brings to my mind the hope and fear with which I called the first national convention for good roads ever held in the United States, staking my reputation upon its success and risking, out of a slender purse, the entire cost of the venture.
That convention, held in Chicago in October 1892, resulted in formation of the National League for Good Roads, which helped convince Congress to appropriate $10,000 for the start of the road inquiry in March 1893. Since then, partly because of the agency's work, the movement had grown with the support of commercial, financial, and manufacturing interests "and in late years the National Good Roads Association has come out of the West to push the movement all over the land." He cited the users and makers of automobiles as another powerful interest that would promote good roads:
And not only is every material interest in the land concerned in road improvement, but important moral and social interests are deeply involved as well, and even our national pride has begun to take fire at the national shame of our highways.
As for national funding, General Stone cited several ideas he had promoted while serving in the ORI:
The simplest and most obvious one is that of a direct contribution of a certain share of the cost in cases where suitable State and county aid is given to lighten the local burden. This would involve a National and State supervision of location and construction of roads and disbursement of funds which would secure intelligent work, and would stimulate progress.
Another option was a Federal guarantee of county road bonds "upon condition that the State give to the United States the right to take tolls on the roads to pay interest on the bonds in case of default by the county." Default would be rare because the government backing would result in low interest rates. In addition, he had long favored postal savings banks, an idea that would allow people who did not trust banks to give their spare money to postal banks, which would invest the funds in county road bonds. "Estimating the deposits in the postal savings banks in the United States on the basis of those of Great Britain, we should in ten years have enough to build 1,000,000 miles of stone or gravel roads."
He also recalled his idea of a great national highway-with one branch along the East Coast and another along the West Coast, with the two connected by a transcontinental road connecting at Washington and San Francisco:
It is often easier to do great things than small ones, of the same kind, and this would be something big enough to excite the imagination and stir the pride and patriotism of the country. The time is ripe for it. The old century went out with the triumphs of war and expansion. Let the new one bring in a triumph of peace and internal development.
But whatever form National aid shall take, whether that of direct contribution, a guaranty of bonds, the postal savings plan, a National object-lesson road, or some other form yet to be devised, the day that sees the Government of the United States fully committed to the improvement of the common roads of the country will mark an era in the progress of the Nation and the prosperity and happiness of the whole people. [p. 23-27]
The next day, April 3, Lt. Shaw gave a talk on "The Jefferson Memorial Road." After noting that some "fourteen months ago a casual word of Director Dodge . . . started this ball rolling," Lt. Shaw described the evolution of the project. To determine the need, Lt. Shaw recorded traffic on the existing road-90 vehicles a day, or 45 making the round trip. He then calculated the waste:
The cost of hauling to this point from Monticello is certainly $1 a load-no man could do it for less than that. That represents an expenditure of $45 for the teams, wear and tear, time of the drivers, etc., of which sum at least three-fourths are unnecessarily spent or thrown away, because if that road were improved one-fourth the number of trips of the same vehicles would do an equal amount of hauling. That places us in the position of wasting every day nearly $34, or in the whole year a gross sum of more than $10,000.
Lt. Shaw had tied his work to the need for better roads throughout Albemarle County and Virginia. Convict labor was a key to his concept. With some 1,000 able-bodied men in the State's jails, "we ought to produce about 120 miles of good stone roads every year." If State laws were approved "to give us the benefit of the tramps and vagrants, another thousand laborers would be put on our roads." He was not optimistic:
I do not think this state of affairs is very creditable to our legislature, and I hope that men will be elected who will recognize the interest of the people at large and give us laws by which we can avail ourselves of this great force, which is misdirected or, worse still, is used for the benefit of a foreign corporation.
He mentioned the "recent act which came so near [to] passing" the State legislature and endorsed its provision "to send all short-term convicts to the public roads." He lamented the legislature's failure to approve the bill:
Out of the 540 convicts sent to the penitentiary in 1901, 425 had terms of five years or less, so that one simple amendment to our laws would at once relieve the congestion and would give us a working force. This is a very simple thing to ask of the legislature, and we are going to keep on asking it; and as this movement grows we will demand it [Applause.] The people have rights, and when they rise in their strength and demand them they are going to have them recognized. We are going to fight this out to a finish. This road movement is growing like an avalanche, and will sweep those people out of power who fail to see the people's rights. [Applause.]
