Byler Road Memories

From The Advertiser-Journal, June 17 & 22, 1937; The Winston Herald, May 21, 1937

Residents of Walker, Winston, and Fayette Counties have appointed committees from the respective territories to form plans for reclaiming the 38-mile link of the Byler Turnpike between Haleyville and Bankston.

The committees were formed following a mass meeting held at Eldridge at which prominent speakers discussed the history of the road from early days to the present. The speakers included Judge L.G. Garrison, of Jasper; Judge F.M. Johnson, of Double Springs; J.D. Patton, Eldridge; H.P. Simms, Eldridge; Lee Kelley, Fayette; G.B. Harbin and B.W. Thorogood, postmaster at Eldridge. County committees are: Walker County, Judge L.G. Garrison, J.R. White, J.A. Kelley, E.C. Ellson, and B.W. Thorogood; Winston, Judge F.M. Johnson, C.F. Watts, H.T. Harris, Dr. L.L. Armstrong, and L.L. Dodd; Fayette, Judge Moore, Lynn Baker, Herchel Devers, A.A. Fowler, and Mr. Simpson.

"Uncle" George Bonner, of Eldridge, is ninety-two years old and has lived in Eldridge for 78 years. He particularly remembers the history of the Byler Road, especially the portion from Haleyville to Bankston. He recalls the taverns, the toll gates, the horse blocks, stage coach, and the hog and cattle drovers that existed before the age of railroads and paved highways. The road began at Bainsbridge on the Tennessee and ran directly on a high dry route southward to Tuscaloosa on the Black Warrior. Its construction was authorized by the first Legislature of the State of Alabama. Mr. Bonner thinks the state should show honor to the builders of this road by rebuilding the part from Haleyville to Bankston, where it would join a good state highway to Tuscaloosa.

We think this project should be actively talked up and its building urged. The main street of Haleyville was a part of the old Byler Road. It extends northeast for perhaps fifty miles without crossing a creek. It divides the waters of the Tennessee and the Black Warrior. Our Eldridge friends are much in earnest about it. So far, there has been little effort made to get our town behind it. We wish our friends south would come and tell us more about it.

It was completed in 1823 or one hundred and fourteen years ago. Mr. Bonner when a young man conversed with two of the men who supervised cutting the right-of-way. The road had to be twelve feet in width at all points, all non-fordable streams were bridged, and all stumps removed. Having very poor facilities for either felling the trees or removing the stumps, the supervisors explained that when they came to unusually large trees they just made a crook in the road. When the right-of-way was completed at Tuscaloosa, an elaborate program, barbecue, and general jubilee was held to celebrate the great day. The state’s first highway was becoming a visible possibility.

"You just tell them that I said I think they owe the original builders that much honor," said Mr. Bonner. "Then the road they built should be an honor to the county, to the state, and to the nation."

Many people agree that he is right in these statements and all hope that Mr. Bonner will live long past the paying of the "honor" debt, that where he once drove an ox team struggling along the mire, he will ride in a modern automobile over a modern hard-surfaced road, where once was only the old tavern on the road and camp springs under the hill, but where now is a thriving village, a village whose people, like he, delights in the glory of the past, and yet look forward toward a better tomorrow.