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Mike Watson: Early Roads and Bridges of Adair County, KY

Columbia reputedly built around crossing of two bison trails. This narrative includes efforts by local entrepreneurs to make Columbia a transportation hub utilizing ferries and fords with turnpikes to Greensburg, to New Haven to Burkesville as well as to Monticello and Knoxville, TN.
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By Mike Watson
Adair County Historian

A major trail from the Bluegrass into Tennessee passed through what is now Adair County. Early pioneers followed the well-defined natural roads made by the North American bison. Two bison trails crossed near the where the Town Branch crosses Jamestown Street in present day Columbia. The town reputedly sprang up where it did due to the close proximity to the trails. Where the trails crossed creeks and rivers, there were natural fords useful for pioneers.

Fords across the Green and Cumberland Rivers and larger creeks like Russell and Crocus were used by the pioneers and their descendants and some are likely in use today. David Doak and Vandiver Banks ran ferries across the Green River at an early date.


Caldwell's Ferry across Russell Creek at Columbia

William Caldwell owned a ferry that crossed Russell Creek, probably in the vicinity of Columbia and prior to the building of the first bridges. One of the DeMoss brothers operated a ferry across Russell Creek somewhere near present Milltown in the early 1800s.

Roads were important to Adair from an early date for obvious reasons. Freight was hauled from great distances to Columbia, and from here to Danville, Springfield, Lebanon and Louisville. Freight lines were big business in this area. The mail was carried first by horse back and later, in part, by the stage coaches that traveled from Columbia to Burkesville, Campbellsville and various other towns in the region. The Barbee Stage Coach line was the last to operate out of Columbia.

State Road through Adair connectiing Danville to TN line

State Road Running from Danville through Adair to Moses Stone's, thence through Cumberland County to the Tennessee state line. Order by the General Assembly in 1820 to open a section from Stone's to Burkesville. --Act of the KY General Assembly

State Road: Greensburg to Columbia to Knoxville, TN

"Be it enacted that James Ewing, James Page, John Smith, Sr. and George Elliott of Adair County be appointed commissioners, and James M. McCorkle, William Porter, Joshua Brumall and George Wagley, of Green County, who shall possess the same authority as the commissioners, to open books for the subscription of stock for the purpose of constructing a turnpike from Greensburg by way of Columbia, Jamestown and Monticello to the state line, in the direction to Knoxville. Be it further enacted that the county courts of Adair and Green Counties shall possess the same power and authority that is given to Russell and Wayne in this act, to fill the vacancies that may in anywise occur in the list of the said Commissioners for their respective counties." --Approved by the KY General Assembly on 21 February 1837.

"Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of KY, that the Columbia, Jamestown and Monticello Turnpike Road Company, be, and it is hereby authorized to construct a bridge across the Green River, where the road from Greensburg to the Tennessee line, by way of Columbia, Jamestown and Monticello, in the direction of Knoxville, crosses it....that the rates of toll authorized to be demanded and received, by an act incorporating the Franklin Bridge Company, approved February 17, 1836, shall be authorized..." --Approved 6 February 1839.

The Columbia-Burkesville Turnpike

The Columbia-Burkesville Turnpike was organized by an Act of the KY Legislature in 1864, during the Civil War, and was authorized to do business as "The Columbia and Burkesville Turnpike Road Company." The capital stock was to be $30,000, divided into 50 shares. Commissioners were: William E. Parker, George W. Overstreet, Josiah Hunter, Timoleon Cravens, Thomas T. Alexander, J.H.C. Sandidge, Robert K. Young, A.G. Waggener, William F. Owsley, Jo. B. Alexander, James M. Boles, and J.C. Winfrey. In 1874 the KY General Assembly modified the original act, and an act of May 1880 further amended the original Acts. In 1880, a "one-half toll" gate was repealed. It had been authorized to operate within one half mile of Burkesville.

Greensburg, Columbia, and New Haven Turnpike Company

The KY General Assembly authorized the creation of the Greensburg, Columbia and New Haven Turnpike Road Company in February 1871. Commissioners were to be: James Garnett, Thomas Frazier, James R. Hindman, Joshua Hatcher, Robert Haskins, Robert Wilson, Alfred Anderson, Jefferson Henry, Moses Blakeman, J.J. Durham, D. Hudson, D.T. Towles, B.W. Penick, E.H. Hobson, William N. Vaughn, W.H. Chelf, William S. Hodges, Thomas H. Moss, James A. Howell and John Atherton. The road was to lead from Columbia by way of Greensburg, to a point in Larue County so as to intersect the Bardstown and Green River Turnpike. They were authorized to sell $150,000 in shares at $25 per share.

- Mike Watson


This story was posted on 2014-01-14 05:54:26
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