|FHWA > Highway History > Martin Dodge > Section 5|
A Maximum of Good Results: Martin Dodge and the Good Roads Trains
Southern Railway Good Roads Train (con't)
Columbia, South Carolina
The Southern Railway Good Roads Train spent the final week of January 1902 in Columbia, South Carolina. Rain again limited the planned object-lesson road work. The bulletin summarized the activity:
The engineers and machinery experts with the train began the work Monday morning, January 27. A portion of a city street was graded and macadamized and a new country earth road about 1 mile in length was graded and rolled.
The convention, held in the hall of the House of Representatives on January 30, was a 1- day affair. The State legislature, which was in session, adjourned for the day, but virtually all members of the House and Senate attended the convention. [Bulletin 23, p. 57] The addresses were necessarily shorter than at other conventions, with sessions during the day and night.
Governor McSweeney welcomed the convention participants with the observation that:
The day of economy in time has dawned with the twentieth century, and the annihilation of space, as far as practicable, is one of the coming needs of our great country. With this comes the general movement throughout the United States in behalf of good roads.
Interest in good roads was growing around the State, he said, noting that Richland County's "clay-sand roads have been pronounced by experts to be the finest of their kind in the country." Still, "it remains for the general assembly to act," and he encouraged participants to debate "the promotion of good country highways from the standpoint of finance and feasibility and, deciding upon the best, take the interests of our people as our watchword and act." [Bulletin 23, p. 57-58]
Colonel Moore agreed with the Governor, saying, "One practical road bill passed by this legislature will do more good than all other legislation that can be adopted." He added, "The road question is going into politics, and it will go into national, State, and county politics." [Bulletin 23, p. 58]
The convention did not result in formation of a new promotional group, but did endorse the memorial that the South Carolina Good Roads Association had adopted on December 19, 1901, during the Greenville convention, to the legislature.
Charleston, South Carolina
The Southern Railway Good Roads Train arrived in Charleston while the South Carolina Interstate and West Indian Exposition was in progress. The Charleston exposition or World's Fair ran from December 2, 1901, to May 31, 1902, with the goal of highlighting the city's commercial advantages. Only 675,000 people attended the 6-month exposition, in part because of poor weather, with the result that the Exposition Company went bankrupt.
In anticipation of the expected crowds, the OPRI and the NGRA planned a Southern interstate good roads convention for the week of February 3-8. The two organizations, along with the Exposition Company, invited the Governors of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia, along with the Mayors of cities and villages throughout the region and commercial bodies and the public.
When the train arrived in Charleston on February 1, it went to the exposition grounds (where Hampton Park is now on Charleston peninsula). The object-lesson road work on Grove Street was designed to show how to build roads in the sand of the area. A road machine shoved the sand aside, leaving a flat surface that was rolled with the steam roller. Clay-gravel "of excellent quality, which had been secured in an adjacent county, was spread in one layer of 6 inches in depth, which was then rolled until the desired surface was secured."
The bulletin noted that when material of this character can be had, "the building of improved roads is a comparatively simple proposition, because little or no attention has to be paid to the question of drainage, for when the water is shed from the surface of these clay-gravel roads it sinks down into the sand alongside." Only a thick layer of surface material was needed because South Carolina does not have "the deep frosts which destroy the highways of the North unless their foundations are deeply laid and thoroughly drained." [Bulletin 23, p. 59]
The convention was held on February 5-7 in the Exposition Auditorium. The exposition designated February 7 as "South Carolina Legislature and Good Roads Day," with the entire State Legislature in attendance. Although the convention featured many speakers, the bulletin reprinted only two addresses: "Improved Highways" by E. L Tessier, Jr., of Charleston (a former chairman of the Good Roads Committee of the LAW) and " Road Building in the Mountain County" by S. F. Kelsey of North Carolina. Both were mainly technical in nature.
The convention adopted several resolutions, including one endorsing the idea of changing the OPRI to a bureau with a larger appropriation. The resolution also recommended that Congress empower the Secretary of Agriculture to appoint a special agent for each State to "devote his entire time to the betterment of the highways of that State." Other resolutions recommended formation of State highway commissions or engineering departments in each State, endorsed the use of convict labor, and "heartily" approved the use of wide tires where practicable "and the payment of the usual road taxes in cash instead of labor." [Bulletin 23, p. 65-66]
Raleigh, North Carolina
On February 10, the train arrived in Raleigh. Bulletin No. 23 referenced the stop without elaboration. However, OPRI Bulletin No. 24 reprinted the proceedings of the North Carolina Good Roads Convention, held February 12 and 13 in Raleigh's Metropolitan Hall, in conjunction with the visit of the Southern Railways Good Roads Train.
The object-lesson road work began on February 11 on Salisbury Street in Raleigh to make it accessible to convention goers. The 50-foot wide street was macadamized to its full width over a length of two city blocks. The bulletin said of the work:
The building of the sample road was watched by a large number of delegates to the convention, who showed great interest, not only in the methods of construction, but in the handling of the road-building machinery. This object-lesson road had the one disadvantage of being located in the city, and being itself a city street instead of a country road; but it had the advantage of being easily accessible to all the delegates, and its educational value was enhanced by its location at the State capital, where it will serve as an object-lesson in scientific road construction to visitors from all parts of the State for several years. [OPRI Bulletin No. 24, p. 8]
As the convention began, Governor Charles B. Aycock welcomed the delegates. He pointed out that when North Carolina was settled, "our forefathers settled in scattered communities," with one old resident stating that "he did not want to live so close to his neighbor that he could hear his dog bark." In that way, the State lost "the power of combination; we miss the strength which comes from unity . . . ." Times had changed:
This is a rapid age, an age in which every man is on the move. We must do something if we would keep up with it. The struggle for the good things of life is intense, and we can not keep the pace with other States and peoples unless we bring to bear the whole power of all the people . . . . We live in an age which does not count distance by miles but by hours. If I should ask any man to-day how far it is to Washington, he would answer in the number of hours it takes to travel there.
