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Wednesday, February 1, 2023
Home History Father Ben and the Wandering Post Road Milestones

Father Ben and the Wandering Post Road Milestones

Suzanne Clary Jay 
Heritage Center Suzanne Clary, president of the Jay Heritage Center, is a
MyRye.com history correspondent. Today our history teacher tells us how one of Ben Franklin's Post Road milestones almost took flight…

Recycling materials like antique floors or windows for house construction is a green concept that has been around a long time limited only by a builder's, or an owner's, imagination. Incorporating the old with the new gives a home a certain panache.

BPR milestone 25 IMG00271-20100725-1640 small

(PHOTO: What would you do if you found Father Ben's milestone 26 in your backyard ash heap?)

Imagine then that you are George P. Putnam of the famed publishing family and buy an abandoned lot in Rye on Orchard Avenue circa 1922. On that lot in an ash heap is what looks to be an old stone marker, one of the 230 milestones set along the historic King's Highway, aka Boston Post Road, measuring the distance from New York.

What to do with it? Report it to the officials of Rye? Nah. Cement it into the foundation of your own new front porch on Locust Avenue? Of course! (The same country home you will eventually share with second wife, famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart.)

Putnam's creative reuse of this artifact did not sit well with John Motley Morehead III, President of the Village of Rye (1925 -1930). In a special article to the New York Times, May 8, 1927, Rye's President was quoted as saying "there are so few monuments in America having an age that these landmarks possess." Re-installation of these mile markers to their original locations on Boston Post Road was a key component to Morehead's campaign for "betterment" initiatives for the village. Not to mention he was probably worried that relocating the marker might confuse the Pony Express rider.

Floating the old "Finders, Keepers" rule Putnam initially rebutted Rye's request to return the monument claiming removal would threaten the structural integrity of his home; he offered a very fine copy instead. But the Village trustees threatened to sue and Putnam eventually surrendered, making the marker a gift to Rye.

Today, each of the milestones that Morehead and the Village trustees fought hard to preserve bear the same plaque that reads:

"This is one of some 230 markers erected on the Boston Post Road in 1763. Their locations were fixed by Benjamin Franklin the Deputy Postmaster General who for that purpose drove a chaise with a distance recorder over the route. Restored to this its original position June 1st, 1927, by the Village of Rye. 'Remove not the ancient landmark which thy fathers have set.' (Proverbs XXII Verse 28.)"

Later this week Clary will tell us where you can see all four Milestones in the Rye area. Do you know where the milestones are? Leave a comment below and check back later in the week. Stay tuned!



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