In closing, Lt. Shaw explained the significance of the Jefferson Memorial Road as an object-lesson road:
The road was selected for these reasons: At the end of that road, in that shady spot on the mountain side, lie the mortal remains of the greatest statesman Virginia ever produced. I say that without fear or contradiction. Washington was a hero, a soldier, a statesman; Jefferson was without a peer. Now we can get the means to build the road that leads to the grave of such a man as that. His name is revered throughout the length and breadth of this land. Just at this time, when that great exposition is being prepared for in St. Louis in order to celebrate the famous Louisiana purchase, his name is heard everywhere, for his name is associated indelibly with that movement, and thousands of people wish to come here to pay homage to his genius. They come here to visit that tomb; and do they wish to go at the risk of their lives up that wretched gully that we call a road? [Applause.] I went up there a short time ago with some gentlemen through the snow, and it really seemed like risking our lives. Fortunately our horses were sure-footed, and it kept us in the track. We want to improve this. Strangers come here and say: "These people in Albemarle County appear to be satisfied; they surely are not very progressive." We want to remove the stigma of having it carried through the country that we are satisfied to call that a road. We must have a beautiful smooth road, and then people will say that we are progressive. Every day these real-estate men will tell you that customers are driven away because the roads are so bad. We propose to remedy this; that is the object of this work. That road may be the best road leading up to Monticello, but at the same time it is so very bad that it works to serious disadvantage of this vicinity. Jefferson was a great believer in the cause of good roads; he advocated it, he worked for it. If he could see us now working on this road I believe it would be an especially gratifying sight for him, and I want to be one of those to carry to a successful end a reform that he worked for, but which he did not live long enough to see. [Great applause.] [p. 27-30]
Following Lt. Shaw, Professor W. M. Patton, Chair of Civil Engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg, presented a technical address on "Location and Construction of Roads." He began:
This subject of good roads is the most important and far-reaching one before the people of this country to-day. We hear a great deal about money to build these roads. We have already raised the money to build them in the last thirty years. At a low, conservative estimate, we have raised and spent on the roads of Virginia over $10,000,000, and the roads now are no better than they were thirty years ago. Now the question will be asked, Why is that the case? There has been no corruption, no stealing of that money. It has simply been the want of any uniform system, the want of any directing head, and no great and important development can be made on any such basis as that. And if we go on for another thirty years we shall spend another $10,000,000 and have no better roads than we have now. The whole point, then, is the proper expenditure of our money. We have waited thirty years for good roads and yet we haven't them. We do not want to wait another thirty years.
He thought the counties must begin the effort, with the States and national aid to follow. "It takes time to bring about these things, but, in my humble opinion, they will come in time." [p. 30-31]
After Professor Patton discussed road location and grade, the proper surfacing material, and the techniques for building them, the morning session concluded.
Good Roads Magazine reported that around this time:
On April 3, a special passenger train of seven coaches arrived from Washington. Among those who made the journey were Gen. Nelson A Miles, Assistant Secretary Brigham, of the Department of Agriculture; M. O. Eldredge [sic], assistant director of the Office of Public Road Inquiries; Willis L. Moore, chief of the Weather Bureau; Congressmen Livingston, Maddox, Rixey, Caldwell, Thomas, Latimer, Sibley, Kern and Smith, and many officers of the agricultural and other departments of the government. The delegation arrived at the armory at noon and filled the platform. [May 1902, p. 19]
The Assistant Secretary of Agriculture, Colonel Joseph H. Brigham, was the first speaker in the afternoon. Secretary Wilson had intended to deliver the address on "Government Aid in Highway Improvement," but the Assistant Secretary explained that "owing to sickness in his family," the Secretary could not attend. A native of Lode, Ohio, Brigham was a farmer, State Senator, and master of the National Grange. President McKinley considered him for Secretary of Agriculture, but having appointed Ohio's John Sherman to the post of Secretary of State, he did not want to limit the geographic breadth of his Cabinet by appointing another Ohioan. ( Sherman was a former U.S. Representative, Senator, sponsor of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, and Secretary of the Treasury.) Instead, Brigham became Assistant Secretary, a post he held from March 1897 until his death on June 29, 1904. [Century of Service, p. 442]
Col. Brigham began by explaining that agriculture "must ever be the most important industry in the United States of America." He said that, "We might survive the loss of some of the professions . . . but if the farmer should refuse to till the soil for a few short months in the year the world would be brought to the verge of starvation."
