The Old Corduroy Road
In April 1812, as the United States prepared for a possible war with Great Britain. Michigan Territorial Governor William Hull became the commander of the Army of the Northwest. His first task was to lead his army from Dayton, Ohio, to Detroit, Michigan. (Two hundred miles) The army left Dayton on June 1. As they cut the trace through the wilderness from Urbana north, logs were laid crosswise across swampy areas to create a rough but stable corduroy roadbed that could support supply wagons. In late June, a detachment from Frenchtown commanded by Hubert Lacroix also worked on the road, attempting to follow a route laid out under an 1808 territorial Legislative Council act. On June 18, 1812, war was declared; Hull´s army arrived in Detroit on July 5.
"Hull’s Trace" as it is now known, linked Detroit and Ohio, was to be the Michigan Territory’s inland lifeline during the War of 1812. However, the Detroit River and Lake Erie gave the British easy access to the Michigan portion of the road. American efforts to use the road to bring supplies and men from Frenchtown, present-day Monroe, were foiled twice before Hull surrendered Detroit on August 16, 1812. After the war the Hull’s Trace route was used for ever-improving roads, beginning in 1817 with a new military road.
The road later served as the route of other important historical events that took place. in the area. William Henry Harrison took this route when he pursued Native American Chief Tecumseh into Canada. As did the Kentucky militiamen who were looking to avenge the River Raisin Massacre. The Battles of Brownstown and Maguaga were also fought around the vicinity of this road.
Around the turn of the century, the road was covered with gravel and eventually was paved over into its present form. The term corduroy was coined in the Civil War. It is called a "corduroy road" because it resembles the surface of the ribbed corduroy cloth.
1825 map from John Farmer showing Hull's Trace. Please click here to zoom closer and explore the map. (UM Clark Library Maps)