Monday, July 25, 2016

Rolling Roads to roll huge tobacco barrels

Before wheat and the flour mills flourished, tobacco was grown as a cash crop in Maryland, including the Howard district of Anne Arundel County [later Howard County].  Tobacco depleted the soil and was more labor intensive than wheat, but continued to be grown in some eastern parts of the state.  A few roads have retained their original name - Rolling Road, nearby Catonsville for example.  Farmers compressed the dried tobacco leaves to thoroughly fill the hogshead to specified weight (1000 or more pounds) then those in Howard district headed for Elkridge according to Tyson (bottom).

"The Old Method of Getting Tobacco to Market
…the cask containing the weed was rolled to these warehouses on its own periphery. 

The rough farmers who had spent a whole season in cultivating a crop packed it tightly into a cask, 

then drove a long wooden spike into the centre of each end of the compressed mass. This served as an axletree; a split sapling was transformed into a pair of shafts, rude tires were placed around each end of the cask, and a stout horse and a steer trundled this extempore wagon to the capital [Richmond, Va], where its contents were inspected, and then sold. 

Near each warehouse stood a furnace, into which all tobacco unfit for exportation was thrown to be burned."

The Great South: A Record of Journeys in Louisiana, Texas, the Indian Territory… and Maryland by Edward King.  Hartford: 1875

And from Martha Ellicott Tyson - 

"Rolling roads" were also common, and were opened for the transit of tobacco hogsheads, (by the planters who did not live on navigable streams,) from their lands, to Elkridge Landing, and elsewhere…

In order to pass the tobacco hogsheads safely over the "rolling roads," it was necessary that they should be made and hooped in the strongest manner; the tobacco after being dried and stripped from the stems was packed tightly in the hogsheads, and "headed" up; these were then rolled over and over by two men to each hogshead, to the place of shipment. 

The "rolling roads" were generally of a round about description, from the necessity of avoiding hills, and though long out of use, could be distinctly traced on Elkridge, after 1820. Several roads of this description are still distinguishable in Harford county.

A Brief Account of the Settlement of Ellicott's Mills by Martha Ellicott Tyson 1871 [written 1865, read to Md His. Soc. 1870]  
©2016 Patricia Bixler Reber
Forgotten History of Ellicott City and Howard County, Md. HOME

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