Owen 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 Owen County:]
Owen county has 250 miles of turnpike, on which there were about fifty gates. All of these have been destroyed. The turnpike question there is approaching a settlement. It has been voted on twice and carried by immense majorities. A suit was brought last summer enjoining the county from purchasing or maintaining pikes by a number of pike men, the tax having already been levied and was being collected. A few months later suit was brought, and just before Circuit Court gates on every pike in which the county had an interest were torn down and orders left to collect no more toll. Since that time only a few gates were replaced and they were again destroyed. At the last term of court the suit was dismissed and the Fiscal Court has been in session trying to contrive means to make the roads free. The following plan had been agreed upon and will be submitted to the different roads, which in all likelihood will be accepted, as the county owns a majority of the stock in all the roads in this county but three. The basis value of roads to be bought shall be no greater than $1,400 per mile; the basis earnings shall average 12 1/2 per cent. for a period of six years; the road shall be in first class condition; the roads that pay no dividends shall be condemned. Under this proposition the value of turnpikes will be reduced by seventy-five per cent. of their face value. The roads will be maintained at present under the old road system on account of the levy being nearly up to its constitutional limit. The sentiment here is very strong for free roads, and it is doubtful whether the people would permit the gates to go back even if the stockholders refuse to accept the proposition by the court.
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 Mason.