Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Old U.S. Road played a key role in Jackson County's history

By Dale Cox

The “Old U.S. Road” and a second road that followed the route of modern State Highway 2 west from Campbellton to the Choctawhatchee River were created by an Act of Congress signed into law by President Andrew Jackson on July 2, 1836. Leading south from Daleville, Alabama, by way of the modern community of Cottonwood, the new road ran through the rich farmland east of the Chipola River. Highway 167, still known as the “Old U.S. Road,” follows the route of this early wagon trail from the Alabama line to the outskirts of Marianna.

The original road entered Marianna via the bridge then located at the foot of Jackson Street. It then led south to Apalachicola by way of the new and booming coastal city of St. Joseph (on the site of today’s Port St. Joe).
On March 3, 1837, the President signed a second appropriation for the project, designating $20,313 for use in continuing the construction of the road. Despite the violence that had erupted between the United States and many of the warriors of the Creek and Seminole Nations, the work went forward.
The primary purpose for Federal involvement in the construction of the new road was to provide a reliable route for the delivery of mail to Marianna, St. Joseph and Apalachicola. Bids for delivery were let by the postal service in 1836 and the contractor was required to have his route up and running by February 1, 1837. Under the provisions outlined by the postal service, mail would be carried from Marianna to Daleville, an estimated distance of 60 miles, once each week. A second tier of stages would provide mail delivery between Marianna and St. Joseph twice each week, an estimated distance of 90 miles.
A second contract was let at the same time to provide mail stage service from Campbellton to Pensacola on a weekly basis. The distance, by way of Pittman’s Ferry on the Choctawhatchee and Floridatown, was estimated to be 120 miles.
The fact that the Postmaster General expected the new routes to be in service by February 1, 1837, is an indication that progress on the construction of the new roads was believed to be going well. It took somewhat longer than expected to get the mails running, but by November the Tallahassee Floridian was able to report that the speed of communication with St. Joseph would soon be running “from three to four days earlier.”
The new U.S. Road was finished by 1838 and became part of a growing transportation network in Jackson County.
Note: This article is excerpted from the book The History of Jackson County, Florida: The Early Years. The book is Volume One of a planned three volume set. It is available locally at Chipola River Book and Tea in Downtown Marianna or online at www.amazon.com.


DRW said...

I'm assuming that the Marianna-St Joe's road was obviated by the Marianna-Chattahoochee ferry road that became the mail route by the late 1860s, particularly after extension of the railroad from Quincy to Chattahoochee. When did this transition take place?
Dan Weinfeld

Dale said...

Actually, the Marianna-St. Joe's road continued to be used and most of it remains in use today. Mail was being carried via the Marianna-Chattahoochee road as early as the late 1820s. Both mail routes remained important, as the Marianna-St. Joe route also provided mail access by land to and from Apalachicola, which was important as the riverboats could not run during dry weather.