Side A: As he traveled the National Road on August 20, 1835, the last diary entry by Christopher C. Baldwin, librarian for the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts, was, “Start by stage on the Cumberland Road for Zanesville.” Baldwin never reached Zanesville or his ultimate destination, which was to investigate prehistoric mounds in southern Ohio on behalf of the Antiquarian Society. On that day, near this site, he was killed in what is considered to be the first traffic fatality recorded in Ohio. While passing a drove of hogs on the road, the horses pulling the stage became unmanageable and when the driver tried to check their speed on a decline, the stage turned over. Baldwin was riding with the driver and was killed when the stage rolled over on him. Due to the lateness of the season and the distance from his home, his remains were interred in Norwich.
Side B: Authorized by Congress in 1806, the National Road was the nation’s first federally funded interstate highway. National leaders desired an all-weather road across the Allegheny Mountains in order to develop closer political and economic ties between the east and west. Considered to be a significant engineering feat, the Road opened Ohio and much of the Old Northwest Territory to settlement, provided access for Ohio goods to reach eastern markets, and enabled Ohio citizens to play important roles in the affairs of the new nation. The National Road was renowned for the number of quality inns and taverns during the heyday of the stagecoach. The Road declined after 1850 as railroads became the preferred method of travel. The automobile, however, brought new life to the Road. Reborn as U.S. 40, it became a busy twenty-four-hour-day artery, with truck stops, motor courts, and diners until superseded by the interstate highways in the 1960s.
Sponsors: National Road-Zane Grey Museum, American Antiquarian Society, and The Ohio Historical Society