The State must "meet the conditions which confront us." He said:
The roads are the only thing in the State of which I am ashamed, because they are in a condition which is without excuse. Captain Galloway once said that there is a sand road in eastern North Carolina 8 miles long and 2 miles deep. The difference between the sand roads of the eastern and the clay roads of the middle and western parts of the State is that the latter are still longer and deeper. If we ever expect to get the power of combination and unity we must make better roads . . . . There is no interest in the State which is not vitally concerned in the building of public roads; and I extend to you gentlemen from a distance, and to the citizens of North Carolina, to all who are here, the heartiest welcome, and bid you Godspeed in your great work. [Bulletin 24, p. 9-10]
Colonel Moore, in addition to discussing how he became interested in good roads (cited earlier), told the delegates that the movement was "taking root, and in a very short time the question of good roads will take precedence of the money question and similar issues of the past. What you want is something that will improve your home, your children, your wife, your property, and that is good roads." In the year the NGRA was formed, he said, "the good roads office at Washington [was] struggling along with only $8,000 a year; they hardly gave it enough to run the office." He repeated the oft-cited contrast with other funding programs:
And yet in the last Congress the Lower House voted $60,000,000 for rivers and harbors. We don't like that sort of treatment. Organize and go up to Congress and say you want an appropriation for the Office of Public Road Inquiries, to extend its educational work to all the States. The Government has a right to do it. Congress appropriates $90,000 a year to test soils. Remember that we can not have successful rural free delivery unless we have roads that can be traveled over twelve months of the year.
Colonel Moore also discussed the Illinois Central Railway and the Southern Railway Good Roads Trains, inviting delegates to the major Charlottesville convention in Virginia that would end the present tour. He also discussed some of the issues, recommending appointment of a State highway commissioner who can provide leadership and guidance. Money, of course, was the "very important question." He thought counties could employ tax valuation and that the corporations, railroads, and cities could help finance road improvements. Bonds could be issued:
This method will build the roads now; you will enjoy them, and your children will help pay for them. The bonds, if not paid, will be refunded when they are due at a lower rate of interest.
As an alternative, he recommended the State-aid approach used in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. "I do not believe such a system could be adopted in North Carolina now; but in a short time, if the subject is studied and agitated, public opinion will be developed in favor of State assistance." He added that, "I believe our bones will be under the ground long before you have 25 per cent of the roads in North Carolina macadamized." He recommended that the officials "deal with the earth road, the common dirt road" by grading each one, with the plan to macadamize it as population and wealth increase. [Bulletin 24, p. 11-14]
Dodge addressed the convention on "Progress of the Good Roads Movement in the United States." He wanted to focus on "States which are older in experience in dealing with the improvement of the public roads" where "we find that there has been an evolution both in sentiment and substance." Although "improvement of the highways has been deferred too long," he was pleased to note "that all over the country, East and West, and North and South, there is a sort of uprising among all the people for better and more permanent improvement of the highways."
He briefly cited the evolution of transportation from highways to railroads and water routes. "Long-distance transportation has been cheapened beyond expectation, but the cost of transportation over the common roads is as expensive as ever." He did not think the burden of rural road improvement should fall on the farmers, who could not afford it. City property should be taxed for the purpose. The State-aid programs cited by Colonel Moore were another possibility. But he added:
In all my observations, covering most of the States of the Union, I do not find that anything is being done to make any substantial improvement in the highways except where one of three conditions obtain. The first is where they work prison laborers, as you are doing here in North Carolina and some of the other Southern States. The second condition is, a general fund of money paid into the county treasury and expended under the direction of county engineers, supervisors, etc. I find that there are a few counties-quite a number in the aggregate, but few in proportion to the whole number-that have that general fund. The third condition is that of State aid. Where the State is aiding, the people have not only made improvements, but are encouraged to go on and make additional improvements. It is thought by many, and possibly by most of you, that many counties and many States are too poor to improve their highways. The fact is the opposite. You are not rich enough to afford to neglect them, because the cost of transportation by existing means is an incubus upon your industry. It diminishes the returns of your labor and the profits of your industry. You are wearing out your lives, impoverishing your land, and decreasing the value of it by the lack of these facilities. It is a question of necessity, not of choice.
Dodge described the OPRI's work, including its budget increase from $8,000 a year, to $14,000 the previous year, and $20,000 for the current year. The laboratory work cost $7,500 a year. He had recommended an increase in budget to $45,000, but "Congress did not see fit to make that appropriation." Nonetheless, he was optimistic:
I hope that, where these object-lesson roads are built and the people see them and see the benefits of them, there will be a public sentiment that will uphold the members of Congress in making these appropriations . . . . You must understand that any scheme or proposition we put forward in this matter is based on the belief that the benefits coming from these expenditures would be many times what the expenditures would be. [Bulletin 24, p. 16-19]
Dodge and Colonel Moore had prevailed on General Butler, the former Senator from South Carolina, to address the North Carolina convention. Referring to his service with "tar heel" troops in the Civil War and the arrival of cadets from the Agricultural and Mechanical College during Dodge's presentation, General Butler said, "I want to say to you now-to the young gentlemen and to the old gentlemen-that if you work roads as hard as you fought in those days you will have the best roads in the world."
