Harvesting the River
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  History of Plank Toll Roads on the Illinois River

Before the construction of railroads, people traveled on either dirt trails or plank roads. Plank roads were big business in Illinois in the 1840s and by 1851 there were over 600 miles of these toll roads in the state. Advertisements pictured plank roads as the "farmer's road" or the "poor man's road." In 1849 the Illinois legislature passed the Plank Road Bill of Enactment and amendments to regulate the quantity and quality of plank roads. It spelled out how owners of the roads could acquire land and right of way, how they could use parts of county and state roads, and how to protect their investments from vandalism and evasion of tolls by users.

Companies were started by adventurous entrepeneurs who built and developed the frontier. Plank roads had a brief life before being made obsolete by the building of the railroads in 1860. The local plank roads along the Illinois River were the Rushville to Frederick Road, the Canton to Liverpool Road, and the Beardstown to Bluffs City Road.

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