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Some Early History of Beaver County
Highways and Cars
Milestones Vol 13 No 2 Summer 1988

October 1929 was the first compulsory examination of automobiles designated by the State Department of Motor Vehicles. The period continued for six weeks until November 15, 1929. During that time every automobile owner had to take his machine to one of the authorized inspection stations and have the brakes, lights, steering gear and other important parts examined. If any defects were found the owner had to have the defect repaired within two days or the operator of that vehicle was liable to arrest. In 1902 there were 22 automobiles registered in Beaver County. I doubt if there would be so many cars on the highway today, if the owners had to go to the trouble they did in 1902. First the motorist had to go to the court house and register his machine, then he went to a hardware store and purchased metal figures similar to house numbers. He then went to a Saddler and got a large piece of leather upon which he was compelled to refit these numbers. He then got a piece of rope, wire or bolts and attached this to his machine. He was then ready to go, if he had sufficient gasoline. There were no gasoline stations so you went to the nearest drug store and if you were lucky you got a quart. Many visits to other drug stores resulted in the same amount, and after visiting several and possibly a dry cleaner, he used gasoline to clean clothes, you had enough gasoline to go for a short drive. The price per gallon was 9 cents. A Mr. Thornily was known to have a large bunch of keys to private garages and he delivered 5 or 10 gallons of gasoline regularly. He would be bothered so often on the Sabbath that he made it a practice to be absent from home every sabbath to avoid serving them.

Construction for a New Highway

January 1921. From Sunflower to Butler a distance of 28 miles was started early in the spring of 1921 and the Unionville Hill was graded down to about a 10% grade. The work was done by agreement with the farmers and the State Highway. To raise funds for incidental expenses a committee of farmers solicited subscriptions in New Brighton and Rochester with great success.

May 1921. Contracts were let for more than three miles of highway in North Sewickley and New Sewickley Townships by the State Highway Department at Harrisburg. The bids figured at a cost of $53,000 per mile.

October 1921. The road from Rochester to Freedom was opened and with this opening the worst section of highway in Western Pennsylvania ceased to exist.

December 1921. A mile of new road as completed from Monaca to the Union Cemetery. The road work

started June 1 and was completed Dec. 8, 1921. This road was a great satisfaction to the farmers and others traveling this vicinity as the rains made it impassible at times.

1924. The Conway-Freedom Boulevard Construction was underway and detours were directed from 9th Street in Freedom through Crowe's Run and down the Baden Hollow to connect with Baden Road South of Conway.

February 1925. Commissioners Art W. Coombs and Enoch Engle went to Harrisburg to confer with Highway officials for the improvement of Tuscarawas Road through Ohio Township and Atty. D.B. Hartford, Dr. W.M. Yost and Harper McGaffic representing Brighton Township accompanied them. The first efforts to bring about improvements on Tuscarawas Road were in 1907. The State Highway advertised for bids, but for some reason which were not explained the contract was never awarded.

1929. The County planned to spend $2,500,000 on County Roads and Bridges. This included roads which were under construction both concrete and slag. Monaca-Rochester Ohio river bridge and 2 smaller ones. One in Raccoon Township and the other in South Beaver Township. Funding in part was reimbursed by the State under the recently enacted Wheeler Bill. The Roads include roads in North Sewickley, Raccoon and Green Townships, Frisco to Zelienople, Hanover Township f rom Lincoln Highway to Harsheyville to Frankfort Springs at the Washington County Line.


The Darlington Road, the direct route between Pennsylvania and Ohio is probably the most used state road in the county. The traffic at times is very heavy and we hear no end of complaint about the congestion caused by trucks and other heavy vehicles. This brings us to the point that carefully compiled statistics show that pleasure cars kill more people than commercial vehicles. Pleasure cars seem to be a misnomer.


The pedestrian has no chance at all. He used to walk over the muddy road without fear when the horse was the only means of locomotion. Then came the street car and he had to watch a little. The Auto made him nervous and alert with the present traffic conditions with autos, trucks, street cars, buses, etc., the pedestrian is in a condition of confusion. Now a new menace comes - a fellow along the avenue told of standing at 11th Street for a chance to cross the street when an "Austin" came along and ran up his pant leg.

From the files of the Resource and Research Center for
Beaver County and Local History, by Vivian McLaughlin, Director