BY ANNIE CRENSHAW
The Good Roads Movement that began with bicyclists went on to promote farm-to-market roads, then highways that linked cities, then highways that connected states. Unbelievable!
Our country would never be the same.
In 1908, the call for better roads spread like wildfire across the nation when Henry Ford’s affordable (no pun intended), mass-produced “Model T” sparked off a tremendous trend in new automobile ownership.
EVERYBODY began to get cars. The first car in this town, the first car in that town – it was a newsworthy event that just HAD to be reported.
Some clever entrepreneurs bought automobiles before Henry Ford came along. The first car in Greenville was brought to town by W. N. Cannon in February 1906. He was ahead of the crowd.
Also, Mr. Cannon had thoughtfully brought a train-car load of new automobiles to sell to his friends and neighbors.
“Last Sunday they were speeding over the city in every direction,” reported The Greenville Advocate editor on March 7, 1906.
Can’t you just picture the curiosity and interest of local residents? Watching those new vehicles and their novice drivers provided almost as much entertainment as a circus parade.
The Model T, manufactured from 1908 to 1927, was a huge factor in rural Americans becoming connected with the rest of the country.
Good roads and affordable, popular vehicles were the impetus for citizens to become better connected to their civilization centers, communities to become connected to cities, Northern states to Southern states, East Coast to West Coast – and ultimately led to the numbered highway system.
After all, didn’t you wonder how we came to have numbered roads?
Our ancestors knew roads by their destinations, landscape features, and roadside landowners and businesses. Steiner’s Store Road, Poor House Road, Gravel Hill Road, Liberty Church Road, Halso Mill Road… great identifying names.
But, with the advent of automobiles that could speed all over a city in every direction (and over a county and state, and, eventually, all over the nation), and the construction of better roads – GOOD roads – the country needed an organized way to identify those roads.
“Good Roads” organizations formed from coast to coast. Business owners and civic organizations got together to improve their existing roads and promote travel from town to town. Maps and tourism guides were drawn up and distributed to the public.
Auto trail associations were created, starting with the National Old Trails Association in 1911 (a road planned to link New York City with Los Angeles) and then the Lincoln Highway Association.
Dedicated in 1913, the Lincoln Highway was America’s first transcontinental highway. It stretched over 3,300 miles from New York to San Francisco.
Remember, these were the pioneer days of the highway system: the Lincoln Highway was unpaved. It was an organized network of improved dirt roads, winding their way from state to state.
In 1914, the north-south “Dixie Highway” was created, running from the upper peninsula of Michigan to Miami. Another dirt road, but a GOOD road.
People LOVED these auto trails, or highways as the roads were called. People didn’t know anything BUT unpaved roads.
Learn more about Butler County history with membership in The Butler County Historical & Genealogical Society, P. O. Box 561, Greenville, AL 36037. Read more about Butler County’s Beginnings here – http://sites.rootsweb.com/~albchgs/, and, look for BCHGS on Facebook.