Note: The following is one of a series of articles looking at the growth of roads and transportation in Georgia and Bulloch County beginning in 1807.
According to the Gentleman’s Magazine of January 1739, Gen. James Oglethorpe and his colonists, assisted by Chief Tomo-chi-chi and his men, built the first Georgia “highway” in 1736 when they cut a road through the woods to enable a regiment of British troops to reach their new fort.
After the founding of Augusta, Oglethorpe personally oversaw the laying out of the route for a pack-horse road between Savannah and Augusta. Sometime later, the state of Georgia arranged for several western horse trails to be cut through Chickasaw and Choctaw lands into the new territories.
In 1802, Nichol Turnbull, Edward Harden, John G. Williamson, Joseph Bryan and William Smith were given permission to raise $10,000 for the construction of a road from Skidaway Road south to New Deptford by means of a lottery.
In 1807, new U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin undertook as one of his first acts a study of America’s roads. In his 1808 report, he proposed building a “National Light Duty Turnpike” from Maine to Georgia, upon which passengers, the nation’s mail and lightweight goods would be carried.
Not long after, Congress ordered a survey of the existing post roads entitled “A Geographical View of All the Post Towns in the United States of America and Their Distance from Each Other According to the Establishment of the Postmaster General in the Year 1815.” It determined that the main line post road in the U.S. ran all the way from Passamaquoddy in Maine to the town of Sunbury in Georgia.
Rates to mail letters ranged according to the distance they were carried. A letter going less than 10 miles cost 6 cents, more than 100 miles cost 10 cents, more than 250 miles cost 17 cents and more than 450 miles cost 25 cents.
In 1829, the Georgia Legislature appropriated $70,000 for the “purchase of slaves to improve the highways and navigable streams.” This program was discontinued after some $200,000 had been spent to build some 200 miles of roadways in the vicinities of Augusta, Columbus, Macon and Milledgeville.
Between 1834 and 1850, the Georgia Legislature incorporated at least 25 companies that planned to build turnpikes, or toll roads, in Georgia. Most of these privately owned roads were plank roads built of timbers and maintained reasonably well by labor crews.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's historical past. Email Roger at email@example.com.