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BUTLER COUNTY BEGINNINGS Greenville and the National Highway System



Giving highways throughout the United States standard numerical designations was a radical idea in the 1920s. But, as we know, this was growth and progress, and it was inevitable.

By the way, a good read about good roads is “Getting Out of the Mud: The Alabama Good Roads Movement and Highway Administration, 1898-1928,” by Martin T. Olliff (2018).

Marty tells the interesting story of road improvement in our state, as groups worked to enlist local, state, and federal government aid in creating those proverbial “good roads.”

The good roads of earlier decades became part of the national highway system we use and appreciate today.

“Greenville Placed on National Highway” was a front page headline of The Greenville Advocate on January 5, 1927.

The county seat town was to be on “National Highway Number 31,” which connected with “National Highway Number 90″ at Mobile, a road that ran to New Orleans and other western locations.

The new highway system was both praised and criticized by local journalists and civic leaders. Their opinions often depended on whether their particular city was connected to a major route or not.

The people in Covington County protested the south Alabama route, and clamored for U.S. Highway 31 to run through Andalusia rather than Greenville.

A “serious mistake” was being made by the Bureau of Public Roads in choosing Greenville over Andalusia, declared the editor of The Covington News.

The editor of The Luverne Journal agreed with the Covington crowd, and reported that, although the route was longer if it passed through Andalusia, there were more people living on it, so the highway would benefit more citizens.

Can you picture our part of Alabama if the new national highway of the 1920s, the road network that eventually became the interstate highway system envisioned by dear old Dwight D. Eisenhower, had selected Andalusia instead of Greenville as part of the first federal government-supported route?

If the new U.S. Highway 31 of the 1920s, and later, Interstate 65 of the 1960s, hadn’t passed through Greenville, would Wal-Mart have built a super-center in Andalusia before ever even looking at the Camellia City?

Would Korean auto manufacturers be making the Covington County business world a better place, instead of employing hundreds and hundreds of workers in Butler County?

Andalusia DID end up being part of the national highway system, with the meeting of U.S. Highways 84 and 29 – which pass north-south and east-west, respectively, through this lovely small town just north of the Conecuh National Forest.

So Andalusia wasn’t bypassed and ignored, after all.

The original U.S. Highway 31 in this part of the state followed much of the pioneer road that brought settlers into Alabama in the early 1800s.

You didn’t cut out an entirely new road when an older road, a very ancient road, could be improved and reused.

Yes, that’s the good old Federal Road, following the well-worn Native American path that had become Bartram’s trail on the eve of the American Revolution, and then was made into a postal road for President Thomas Jefferson to get his mail through from Washington to New Orleans: the Federal Road.


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 –, and, look for BCHGS on Facebook.

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