He briefly explained how the Department of Agriculture was helping the farmer before turning to the subject of good roads, a topic "that ought to come near to the heart of every farmer especially." The lack of good roads to get produce to town at a reasonable cost was one of the reasons people were leaving the farms. He knew the cost of bad roads from personal experience:
When a boy I settled in northwestern Ohio. We traveled along that magnificent road built by the United States Government, through the black swamp; on either side the water was from 18 inches to 2 feet deep on the level. There were a few log cabins built out there in the water, and the people had to lay logs from the roadway out to their cabins in order to get back and forth. Now there is the best country in the world right along that pike, and that is saying a great deal in addressing people here from the Shenandoah Valley and the fertile plains and valleys of other States. But that soil is rich, and they can work it in the springtime before they can work the gravelly soil or the sandy soil . . . But they had a time with the road question. It is easy to drain the surface water, but not so easy to build good roads where the material is lacking. I know after we left that Government road, we were frequently stuck in the mud, and had to unhitch to get through. And just before I landed at my little cabin where my home was to be for a few years, we got onto one of those "corduroy roads." There was no chinking, no dirt thrown upon it, and to travel over a mile or two of that kind of road would settle the best dinner you can find in the State of Virginia. It was a rough road to travel."
(A corduroy road consists of logs placed perpendicular to the roadway, providing a bumpy but reliable riding surface.)
Col. Brigham continued, "For years we lived in that country contending with the mud and these rough roads, but now we are improving the roads." The farmers were unsure:
You will learn something as you go along, and you will be surprised to see how the work will extend and expand. I think that is the history of every attempt to improve the public highway. Now the farmers-I do not blame them; I am a farmer myself, lived on a farm in Ohio until I moved to Washington-are opposed to heavy taxation; they are strenuously opposed to it, and indeed, can not afford heavy taxation. That was one of the objections they had to improving the roads when it was advocated by Gen. Roy Stone, and the bicycle men, who wanted good roads so they could glide along on their wheels without any trouble at any season of the year.
At this point, the text of the speech noted that Col. Brigham was interrupted "by the entrance of several distinguished visitors, one of whom was General Miles, U.S.A.," the hero of the Spanish-American War and the Commanding General of the U.S. Army. Brigham acknowledged their arrival, particularly General Miles, to applause, noting that he hoped the country never went to war again, but if it did, "we do not want them to travel over the roads where they drown the mules that haul the wagons, as I have known it to happen more than once in war times."
Returning to his speech, Col. Brigham argued that farmers are "unfairly burdened" by taxation, with highways as an example. "I believe that as every man who uses the highway is benefited by the improvement, the general public should share largely in the burden of expense in constructing these highways."
Turning to the role of the Federal Government, he believed that "it is always right for the strong arm of the Government to be extended to help her people in every section of this country." Still, "we can not appropriate money without a limit, without due consideration." As a result, he supported a government appropriation for roads, to be supplemented with funds from State, county, and the locality where the road is constructed. He also thought a reasonable appropriation should be made for the OPRI "for the purpose of leading on in this work.
Brigham, who was 6 feet, 5 inches tall, concluded his speech by saying, "I want to demonstrate the fact that a tolerably long man can make a pretty short speech when it is necessary." He ended:
I want to say in conclusion that we are willing, as a Department, through our Office of Public Road Inquiries, backed up by and sustained by the Secretary of Agriculture, to render you any assistance in our power in the effort to improve the highways of the grand old State of Virginia. [Great applause.] [p. 33-36]
General Lee indicated that he was asking the remaining speakers to keep their speeches short "because we want to get [the distinguished gentlemen] up to Monticello this afternoon to see the former home of Mr. Jefferson, and to witness the progress that is being made on this memorial road." At the same time, he did not want to be disrespectful to the presidents of the two railways that crossed in Charlottesville, both of whom were present:
And I want all of you people here in this vicinity to know Mr. Spencer and Mr. Stevens better, because we are going after them pretty soon for a great big union depot here in your town of Charlottesville . . . We want a big central station, and I think, if you treat these presidents properly and listen to what they have to say, that the station will be the next move after we get the good-roads idea firmly established. [p. 36]
(Samuel Spencer, president of the Southern Railway Company, would address the convention that afternoon, and George W. Stevens was president of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad Company.)
