Mason Toll Roads
In the late eighteenth century, one of the hot local issues in many Kentucky counties was the freeing of roads. Roads at that time were virtually all toll roads, and that meant you paid a gatekeeper to pass on any given road. Sometimes the gatekeeper used the tolls to pay for the upkeep of the roads, or pikes; other times, the gatekeeper just collected the toll. But as some counties and cities began buying out the gatekeepers, removing the toll gates, and “freeing” the roads. It became a subject of some controversy, and in many counties, the cause of the violent burning of the tollgates.
The Louisville Courier Journal, on December 6, 1896, ran a county by county synopsis of what was happening in the various counties on toll gates. Here's what they had to day about Mason County:
Would Sell for $200,000
“In April, 1895, the Mason County Court of Claims, proceeding under a private-act of the Legislature passed in 1885 to enable Mason county to provide for free pikes, elected Dr. John A. Reed, Squire John E. Wells, and Timothy McAuliff Turnpike Commissioners. The Hill City pike, the Kenton Station pike, the Jersey Ridge pike, and several other pikes transferred their stock and franchises to the county. This free turnpike movement was nipped in the bud by an injunction proceeding which the Court of Appeals finally decided in favor of free pikes. Most all of the smaller turnpike roads have surrendered their stock and franchises to the county and are being operated by the Turnpike Commissioners as free roads. A twenty-cent levy for free pike purposes was collected this year. The main roads leading into Maysville have offered to sell to the county for a sum aggregating nearly $200,000. The Turnpike Commissioners are improving the pikes already free and are trying to buy the pikes not free. The question of free pikes was ordered submitted to a vote of the people at the November election, but for some cause was not submitted.
“There is much complaint among taxpayers because the county collected $20,000 this year to spend on free pikes while the leading turnpikes are collecting a toll as usual. The people want all the pikes made free or none. It is believed that Mason county will soon have all pikes free.”
From the Louisville Courier Journal, December 6, 1896. Other counties in the Northern Kentucky Views area, mentioned in the Courier's article, were Grant, and Owen.