The National Road and Zane’s Trace: Historic Pathways to the West
This remarkable institution is a treasure trove of knowledge and a bridge that connects the past to the present, providing visitors with an opportunity to explore the diverse and storied history of Clark County.
The National Road: The Road to the West
The National Road, authorized by the federal government in 1806, holds the distinction of being the first major improved highway in the United States. Its primary purpose was to provide a safe and efficient route for settlers, traders, and travelers heading west. Stretching from Cumberland, Maryland, to Vandalia, Illinois, it was a 600-mile marvel of early American engineering.
Westward Expansion Catalyst
The National Road, often called the “Main Street of America,” was pivotal in westward expansion. It allowed for the efficient transportation of goods, people, and ideas, paving the way for the growth of the Midwest and beyond. Ohio, in particular, was a crucial segment of the National Road, with its route passing through towns like Zanesville, Columbus, Springfield, and Dayton.
Historic Bridges and S-Bridge in Zanesville
One of the most iconic features of the National Road in Ohio is the historic S-Bridge in Zanesville. This stone bridge is a testament to early 19th-century engineering and reminds us of the road’s legacy.
Historic Inns and Taverns
The National Road was lined with inns, taverns, and stagecoach stops, offering rest and sustenance to weary travelers. These historic structures have been lovingly preserved and now serve as museums, restaurants, or private residences, providing a window into a bygone era.
The National Road Today
Today, the National Road is recognized as a National Scenic Byway, attracting travelers interested in its historical significance and scenic beauty. Roadside markers and museums along the route provide insight into the history of the road and the people who traveled it.
Zane’s Trace: The Pioneer’s Path
The construction of Zane’s Trace was a remarkable feat of determination and resourcefulness. It was carved through thick forests and rugged terrain to provide a navigable route for those seeking to settle in the Ohio Territory. This path opened up the region to European settlement and development.
A Trail Blazed by Courage
Before the National Road, Zane’s Trace was one of the earliest routes through the wilderness of the Ohio Territory. Established by Colonel Ebenezer Zane in the late 1700s, this path connected Wheeling, Virginia (now West Virginia), to Maysville, Kentucky, and Limestone, Kentucky (now part of Maysville). Zane’s Trace was a critical pathway for early pioneers.
Zane’s Trace and the National Road often shared the same path. As the National Road expanded, it absorbed portions of Zane’s Trace, further highlighting the historical importance of these routes.
Exploring the Legacy
Today, the National Road and Zane’s Trace offer a journey back in time, allowing travelers to explore the history and heritage of westward expansion in the United States. Roadside markers, historic sites, and museums provide insights into the challenges and triumphs of those who ventured into the unknown, shaping the landscape of the Midwest.
The National Road and Zane’s Trace are more than mere roadways; they are living history lessons that connect us to the pioneers and settlers who built the foundations of the United States. These historic routes remind us of the spirit of exploration and adventure that has always driven our nation forward.