“P” is for Plank Roads
Plank roads enjoyed a brief popularity in the early 1850s, touted as an inexpensive and effective means of improving short-distance travel. Thick planks were laid across wooden stringers in a roadbed, creating a smooth, level surface for wagons and other road traffic.
Russia was the first country to construct plank roads and by the 1850s the idea had spread to Canada and the United States. Between 1849 and 1853, the General Assembly chartered ten plan-road companies. Several were built, the longest, the Edgefield and Hamburg plank road extended twenty-six miles. Despite their initial promise, plank roads were expensive to build and even more costly to maintain, requiring constant maintenance to replace worn timbers. Plank road companies soon found themselves deeply in debt, and most were out of business by 1860.