The Historic Byler Road
The History of Byler Road and the Byler Ridge.
By: J. Steve Hicks & Dennis Bales.
The following piece originally appeared in issue 1 of The Free State Journal newsletter.
One of the oldest landmarks in our area is the Byler Road. Built by John Byler the road was to be completed in 1822 but was later extended to November 21, 1823. The Byler Road became Alabama's first state highway. The road is still marked as a street in Haleyville and a historical marker marks it's path in front of the Haleyville City Library in the downtown mall.
The Byler road followed the path of the Byler Ridge which runs generally along the western and northern boundary of the county. Prior to the building of the road, the ridge marked the general area of the boundary between the Chicasaw Indian tribe to the west, Cherokees to the north, and the Creeks to the east. Most of Winston county fell into Creek territory, which was once one of the most powerful Indian tribes in North America. Byler Ridge is denoted on some old Mississippi Territory maps as the aptly named "Dividing Ridge".
Alabama officially became a state on December 14, 1819 and just two days later Governor Bibb approved the
building of the Byler Road. The roads original intent was to provide a route for traffic between Tuscaloosa and Nashville. In 1826 after Tuscaloosa became the capitol of Alabama the road became more important than ever.
Records show the interesting toll rates for the road. For example, the original toll rate was 75¢ for a four wheeled carriage. In 1821 that rate was increased to $1. A two wheel carriage would run you 50¢ and horseback riders were charged 12 1/2¢. If you were using a horse as a pack animal the toll was 6 1/2¢. Each head of cattle cost 1¢, while sheep and hogs would set you back a mere 1/2¢. If someone thought they were going to evade paying the toll and were caught, the fine was a steep $5. Amazingly, 179 years later a no seat belt ticket in some towns could only cost you a few dollars more.
The original road was to be twelve foot wide and devoid of all stumps and roots. As is the case today, commissioners were responsible for seeing this provision was met. The commissioners at this time were Vance H. Cunningham, William Russell, and Handly Files.
The path of Byler Road took the highway through the towns and settlements of Littlesville (today called Littleville at the intersection of highway 195 and Winston County Road 11 near Haleyville), The Ark (Haleyville, the post office of which was located near the present day Rocky Ravine Park), and Larissa (Lynn, located around the intersection of Winston County road 25 and Alabama highway 5), and into Ora and Kinlock in Lawrence County.
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