In 1750 the Appalachian Mountains were a formidable barrier between the British colonies in the east and French territory in the west, passable only on foot or horseback. It took more than a century to break the mountain barrier and open the west to settlement.
In 1751 a private Virginia company pioneered a road from Maryland to Ohio, challenging the French and Indians for the Ohio country. Several wars stalled the road, which did not start in earnest until after Ohio became a state in 1803. The stone-paved Cumberland Road—from Cumberland, Maryland, to Wheeling, Virginia—was complete by 1818 and over the next 30 years was traversed by Conestoga wagons and stagecoaches. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad—the first general purpose railroad in the world—started in Baltimore in the 1820s and reached Wheeling by 1852, uniting east and west.