Looking more like an ancient tombstone, the stone marker at the bottom of the hill before you, tucked inside the guardrail, was once used to denote mileage to Baltimore along the Baltimore and Frederick-Town Turnpike, also known as the old National Pike.
Long before automobiles sped along this corridor and synthetic materials were used for highway signs, mileage signs were literally carved in stone! Although it has worn away over time, handchiseled letters and numbers once read 35 M To B, and meant 35 miles to Baltimore.
This tradition dates back over 2000 years to the road builders of the Roman Empire, and it continued in 19th century America.
Forty-five markers were placed along the turnpike from Baltimore to Frederick, one mile apart, primarily on the north side of the road. Mile stones were a welcome sign for a weary traveler plodding along at a slow pace in a horse-drawn carriage or wagon. Heavily laden wagons often covered only a few miles a day.
Although built to last, the permanency of some mile stones has been usurped by road improvements that accommodated modern travelers. Only a few remain in their original places.
Look for remaining mile stones on your journeyalong the Historic National Road.
Traffic Jams Are Nothing New
This stretch of the National Pike once bustled with merchants and farmers transporting raw materials and farm products in horse-drawn wagons to markets in the east. James Buckingham, an early traveler on the road, described his fellow passengers as "being farmers, country dealers, and speculators, passing from town to town" and noted a "spirit of mutual forbearance and good nature."