Janesville Plank Road Tollgate

Photographed December 11, 2014
Erected 2014 by Muskego Historical Society

This is the location of an original tollgate located at the Muskego Centre on the Janesville Plank Road; one of 16 privately owned toll roads authorized by the Wisconsin Territorial legislature in 1848. It was to follow a sixty-five mile route beginning in the City of Milwaukee, by way of Big Bend, to East Troy and then to the village of Janesville. It was to also connect with other plank roads in Wisconsin. It was built on the 1838 Janesville Territorial Road, which followed an Indian trail extending from the rice marshes of Milwaukee southwestward to Janesville. 

The legislature set maximum toll rates that could be levied by the owners of the private road: "toll gates may be erected and tolls collected whenever five miles are finished, not exceeding two cents a mile for every vehicle, sled, sleigh or carriage drawn by two animals, and if drawn by more than two animals, one cent a mile for every additional animal. For every vehicle drawn by one animal, and every horse and rider, or led animal, one cent a mile. For every score (10) of sheep or swine three cents a mile and for every score of cattle four cents per mile." It was common practice for farmers to drive their animals to market. Persons exempted from tolls were those going to a required military parade, a funeral or any religious meeting on Sunday. The plank roads effectively cut in half the travel time as compared to the unimproved trails of the day; many of which became totally impassable in the springtime.

By 1854 only 24 miles had been completed starting near the Forest Home Cemetery in Milwaukee and reaching Mukwonago. Tollgates were at Forest Home Cemetery, Hales Corners, and here at the Muskego Centre, where it intersected with the Waterford Plank Road. 

Maintenance costs were quite high as the wood rotted within five years and the profits were not as high as expected. The coming of the railroads in the 1860s was the beginning of the end for this and other plank roads in Wisconsin. As the plank roads were abandoned, they reverted back to the local municipalities for maintenance and upgrading.

Today, Janesville Road still serves the public in much the same way it was intended to over a hundred and sixty years ago, without the tolls!
The marker is located on westbound Janesville Road / County Highway L, west of its intersection with Lannon Drive, next to the Tess Corners Fire Department at S76 W17858 Janesville Road, Muskego, Wisconsin 53150.

The marker is located next to the Tess Corners Fire Department.

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