Lee's remarks were greeted with "applause and laughter" by those who had traveled to the city by rail, only to disembark at stations "way down there, and another over yonder in the opposite direction," as Lee put it. [p. 36]
Governor Montague was the next speaker, addressing the convention on "How to Secure Good Roads." He explained that, "The people, and the people alone, can secure good roads." The people must convince the legislature to "pass proper and efficient laws. [Applause.]" He would yield to no executive in the country "in my purpose and desire to attach my signature of approval to a good-roads bill of some character." He described the desired bill:
What we need to do in Virginia is to start the enterprise. Build a few miles of good roads in every county in the Commonwealth and then the roads question will take care of itself by its own momentum. I know of no country on either side of the Atlantic that has ever abandoned the improvement of the public highways after once enjoying the benefits and profits of good roads.
He described Virginia's current efforts:
We are expending something over $500,000 per annum for our public roads. In the past few days I have approved, as executive of the State, a number of bills in which counties have been given the right to bond themselves for road construction and improvement. I beg to accentuate the statement that though we raise a sum for our roads equal to that derived by taxation in New York, yet unless this sum is expended in pursuance of some intelligent design and scientific supervision, we have wasted it. Such design and such supervision has been lacking in this State.
To this end, he favored appointing "a road engineer or a road commission, or both, with sufficient authority." Keep the commission and engineer "out of politics and never let them get into politics." Perhaps the college professors could "select a man or a commission who can build a highway cheaply, honestly, and expeditiously."
Funds could be raised several ways, including bonds and State aid. "I affirm that no county has ever expended its money in the construction of public highways, if intelligently and honestly supervised, that had to increase the rate of taxation either to meet the interest or to pay the principal on the maturity of bonds. [Applause.]" He added that, "We should not, however, overlook National aid." He was confident it would come "in time." The idea that the Constitution prohibited the aid "must fall to the ground."
After endorsing convict labor for good roads, he spoke of Jefferson, quoting a letter he wrote to James Ross:
I experience great satisfaction at seeing my country proceed to facilitate intercommunications of several parts by opening rivers, canals, and roads. How much more rational is this disposition of public money than that of waging war.
(Jefferson wrote this letter on May 8, 1786, while serving as Ambassador to France to James Ross of Pennsylvania, a lawyer who became a United States Senator in 1794. When Jefferson became President in March 1801, Ross, who had worked against Jefferson's election in Pennsylvania, opposed many of Jefferson's initiatives until leaving office in March 1803.)
Governor Montague continued:
Again, he says in a letter to Humboldt that it is more remunerative, splendid, and noble for people to spend money in canals and roads that will build and promote social intercourse and commercial facilities than to expend it in armies and navies.
(This was a reference to the Prussian explorer, Baron Alexander von Humboldt, who had met President Jefferson during a short stay in Washington in 1803 and corresponded with him in later years.)
Therefore, no place and no name can be secured, more properly suggesting the needs and benefits of good roads, than that of Mr. Jefferson.
Governor Montague concluded his presentation with a charge for the delegates:
The people of Virginia should consider this road question, and . . . they should instruct every man who is a candidate for a seat in the general assembly to support a good roads measure. The instant the people show the legislator that their vote is needed to elect him he will be responsive to their demands. Public enterprises of this sort must move slowly but in this Commonwealth they have been moving slowly long enough. I beg you to cooperate with your neighbors and friends to the end of securing the influence and the aid of him who represents you in the general assembly in the passage of such laws as will give this State the unspeakable aid and blessing of good public highways. [Great applause.] [p. 36-39]
General Lee, in introducing the next speaker, General Miles, commented on the need for good roads to move soldiers and artillery. Lee said that:
General Miles has had great experience in all that work. He knows how to build an Indian path; he knows how to make a wigwam; and he knows how to build roads on which to move troops and supplies. I know I represent the sentiment of the people here to-day when I bid him welcome to Charlottesville and to the county of Albemarle. [Great applause.] [p. 39]
Good Roads Magazine stated that "when General Miles rose to address the assemblage it was several minutes before he could be heard" because of the "storm of enthusiastic applause." [May 1902, p. 19]
General Miles, speaking on the "Importance of Good Roads in War and Peace," began by expressing his pleasure in coming "into this beautiful country, to breathe again the pure air of Virginia." He recalled his last visit to the State, during the Civil War as part of the Union army in such campaigns as Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Appomattox:
I remember a long time ago, myself and some companions struggled for four long years to see more of your country. We tried to get down here in this part of the country, but we encountered two almost insurmountable obstacles. One was the wretched condition of your roads, especially at a certain season of the year. I remember they were almost impassable for horses, mules, or wagons, or for those of us who were walking. It was almost impossible to make any progress, for the oftener we put down our feet the more of your real estate we took up.
