History and images have been compiled from various sources including, among others, the 1987 National Register of Historic Places, Stack & Beasley's 1902 Sketches of Monroe and Union County, Union County Public Library (Patricia Poland, Genealogy & Local History Librarian), the Heritage Room Photo Collection, North Carolina Map Collection, Rootsweb - An Ancestry.com Community and Ancestry.com family histories.

Road Improvement

from Sketches of Monroe and Union County
Stack & Beasley 1902

A Graded Road
Graded Road and $3000 Iron Bridge
Turn Pike Road - 1910 - NC Postcard Collection
Chain Gang
Images are from the book, except as noted.

One of the objects of pride with the people of this vicinity is the work which is being done for the improvement of the public highways. For six years we have had a convict force, ranging from twenty to sixty hands, constantly at work in opening new roads or straightening old ones and grading, and to some extent rocking. All the main highways leading from the town are graded to a greater or less distance, and the total number of miles graded is now between thirty-five and forty. An immense amount of work has been done.

It has been necessary to make a great many very large fills and deep cuts, and the grades now attained will be permanent. Soon there will be the finest opportunity for macadamizing.* Something has already been done in this line. It is the policy of the commissioners to improve the worst sections as they go along.

It should be remembered that only about four months in the year is the weather such as to make roads bad, and with the leveling and grading that is being done, we already have, for six to eight months in the year, as good roads as are to be found in the United States.

The beds are constructed not less than twenty-four nor more than thirty-four feet in width, oval in shape and thoroughly packed, and so present a beautiful sight. Their width will allow plenty of room for two tracks, one the natural bed, which can be used from six to eight months in the year, and one for macadam, for bad weather, stock preferring to avoid macadam when the dirt sections of the road are good.

The convicts, many of whom came from other counties with sentences from thirty days to five years, are well-kept, and their comforts amply looked after. They are only required to work faithfully and behave themselves. The system has not only been of vast benefit in road improvement but in the saving of costs in jail maintenance and in deterring criminals who have no dread of jail imprisonment. The commissioners personally direct the operations of the force, through their excellent superintendent, Mr. B.T. Fletcher. The origin and progress of the work may not be uninteresting:

“It is ordered by the Board that Chapter 194, Acts of the General Assembly of 1895, entitled ‘an Act for the improvement of the public roads of North Carolina,’ ratified the 11th of March, 1895, be adopted and accepted for the county of Union, and all of its provisions made applicable to said county, and said chapter, with all its provisions are hereby ordered and declared to be of full force and authority in said county of Union from and after the date of adoption. The Board finds as a fact that the revenue of the county for ordinary purposes, and within the limitations prescribed by the Constitution, is insufficient to meet the necessary expenses of constructing, repairing and improving public roads of the county, and that to meet said tax it is necessary to levy a special tax for the purpose on the taxable polls and property of the county not exempt from taxation.”

This order established the chain-gang of Union County and on the meeting in June when other taxes were levied a special tax of fifteen cents on the $100 worth of property and forty-five cents on polls was levied to support it. In the following August petitions were presented asking the Board to rescind its order levying the road taxes, but it refused, dismissed the petition, and ordered the tax collected. At that meeting, Mr. R.B. Redwine, who had done much to bring about the result which had thus been accomplished, resigned, and Mr. J.M. Fairley,** one of the present road commissioners, succeeded him.

Mr. Fairley leading, the Board took up with much energy the work which has proven so satisfactory to the people of the county. A five ton reversible road roller, a Buckeye Reversible road machine [weighed 2000 lb and cost $260], five scrapers, a road plow, and a rooter plow, were purchased. The convicts were put to work under the direction of Mr. Jos. Howie, and in September of the same year Capt. W.L. Howie*** was elected to the position of superintendent, and for several years gave the most faithful service.

The legislature of 1897 passed a special act, drawn by Mr. R.B. Redwine,**** confining operations of the chain gang to Monroe Township and levying a tax in this township of 25 cents on property and 75 cents on poll. The same act ordered the county commissioners to levy 15 cents on property and 45 cents on poll in all the other townships, all fund to be kept separately and used by the township in which they were collected.

Other research:

*Macadam is a type of road construction pioneered by Scottish engineer John London McAdam in around 1820. Single-sized aggregate layers of small stone, with a coating of binder as a cementing agent, are mixed in an open-structured roadway.

**John M. Fairley was born in 1867; he married Catherine Jane Wolfe in 1880. He was noted on the 1910 Monroe Census as a merchant living on Jefferson Street.

***William Lide Howie (1854-1933), son of Robert James Howie, married Cynthia Elizabeth Robinson in 1877. The 1920 Monroe Census noted Howie as a road builder.

****R.B. Redwine

No comments:

Post a Comment