He knew that everyone in the convention believed in the good roads cause, so he joined in endorsing the idea of State highway commissioners and State-aid programs where feasible. "But let me say what many of you already know: The people in the rural districts in the South-and I believe it is so in the North, both East and West-are not able to raise the amount of money necessary to improve the highways." Still, cities could help directly through taxation and by issuing bonds.
He thought the Federal Government, which "has appropriated $439,000,000 for the improvement of rivers and harbors, although the people do not all get uniform benefit from these appropriations," could do more. "There is as ample constitutional warrant for the improvement of the public roads out of the United States Treasury-as large as there is for improvement of rivers and harbors or for the support of the agricultural colleges." He knew the objection: "when the Federal Government comes to the aid of the counties and States the counties and States will fold their arms and do nothing." The State-aid concept where the States must help would defeat that objection.
General Butler urged people to speak to their Representatives and Senators about Federal involvement. He added:
Let me say another thing: If something is not done . . . the depopulation of the rural districts will be nearly complete; the people are not going to live where they can't get about. The young men will come to the towns and cities; the tendency is everywhere toward the concentration of population and the depopulation of the country districts; but decent roads would obviate this to a great degree.
He concluded that with efforts such as the work of the NGRA, "the leaven is working and will work until we get a movement by which the rural population of this country can derive their share of the benefits growing out of the liberal appropriations." [Bulletin 24, p. 19-22]
Other addresses covered the "History of Good Road Making in Mecklenburg County" (by Captain S. B. Alexander of Charlotte), "Good Roads and Their Relation to the Farmer" (T. B. Parker, secretary of State Farmers' Alliance based in Hillsboro), and "Interest of Railways in Road Improvement" (M. A. Hays, Agent of Land and Industrial Development of the Southern Railway). Alexander, whom Good Roads Magazine referred to as "the father of good roads in North Carolina," had worked for good roads as a State Senator. He appreciated General Butler's proposals for national and State aid, but said, "I am afraid I won't be here when that comes, and I want some good roads to go over while I am here." [Bulletin 24, p. 24]
The evening session began with the announcement that "on account of an unavoidable accident to the stereopticon apparatus, Professor Holmes, State Geologist and OPRI's Southern special agent, "would not be able to give his illustrated lecture on good roads." Addresses that evening covered "Economical Roads for Rural Districts" (Professor W. C. Riddick of the State Agricultural and Mechanical College),"Good Roads and Their Relation to Country Life" (General W. M. Cox, ex-president of the State Fair Association), and speeches from delegates representing North Carolina's counties.
February 13 began with talks on "Roads and Road Laws of Wake County" by W. C. McMackin, superintendent of roads for the county, and "Good Roads and Their Relation to Churches" by the Reverend T. N. Ivey, editor of the Christian Advocate in Raleigh. The Reverend Ivey concluded his address by referring to his observations of the object-lesson road and convention:
I have seen the wonderful road machinery at work, and the enthusiasm of the convention here assembled; I have listened to the speeches; and I see in it all a harbinger of a better day for North Carolina. I see the sunshine of prosperity falling like a mantle over our State; I see increased numbers of school children wending their way toward schoolhouses; I see the church filled with warmer and more enthusiastic congregations; I can hear the sound of trade as it sings and laughs on our highways, and to-day, as an humble representative of the church in North Carolina, as an official representative of the paper with which I am connected, I here pledge the efforts of all our good people to do with their might what their hands find to do in getting for North Carolina benefits which mean so much. May the blessings of God rest upon this convention and upon the cause which it represents. [Bulletin 24, p. 45]
He was followed by J. W. Abbott, OPRI's energetic western special agent, who spoke on "The Good Roads Movement in the West." He said of his territory:
The country I represent, beyond the Missouri, an empire so diversified in its products and in its possibilities that it covers almost everything desirable under the sun, is if possible more primitive in its roads than any portion of even your South, but they have begun to wake up to the question.
He said that while visiting the OPRI offices in Washington on Monday, he had seen the Sunday edition of the Raleigh News and Observer, which contained a three-page good roads feature:
I saw that you people in the South had waked up on this question; that your education had proceeded very much further than ours and I was glad of it . . . . I am going to return to the Pacific coast, and I shall tell them out there that they can look toward the South, from whence their help and inspiration in this matter is to come.
He explained that he was trying to convince western States that good roads could reduce shipping costs and to encourage newspapers to take up the cause, but at times, he felt "that we are undertaking a hopeless task without the means to accomplish the settlement of this road question." Then, he said, "I look back over other things in my life I have fought with, and, although the prospect now looks discouraging, we are bound finally to succeed." He concluded his brief remarks by noting that the South did not need the type of proselytizing as the West. "I don't believe any such work as that would be necessary here in the South; it seems to have been done." [Bulletin 24, p. 45-46]
After a speech on the "Economy of Good Roads" by Dr. George T. Winston, president, State College and Agriculture and Mechanical Arts, the General Superintendent of Free-Delivery System of the Post Office Department, A. W. Machen, spoke on "Rural Free Delivery of Mails." He began:
The great popularity of the rural free delivery causes such an incessant demand for the service that I am kept busy at my desk almost day and night.
However, he could not resist the invitation from Governor Aycock, Senators Simmons and Jeter C. Pritchard, and the NGRA to attend the convention "to point out to you in what way it [rural free delivery] affects the good roads movement." He put rural free delivery in context:
The school, the postal service, and good roads are to my mind among the most, if not the most, effective means through which the people may be given or may attain the full employment of material blessings here below.