And then we encountered another obstacle. There seems to be a certain prejudice against strangers [laughter], especially those coming from the section from which we came. I thought the people of Virginia at that time were the most exclusive people I ever saw.
General Miles praised Thomas Jefferson, the great statesman whose work included launching the 1803 Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery that "paved the way of civilization across the continent." With the continent explored, the Nation built its lines of communication, culminating in "our wonderful system of railways [that] probably almost equals those of all other countries combined." He said:
Capital, genius, and enterprise have been devoted to building these great lines of communication. Now it is important to turn the attention of our people to improving the roads that are feeders of these great trunk lines. It is estimated that at least 95 per cent of products have to be moved over the common roads before they reach the railroads or the lines of steamboat communication.
In view of the appropriations for rivers and harbors, General Miles thought that it was time to "draw the attention" of State and Federal legislators to the need to improve country roads, "one of the projects that is bound to contribute to your welfare and happiness." He said:
If there is one thing that indicates the intelligence and civilization of a people it is their means of communication. We find in the ancient cities of the old countries, such as Greece and Rome, the roads there indicate the high intelligence of those people.
After deferring to other speakers on the topic of road making, he concluded his brief remarks:
The safety, the welfare, and the perpetuity of our Republic of eighty millions of people depend largely upon the intelligence of its citizens, and there is no one thing that contributes more to the intelligence and patriotism of a nation than the communication and dissemination of intelligence through the postal department of our Government . . . . Now it is believed that some measure can be adopted by which to promote the construction of better public roads, and thus postal communication and commerce may be still more and more improved. [Applause.] [p. 39-40
The final speaker of the day was Sam Spencer, president of the Southern Railway Company. In introducing him, Chairman Lee pointed out that "the railroads of our country are very intimately connected with our public highways." Spencer, a Georgia native who had attended the University of Virginia after serving in the Civil War, spoke on "The Roads and the Railroads."
He began, "I did not know until our distinguished chairman this morning made his opening remarks why I was invited to be present. I now know that it was a union station at Charlottesville. [Laughter and applause.]" He wasn't prepared to discuss that topic, but was glad to be back in Charlottesville for one of the few times since he had attended the university. His work had given him many opportunities to think about "what is desirable and necessary for the development of the section of country to which I owe my birth as well as my education, and my thoughts have naturally turned to the question of her highways." If the railways "are its arteries," the roads were "its veins." The relationship was apparent to anyone who "devotes his time and attention, as I have, to the building up or the management of those arteries."
He explained that the convention grew out of "an invitation extended by me last July to the National Good Roads Association to inaugurate a movement by means of a good-roads train that should furnish an object lesson to everyone in the Southern States of good-road building." He discussed the work of the train:
The movement of that train I hope has done some good. At all events, so far as my observation goes, it has attracted some attention, and in some cases aroused enthusiasm for an improvement which I regard as the most important one now before us in the development of the South and of the whole country. The work of this train is now in its last stage. It has completed 4,000 miles of an itinerary through 6 States; has built, or been the means of building, 14 or 15 sample or specimen highways, adapted to particular sections in which the work was done, and therefore of the highest value to that section as an object lesson of what could be done by the people. Nothing could be more appropriate than that the last work of this venture should be the construction of a highway from the University of Virginia to the historic home of Jefferson at Monticello. [Applause.]
Highways were, he said, "an adjunct to the civilization, the progress, and the wealth of any country." The good roads issue was "an economic question; it is not a question of sentiment; it is a question of real benefit and progress; and, while there is abundant explanation for the fact, it is none the less true that in the improvement of the highways alone America has lagged behind in the progress of civilization." He briefly described the role of railroads in advancing the country, but said that now the attention was focused on highways:
It has come late, but we may rest assured that the American people will address themselves to that subject with the same force, the same vigor, the same liberality, and the same resource and ingenuity which have characterized them in everything they have done. [Great applause.]
