After last week's post about US Highway 64, I thought I would add more details as to why this road is near and dear to my heart. Not only do I live off it in North Carolina, and my daughter lives and works off it in New Mexico, it's also featured in one of my books!
Chapter three. Page 26:
There was only one main road on the western side of the South Mountains, state road number #181, a narrow unpaved gravel/mud road that connected the town of Morganton to the town of Rutherfordton, thirty some miles to the south. A trip over that road in the 1930’s meant the traveler in a car, or most often, horse and buggy, must ford at least thirteen streams between the two towns. The roads branching off from the main artery had deep ruts and even deeper mud holes that became next to impossible to navigate during rainy periods. Conditions were so bad that in March of 1936, rural mail delivery stopped.
In March of 1938 the
US government approved federal aid to North Carolina for the improvement of #181 south of Morganton. Engineers plotted the road to the Burke/McDowell county line. With new techniques of road building and less winding roads, the travel distance between Morganton and Rutherfordton was reduced from thirty-five to twenty-seven miles.
- The old road wandered all around creation, especially up there around my house. It went in front of my shop and on up past my garden and back to where highway #64 is at now. Climbed up the top of the next hill and circled back and went back down to Brindle Creek and crossed the creek and went up to the top of the hill and come back again. Goes as a matter of convenience from one property to the next. That’s how crooked it was. You don’t think nothing about the road until you get to looking at where it used to be. Henry Lane, student, 1942-48
This new road included a tar and gravel surface and up-to-date banking on the curves for safety. It opened to much ballyhoo and excitement on
July 30, 1940.
A mere two weeks later, on
August 14, 1940 surging floodwaters from an unnamed hurricane destroyed most of that exciting new road along with the valuable farmland and crops throughout the valley. Many bridges on the road washed away.
- They was so much water ‘til it looked like an ocean to me. The field looked like you could go swimming in it. All the stuff washed away, an old barn we had there, the stuff we had in it, the straw, hay. Crops. Everything was gone. It got it all. Preston Denton, construction crew, 1941-42
By September the WPA approved flood relief for farmers affected by the hurricane and employed local men to work on a farm-to-market road project designed to rebuild the road. The engineers returned and directed these men in repairing highway #181 with more federal money. They completed construction by the end of 1940 and designated this route as a part of federal highway #64.
Catch of the day,