Schools were first on his list because on them "rests the stability of our institutions." Mail service was second because "it is a great aid to each [schools and good roads] and at the same time dependent upon both":
Without education the mail service would be useless, and without good roads a modern universal mail service can not be brought to the degree of efficiency and perfection which an up-to-date public requires.
Before discussing roads in relation to mail service, Machen provided a brief history of rural free delivery:
At the sexennial convention of the Universal Postal Union held in Vienna in 1891 a proposition was made that every postal administration belonging to the union should undertake to establish a universal delivery of mail as soon as possible. Out of compliment to the United States, that agreement was signed on our national birthday-July 4, 1891. The American representatives on their return from Vienna made a report to the Postmaster-General. Mr. Wanamaker, the merchant prince of Philadelphia, was Postmaster-General at that time. He at once looked at the subject from the standpoint of a business man, saw the impracticability of attempting a universal free delivery immediately, and realized that the only thing to do to carry out our part of the agreement was to make an experiment to determine what could be done toward establishing a feasible system of rural delivery. He asked Congress for an appropriation of $10,000 for that purpose, which was promptly granted, effective July 1, 1893 . . . . I promptly made inquiries of friends, postal experts, and asked for suggestions as to the best method to be pursued in an experiment. The Postmaster-General of that day, confronted with decreasing revenues and increasing deficits, was loath to take a step which might involve the future revenues of the service, so the money was not expended.
Although Congress appropriated $10,000 the following 2 years, Postmaster-General Wanamaker did not use the funds before leaving office with President Grover Cleveland following the 1896 election. That year, Congress appropriated $40,000 for the experiment:
The late William L. Wilson was then Postmaster-General. While the phraseology of the appropriation did not make its disbursement mandatory on the Postmaster-General, Mr. Wilson considered the fact that Congress had quadrupled the appropriation in the absence of a recommendation or suggestion on his part to mean that the legislative branch of the Government had determined that an experiment should be made. On October 1, 1896, five and a half years ago, the first route was established in Charlestown, West Virginia.
By July 1, 1897, 44 rural free delivery routes were in operation, and by the end of 1898, 148 routes were active. With appropriations increasing to $1.75 million for FY 1901, the Postal Service brought the total to 4,301 routes serving 2.7 million rural inhabitants. For the current year, Congress had appropriated $3.5 million:
To-day there are 7,700 routes, covering 160,000 miles every day over country roads. By the 1st of next July fully 8,600 carriers will reach from 4,500,000 to 5,000,000 people in the country and travel 200,000 miles of road every day.
He anticipated that Congress would increase the funding for the coming fiscal year:
The great annual increases in the appropriation for rural free delivery have not been equaled in any other department of our Government and never in the history of the postal service. It took the city [postal] service twenty-five years to grow as much as rural free delivery has grown in five and a half years.
The mail carrier did more than deliver the mail to the farms so the farmer did not have to go to the nearest post office for other services:
He not only delivers and collects mail, but he registers letters and delivers registered letters and special delivery letters; he accepts money for a money order, gives an official receipt for it, and within a few months he will pay money orders at the farm; he answers all the purposes of a postmaster; he carries stamps and a special kind of stamped envelopes specially suited for rural districts.
Roads were the key to providing this service:
This service to be satisfactory, therefore, must be efficient; it must be regular and punctual; it must be a daily service; it must be prompt, because the farmer should know just what time every day to expect the carrier. Such a service can only be maintained with good roads; with bad roads it is impossible. Good roads are indispensable to rural free delivery if we hope to have an ideal service.
Therefore, Machen said, something had to be done to improve the roads. The previous summer, "the [Post Office] Department undertook . . . to call to the attention of those in charge of the construction and maintenance of public roads the necessity of improving them at once if a continuance of rural free delivery was desired." To follow up, the Department had sent a circular letter to postmasters seeking information on the condition of roads used by rural carriers. "A letter to the postmasters directed them to notify patrons that service would be discontinued if roads were not improved." The letters had the "desired effect" of prompting rural residents to ensure the local road superintendent tended to their roads.
In this brief history of rural free delivery, Machen had "shown what it does for the good roads movement and what it is bound to accomplish in the future wherever the people want the service." He added:
If they are as insistent everywhere else as they are in North Carolina through their Senators and Representatives, nothing will stop good roads. The people are bound to have rural free delivery, and in order to have it as it should be, efficient and satisfactory, they must provide good roads.
Before closing, Machen discussed the social benefits of rural free delivery, which helped to relieve the isolation of farm life. Like many others of that era, Machen was concerned about the isolation and monotony "which I believe is largely responsible for the desertion of the farms by the young men." He concluded by saying:
Rural free deliver means nothing more nor less than the city reaching out and clasping hands with the country, bringing our country cousins into a closer and more satisfactory relationship. This perfect public convenience, this ideal service for which we are now striving, can not be established or maintained without good roads. Therefore, good roads mean good rural free delivery. [Bulletin 24, p. 50-55]
Senator Simmons, who was the next speaker, delayed the start of his speech to make a motion that Machen's presentation "was worthy of more than passing notice, and he moved a rising vote of thanks." The thanks "was given unanimously and with applause."
