Before Michigan became a state, a national military road was built to connect Chicago with Detroit. Territorial roads were also built. I presume they were financed by the federal government because there was no state government at the time, but I must confess that I don’t know quite how they were financed. I’ve seen old newspaper notices from the early 1830s that solicited bids for construction of the Chicago Road (i.e. the Chicago-Detroit road). I don’t know if the Territorial Roads were handled similarly.
The Territorial Road in the photo, now a county road, runs parallel to the Ohio border in Hillsdale County, and only a half mile from it. It seems a strange place for one of the first roads in the state. Roads didn’t usually just run along the border — they tended to connect centers of activity – or future centers of activity. The 1879 history of Hillsdale County says it was established in 1832, at the same time as the Black Hawk war. There are other, more authoritative sources of information about early roads, but none handy to me at the moment. So for now I’ll just have to add this to my long list of questions to wonder about.
My youngest son and I rode along this road on a Sunday afternoon in June 2000. We came on an Amish buggy towing three young men on roller blades. Two of them were being towed by tow ropes at any one instant, while the 3rd coasted. They would hand off one of the ropes to the one coasting in a sort of braiding-the-ropes sequence, the one coasting would give himself a big boost with the tow rope, and then hand off to the next one coasting. A girl was driving the buggy for them. We followed them a long ways, it seemed, finally catching up to them when they stopped by the side of the road to catch their breath. “Looking good!” I told them as we passed by. One of them nodded and smiled in acknowledgement. The Amish people who live here are more conservative than those further west, to judge by their clothes, but that doesn’t mean not having fun on Sunday afternoons.