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Bulloch History with Roger Allen: Unhappy Georgians demand better, more paved 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.


In the "Geological Survey of Georgia" in Bulletin No. 8, "A Preliminary Report on the Road-Building Materials of Georgia," (1901), state geologist W. S. Yeates and his assistant, S. W. McCallie, discussed the first roads outside of Savannah.

These roadways, they wrote, "were afterwards continued through the pine forest to Ebenezer and Fort Argyle; and...(then) along the old Indian trails to the settlements further southward."

They added, "no laws were enacted by the colonists, for laying out and maintaining highways, until 1755...(when) the General Assembly, in session at Savannah, passed an act." This Act stated that "Public Roads should be made thro' the Province of Georgia for a speedy communication to the most distant parts of it, and for the ease and convenience of its inhabitants."

Displeasure with the conditions of the roads in Georgia was the focus of a paper written by the ORI's General Roy Stone, included in Bulletin No. 1, "State Laws Relating to the Management of Roads Enacted in 1888-'93."

Stone wrote, "there is almost a unanimous opinion...that the present road system is wholly unsatisfactory, and that some change is demanded...adequate to the demands of the people of this great Commonwealth."

McCallie, now the state geologist, wrote the "Geological Survey of Georgia" which was published in Bulletin No. 24, "A Second Report on the Public Roads of Georgia in 1910."
His report declared that of the 82,182 miles of road in Georgia in 1909, only "554 miles (were)...surfaced with stone and 56 with shells; 502 miles, with chert and gravel; and 3,421 miles, with sand-clay mixture."

McCallie's report also identified the progress being made. He declared that another "13,156 miles of road...had been put in order by the use of the road machines, drags, etc," now in use by the various county road departments.
In the 1909 edition of Automotive Industries, it was announced that "A good highway...in a generally direct line of 700 miles, from Atlanta to Washington, D.C....is now the subject of promotion on the part of the Good Roads Clubs of Georgia."

It continued, the Good Roads supporters hoped "to get each county to round up, roll and ditch one of its existing roads from border to border, and as soon as possible to chart, macadamize (it)."

On May 17, 1909, the same journal covered the subject of a proposed New York to Atlanta Highway, which was being promoted by both the New York Herald and the Atlanta Journal."
It stated, "Every little town on the three proposed routes, every county, mayors, congressmen, legislators and governors, are vyng with each other in support of anything that will give the South good roads."

Furthermore, "The two newspapers have offered prizes to the counties which have the best roads, the Herald giving the sums of $1,000, $500 and $200 for the (Northern) ...and the Journal giving corresponding amounts to those in the Southern half."

Two routes would go from New York to Washington, D.C., with the third going to Harpers Valley, West Virginia. Two routes would then pass through Spartanburg, South Carolina, before reaching Atlanta, and the third route would pass through Columbia, South C arolina, before reaching Atlanta.

According to the Official Yearbook of the Good Roads Movement of the United States, published by the American Highway Association in 1914, Georgia had no state highway department and gave no state aid for road construction.

The yearbook stated what Georgia did have: convicts. "All male felony convicts are apportioned to several counties for work on the public roads...under the supervision of the state prison committee."

This committee was "authorized to purchase road machinery, appliances and teams and equip and organize such convicts in road forces," stating, "upwards of 5,000 state convicts are regularly employed on the public 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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