(In July 1906, the Secretary of Agriculture and Postmaster-General entered into an agreement to facilitate rural free delivery by the improvement of country roads. As explained in the Office of Public Roads' annual report for FY 1906, the agreement "provides that whenever a road upon which a rural route has been or is about to be established is reported by the carrier or inspector to be impassable or in bad repair the Fourth Assistant Postmaster-General will advise the Director of the Office of Public Roads of the fact and request that he have an engineer inspector detailed to examine the road and give such advice and instruction to the local officials as may be required." The inspector would identify defects and advise on their correction-and assume temporary direction of the work in some cases at the county's request for purposes of instruction. "By this means correct methods of road building and road maintenance will be introduced into practically every section of the United States." [p. 22-23])
The subject of Senator Simmons' speech was "Methods of Raising and Expending Road Funds." He did not have a prepared speech on good roads, but the subject was sufficiently important that he decided to attend the convention. He did not come to talk about methods of building good roads, a subject he knew nothing about ("I am not in the habit of discussing war in the presence of Hannibal; and in the presence of these expert road builders I shall not be so presumptuous as to discuss methods of road building"). Instead, he came to learn.
As he understood it, the case for good roads rests on three propositions:
[It] is contended by the advocates of good roads that bad roads cost more than good roads . . . .
[The] good roads people claim that there are about 1,000,000 square miles of farm lands (650,000,000 acres) actually cultivated by the farmers of this country, and that the actual cost to the farmers and the community on account of bad roads is on an average of about 75 cents for each cultivated acre of land . . . .
The third general proposition is that it costs about three times as much to haul products per ton mile upon a bad road as upon a good road . . . .
When he first heard these statements, he said, "they so startled me that I was disposed to regard them more in the nature of guesses or as exaggerations of good roads fanatics and enthusiasts." But he found that the three points were based "upon reliable statistics carefully gathered by competent persons." Martin Dodge, he said, had based his data on requests for information sent to 10,000 farmers. "Why, then, should we not accept the conclusions of the good roads advocates drawn from statistics?"
He sometimes heard road builders "say that the period for agitation of good roads has passed, and that we have now entered the period of actual construction." While they were correct to an extent, he said, "If we do not progress any faster in good road building that we have during the last five years, it will be fifty years before we will have anything like a system of good roads in this State." He stated that, "the period of agitation for good roads will not pass until a majority of the people who are to furnish the money are convinced that money invested in good roads is well invested."
Some advocates thought the legislature would pass laws raising funds for good roads whether or not people were willing to be taxed for that purpose. Speaking as a practical matter, he said that a legislator is not likely to support "any measure he thinks will be obnoxious to a majority of his constituents." Money, nevertheless, was the key:
It does not take a minute's consideration to see that we can not succeed in building good roads in North Carolina under the present system of road building, by which every able-bodied man of a certain age is required to work upon the roads for a few days each year. We have been trying that method for about fifty years, and our roads, generally speaking, are but little, if any, better than they were fifty years ago.
Several methods were available for funding good roads by taxation. Convict labor was one option, while State aid as in New Jersey was another. "I do not mean to give my unqualified approval to either of these plans." The State Legislature must "evolve some satisfactory scheme."
He said the city folks had good roads because they taxed themselves to pay for them. "The suggestion that you build these [country] roads by taxing yourselves may shock you. It shocked the city people at first. I tell you, you can't have good roads without paying for them." He favored Governor Aycock's plans for the use of convict labor, but stressed: "impose upon yourselves a tax such as you think you can stand." He concluded:
My friends, let us then gird up our loins for the mighty race that is before us and continue in this work of building up the material interests of our State and nation as the basis of higher intellectual and social manhood and womanhood. [Bulletin 24, p. 55-61]
Senator Simmons did not express a view on whether the Federal Government should contribute to the cause.
Much of the afternoon session was devoted to organizing the North Carolina Good Roads Association. Resolutions adopted supported bureau status for the OPRI, creation of a State highway commission, adoption of a law providing for instruction in road building at the State University and the Agricultural and Mechanical College, and endorsing extended use of convict labor in road building.
(According to Dr. Walter R. Turner's history of the North Carolina Department of Transportation, the association would play a major role in ushering the State into the Good Roads era, including persistent lobbing that led to creation of the North Carolina State Highway Commission in 1915. [Turner, Walter R., Paving Tobacco Road: A Century of Progress by the North Carolina Department of Transportation, Historical Publications Section, Office of Archives and History, 2003, p. 2-3])
The evening session on February 13 began with Professor Holmes' stereopticon address on " Road Building in North Carolina." On the theory that the "present state of road improvement in any community can only be correctly understood when interpreted in the light of past experience," Professor Holmes provided a historical sketch beginning early in the 19th century. Discussing the present, he said:
The condition of the good roads movement in North Carolina . . . is, on the whole, quite encouraging. The more so, when it is remembered that nearly all of this progress has been made during the past decade. Evidently the reform has come to stay, and there will be very little turning backward in the future.
That being the case, he discussed the "four features which must be considered in all plans for future road improvement in this State. These are: Money, labor, intelligent supervision, and road-building materials."
Money was "one of the essential factors" in any public improvement. He explained that, "The deep-rooted opposition to all forms of taxation" in North Carolina had been "the great barrier to anything like general or uniform road legislation." Still, taxation was the answer:
Much has been accomplished in an irregular spasmodic sort of way in the past by voluntary and compulsory contributions in the form of labor, teams, implements, materials, etc. No intelligent man now doubts, or denies in theory, the fact that every practical system of road building . . . must be based upon money raised by taxation; but in practice we deny it every day.
He noted that, "The deep-rooted opposition to all forms of taxation by the people of North Carolina has been the great barrier to anything like general or uniform road legislation in the State."
Holmes described how despite the savings from good roads, "many of our people still too generally regard a tax simply as a burden." His expectation was that "some day our people will come to consider a tax in its true light as an investment, and as the best and only satisfactory means of accomplishing certain necessary and beneficent results."
