The center of North Reading has been an important junction for travel for almost three hundred years. Freight wagons drawn by oxen, farm wagons, drovers herding cattle, sheep or swine, private carriages, mail coaches and passenger stagecoaches all passed through town. They went to and from the commercial seacoast towns in the east, the agricultural community in the west, and from industrial Boston and the textile manufacturing in the north. As late as 1794, there were only six through roads in town and all were carrying more than their share of this important but slow moving traffic.
In 1803-1804 a group of local businessmen and their contemporaries in neighboring towns wanted to create a hard-packed gravel highway and incorporated a Toll Road Company. Under the guidance of Mr. Peter Tufts they planned and constructed the Andover and Medford Turnpike in 1805-1806. This was a direct road from Andover through Reading and Stoneham to the bridge in Medford. The present Route 28 includes parts of this early road. An act by the General Court in February 1807 allowed the Andover and Medford Company to maintain a toll gate at the Essex-Middlesex county line jointly with the Essex Turnpike Corporation.
The toll for using the road made it very unpopular and so it was used infrequently. Because of the lack of travelers no dividends were ever paid to its stockholders. Its expenses later proved to be greater than the revenue it yielded and by 1828 the stockholders no longer wanted it. January 1836 the Middlesex county commissioners declared the road a public road .Many travelers used a branch of this gravel highway as a direct and shorter route to Manchester and Concord, New Hampshire.
Btw: In the 16th century a “turnpike” was a spiked barrier across a road that was lifted after a toll was paid.
Information adapted from North Reading Review by Leo Murphy 1964; Medford on the Mystic. By Carl Seaburg and Alan Seaburg, April 1980; Wapedia Wiki:Massachusetts Route 28.