POUND RIDGE, N.Y. During the 17th and 18th centuries, Pound Ridge had no such thing as a highway department to maintain its roads. Instead, all the men in town, particularly the property owners, were expected to chip in.
Richard Major, a former town historian and member of the Historical Society, discovered documents in the town highway garage more than 30 years ago that laid out the various road districts from those bygone eras and revealed how many days each citizen was expected to donate labor toward maintaining the passageways. He has since coalesced these road lists into easy-to-read documents that are being made available to the public for personal research projects. He began the task about a year and half ago.
[The road lists] date from 1798 to 1892, Major said. All men over 21 had to work on the roads. Each district had overseers. Anyone over 21 had to work one day, but property owners had to work more, based on how much property they owned. So, these lists act as kind of like of census. You can see who was in town and in what years.
Major said that after 1850, the documents show the names of the entire household. But prior to that, they just revealed the name of the head of household, whether there was a wife, and the number of children.
If a woman was widowed, or owned the property on her own, which was rare, Major said he wasnt sure how the road maintenance obligation was handled.
With women, I assume they got someone to do it for them, he said.
Major has alphabetized all the names on the road lists and cross referenced them in a second volume that lays out the various road districts and the specific roads they contained. He said they act as good reference material for anyone trying to research the towns history or discover information about the background of a particular house.
"Now, you can look a particular name and see what district they were in and for how long and figure out what road they were on and what property they owned," he said. "People will ask me, what can you tell me about my great great grandfather. I can now look up the name and see what years he lived here and when he first showed up in Pound Ridge. Its another tool to help make research easier.
Without computers, Major said, the task would have been impossible. He said several people have tried to reorganize the road list documents in the past but never completed the project.
Computers are a godsend, he said. My wife did a program for me that allowed me to alphabetize everything. Otherwise, I dont know if I could have done it.
Major has transferred the newly organized road lists documents, which are in two volumes by name and by district onto CD, which are for sale to the public for $25. Call 914-764-4333 for more information.
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