He compared the "pay as you go" plan ("which means that the quantity of road building during any year must be limited to the amount of taxes raised for that purpose during that year") to bonds ("borrow a considerable supply to be used for road building purposes during a short period of time, and use the money raised by the annual road tax to pay the interest on the money thus borrowed and provide a sinking fund for the final payment of the same"). He summarized the issue by saying that under "pay as you go," a county could build 100 miles of good roads in 20 years, but not complete the work until near the end of the period. Under the bond system, the same work could be completed in 5 years "and during the remaining fifteen years the citizens of the county get the full benefit of all this work." In short:
And while the total expense for the construction of the 100 miles of road may be greater by the interest on the money borrowed than the sum total of the annual expenditures under the "pay as you go" policy, nevertheless by the bonding plan the people of the county have had the use of the good roads for nearly twenty years, and have used them to excellent advantage. They have made money on the investment.
Holmes discussed the mechanics of bond raising, but concluded that, "whether it be by bond issue or by ordinary tax methods, the one thing needful is that we raise the money and improve the roads.
Turning to the use of convict labor, he stated that "compulsory labor" by residents in lieu of a road tax was common in the South, but had been abandoned in Northern and Western States. The question was whether to employ convicts or hired labor. Professor Holmes favored convict labor:
[It] is generally conceded that these convicts are more efficient laborers than those which can be hired to do this work, for the reason that there is more regularity and system in the control of their labor, and the majority of the prisoners continue in the service long enough to derive considerable benefit from their experience and training.
He pointed out that if a man goes to court, he takes a lawyer. If he wishes to build a home, he hires an architect, and if sick, a doctor. However, "we have always had the notion that almost everybody was a good road builder, and as a result of this mistaken notion we have never had until recently any good roads in the Southern States." Building roads was a business that must be conducted by "men who have had some training and experience and who have demonstrated their capacity as road builders."
In conclusion, Holmes urged everyone to get involved:
In this great movement each individual, each community, each county, each State, and the Federal Government must do its full duty, and the result will be one of increasing intelligence and prosperity in all this good land of ours. [Bulletin 24, p. 65-71]
To close the convention, M. O. Eldridge delivered his popular stereopticon speech on the roads of the world. The bulletin observed that, "The lecture was highly instructive and entertaining throughout, and the audience frequently expressed appreciation by applause.
According to Bulletin No. 23, the convention "both as to numbers in attendance and the general interest aroused, was quite successful." [Bulletin 23, p. 68]
The bulletin explained that, "Inclement weather compelled the cessation of work by the good roads train during the last two weeks of February." Operations resumed on March 3 in Lynchburg, Virginia.
According to Good Roads Magazine, Dodge and Moore were in Washington arranging for the convention in Charlottesville, where the train was scheduled for an 11-day stay:
A formal invitation to Congress to attend this convention was to be extended, and it was expected that the President and members of the Cabinet would be making the postponed trip to the Charleston Exposition at about that time, and an effort is to be made to secure their presence in Charlottesville. The broad scope of the convention is to be seen in the list of speakers, which embraces Governor Montague of Virginia, Senator Daniel, General John B. Gordon, General Joseph Wheeler, General Fitzhugh Lee, Senator Mitchell, Senator Perkins, Senator Dolliver, Senator Hanna, Senator Depew, ex-Secretary of State Olney, ex-Governor David R. Francis of Missouri, and Mr. J. J. Hill, the railroad magnate. [March 1902, p. 5]
Although bad weather interfered with the object-lesson road work in Lynchburg, the bulletin reported that a "considerable stretch of earth road and another of macadam were constructed in the west part of the city." The interesting feature of the macadam road was that it replaced a macadam road built early in the 19th century:
This old road was built with stones of any size which happened to be at hand, and while the road served its purpose in its day, the larger stones kept working up to the surface, causing it to be rough at all seasons, and in the muddy season almost impassable. Its condition, compared with that of the new road built, showed the difference in macadam construction as practiced seventy-five years ago and that of to-day.
(The bulletin did not say so, but the macadam road built in the early 19th century does not appear to have followed John L. McAdam's specifications. McAdam called for three layers of stones of differing measured sizes, compacted with a heavy roller. Drainage was provided via a crowned subgrade and ditches along the side.)
The convention was held on March 6 and 7 in the Hill City Masonic Hall. U.S. Senator John W. Daniel, a native of Lynchburg, was one of the featured speakers on March 7. Daniel, a lawyer, was known as the "Lame Lion of Lynchburg" because of extensive injuries he suffered as a Major in the Confederate Army during the Battle of the Wilderness in 1864. His lengthy remarks were reprinted in full, one of the longest addresses in the bulletin. An excerpt:
An itinerant college on wheels has come among us. It brings its professors and its equipment with it. It is known as the "good roads train" of the Southern Railway system. This college does not teach out of books, nor solely by word of mouth. It teaches by the greater power of example. If you will just watch its operation you will see a new good road grow over an old and bad road at the magic touch of titanic machinery, and while an orator talks of road building it will set his words to the music of practical accomplishment.
The United States is here with its good roads promoter and its rural free-delivery representatives to give suggestions and encouragement. The United States is pretty much everywhere. It is a good friend and an uncomfortable enemy, and I hope we shall always be ready to accept its friendship and cooperation. Indeed, we are a right considerable part of the United States ourselves, and we want to do our share of duty to the Republic and receive our share of the benefits. We give hearty welcome to its representatives . . . .
When a child I stood on the old stone wall which still overlooks the union depot here and saw Governor Floyd strike the first pick in the ground for the beginning of the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad. Recently I have gotten on a Pullman car here and taken a journey to San Francisco and back, scarcely touching the ground going or coming.
