Highway Number One
During the 1800’s the main source of transportation in America was the railroad. It was important to American life. It was so important that towns like Dickson were formed because of the railroad. But as the 1800’s faded away, a new form of transportation was emerging, the automobile.
Henry Ford invented a new way to manufacture the automobile that made it more affordable and more accessible to people all over the country. After Ford began producing the Model T in 1908, the automobile's popularity spread rapidly across the county. As automobiles became more popular, a movement to establish better roads for cars to drive on was formed. It was known as the “Good Roads Movement.”
The push for good roads in Tennessee began in 1910 when a group of “Good Roads'' supporters came to Nashville urging the state to build a long road to connect Tennessee from east to west, They had traveled across the state trying to gain support for the building of the state road and their most compelling argument was probably that it would benefit farmers.
The only roads that existed in the early 1900’s in rural areas were dirt roads that were often in bad shape and sometimes impassable. Their message included the saying “Get the Farmer out of the Mud” because it was so common for farmers to get stuck in the mud trying to get their goods to the market. They argued that better farm to market roads would benefit everyone.
The state government listened and formed a group of men representing several government agencies that met in Nashville on September 20, 1911 to determine the best route for the potential statewide highway.
They decided to travel the long route themselves. They left Nashville and traveled east to Bristol. With automobiles still relatively new, The group encountered several challenges along the way. Some were even surprised that the cars were able to make the journey due to the poor condition of the roads at the time. After they arrived in Bristol, the men drew up some plans and then they headed back to Nashville.
The next week, the group left Nashville and headed west to Memphis. They left Nashville, driving through Dickson County. After reaching Memphis, the men drew up some more plans and then they headed back to Nashville again.
Along their journeys both east and west, the group made several stops meeting and greeting people. Many towns provided welcoming parties in an attempt to persuade the men to bring the road through their communities. After careful consideration the group had a plan. By the end of 1911, the Memphis to Bristol Highway Association released a road map of the proposed route of the new state road. The route was scheduled to go through Dickson County.
Construction began almost immediately and by 1915, most of the road was complete. Governor Tom C. Rye had made roads a priority in his administration. The Tennessee State Highway Department was created during his first term as governor in 1915 and it’s focus was the new Memphis to Bristol Highway because there were still parts of the road west of Nashville that were not finished. By the summer of 1916, there was a push to finish those parts of the highway.
One of the sections of the road that had not been completed was the part through Dickson County. The route had been secured to go through the county, but the local residents had done little to complete their section of the road. In early July of 1916 the citizens of White Bluff got together to have a meeting about the road's completion. There was fear that due to their lack of effort, the road may go in another direction. The meeting was successful and it reignited interest in the project countywide.
The next summer, the people of Dickson took action as well. There was a meeting in Dickson for the purpose of securing $760 from the public to pay for the surveying of the highway through Dickson County from the Cheatham County to the Humphreys County line. It took the excited crowd less than 15 minutes to donate the entire sum of money.
The original plan was for the road to travel west out of Nashville and go through Bellevue, into Pegram, and then Kingston Springs, before entering Dickson County. Once in Dickson County the road would travel through White Bluff, Burns, Dickson, and Tennessee City before hitting the Humphreys County line. From there, the road would travel west and then eventually conclude in Memphis.
A survey began in August near Pegram and was finished by September of 1917. A group was elected to oversee the project and work was scheduled to be completed on “Highway Number One” by Christmas of 1917.