Day 2: December 23, 2007
The Federal Road
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In the early nineteenth century, a road was made to connect Fort Stoddert, in the not yet state of Alabama, with Milledgeville, then the capital of Georgia. Connecting with other paths on either end, it formed part of a practical route between Washington and New Orleans. It began as a narrow trace for postal riders and military movement but grew to at least a wagon road. I'm a bit short on details but believe the "Federal Road" name was a popular rather than official one. It was never paved while it existed as a single entity but long sections did develop into well traveled stage coach routes. Some background information is available here and here. Much of the road is gone and some is under more modern routes such as bits of US-80.

I learned of a couple of stretches south of Montgomery that seemed like they might make for an interesting drive. These photos were taken about a mile west of the little town of Pintlala. Besides the large historical marker, a road sign at the left of the second picture identifies the "FEDERAL RD". The last second picture looks south from the intersection.

The shutters and alter of this church are from the original 1846 log building that was served by a circuit preacher. Formal services haven't been held here since 1978 but it is certainly well maintained. There is a "dead end" sign on the road at the church and the road does get quite narrow. I gave it a look from the church yard then decided to give it a try. The road really is closed off after half a mile or so just beyond another church. This church is very much active as I met two cars as I drove in and another after turning around. On this road, a bit of cooperation is required when cars meet.

Next I stopped by a couple more places with a Hank Williams connection. The first is a theater in Greenville where a young Hank often played and the second is his boyhood home in Georgiana. The home and museum are closed on Sundays.

On the way to another Federal Road section, I was reminded that having a dog run out in front of you isn't the worst thing that can happen.

The Federal Road was the basis for the boundary between Monroe and Conecuh counties. I'm guessing that the road itself is considered to be in Monroe County since they're the ones who have placed eight stone monuments along it and have provided a printed driving tour guide. They also have guides to other tours in the county. I regret that I couldn't visit any of the Monroe County Heritage Museums (closed on Sunday) especially after the friendly folks there got their guides to me in very short order. There's plenty more to learn.

I'm confident that the road behind me is also part of the Federal Road but it's Monroe County who provided the map and the change in pavement in front of me marks the county line. The first marker is not too far beyond and not too far beyond that is what the guide calls "an unimproved dirt road". I scouted it then went for the suggested alternate.

There are route markers along the way if you know to look for red on white stars on metal posts.

The stone Federal Road markers reminded me of the stone markers erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution along Boone's Lick Road in Missouri. This D.A.R. marker isn't here for the road but for Revolutionary War veteran and legislator James Salter.

The village of Burnt Corn is not deserted but there are a lot of empty buildings. Wolf Trail (a.k.a. Pensacola Trading Path) intersected the Federal Road here. The Lowrey Trust Store held the Burnt Corn Post Office until it was closed in 1998. A Federal Road marker sits at the south edge of town across from the Methodist Church.

The guide describes the road at this marker as "impassible". I explored it a bit on foot and accepted their judgment.

The tour guide also contains this note: "The road between MacDavid's Hotel monument and Hwy. 84 has several stretches of dirt which are in excellent condition and passable.". I reread the note when pavement ended south of US-84. The section referenced in the guide is about fifteen miles long and I was about five miles from US-84. The word "several" isn't precise but, to me, it means at least four (couple = 2, few = 3-4, several > 3). So I figure I've got ten miles to go with four or more "stretches of excellent condition". Maybe it's half dirt, I think. None of the four or five dirt sections I'm thinking of should be more than a mile or so long. Apparently, in Monroe County, several equals two. What I had in front of me were two dirt sections with just over a half mile of pavement between them.

"Excellent condition" is in the eye of the beholder and I'm sure the description would be perfect if the beholder was driving a Land Rover. I wasn't. That's my fault. Maybe the road was excellent when the guide was first written. I don't know. But I do know I'd advise against taking a job in Monroe County Alabama at the rate of several dollars an hour.

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