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Company chartered to build road from Houston to Austin

January
15
1841

On this day in 1841, the Houston and Austin Turnpike Company was chartered by the Congress of the Republic of Texas to lay out a road from Austin to Houston. Capital stock of $125,000 was to be divided into 625 shares, with the seven directors to own at least five shares each. Tolls were allowed on condition that the toll gates be at least forty miles apart. The work was to start within twelve months and be completed in five years. The road was to start at Houston, cross the Brazos River within five miles of San Felipe de Austin, and continue from the river on the most practical route to Austin. This initial turnpike company was followed by the chartering of some fifty such companies between 1841 and 1905. Early roads often were mere rocky trails or mud streams. Courses were longer and less efficient as they went around hills, large trees, and boulders. The early roads zigzagged, had right-angle turns, and held water. At the beginning of the twentieth century very few roads in the United States had any kind of hard surface. The advent of the automobile in the early 1900s led to a dramatic change in attitude toward highway development in the nation and in Texas.

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