Legislators to Mark Alabama’s First Public Road

Tuscaloosa, AL. – A group of Alabama legislators plan to erect historic markers in northwest Alabama to identify the first public road commissioned in 1819 by the new state government of Alabama, Rep. Tracy Estes announced today.

The original north-south road covering 140 miles linked Courtland on the Tennessee River to the north and Tuscaloosa on the Black Warrior River on the south. he said.

Pennsylvania contractor John Byler built what is recognized as the first state road in Alabama, Estes said. Two days after Alabama became a state in December 1819, the legislature authorized, and Gov. William Wyatt Bibb signed a contract with Byler to build a toll road to spur settlement and open the way south and west. It was completed in 1822, Estes said. Much of the roadwork was done by veterans of the Revolutionary War and veterans of 1812 and 1814, America’s first veterans, he said.

Eastern newspapers referred to the Byler as a turnpike. Thousands of pioneering pilgrims followed it to settle south and west. Andrew Jackson made sure that good land was available to the constructors at good prices, historians say. Hundreds took advantage. There are at least 60 GPS verified locations where Revolutionary War veterans bought land, settled, worked, raised families, died and were buried along the route.

Estes, the Winfield legislator, told legislators at a luncheon on the University of Alabama campus, “That route still exists. Over time, it has been paved and repaved.”

He said the road evolved from paths created by prehistoric woodlands bison that cut the trail thousands of years ago. “Native Americans followed the trail and widened it to a path. John Byler created a road from it.”

It was begun 20 years after theNatchez Trace was carved from wilderness growth, officials said.

Estes said Rep. Matt Woods, Rep. Tim Wadsworth, Mayor David O’Mary, Eldridge officials and Walker County Commission Chairman Steve Miller and Paul Kennedy and the Walker Area Heritage Foundation members are closely involved.

Estes said the University of Alabama Center for Economic Development anticipates a multi-year project to make the Byler an authorized scenic trail. State tourism director Lee Sentell said his office wil help Estes group raise public and private funds.


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