In the late 1800s when roads and bridges were needed just as they are today, it was up to the homesteaders living on the prairie to manage for themselves. There was a "road tax" owed by every adult male 45 and younger, paid not in cash but rather in labor. A set number of days would be determined by the township for all of the men to work, maintaining the township roads and bridges.
Isaac Werner records in his journal the various days each year that he worked to fulfill his road tax obligation. He did not have a horse for several years, so the labor he provided was strictly his own 'sweat and tears.' One year, a neighbor had left the community for a visit and he loaned Isaac his horse to use in his absence. Isaac took advantage of having the horse, and he and three other neighbors satisfied their obligation by filling holes.
Originally Clear Creek Township was six miles from north to south and twelve miles from east to west. Isaac writes about going to a part of the township that he rarely traveled to satisfy his road tax, filling in around a bridge. (From his description, it was probably the bridge seven and a half
miles south of Macksville.) Generally, men worked on road projects nearer their homes, but if labor was needed further away, they put in their time wherever it was needed.
When Clear Creek Township was divided to create Albano Township to the east, making both townships six miles square, Isaac began satisfying his road tax nearer his claims in the new Albano Township. He commented in his journal about the day he fulfilled his last road tax obligation. It was memorable, because they were working on the approach to a bridge and he was slow getting out of the way of the scraper. It hit his ankle and caused a bad sprain, but he felt lucky that he had not broken his leg on the very last day he was obligated to pay his road tax!
Isaac also wrote about mowing the prairie grass between his homestead and the school house, which was used as a community gathering place, so that when he walked there he did not get his legs wet in the tall grass. A neighbor has told me about his ancestors doing the same thing, although they mowed from their claim all the way to Iuka.
Farmers also mowed around their claims, not only to use them as roads but also to minimize fires reaching their claims in a prairie fire. Plowing was more effective, and before Isaac had a horse, he worried that his neighbors didn't plow their shared fire guards frequently enough. When he finally got a horse of his own, he was diligent about keeping the fire guards plowed.
How dependent we are today about having government equipment and workers to take care of the things homesteaders had to do for themselves.