THE NATIONAL ROAD
The First Motor Car Over the National Road
By Daisy Tolbatt Humphrey
Note: The following account of the first motor car over the National Road was written by Daisy Tolbatt Humphrey. The date of this adventure and all other information is unknown. The Morristown Historic Preservation Association is pleased to share it with you.
The day had arrived when the much talked of Motor Car was to make its first journey from Cambridge to Wheeling. I had long since determined to be one of the first passengers.
As I arrived at the car to my surprise one of my school friends was among the passengers. Conversing with her I learned that she had started for the same destination and I was glad to know there would be one of my acquaintances to accompany me. We traveled with great speed, but having to stop at various towns detained us some, but we arrived at Morristown at noon and stopped at the Horner House and secured lodging for the night. We then decided we would go chestnut hunting the next day. During the remainder of the day we called on a number of our friends among whom was our old Superintendent. His wife answered the bell promptly and after mutual felicitations concerning unusually favorable atmospheric conditions, she answered our inquiries about the head of the house by saying that he was amusing himself with his favorite sport of training his pet coons. We then returned to the Horner House and retired for the night.
Morristown was the third stagecoach stop from Wheeling, WV and travelers found lodging at the Horner House, mentioned in this account. Later renamed Wright Hotel, it is shown here circa 1920. Renamed once more as the Black Horse Inn in the early 20th century, it gained notoriety as a fine country dining facility where liveried waiters served food and drink to patrons. The Black Horse is a Morristown landmark and remains standing along the original National Road, which is now Main Street.
The next morning, feeling much refreshed, about eight o’clock we started on our chestnut hunting trip. It was a lovely day and there had been just enough frost to enable us to secure the chestnuts without much difficulty. Securing quite a number, we then decided we would roam over the green fields and hills.
We ascended a very steep hill and when we reached the summit, having a field glass with us, we viewed places at quite a distance. We then returned to town and decided to take the car the next morning and go on to Wheeling.
Morning came and we started for our destination. We sped along at the rate of about 15 miles per hour and the fields and landscapes looked like moving pictures. In about an hour and a half, we were at the end of our journey. We then strolled out to Wheeling Park and remained until noon and came back into the city and did our shopping. Having collected our things in a convenient place, my friend insisted that I must accompany her to see a friend. We took the street car and went to her residence and remained until almost time to return to Cambridge.
We started for home and found it required about three hours to make the trip. When we reached home we felt that we had acquired some knowledge as well as had a good time.
I think the Motor Car is quite an improvement on our old stage coaches of many years ago.