September 23, 2014

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Harrison: once gated but not snobby
Written by Terry Viel   
Tuesday, January 15, 2013 7:57 PM

Late in the 19th century, Harrison was a “gated“ community. Not a gated community of snobby people like the ones who live in a Florida community of villas, but Harrison was part of the Turnpike system, having a tollgate on the state line.

Just like today when the word toll is mentioned by a politician or is an item on the local news, citizens have a negative reaction. Before turnpike trusts existed the general public was used to using the road systems for free.

The toll helped to maintain the roads, circa 1890. The roads at that time were primitive dirt paths traveled on by horse and buggy. The people still objected to the toll; some would even jump over the tollgate to avoid paying. To decrease the chance of this happening, spikes (or pikes), were placed on top of the gates, hence the term (turnpike).

In 1833, the Cincinnati, Columbus and Wooster Turnpike Company chartered construction of a macadamized or turnpike road from Cincinnati to Lebanon and Springfield, and from Cincinnati to Harrison. The Harrison turnpike section ran from Cincinnati 20 miles to the Indiana state line at Harrison.

The Harrison section was completed in 1841, via Miamitown, running about where US 52 is now. The  photograph with this article, circa 1895, shows Harrison’s Turnpike tollgate on State Street, near the old original standpipe.

The building on the left is the standpipe operations facility still standing at this location today on State Street. The little cottage on the right was the gatekeeper’s residence. Living on the site of the tollgate allowed  little contraband or gatecrashers to get through, much less any undesirables from places as Gobbler’s Knob in Indiana. The gatekeeper’s cottage is intact on the State Street location.

Fares levied at the tollgate of the Turnpike system on the people with carriages and wagons were quite interesting for sure. For example, a four-wheeled cart drawn by one horse or oxen was 18 3/4 cents, any sled or sleigh drawn by one horse or oxen a whopping 12 1/2 cents, additional horse or oxen 6 1/4 cents.

Each horse or rider also was 6 1/4 cents, 1 cent for each head of meat cattle, ½ cent  for each head of hogs or sheep, 3 cents for every horse, mule or ass more than six months old.

We certainly did not want any cheap asses or young punky asses in Harrison. How did the gatekeeper check the age of the livestock? Not really sure. Maybe they had IDs like a birth certificate or possibly a fake draft card.

When you read about the controversial toll bridge to span the Ohio River in Cincinnati just remember that tolls and tollgates were highly discussed more than a century ago.

If you happen to be driving down State Street at the location of the old Harrison tollgate, you’re (E-Z Pass) may ding and you will see a bill charged to your credit card for toll at Harrison Turnpike in amount of $6; or 3 cents for each horse of your 200 hp Honda.

Terry Viel is an avid Harrison history buff who collects and restores vintage Harrison photographs.