Note: The following is part of a series of articles looking at the origin of roads in southeast Georgia and Bulloch County.)
The Thomas E. Watson Highway was a little-known and rarely-remembered Georgia highway route which followed a very circular path. It began at north Georgia shared border line with North Carolina.
From beginning to end, it shared U.S Routes 441, 23, 19 and 41; then traveled on State Routes 40, 22 and 16; and switched back to traveling on U.S. Highways 278, 78, 25 and finally U.S. 80.
Ken Krakow, in his book “Georgia Place Names,” wrote the following: "The Thomas E. Watson Highway runs from the North Carolina line to Savannah Beach."
It followed "U.S. routes 23 and 41, through Cornelia, Atlanta and Macon. It was named in honor of T.E. Watson, the "Sage of Hickory Hill," who was the state/national leader of the People's or Populist Party.
Watson also was their "vice presidential candidate in 1896 and then candidate for the presidency in 1904. He was an agrarian rebel who published the ‘Weekly Jeffersonian.’"
Watson "introduced the first resolution in U.S. congress for rural free mail delivery.”
Amongst the "Acts and Resolutions" passed by the 1937 General Assembly of the State of Georgia was Act #26, (March 15, 1937) stating it was "A Resolution to pay tribute and honor to one of Georgia's noblest sons."
This could be done "without any expense to the State of Georgia, by naming a highway beginning at Rabun Gap, and ending at Tybee Light, in honor of T.E. Watson."
It stated the "roadway be named the Thomas E. Watson Highway to commemorate his life and deeds." It began "on SR-15, from the Georgia-North Carolina state line in Rabun County."
It then proceeded "through Rabun Gap and the cities of Clayton and Clarkesville, to the city of Cornelia, then (proceeded) on SR-15 and SR-13, to the city of Baldwin."
From here, it followed "SR-13, through the cities of Gainesville and Buford, to the city of Buckhead, then (joined with) SR-13 and SR-19, to the city of Atlanta."
Once through Atlanta, the highway then joined "SR-3, through the city of Jonesboro, to the city of Griffin, then (took) SR-7, to the city of Barnesville, then (followed) SR-19, through the city of Forsyth, to the city of Macon.
Heading Southeast from Macon, it joined "SR-22, (passing) through the cities of Gray and Milledgeville, to the city of Sparta, then (changed to) SR-16, (proceeding) to the city of Warrenton."
Continuing, it followed "SR-12, to the city of Thomson, then (took) SR-12 and 10, through the city of Dearing, to the city of Harlem, then (switched again to) SR-12 and 12 and 4, to the city of Augusta.
Leaving Augusta, the highway proceeded to follow "SR-21, through the city of Waynesboro, to the city of Millen, then (took) SR-67, to the city of Statesboro."
From here, its last lap was on highway "SR- 26, through the city of Savannah, (from whence it ended up on) Tybee Island." This was the Thomas E. Watson Highway's southern terminus.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history who provides a brief look each week at the area's past. E-mail him at email@example.com.