Note: The following is one of a series of columns looking at the first road systems in Georgia and Bulloch County.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's newly renamed Office of Public Road Inquiries, or ORI, published Bulletin No. 23, entitled "Road Conventions in the Southern States and Object Lesson Roads," in 1902.
In it, new ORI Director Martin Dodge wrote how the office had worked with the Southern Railway Company and the National Good Roads Association to build special test roads during the winter of 1901-02.
Dodge's agency built Georgia's Object Lesson Roads in Augusta, Atlanta and Columbus. In addition, four OLRs were built in Virginia, three each in North Carolina, South Carolina and Alabama, and two in Tennessee.
To construct all of the OLRs, the Southern Railway Company assembled a special "Good Roads Train," which traveled 4,037 miles on its main and branch lines across the Southeast.
This Good Roads train carried three graders, four "road-machines," two portable engines, three rock-crushers, two elevators and three "road-rollers."
There were also special road-building construction crews living onboard. Manufacturers of the new road machinery supplied for the train were more than happy to display their machines and undoubtedly hoped that orders would come flooding in after their demonstrations.
Meanwhile, "Road Conventions" were held throughout the South, each lasting between one and three days. Of these conventions, five were state, eight were district, and two were general assemblies.
The first Georgia OLR took six days to build because 10 feet of clay had to be removed in some areas, then subsequent filling-in had to be undertaken in order to create a suitable foundation.
While only building a short stretch of McAdamized road, this OLR displayed how much more could be accomplished using modern machinery. The members of the new Georgia State Good Roads Association observed the modern machinery in action.
In Augusta, the Good Roads crews rebuilt a very muddy (because of torrential rains) city street. The crowds were awed by the way these new road machines attacked the mud with great gusto. The Savannah Valley Good Roads Association was formed here at this time.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. Email Roger at firstname.lastname@example.org.