The most important early turnpike was the one known as the National Road because it was made by the national government. It extended at first from Cumberland to Wheeling, and was afterward carried farther.
Proposed in Congress in 1797, an act providing for its construction was passed nine years later, and the first mail-coach carrying the United States mail travelled over it in August, 1818. It was a splendid road, sixty feet wide, of stone broken to pass through a three-inch ring, then covered with gravel and rolled down with an iron roller. One who saw the constructive work on it wrote:—
“That great contractor, Mordecai Cochran, with his immortal Irish brigade—a thousand strong, with their carts, wheelbarrows, picks, shovels, and blasting-tools, graded the commons and climbed the mountain side, leaving behind them a roadway good enough for an emperor.”