Looking back: Ridge route is selected

Published 12:07 pm Friday, March 21, 2014

EDITOR’S NOTE: Looking Back features past articles from The Tidewater News with commentary by local historian Clyde Parker.

by Clyde Parker

MARCH 21, 1914

Upon the arrival of the year 1914, area officials listed several things that needed to be addressed. Now, March has arrived. So, we need to get busy. One thing that needs a strong start is transportation. In fact, it is at the very top of the list of things that need our attention this year. At least, we need to establish a focused vision for the future. With the increasing advent and use of the motor car, especially, and considering the gradual demise of horse-drawn conveyances, we need to work on connecting ou­r cities with good road systems. And, we need to be able to easily move through and into the rural sections in between cities.

The wisdom and good judgment shown by the Tidewater Automobile Association in the selection of the “RIDGE ROUTE” from Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Norfolk County to Richmond (via Suffolk, Holland, Carrsville, Franklin, Courtland, Sebrell, Littleton, Homeville, Petersburg) becomes more and more apparent as one studies the topography of the sections of roads running from Suffolk to Petersburg through the towns named above. The interest shown by the people living along this route not only in the towns but also by most of the farmers augurs well for the construction of a serviceable and dependable inter-city transportation system. We need to foster and create good-roads sentiment for the “RIDGE ROUTE” among our citizens, the ultimate end of which will be the building of other good connecting roads along the entire route.

The stated reason to FAVOR the “RIDGE ROUTE” instead of less favorable routes to the east is mainly the BETTER topography, levelness, and stability of the land WESTWARD from Norfolk, Portsmouth and Norfolk County and NORTHWARD, especially, from Franklin – and then on to Richmond.

This will be the official 122-mile route from Norfolk to Richmond and will be upgraded, maintained, and promoted as such. Connecting Virginia’s capital, Richmond, to the State’s great seaports, Norfolk and Portsmouth, with a super-roadway is essential to the economic prosperity of the entire eastern region of Virginia. The “RIDGE ROUTE” is the best way to go. In selecting this route, not only will we be connecting Virginia’s two great metropolitan regions with a safer and more dependable way to go but also we will be fostering connectivity among the various rural communities in between.

On a recent trip through the proposed route, a Tidewater Automobile Association delegation (made up of President Moe Levy of Norfolk, along with General C.C. Vaughan of Franklin, and T.H. Birdsong, J.W. Womack, John Pinner and R.L. Woodard of Suffolk) was given first-hand exposure to the topography of the land through which the planned route would go. Especially noted is the fine condition of the road as it courses through Southampton County up towards Homeville.

Upon arriving in Franklin, the delegation was met at the Stonewall Inn by a group of County supervisors, representing the various communities through which the proposed route will run: W.Q. Peele of Nansemond County; General C.C. Vaughan, S.J. Sebrell and W. P. Gillette of Southampton County; George Blood, S.J. Parsons, Joseph Gilliam of Sussex County; and Charles Lee of Prince George County. Major R.E.L. Watkins, President of the Franklin Town Council and Dr. E.A. de Bordenave, President of the Young Men’s Business Association, were also on hand to welcome the party.

During a delightful lunch given at the Stonewall Inn by General Vaughan, ideas were formulated and tentative plans were drawn as to the best way to establish the proposed route with the various segments of the region.

One of the remarkable features of the road trip was the awareness gained by the delegation that the roads in Southampton County were in such good condition. The sand and clay method has been used extensively and has been found thoroughly satisfactory. “During the 20-mile spin across Southampton County from Franklin to the Sussex County line, the tires of our motor-car machines were wet only once”, said Peele. Lumber is now being placed to bridge that particular flow of water.

Building of good roads is such a necessary adjunct to the progress and prosperity of every rural neighborhood. The active part taken by the supervisors through whose district the ridge-route runs cannot be over- estimated, or overstated, as a long forward-step in the development of their respective communities. Accessibility through the medium of good roads means as much to a rural section as accessibility to a city such as Richmond or Norfolk.

CLYDE PARKER is a retired human resources manager for the former Franklin Equipment Co. and a member of the Southampton County Historical Society. His email address is cpjeep99@yahoo.com