Madison County - Genealogy Trails






Great Plank Road





Pursuant to notice, previously published, a large meeting of the citizens of the counties of St. Genevieve, Madison, St. Francois and Perry, was held at New Tennessee, in Ste. Genevieve County, on the 5th day of April 1851, for the purpose of taking into consideration the advantages  and practicability of constructing a plank road from St. Mary, on the Mississippi River, to the Iron Mountain and Pilot Knob.


The meeting was organized by calling Col. Josera Coffman to the Chair, Charles Gregoin was appointed Vice President, and George Griffith Secretary.


Miles A. Gilbert, by request, in a clear and impressive manner addressed the meeting, in explanation of the objects which had called the people together.


H. Blackledge also addressed the meeting, and, in a very happy and lucid manner, gave his reasons why St. Mary was the most suitable terminus for such road and proved, to the satisfaction of every unprejudiced mind, that this point embraced advantages over every other to which public attention has been directed.


On motion the Chair appointed F. Roxier, Jr., of Perry, D. M. Fox, of Madison, H. Blackledge, of St. Genevieve, and E. C. Sebastian, of St. Francois, a Committee to draft and report resolutions expressive of the sense of the meeting.


Whereas, We, the citizens of St. Genevieve, St. Francois, Madison and Perry Counties, in mass meeting assembled, being deeply impressed with the advantages and importance of construction a plank road from some suitable point on the Mississippi River to the Iron Mountain and Pilot Knob, to run as near as possible to Min e la Motte, and at the same time to traverse the fine agricultural region that would be embraced within its route, and having duly weighted and considered the advantages presented by the different points to which public attention has been called as the probable terminus of such road, have been led irresistibly to the conclusion that the town of St. Mary does present advantages for such terminus possessed by no other point, some of which we will here enumerate.


 1st.    She possesses a landing equal, if not superior, to any other point from St. Louis to the mouth of the Ohio River, no sand bars forming gin from of it, not caving in of banks or changing of currents, but all seasons and under all circumstances, high water or low water, vessels of all classes, from the skiff to the mammoth steamer, have free ingress and egress.


2nd .  The road leading from the point would secure almost the entire trade of Perry County, and would pass through the splendid agricultural regions known as New Tennessee and Cook’s Settlement, in the counties of Ste. Genevieve and St. Francois, and near Mine la Motte, and Fredericktown, in Madison County, securing to itself not only the trade of these regions but the whole country of Madison and of the fertile regions in the valley of the St. Francois as far down as Greenville, in Wayne County, thus enabling the Company to do a profitable business, independent of the patronage which my reasonable be expected from the Iron Mountain and Pilot Knob Companies, as soon as the road shall be completed.


3rd.  The distance from St. Mary to the Iron Mountain and Pilot Knob, over a practicably and easy route, is much nearer, and the lumber for constructing the road more easily procured than from any other point on the river, thus enabling the Company to build the road cheaper than any other can be constructed.


4th.  The proprietors of the town of St. Mary have made liberal donations of property, at that point, to the stock holders, making them interested in building up and making that a flourishing city, whereby the stock holders will realize and share all the advantages which the construction of the road may be to that point.


Therefore, Resolved,


1.  That we are satisfied that said plank road ought to be, can be, and will be constructed without delay, that the subscriptions of stock already taken in the St. Mary’s Plank Road Company, have more than resulted our most sanguine expectations, and we entertain no doubt that with a little exertion the whole stock will be speedily taken and the road constructed.


2.  That, in our opinion, nature never does her work by piece meals, and as nature has made St. Mary the true terminus of the road, it only remains for us to avail ourselves to the advantages she as to liberally bestowed upon us.


3.  That as the patronage and influence of the Iron Mountain and Pilot Knob Companies would expedite the construction of the road and materially increase her dividends, the President of this meeting appoint five Delegates to meet the Directors of the Iron Mountain Company at their annual meeting, on Monday next. To consult with said Directors upon this subject.


4.  That the means for construction said road are within our reach, that we will put our shoulders to the wheel with the full determination to use every means in our power to push the said road forward to an early completion.


Which resolutions were adopted by acclamation.


The Chair appointed, under the third resolution, Charles Gresgoin, of Madison County, Messers. Miles A. Gilbert and H. Blackledge, of Ste Genevieve County, Francis Clark and E. C. Sebastian, of St. Francois County.


On motion the Chair appointed Dr. R. Shelby and Fernand Roxier, Jr., of Perry;  Caleb Cox and D. M. Fox, of Madison, B. S. Pratte, Thomas Buran and John Coffman, of Ste. Genevieve, E. C. Sebastian, Francis Clark and Joseph F. Harris, of St. Francois, to solicet subscriptions of stock from the citizens.


The Chairman then addressed the meeting upon the advantages of the contemplated road, in a forcible and earnest manner, impressing all with the necessity of pushing forward the enterprise and of taking stock in the road, and from his knowledge of road making, assured them of the feasibility of constructing it, and to show that he was in earnest, proposed to double the amount of his subscription.  Whereupon, a call was made for the books, which, being produced, a very large additional number of shares were taken.


Resolved, That the Missouri Republican, St. Louis Union, and Creole at Ste. Genevieve, be requested to publish the proceeding of this meeting.


Thereupon the meeting adjourned.


Joseph Coffman, Chairman

George Griffith, Secretary

The Republican – St. Louis – Tuesday Morning, April 15, 1851



A plank road or puncheon is a dirt path or road covered with a series of planks.


Plank roads were widely popular in the first half of the 19th century.  They were often built by turnpike companies.     


Illustration and explanation from:  Widipedia