Here and now we behold the initiation of another new movement, a movement for good local roads, and many who witness these exercises will live, I hope, to see them constructed and to enjoy the pleasures and benefits which they will bring.
A good road is a universal public benefaction. There is not a single member of the community who does not receive advantage and pleasure from it. It is the most democratic of all public institutions. A court-house is for litigants, an asylum is for the infirm, a jail for criminals, a theater for entertainment, a park for recreation, a school for instruction, a church for worshipers, a hotel for wayfarers, but a good road is for everybody-saint and sinner, man, woman, and child, maid and matron, young and old, rich and poor, healthy and sick, the lame, the halt, and the blind-all get a share of benefit from a good road.
A good road is a mark of the progress of the community in which it is located. Show me a good road and I will confidently say of the people of the community: "They are up and doing: they are going forward."
He recalled Lynchburg's isolated days before the railroad and canal. "A boy who had been to Baltimore and gotten back was a returned adventurer," he said, "and could tell greater tales than a modern military hero just home from the Philippines."
Senator Daniel extolled the value of good roads, but asked, "Whence are these good roads to come? From the United States? From Virginia? From the municipal and county organizations?" He praised the General Government for establishing the OPRI "to encourage and aid, by literature and object lessons, the increase of good roads in our country." However, he cautioned, "Don't look for much help from the United States. The General Government will give you instructions and suggestions. The rural-delivery carriers will talk good roads wherever they go, but beyond this we should not indulge in great expectations. The States had "enough on hand with public debt and public schools." The answer, therefore, was:
[You] must look to yourselves, and face the plain proposition that the question of good roads is a question of finance, and therefore a question of taxation. You are the taxpayers. It is your business, and it is your burden that is to be lifted, and the results are for your benefit. It is for the taxpayers to work out their own salvation, bearing this in mind, that any community that has bad roads can not more speedily or more thoroughly improve itself than by making good ones.
In closing, the Senator pointed out that one sometimes hears of a young man "who is of the right stuff: "He will take an education." He concluded:
[The country] will not only take education, it thirsts for it, it demands it, and it will have it. Let us stretch forth the tentacles of good roads to all our neighbors. Let us pile up fuel on the flame of enthusiasm for road improvement that is burning here to-day. Let us bid godspeed to the good roads train; let us remember that good roads mean not only the better exchanges of products and greater material prosperity, but the drawing of our people closer together, on better understanding of each other, thus leading all to that useful and happy career "whose ways are ways of pleasantness, and all whose paths are peace." [Bulletin 23, p. 68-74]
(He was quoting Proverbs (ch. III, v. 17).)
The bulletin also reprinted a technical address by Colonel W. M. Patton of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute on "Alignment of Public Highways" and an address by M. A. Hays, representing the Southern Railway, on "Relation of Good Roads to Industrial Development." Hays spoke of the opportunities available to Virginia. He foresaw an end to the east-to-west migration that had been common in the United States, to be replaced by a north-to-south movement. "I know of nothing which will do so much to accelerate such a movement as will the improvement of your public highways." Referring to Governor Andrew Jackson Montague, who had taken office on January 1, 1902, Hays explained:
Governor Montague, in his recent addresses upon the road question, stated that you are spending $700,00 a year for highways, and that nearly the whole of that amount is wasted. That sum intelligently spent would give Virginia a system of public highways equal to any in this country . . . . [It] would appear that it costs no more to build and maintain good highways, if the work is done properly, than it does to have bad highways.
The general improvement of American highways will do more than anything else to stimulate the productive energy of our people, building up and providing new markets, home markets-the best markets we can have-increasing and diffusing our national wealth, providing new fields of labor for our youth, broadening and bettering all our people, and in every way adding to their prosperity and social and moral advancement. Compared with the improvement of our public highways all other economic questions now before the people are really insignificant. [Bulletin 23, p. 74-77]
Before the convention ended, delegates formed the Midland James River Valley Good Roads Association and adopted a resolution commending Governor Montague for his efforts to improve public roads.
The Southern Railway Good Roads Train, having canceled its stop in Danville, Virginia, on February 17 to 22 because of bad weather, arrived for its rescheduled events on March 10, with the stay to last until March 15. The weather was excellent, allowing the object-lesson crew to regrade and macadamize a 1,600 foot stretch of city street, 16 feet wide, and to build "a considerable stretch" of earth road. The bulletin added:
Capt. C. A. Ballou, city engineer of Danville, estimated the cost of the macadam road alone at $1,965. The total expenditures of all kinds in the construction of this work by the experts of the good-roads train including the earth road and the expenses for holding the convention and bringing the train to Danville, borne by the citizens, were $1,600. [Bulletin 23, p. 81]
Nearly 1,000 people attended the convention, held on March 13 and 14. Many of the usual speakers, along with local good roads advocates, addressed the convention, including Eldridge, who delivered his roads of the world speech. Logan Page, OPRI's road-material expert, was listed as participating for the first time on the trip, but his presentation on "Proper Road Materials" was not reprinted.
