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Bulloch History with Roger Allen: Georgia's key role in creating the 'Dixie Highway'
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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.

The "Dixie Highway" was comprised of a number of interconnected roads between Canada and Florida. The Dixie Highway no longer appears on Georgia's state highway map, and is mentioned in only a few histories of Georgia.

Virtually every tourist heading to Florida had to face the challenges of Georgia's roads, which frequently proved impossible, especially when rain turned Georgia's dirt and clay roads into an impassable muck.

Carl Fisher, at first a bicycle shop owner and then automobile headlight manufacturer, became one of the first automobile dealership owners in the U.S.

Fisher wanted better roads for his regular travels from Detroit to Miami Beach. He began pushing for a new "Dixie Highway" to Atlanta, and travelled to address the American Road Congress in November 1914.

In December 1914, Georgia governor John M. Slaton and leaders from five other states met at the first Dixie Highway Association meeting in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Chicago was selected to be the northern head of the highway. After state leaders in Michigan complained, Georgia's two members of the Association board soon proposed an innovative solution.

William T. Anderson, owner of The Macon Telegraph, and Charles Howell, owner of The Atlanta Constitution, suggested making the Dixie Highway numerous separate roads formed into one new highway network.
The agreement: Start the Dixie Highway at Sault Ste. Marie, in Michigan, which sat on the Canadian border. The Dixie Highway would then split into Eastern (Detroit) and Western (Chicago) Divisions.

Next, the two routes would come together in Chattanooga. Unbelievably, Georgians began to argue over the highway's Georgia route, as tourist revenues would benefit those cities on its path. Therefore, the DHA approved three separate Georgia routes: the Western route (Rome south to Tallahassee), the Central route (Macon south to Jacksonville), and the Eastern route (through Savannah to Jacksonville).

As many traveling families couldn't afford hotels and restaurants, informal "tourist camps" popped up along the Dixie Highway, where families would simply park along the roadside.

To make the influx more controllable, enterprising locals set up private campgrounds to serve the visitors, where access to services, such as bathrooms and running water, would be provided for a fee.
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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