One of the "leading necessities" was to "let people at large [know] what can be done and what has been done, to show them not only by literature, by addresses, and by arguments, but by practical lessons, actual demonstrations, what is necessary to make a highway, how to do it, and what its benefits will be." The goal was to show the farmer that his transportation costs could be reduced by good roads:
And the chief purpose of the recent tour on the Southern Railway has been to show that cheaper transportation was available and ought to be utilized between every farmer's door and his nearest station or market. I know of no better way to bring that question home, and I hope in a measure it has been done.
He discussed the cost of transporting over roads and railways, the latter being much cheaper. "The science of transportation is developed in one case; it is totally undeveloped in the other." After this example, he concluded:
I thank you for your attention, and I hope that the enterprise upon which you are now engaged will meet with all the success which it ought to have and which you expect. [Applause and cheers.] [p. 41-43]
Chairman Lee introduced George W. Stevens of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad Company, who had not prepared remarks, but assured the delegates that "I am heartily in favor of the good-roads movements." [p. 43]
The second day of the convention concluded a few minutes later, so guests could visit Monticello "upon invitation of the present owner, Jefferson M. Levy." [Good Roads Magazine, May 1902, p. 19]
Good Roads Magazine reported that a another "special train from Washington arrived on the third and last day of the convention. It brought 75 persons, among whom were U.S. Senator Mark Hanna of Ohio, ex-Secretary of the Interior Cornelius N. Bliss, and many members of Congress." The afternoon session "was so well attended, despite a rain storm, that the armory was crowded to its doors." [p. 19-20]
W. L. Dickinson, president of the Connecticut Valley Highway Association in Springfield, Massachusetts, addressed the convention on Friday, April 4, on "The Improvement of Our Highways." The technical address discussed the construction of macadam, bituminous macadam, and gravel roads, as well as the importance of maintenance. He concluded, "We should take advantage of the experience of men skilled in this work . . . we shall have in a few years in this progressive and enterprising country the finest system of roads in the world." [p. 47]
Following Dickinson's address, the convention adopted a series of resolutions endorsing the work of the OPRI and NGRA and thanking the Southern Railway for its contribution. Other resolutions thanked Governor Montague for his support of the good roads cause, while expressing deep regret that the State legislature had not passed a good-roads law. Resolutions urged the State to provide instruction in road building at all State-aided institutions; encouraged citizens to ask their representatives in the U.S. Congress to support "an amendment to the interstate commerce act" prohibiting State-to-State shipment of prison-made goods in conflict with free labor; endorsed the use of convicts on road projects; suggested that local communities begin the work of improving their roads "and not defer action in the hope of Federal aid"; and thanking the railroad companies for their contributions.
Binger Hermann, Commission of the General Land Office, presented an historical paper on pioneer road building. After discussing the crude roads of his youth west of the Rocky Mountains, he noted that the government for many years had used its resources to help waterways and railways, while roads fell into disuse. He recalled the National Road, which President Jefferson had approved in 1806 and lived to see it achieve its goals:
He lived to see it a success, and saw conveyed upon its well-planned grades and over its smooth and hard surface hundreds of thousands of people and millions of wealth . . . . It was indeed one vast and continuous caravan . . . . Of Jefferson's historic National road it may be said that, while it has gone out of existence and is largely but a memory, yet the benefits which it achieved in its day in aid of the mighty growth and expansion of our beloved country have left an impress which will continue to the end of time.
He discussed the great Virginians who had contributed to the Nation "whose habitations and associations were all within a radius of not many miles from this spot." He hoped that the Jefferson Memorial Road would lead to similar roads to the homes of the other great Virginians, such as Presidents George Washington, James Madison, and James Monroe. He hoped that Americans today would be inspired by "the exalted spirit which animated these patriotic forefathers, pioneers, roadmakers, and American empire builders."
The text noted that Hermann's speech was followed by "Prolonged applause." [p. 48-53]
General Lee introduced the next speaker, Senator Hanna of Ohio, by noting, "I was wondering how Mr. Hanna happened to be such a fine good fellow, and I have ascertained the reason: His grandfather came from Virginia." Hanna, a native of Lisbon, Ohio, who was raised in Cleveland, had made a fortune as an industrialist. He became a chief advisor to McKinley, helping him become Governor and President. When the new President appointed Senator Sherman to be Secretary of State, the State Legislature selected Hanna to fill the remainder of Sherman's term. Although he was easily returned for a full term in 1900, his influence was reduced following the assassination of President McKinley.