Governor Montague's presentation, according to Good Roads Magazine, was of "chief interest," although the bulletin did not reprint it. The magazine stated that the Governor "reminded his audience that bad roads cost as much as good ones, and pointed to the macadam road from Staunton to Winchester as having much to do with the prosperous condition of that section of the State." [This was a reference to the Shenandoah Turnpike.] Governor Montague said, "There is no State in the Union that has issued bonds to improve its highways that has had to increase its taxes. The increased revenues resulting from the improvement of the highways have always met all obligations." The magazine summarized his key points:
He said that Virginia needs a road commissioner to look after her roads, and that she will never have good roads until she has such an officer. He would have this commissioner be an expert and have his position be kept free from politics. He appealed to the people to take more interest in securing good roads, and stated that good roads could be built out of Danville and the town could capture the trade of other cities, or good roads could be made in the surrounding towns and they could take the business away from Danville. He said he believed that the National Government would soon be giving aid to the highway improvement movement. The Governor referred to North Carolina as the most progressive of the Southern States, and said: "With good roads in our mountain sections these counties would be filled in summer with wealthy people seeking health and pleasure. I would suggest," he continued, "that you request your legislators to give you the means and aid necessary to build the roads, and if they fail to comply with your request turn them out and elect men who will. As Governor I will promise to do all in my power to further the cause." ["Good Roads Train in the South," Good Roads Magazine, April 1902, p. 5]
The bulletin reprinted only one of the Danville presentations, this one by Professor Holmes on "Some Essentials in the Modern Systems of Road Building in the Southern States." Holmes stated that:
Our more thoughtful citizens have long since reached the conclusions that the old system of road building by compulsory labor-which is a relic of the Middle Ages-is a misfit for our modern civilization and that it must be abandoned and a new system inaugurated before we can expect to have any decided and permanent improvement in our public highways.
Given that "the necessity for money as a basis for all road building" was unquestioned, he addressed the pay-as-you-go plan and going in debt for good roads as methods of raising funds. His comments on these options, as well as on convict labor and the need for trained road builders, reflected his comments in Raleigh. [Bulletin 23, p. 82-86]
The convention resulted in organization of the Interstate Good Roads Association "to include the border counties of Virginia and North Carolina." Resolutions supported the Governor's recommendations, suggested increased appropriations for OPRI's work, and commended rural free delivery of mail and the use of convict labor in road construction and improvement. [Bulletin 23, p. 86-87]
The train arrived in Richmond on March 16 and spent a week in the State capital. As usual, the object-lesson work was a key feature:
A considerable amount of work was done on Floyd avenue between Lombardy and Park streets, consisting mainly of cutting and filling and illustrating the use of earth-handling machinery. After the grading was completed a short section of gravel roadway was built, demonstrating the application of domestic materials in connection with modern road-making machinery. [Bulletin 23, p. 87]
Good Roads Magazine provided a less mundane description of the work:
Construction work was begun at Floyd Ave. and Park St. The work of grading and macadamizing attracted a large crowd, in which were the city engineer and assistant engineer and the road supervisors. The operation of the elevating grader and loader attracted most interest. ["Good Roads Convention in Richmond," Good Roads Magazine, April 1902, p. 6]
The Virginia State Good Roads Convention took place on March 20 and 21 in the Chamber of Commerce hall. Good Roads Magazine explained that, "All the railroads out of Richmond offered half-fare rates to the convention . . . . The attendance on the opening day passed all expectation, the hall being filled with delegates from all parts of the State."
Although the bulletin listed many of the speakers, it did not reprint their presentations. The magazine indicated that Colonel George W. Miles of Radford, Virginia, who was selected as permanent chairman of the convention, recommended that Virginia issue $5 million in bonds for road work. Governor Montague welcomed the crowd stating, as summarized in the magazine:
. . . the Legislature does what the people force it to do, and that the convention could do what it desired by arousing public sentiment; that the city was more vitally interested in the public highways than the country people; that he did not think it was altogether a question of money, and that he wanted to see Virginia do exactly what North Carolina was doing-appointing an engineer over the highways of the State.
The Governor endorsed the use of convict labor, "referring to the overcrowded conditions of the penitentiary, suggesting that the prisoners be put to work preparing road material." The magazine noted that Colonel Moore also endorsed convict labor.
(Dr. Turner's history of the North Carolina Department of Transportation discussed the North Carolina engineer noted by Governor Montague:
In 1901 the North Carolina General Assembly had created a feeble North Carolina State Highway Commission, composed of the commissioner of agriculture, the state geologist, and a secretary. The duties of the Highway Commission, which had virtually no funding, were to furnish an engineer to assist counties and towns (with the agriculture department furnishing one also), to establish rules for prison road crews, and to supply technical plans and advice . . . . The Highway Commission disbanded two years later, with few results to show for its efforts. [Turner, p. 2])
The magazine continued:
Hon. Martin Dodge, director of the Office of Public Road Inquiries, spoke of the advantage of hard roads to the farmer. He said that the Virginia representatives in Congress and the State Legislature should be asked to make appropriations for road improvement, and mentioned Congressman Otey's bill in Congress to appropriate $100,000,000 for the improvement of public highways throughout the country.
W. A. Land, editor of the Blackstone Courier, offered a resolution requesting the committees on roads in the State Senate and House of Representatives to attend the sessions of the convention and explain the objections to the road bill that failed to pass the House on the preceding day, and discuss the advisability of another bill being introduced with the objectionable features eliminated. A committee was appointed to notify the legislators of the resolution.
The magazine estimated that on the second day of the convention, more people were in attendance than the first day ('about 300 were seated in the hall of the Chamber of Commerce, not including the spectators or visitors."). Senator Daniel "was a prominent speaker." [April 1906, p. 6]
Delegates organized the Virginia Good Roads Association. Resolutions urged the State to adopt a system for permanent improvement of highways, recommended the State Legislature approve a State-aid system, endorsed the use of convict and vagrant labor in the preparation of road materials, and supported any measure to extend OPRI's work. [Bulletin 23, p 83]
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