Humphry, Bridges and Roads

Though Humphry Marshall is probably most well-known for his contributions to the science of botany, and rightly so, there are a lot of interesting aspects of his more everyday life. One that is particularly notable and relatively well documented was his continuing quest to get better roads and bridges built in Chester County. These kinds of public works were both extremely vital and not well established in his day. As a farmer in a community of farmers he and his neighbors were very reliant on being able to ship their goods to and from larger cities that needed the food and could provide specialty items, like Philadelphia. His quest for straighter roads, particularly what was then called Strasburg road was an ordeal that he worked towards for almost 30 years, culminating in drawing a detailed map and writing a large argument for why the straight road would be better for the Pennsylvania house of representatives. This finally did the job, and he finally got his road based on his plans. Though a straighter Strasburg road could not legitimately be called part of Humphry Marshall’s ‘legacy’ the episode does encapsulate the kind of determined public-conscious mindset that Humphry had that made him so appealing to us, and is part of the reason he is a focal point of this show!


bridge to milltown



Rivers could also be major obstacles since bridges were rare and fording or rafts could often be awkward. As such Humphry led the construction of several bridges himself and even bought some shares in the Susquehanna Bridge company later in his life.

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