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Bulloch History with Roger Allen: Georgia one of first states to build quality roads
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Roger Allen

Note: The following is one of a series of columns looking at the first road systems in Georgia and Bulloch County.

"Colonial Trails to Interstate Highways" was published by the Georgia Department of Transportation in 2012. The study declared that "most of Georgia's early roads were winding, rutted, and poor even by the standards of the time. Travelers reported agonizing stage coach rides where animals quickly tired in knee-deep sand and mud, and passengers were forced to walk alongside their coaches.

"Waterways were a blessing where navigable and flowing in the direction of travel, but they could also be a curse when drought or flood conditions made them impassable or where they formed a natural barrier to the direction of travel," it continued.

The study explained that "the swamps and broad river deltas practically prohibited any attempts to build roads other than in an east-west direction along the ridges between the rivers. In swamps, a common type of structure was a log causeway."

The two earliest roads were built by the federal military in case the United States should become involved in war. The first began in Macon, Georgia, on the Ocmulgee River at Fort Hawkins and ended near Mobile, Alabama, and the second ran from Athens, Georgia, to Chattanooga, Tennessee, on the Tennessee River.

The first road workers were required to "carry ... one good and sufficient gun or pair of pistols, and at least nine cartridges ... or twelve loads of powder and ball, or buck shot."

In addition, all road workers were deemed safe "from any warrant or process, unless for felony (or) treason." Anyone who interfered with the workers could be fined up to $40.

The Act for the Better Regulation of High Roads and Bridges (1792) stated that if a road crew could not "complete (a needed bridge) ... the county ... must (build) the bridge."

Then, the Act for Regulating and Keeping in Repair the Public Roads (1793) established that the county "Commissioner or Surveyors ... (must) improve" roads, bridges, and ferries that had already been built.

Three of Georgia's first highways built in northern Georgia served as major thoroughfares: the Unicoi Turnpike (1813), the Union Turnpike (1821) and the Washington Turnpike (1821).

The Unicoi Turnpike ran from eastern Tennessee to the town of Clarkesville in Habersham County; the Union Turnpike ran from Loudsville in White County up into Tennessee; and the Washington Turnpike ran from Augusta to Athens.

Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. Email Roger at



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