Monday, June 17, 2019

A Story Told in Maps

New road vs. old road on Rt. 80 at the Doubles,
between Honaker and Rosedale, 1945
The old road fascinates me. When you drive along, look off to the side of the road. You can often see the old roadbed snaking around the side of the hill. The new road is brazen by comparison, cutting through hills and straightening all those curves. The old road meanders by comparison, and now often has trees growing in it.

An exhibition of Russell County maps is on view June through August in the Cumbow Meeting Room of the Lebanon Library. Visit the exhibit to see those old roads and how the network grows. The exhibit may be viewed any time the library is open.

Early court records note that individuals charged with keeping the rudimentary roads open were sometimes fined for not doing their duty. The earliest roads can be found in the law books when acts of the assembly incorporate turnpike companies (upon subscription of the requisite number of shares!) The act noted the road must be at least 16 feet wide (exclusive of ditches) and not more than three (3) degrees of grade.

A nice table listing the roads existing before the establishment of the state highway system is found in A Social and Economic Survey of Russell County by Leland B. Tate. (it's available at the library and online.) Along with the state highway system came the railroads. Railroads helped communities grow, and then as the rail traffic dwindled, so did the communities.  Here in the mountains, new and improved roads resulted in changed communities.

Back to my fascination with old roads. I dreamed of having a plane follow the old road. Now I think using a drone would be even better. You can truly have a bird's eye view of the path trod 100 years ago. Remember in the old days, communities were about a day's walk--or a horseback ride--apart.

I always want to walk the old road. I want to see the view residents would have seen 100 years ago. I want to walk in the footsteps of our ancestors. The maps on exhibit are a little window into the world as our ancestors saw it. Come look through that window in time.

Contributed by Kelly McBride Delph