What is New is Also Old – Tolls: Have You Explored these Records for Your Ancestors?

Elwell Ferry, Cape Fear River photo

The concept of tolls is not new. Depending on where your Tar Heel ancestor lived and, especially if a body of water needed to be crossed or a new turnpike was recently put into operation, tolls/fees were paid. How many of you have cars with E-Zpass/NC QuickPass or similar toll transponders? This is the modern way of collecting tolls from those traveling by car. Eighteenth century records clearly document requests for and approval of tolls for roads, bridges, ferries, and canals. If you were willing to “pay,” you could take the shorter/quicker/easier route from Point A to Point B. If not, then your journey was typically longer and harder.

From the perspective of state and local government, what better way to pay for infrastructure projects than to charge tolls to recoup construction costs and produce a profit to provide maintenance. Did your ancestor pay tolls? Let’s explore legislation, private enterprise and surviving records, and other documentation that might just answer that question.

(Image source: “Elwell Ferry, Cape Fear River”, photo by Gerry Dincher, Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED.)

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