Senator Hanna began his speech on "Southern Development" by explaining why he was there:
I came here at the very earnest solicitation of Hon. Martin Dodge, who is one of my constituents at home; in fact, I may say that it was not an invitation, but a command-I had to come and that was all there was about it. When I told Mr. Dodge that I did not know a thing about roads, he said, "Well, you see, you don't need to. I have a lot of hayseed fellows here that don't know anything else." [Great laughter.] "All we want of you is to come and show yourself and convince the good people of Virginia that you have not got any horns." [Laughter.] I was going to tell the story that your chairman has just told. My grandfather was born in Virginia, within 50 miles of your city; so if I have any horns they were sprouted in Virginia.
In a country as large as the United States, he said, "The question of transportation . . . has been a serious one, and especially so on account of the rapid development and the great expense of territory, people going from the East to the West, and the enormous production of cereal products, of which the surplus must find a market." The goal has been reducing the cost of transportation for "the enormous surplus which we had to send to market in our populous cities and in foreign lands." This "engrossing subject" diverted attention from the "important question of home transportation-the transportation to the city, to the railroad station."
He was interested in the development of the South because every business "has known for years the great natural resources in the South." Although "the subject of roads may seem small in comparison, the interest manifested in this is a demonstration of the fact that the people of the South are awakening to the importance of their own interests." When he assured the delegates that they would have "my hearty sympathy and cooperation," his speech concluded to "Prolonged applause." [p. 53-54]
The next two speakers, U.S. Representatives R. W. Davis of Florida and Charles E. Littlefield of Maine, gave brief addresses. Davis acknowledged he was one of the "hayseeds" Senator Hanna referred to but admitted that while he was interested in the subject of good roads, "I plead not guilty to the charge of knowing anything about it." He, too, had a Dodge story to tell:
It was my good fortune three or four years ago to induce my friend, the Hon. Martin Dodge, Director of the Office of Public Road Inquiries, to visit my State, and to talk to my people upon the subject of good roads. I promised him that if he would go there, a convention of people would meet him; and I so arranged it that they did, and he talked to them on the subject of good roads. Down in Florida, although we have a God-given climate, all who have visited us know that we have little or no soil, that sand prevails all over our State, and that good roads are a difficult thing to be secured there, but the visit of Director Dodge put our people to talking. Communities began to discuss this question of good roads among themselves. They began to subscribe, and county commissioners began to vote public moneys in this direction, and to-day Florida with her sandy soil is coming to the front upon the subject of good roads. [Applause.] If we can do it there, what ought you to accomplish upon these historic old red hills in the grand old Dominion? [p. 54-55]
Representative Littlefield cited the example of his town of Rutland, Maine, where a few years ago, people could not cross the street after a rain "without having on rubber boots, and sometimes the mud could get in the tops of the boots." Rutland decided to pave the streets, despite the concerns of those who objected to the expense. Now, the town has "as fine a lot of streets as you can find in any city or town . . . and there is not a man, woman, or child-because now even the children see the advantages of good roads-that will even harbor the thought of a change back to what existed before." [p. 55-56]
General Lee introduced U.S. Representative Thomas H. Tongue of Oregon, a lawyer and farmer who had been born in England. After serving as Mayor of Hillsboro and in the State Senate, Tongue had been elected to the House in 1896. Lee informed the delegates that Representative Tongue "has just been renominated and, I hear, is going to be reelected." (Tongue was reelected, but died on January 11, 1903, in Washington at the age of 58.) Lee explained that, "We have heard from the North and the South, and now we will hear from the Pacific coast."
Tongue's speech was on "Beneficial Influences of Good Roads." He began:
The movement for good roads . . . concerns not only the pockets, but the health, the tastes, and even the morals of the people.
All Nations, he said, considered the problems of transportation to be "of pressing and exceptional importance." This was reflected in the U.S. Congress, which appropriated millions of dollars for rivers and harbors and aided in development of the Nation's railroad network. The contrast with roads was stark:
While the government has dealt so liberally, expending hundreds of millions of dollars, and granting a wealth of land for the improvement of water and railroad transportation, it has been painfully parsimonious in its appropriation for the improvement of common highways . . . . It is believed that the tonnage of freight and the number of persons carried over common highways equal, if they do not exceed, the tonnage and passengers carried by every railroad train and steamboat in the land. Yet during the last forty years the Federal Government has expended for the improvement of these roads the small sum of $100,000. What has been the result? Just such as might have been expected.
