Tennessee County History Series – CLAIBORNE by Edgar A. Holt


Page 55 – Roads and Bridges


Pages 56 thru 61.


Although little mention is made of Lafayette G. Payne during his term as County Judge 1918-1924 he was instrumental in many of the projects in Claiborne County during those years.  The county had fallen into corruption during the early part of the 20th century, up until about 1910 when Judge J.H.S. Morrison became County Judge and took control to restore a semblance of order and honesty to the county financial records.


County trustees were held accountable for a faithful and honest accounting of the monies entrusted to him.  One trustee left office without making a settlement and four and one-half months later the county judge reminded him of his obligation.


A particular instance that is mentioned in the book above is the routing of the Dixie Highway over the route of the old Kentucky Road from Cumberlnad Gap to Tazewell, then over what is now State Route 33 from Tazewell to New Tazewell, Sandlick, and Barren Creek to the Union County line.  Quick action was needed because it was reported some other route might be chosen if there were a delay.  Judge Morrison presided at special session August 1917 and the court took affirmative action and authorized the judge to issue $25,000 in six percent bonds.  A special tax levy was imposed for years 1918-1922.  In September 1920 the court, with Judge L.G. Payne presiding, approved the issue of $42,000 to keep roads in repair.   John Wesley Rose was the Clerk of Court. (click on picture of bond coupon for enlargement)


Also the use of county owned road equipment became a issue.  In April 1921 a special session of the court was called to consider what should be done to make the county’s pike road equipment available because such machinery was then being detained by “certain citizens living on or near Cedar Fork.”  The court approved a resolution to employ counsel “and to take such actions as may be required in order to restore such machinery to the County.”  The county asserted its rights to control its own machinery but at the cost of wasted time.


1920 Census Claiborne County – Grandfather - J.T. (Joseph Phillips) – Road Supt (click for enlargement)


In 1921 the court accepted a plan by the Tennessee State Highway Commission that the county change from macadam specifications to a hand-laid base, or Telford method, consisting of rock laid in varying sizes from the base to the top when small rocks were to be used and followed by a bituminous surface.  This method was slow and somewhat more expensive, but more resistant to wear.  With the county’s acceptance, the state and federal governments would be responsible for subsequent maintenance.  This change applied only to the Dixie Highway section.  The county accepted the proposal, and to this date (1981) that section of the highway has stood the stress of heavy traffic. 


If you want to see a section of that highway you will have to go out the section of highway beside the Forstee Freeze Drive-In referred to by most locals as “The Concrete”.  This highway is preserved along this section today after the four lane U.S. 25-E has by-passed it entirely.  Other businesses include the Hobart Bunch Car Lot at the end of this section.


It is also along this section of Highway during WWII that a P-51 Mustang was forced to make an emergency landing, which brought out the entire town.  My family lived just above this stretch of highway and were some of the first on the scene.  The plane had experienced some malfunction which a local mechanic quickly fixed.  Before taking off the plane dumped it’s wing mounted drop fuel tank which were retrieved by my brothers Eddie and Phil. The article to the right tells of a P-47 landing but after doing a complete search found that the P-47 does not carry an external fuel tank of any kind.  During my early childhood this fuel tank that lay below our house on top of Breastworks Hill became a hideout and meeting place for our childhood clubs.  I have a picture of the fuel tank among my pictures and will try and locate it.


On the flip side -

(Edwards, Lawrence. Gravel in my shoe: tales & talk of mine own people in the Cumberland wonderland before the invasion of Messrs. Ford & MacAdam brought the triumph of machine over man. Montevallo, AL, Times Printing Co., 1963. 181 pp) 


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