Early Road Drags

The solution to dusty or muddy early roads were road drags


| January 2000


The word "drag" has come to have several meanings. Much depends on the age of the person uttering the word. Great-granddad used to take a "drag" on his "pure Havana cigar"; Granddad would "drag" his date to the prom; while his son fired up the '57 Chevy and headed for the "drag" strip, all the while thinking those who used to be known as "squares" were now "drags." 

Down on Muddy Creek in those long ago days of my youth, the old Webster's dictionary listed "drag" as in dragging the road.

Most of my readers cannot fathom the idea that the "hard" road, "the slab," was created in our lifetime. Henry Homer was elected governor of Illinois on a "good roads" platform less than a lifetime ago, in 1920. Even as late as in the mid-fifties, 1950, that is, there were myriad miles of dirt roads still serving the public in many of our counties.

When the settlers came into this area, they found wide paths (or traces) made by the buffalo. With small hooves, the buffalo were forced to travel the ridges, and instinctively chose the solid ground for their traces. One such ran from the Ohio River at Louisville, up past the salt licks of Indiana to Vincennes and on past Red Hill clean to the Mississippi River.

Route 50 pretty well follows that two-century-old "cow" path. It is recorded that this trace was "wide enough for two wagons to pass."

As the Native Americans moved westward, the pioneers found the need for a wider track than the trails the Indians had first walked. After the horse was introduced, they widened the paths enough to let the horse drag a couple of poles that were lashed together to pull a small load-carrying device.






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