With the encouragement of "the liberal aid extended by the Federal Government," private corporations had expended funds for rail and water transportation:
In railroad and water transportation we excel all competitors. In the condition of our common roads we are behind the least civilized nations of the Old World.
After discussing the cost of freight shipments, which had declined for the subsidized means of transportation, he said that this decline was essential. "The struggle with foreign competitors in order to preserve our markets and maintain our trade and commerce, has forced us to rapid and unusual improvements in this class of transportation." At the same time, the cost of wagon transportation had increased:
The most important problems that now concern the great West from which I come, and which produces in such abundance the healthful, nourishing, and luscious foods needed to feed the workmen in your factories and the crowded inhabitants of your cities, are problems of transportation.
That was why "fruits of unsurpassed flavor and healthfulness, so needed in the East, rot under the trees of Western orchards." Similarly, "timber of unexcelled quality" was "cut down and destroyed."
To achieve the full benefit of the dollars expended for rail and water transportation, "there should be a corresponding improvement of our common roads." Representative Tongue explained:
The common road leads to the railroad station and to the wharf upon the bank of lake or river. The stream can not rise higher than the fountain. Without the common highways and the farm wagon, iron rails would rust upon the track and steamboats rot at the wharf.
The source of capital was key:
While great combinations of capital are seeking to monopolize and control the water and railroad routes, for the improvement of which the Government has expended so much, the common highways belong to all of the people of the United States. No combination of capital can monopolize or control them. The benefits, like the dews of heaven, descend alike upon the just and the unjust, the millionaire and the pauper, the child of the poor, as well as the child of the rich. The people's money expended for the improvement of them will bless all the people. There will be no percentage deducted to increase the full coffers of those already rich . . . . A saving for transportation of persons and property over the common roads would be more widely diffused, would inure to the benefit of more people, and to more people who need it, than a decrease on any other expenditure.
Representative Tongue emphasized that, "Good roads do not concern our pockets only." They would be "instrumentalities for improved health, increased happiness and pleasure, for refining tastes, strengthening, broadening, and elevating character." For the "toiler in the city," the "old and young," good roads would help "sweeten the daily labor with some pleasure." He added:
They are as essential to purity of mind and soul as to healthfulness of body. Out beyond the confines of the city, with its dust and dirt and filth, morally and physically, these are to be found, and good roads help to find them . . . . How the mountains pointing heavenward, yesterday battling with storms, to-day bathed with sunshine, bid you stand firm, walk erect, look upward, cherish hope, and for light and guidance to call upon the Creator of all light and of all wisdom. How such scenes as these kindle the imagination of the poet, quicken and enlarge the conception of the artist, fire the soul of the orator, purify and elevate us all . . . . What poor city scenes can so inspire poetic feeling, can so increase the love of the beautiful, can so elevate and broaden and strengthen the character, and so inspire us with reverence for the great Father of us all? But for the full enjoyment of such pleasures good roads are indispensable.
The roads would help reverse the "present tendency of population to rush into the great cities." After a lengthy list of the benefits of farm life free of the corruptions of the city, he said:
The typical American to-day is the American farmer. The city life, with its bustle and stir, its hurry and rush, its feverish anxiety for wealth, position, and rank in society, its fretting over ceremonies and precedents, is breaking down the health and intellect and the morals of its inhabitants. These must be replenished from the rural home . . . . Nothing will contribute more to this than the improvement of our common roads, to facilitate the means of communication between one section of the country and the other, and between all and the city.
Representative Tongue complimented Martin Dodge. "In proportion to the expenditure of public money, no work is now being carried on by the General Government that will bring so much good to so many people, and particularly to so many of those whom we call the common people . . . ." He invited Dodge and Secretary Wallace to visit Oregon where they would be "surrounded by a wholesome, happy, and prosperous people, while the mountains, like armed sentinels in the night, keep watch and guard over your peaceful slumbers." [p. 56-50]
That was the final speech, as presented in Bulletin No. 25. Chairman Lee stated:
I want to say a word for the purpose of testifying our great appreciation of the interest manifested in this very important subject by the large audiences that have attended the meetings in the armory, and I now declare this convention adjourned sine die. [p. 60]
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