From Springfield, Ohio, the National Road struck an arrow straight course
toward Indianapolis, Indiana. At least the surveyor's stakes and tree
stumps did. When congress authorized extending the National Road to the
Mississippi River, they decreed that it form the shortest path between the
capitals of the new states of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. People in
Dayton and Eaton lobbied for bringing the road through their cities but
that was not to be. Even though the deviation would have added just four
miles to the route, President Jackson went with the letter of the law and
sent the surveyors straight to Richmond. A few years later, in 1838, the
actual road reached Springfield and the last allocation of federal funds
for the road was made. The surveying and clearing of the National Road
right of way continued on to Vandalia, Illinois, but the government's
construction of a finished and paved road did not. That ended just
forty-five miles west of Columbus and Springfield became known as "the
town at the end of the pike".
An 1896 Dayton newspaper article, in reminiscing about the ciy's earlier days, calls the end of federal funding "a happy incident" that "gave the enterprising men of Dayton an opportunity". Those "enterprising men" stepped in with a pair of companies. The Dayton and Springfield Turnpike Company connected those two cities and the Dayton and the Western Turnpike Company constructed a road from Dayton to Eaton to Richmond. Boosters also erected a sign at the Springfield fork claiming that the National Road followed the south branch and lined the branch with copies of the mile stones used on the real National Road. But it wasn't this subterfuge that turned travelers. It was the superior road. Between Springfield and Richmond, it was the fake National Road - the Dayton Cutoff - that carried the majority of traffic.
That was all in the first half of the nineteenth century. In the century's second half, railroads filled most of the long distant transportation needs of the country while roads and canals lost traffic and the financial support that comes with it. But attention returned to roads around the turn of the century when people on bicycles and in automobiles started exploring. Besides illuminating the rather shabby condition of most local roads, that attention revealed the complete lack of long distance, country crossing, roadways. Several groups set out to fill that need with coast to coast named highways and one of those included most of the Dayton Cutoff.
In forming a coast to coast route, the National Old Trails Road Association strung together a variety of trails and roads including the old National Road. Most organizers of the various named highways were practical folks and those of the NOTRA were certainly no exception. When they selected their route in the second decade of the twentieth century, the official National Road north of Dayton had not improved much at all in the years since the Dayton and Springfield Turnpike had first enticed travelers away from it. How could it? First it had to compete with the commercial interests of Dayton and Eaton. Then, when the disastrous flood of 1913 lead to a major flood control project, two of the project's five dams were directly in the National Road's path. Some minor improvement had inched into the Springfield-Richmond gap but not much. West of Brandt, OH, the road remained a gravel covered path at least as late as 1925.
So the NOTR went with the existing roads and with the existing flow of traffic. In addition to the original cutoff route that the turnpikes promoted, other roads had developed and formed variations of the cutoff's east end. Lower Valley Pike, Carlisle Pike, and Brandt Pike were all used to reach Dayton from the National Road. The NOTR stuck with the National Road as far west as was practical then headed toward Dayton along Brandt Pike.
But, as was seen in the original refusal to bend the road through Dayton, government organizations don't always restrict themselves with practical concerns. When Ohio assigned route numbers in 1923, the old federal route became, literally, the state's number one road. And the full route through Ohio was incorporated into US-40 when the American Association of State Highway Officials' (AASHO) nationwide numbering scheme was adopted in 1926. OH-1, like the same numbered TV channel or a popular athlete's uniform number, was retired.
The trip I've attached this to follows the original Dayton Cutoff from Springfield to Richmond. But it also covers the NOTR version by tracking Brandt Pike north to the National Road to reach the cutoff's eastern end.
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