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Bulloch History with Roger Allen: Georgia uses 'road hands' to help maintain early roads
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Note: The following is one of a series of columns looking at the first road systems in Georgia and Bulloch County.

In the "Acts Passed by the General Assembly of Georgia, 1755-1774," (1881), it is revealed that the province (of Georgia) was divided into nine districts. Each district had six surveyors charged with keeping their district's highways repaired.

The rules had been changed. If the work couldn't be accomplished by the "road hands" working 12 days per year, the surveyors assessed a road tax on all male inhabitants between the ages of 16 and 60.

Curiously, all roads had to be 24 feet wide. All trees were to be left standing on either side of the roadways and the act levied a fine of 20 shillings against anyone who cut down or otherwise injured any of these shade trees.

Roy Stone, special agent and engineer in charge of the new "Office of Road Inquiry," submitted O.H. Sheffield's report to their boss, Secretary Morton of the Department of Agriculture. His report was published in the ORI's Bulletin No. 3, Improvement of the Road System of Georgia (1894).

Sheffield suggested what equipment should be on hand in each of Georgia's counties: a 6-ton road-roller, one "grader," two "plows," four "scrapers," two dump carts, both four- and two-horse wagons and six draft horses or mules. He calculated the cost of this equipment to be less than $2,500.

Sheffield wrote that by using paid labor, "At $1 per day each, the cost per year for 50 hands is $15,000... (if) the paid hand does twice as much (work) as the ordinary road laborer...then only 25 good laborers would (do the same work)."

Sheffield then considered using convict labor: "there are probably ...2,400 convicts...available for road work....(and) the cost...is given at (either) 33 1/4 cents per convict per day (or)...31 cents per day."

Sheffield even considered the benefit of using female convict laborers: "these convicts could (make) convict clothing, (d0) laundrying, or other similar work...(for) the State (with) their handiwork being furnished to the county."

Finally, Sheffield wrote of using "supplementary labor...a small force not exceeding a half dozen men...equipped with the necessary camp outfit and small implements...(with) the most reliable (convicts used for) this "patrol" force."

As to paying for this expenses, Sheffield said, "every citizen should pay...a road tax, in virtue of his release from all road duty...(and) an ad valorem property tax should be levied ...since property owners receive the greater benefit from good roads."


Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. Email Roger at rwasr1953@gmail.com.

 

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