To label early road transportation as slow would be an understatement. The early “roads” were merely paths through thick forests, deep with mud when it rained, and rough and rocky at all times.
The early plank roads, made from the all-too-abundant trees, came into popularity in the late 1840s and 1850s. These somewhat smoother thoroughfares were basically built where the railroads did not go and were utilized by local farmers. The builders followed common specifications, much the same as for early Hillsdale Village sidewalks, only wider. Many owners attempted to collect tolls on these early roads … and many users avoided the toll by driving around the gate before curving back to the planks.
The 1879 History of Hillsdale County, Michigan relates how the Hillsdale and Reading Plank Road Company completed a plank road between Reading and Hillsdale in 1855, only to abandon it as a bad idea two years later.
Carol A. Lackey 2015