Good roads paved the way

Posted by Teresa Leonard on December 27, 2013 

A boy scout troop greets Governor Locke Craig at his January 1913 inauguration.

ALBERT BARDEN COLLECTION, NORTH CAROLINA STATE ARCHIVES

Elected in 1912 as the state’s first “Good Roads Governor,” Locke Craig laid the groundwork – literally – that cemented North Carolina’s course to becoming "The Good Roads State." Under his leadership, five thousand miles of state-built roads in 1913 grew to fifteen thousand miles by 1917.

Throughout North Carolina yesterday, in obedience to the proclamation of His Excellency, Governor Craig, the first of the two days met apart as “Good Roads Days” was generally observed, with the governor buckling down to real manual labor, attired in overalls, in his home county of Buncombe, “shovelling dirt” while his enthusiastic co-workers and the spectators encouraged his efforts with hearty cheers....

Clad in overalls and swinging a pick and shovel as one who has had plenty of experience, Gov. Locke Craig was one of North Carolina’s most active good roads workers today, spending his time on highways in the vicinity of this city. He spent the greater part of the day on the Haw Creek road, a few miles from Asheville, and this afternoon he assisted the good road workers on the road leading through Sassafras Gap.

The observance of the first of good roads days in this State was successful from every point of view. According to the conservative estimates made by highway engineers and construction men the amount of work performed in Buncombe today could not have been done with an expenditure of $7,500.

Tomorrow Buncombe county residents will continue their work and the climax of the day will be reached at a barbecue which is to be served to 500 men near Weaverville. At this barbecue Governor Craig will be the principal speaker....

Accounts of similar road work throughout the state caught the attention of one “good roads” advocate.

Editor R. H. Edmonds, of the Manufacturers’ Record was among the happiest of Southerners yesterday when he saw an able-bodied State working on the roads and part proof of his theory that the automobile will rival the locomotive.

Mr. Edmonds spent the night here Tuesday and meant to remain in Raleigh yesterday, but the lure of the road called him out. He meant to motor to Pinehurst where sand-clay is held in reverence. But he became interested here in what the State actually means to do on the two good roads days that Governor Craig set apart for work. ...

Mr. Edmonds has been making speeches in the South this week and today he will get fresh inspiration. He believes nothing will advance the prosperity of his South quite so much as roads. He sees, not far ahead a commerce carried on over good roads by motor trucks and rates on the railroads reduced in deference to this modernism.

Speaking of his reason for driving off early yesterday morning, Mr. Edmonds said:

“I want to be on the road today to see how North Carolina responds to the governor’s call for road work, and so in motoring to Pinehurst I will have a chance to do so. I believe the real problem is of more vital importance to the country’s welfare than the tariff or the railroad question. It is a question of tremendous moment. Bad roads mean bad farming, lonely farm life, a continued movement of people away from the country, poor schools, poor churches and poor attendance at both. The life of the country is being drained to the city. All this means injury to the country and gradual decadence of country civilization. Good roads mean the opposite of all these things – better farming, less cost of hauling, less loneliness, more community interest, more and better schools and churches and a higher and broader development of country life, in education, in religion and everything that makes for the betterment of mankind. That is why I am working for good roads and why I have done so for many years. I want to congratulate Governor Craig and hope that under his leadership all North Carolina may be thoroughly awakened to this tremendously vital question which is as essential to the best city growth as well as to country. The broadest development of civilization itself, the highest efficiency of life cannot come until all over the South we have good highways. Much of the travel and much of the hauling of the future must be done by autos and motor trucks whenever and wherever good roads make this possible. Railroad building cannot keep up with the demand under present conditions and the problem of transportation must be partly solved by good roads and motor trucks.” The N&O 11/6/1913

Read more stories from local and state history and send us your own stories on the blog Past Times, newsobserver.com/pasttimes.

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