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Bulloch History with Roger Allen: Georgia uses convicts to help build out road system
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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.

Around 1914, according to C.M. Strahan, Dean of the University of Georgia's School of Civil Engineering, said the college's "regular four-year course in civil engineering offers a three-hour-per-week option in highway engineering with additional work in road material, laboratory and field studies."

In addition, Dean Strahan declared that, "A good roads department is in operation for road extension work under three officers, one of them employed constantly in the field offers advice and assistance by correspondence and by visits to Georgia counties."
Bruce Hall's article, "Plans for Road Work in Georgia," in the journal, ‘Good Roads: Devoted to the Construction and Maintenance of Good Roads and Streets' (1917), discussed a new five-year program for road improvement in Georgia."

The plan was, "intended to form a network of highways...connecting every county, county seat and important city and joining the national trunk lines...(which had been) adopted by the new Georgia Highway Commission."

Hall's article stated, "there are 85,000 mi. of public roads...more than 20,000 mi. are already paved with sand-clay, and several thousand miles with macadam, chert or gravel."

Hall added that now Georgia was now "traversed by the National Highway and the Dixie Highway (with)... the Bankhead Highway (between)...Atlanta, Ga....and Birmingham, Ala. proposed."

The report stated the "commission (planned) to build the roads of the most available material...(but worried because there was) no generally accepted standard for the material used in road construction in Georgia."

The commission declared there "are some highways that will compare favorably with any in the country...the macadam roads of Fulton County, the shell roads of Chatham County...and the sand-clay roads of Muscogee County."

The report explained that "Since 1908...the convicts have been apportioned to the counties according to population (and)...built practically every mile of paved road in the state."

There were 7,000 convicts in the state, 6,000 of whom were engaged in road building. The report declared, "the state is spending $2,500,000 annually in maintaining its convicts on road work, and...their labor is worth $5,000,000 to Georgia."

The report revealed "many counties having a large number of convicts have cooperated with adjoining counties having fewer prisoners...Chatham County built the "Bryan Causeway" with its prisoners (with) Bryan County furnishing the material."


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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