Ridge Turnpike Company account records

Collection Amb.576

(0.5 Linear feet ; 1 box, 3 volumes)

Summary Information

Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Ridge Turnpike Company account records
Date [inclusive]
0.5 Linear feet ; 1 box, 3 volumes
Finding aid prepared by Weckea D. Lilly.
The collection contains contains a daybook, receipt book, and journal the Ridge Turnpike Company. After the formation of the company in 1811, with approval of the state legislature, its board of managers collected subscriptions for a number of wealthy men thereby solidifying a strong stock-holders base which allowed for the construction project to begin. As the major concern here was financial stability, the majority of the information contained here concern those matters and some legal and state regulatory affairs.

Preferred citation

[Indicate cited item or series here], Ridge Turnpike Company account records (Amb.576), Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

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Background note

Early historical accounts suggest that Ridge Road dates back long before the days of William Penn. According to popular lore, the Ridge Road was believed to have been a major trail used by Native American inhabitants. Before it was called Ridge Road, other names included "the Great Road leading to Plymouth," and Manatawny Road. Willard suggests that it was renamed Ridge Road for the "ridge of hills lying between the Schuylkill River and Wissahickon Creek" that it ran along.

W. A. Newman Dorkand dates the opening of the road in 1700, “and was one of the early arteries leading from the white marsh district into Philadelphia” (p. 284). Edwin Iwanicki (1967) further noted that, “Without it there would have been virtually no access to the saw and corn mills built at the mouth of Wissahickon Creek, five miles from Philadelphia” (p. 326). As the Wissahickon Creek was the closet thoroughfare to Plymouth Township, the inhabitants there petitioned the courts that a “cartway” be extended so as to improve their access to the mills and the city. Their initial request was denied; however, following two additional requests, a road was laid out and planned by Thomas Fairman, a surveyor, in 1706 from Wissahickon Mills to Perkiomen Creek. As the original request had been rejected twice by the courts, to clarify the reason for the rejection, the court decided that “there [should] be no disturbance or molestation to the inhabitants of the Plymouth Township” (p. 327). Another telling of the history of the road seems to suggest that earlier requests were made to reroute Ridge Road has it sometimes because incredibly difficult to pass through, especially after a rain. Petitions were requested in 1754 and 1786 (3 such petitions in this single year) before the rerouting it through Roxborough so as to pass over what was called Van Deven's Hill, described as rocky and steep. Because of the early industries there in lime, grain, and lumber it was an important and necessary contribution to the city’s roads and commerce.

These early uses of the road, primarily for commerce, resulted in rough conditions of the road itself. There were many complaints made by folk there in industry, and the denizens who populated the area in its early history who sojourned along its route. From The Diaries of Sidney George Fisher therein he observed, “Came home by the School-House land and Ridge road, which takes one thro the finest scenery in the neighborhood to the city” (p. 466). While the scenery offered one such delight, on the other hand, the conditions of the road gave one much freight and distress: “the trip to the city could be frustratingly inconvenient, for the surface of the Ridge Road varied from mud to dust in accordance with prevailing weather conditions” (p. 338). Further, citing the Duc de la Rochefoucauld Liancourt's description of the road 1795 that, “This road, like all the public road[s] in Pennsylvania, is very bad, for provision is brought to that city from all parts in large and heavy laden wagons. The constant passage of these wagons destroys the roads, especially near the town, where several of them meet. Ridge Road is almost impassable” (p. 338).

The complaints led to the formation of the Ridge Turnpike Company. The company was established in 1811 commencing with a meeting at the Point Breeze Tavern where Israel Israel served as its chairman, and Samuel Keemle its secretary. A bill was passed by the Pennsylvania State Senate and House of Representatives to construct an “artificial road” along the “old Ridge Road.” The legislature appointed several commissioners including, General Francis Swain, James Sharswood, Henry Nixon, Joseph Starne, Matthias Harrison, Francis Deal, John H. Duy, John Marclay, Alexander Crawford, Nathan Levering Jr, and Levi Rawling. The act of incorporation instructed that the commissioners “shall on or before the first day of June next, procure two or more books, and in each of them enter as follows, ‘We whose names are hereunto subscribed, do promise to pay to the President and Managers of the Ridge Turnpike Company, the sum of fifty dollars for every share of stock in the said Company set opposite to our respective names, in such manner and proportions, and at such times as shall be determined by the Board of Managers of the said Company, in pursuance of an Act of the General Assembly’.”

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Scope and content note

The Ridge Turnpike Company account records consist of three volumes. Volumes 1 and 2 showing the those persons who purchased a subscription (or stock) the in the Ridge road construction project. Volume 3 contains minutes of the company's Board of Managers. Other than the list of stockholders that might be gleaned from these records, they also reveal the sundries expense account held with the Bank of America, stock expences payments, and toll collections. Of the sundries accounts with the bank and toll collections, it appears that Stephen Girard either made several payments to the board of managers or the various toll collectors. In none of the histories reviewed here is listed as a member of the board, a stockholder, or a toll collector. However, it is noted in minutes that a $10,000 credit had been procured from Stephen Girard. So, his connection thus was simply that of a banker.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

 Historical Society of Pennsylvania , July 2016.

1300 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA, 19107


This collection is available for research.


Volumes 1 and 2: Gift of Mrs. G. Lloyd Wilson, 1958.

Volume 3: Purchase, 2005. (Accession number 2005.115)

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Controlled Access Headings

Personal Name(s)

  • Girard, Stephen, 1750-1831.


  • Roads--Design and construction.
  • Roads--Maintenance--19th century.
  • Roads--Pennsylvania--19th century.
  • Turnpikes--Pennsylvania--19th century.
  • Turnpikes.

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A History of Philadelphia (scrapbooks) By Thompson Westcott (Collection 3443), The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Hastings, William S. "Philadelphia Microcosm." The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. Vol. XCI, No. 2 (1967): 164-180).

Iwanicki, Edwin. "The Village of Falls of Schuylkill." The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. Vol. XCI, No. 3 (1967): 236-341.

Miles, Joseph Starne., and William H. Cooper. A Historical Sketch of Roxborough, Manayunk, Wissahickon. [Philadelphia: G. Fein & co., 1940.

Pennsylvania. The Act of Incorporation of the Ridge Turnpike Company, With the Subsequent Supplements. Philadelphia: King & Baird, printers, 1852.

Roxborough, Wissahickon, and Manayunk in 1891. Press of Clarence Jacoby, 1891.

"The Diaries of Sidney George Fisher 1832-1839." The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. Vol. LXXVI, No. 4 (1952): 440-467.

Willard, Walter. The Ridge Road: A Paper Written and Read At the Monday Morning Class of the New Century Club Conducted By Miss Jane Campbell, April 22, 1918. Philadelphia: Press of J.B. Lippincott Co., 1918.

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Collection Inventory


Accounts-Receipts daybook 1 1811-1815 


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Accounts-Receipts daybook 2 1811-1822 


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Board of Manager's meeting minutes 1811-1822 


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Box Folder

Items removed from volumes 

1 1

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