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By the way...

“THE BYLER ROAD”

By Ruth Teaford Baker

The response to the early history in and surrounding Walker County, Alabama, sent me back to my research files. I introduced the Byler Road not long ago and decided to return with more information concerning its building and its impact on the development of our area.  The Byler Road was taken into consideration by the Legislature of the Independent State of Alabama while it convened in November, 1819.

One of the first concerns in the convention was the question of roadways. Congress admitted Alabama into the Federal Union on Dec. 14, 1819.  Two days later, Gov. Bibb approved the Act.  John Byler and Associates got one of the first contracts.

They completed the Byler Road about the mid 1820’s.  Byler died about 1827.  The road connected the Tennessee River near Courtland with the Warrior River near Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

General Dodge, commander of the United States forces was located in the Decatur area during the Civil War.  He is quoted as saying; “The Byler Road furnished better forage and was built on higher ground than other roads in 1863.”

Some of the information about Jacob Pruett (buried at New Prospect Cemetery, Walker County, Alabama) showed that he moved into Madison County, Alabama about 1810 and later into Lawrence County, Alabama.  In both Madison and Lawrence counties he was a big landowner.

Jacob Pruett had been a member of the Baptist Church in Madison County.  When he moved along the Byler Road toward what is now Winston County, he bought land from John and Mary McKinney in 1824.  He built a tavern where J.S. Snoddy did live across from Burdick-West Hospital.  Jacob Pruett helped organize and build New Prospect Baptist Church in 1824.  The late Talmadge West related the fact that he once tried to buy the Pruett Tavern from Herschel Williams, but Williams would not sell.

John Byler was born Dec. 10, 1781, and died in 1827.  He was married to Elizabeth Walker, born in 1776.  Their daughter, Elizabeth Catherine, was born in 1801 and married Eldridge T. Mallard on Feb. 4, 1819.  Records show that Byler’s son-in-law was tollgate manager at Eldridge on the Byler Road, and so the town was named Eldridge.  Mallard Creek near Eldridge was named after the same man.

The law giving the right for Byler to build the toll road contracted Byler to build the road and maintain it for a period of 12 years.  He would keep all tolls collected for those years. The turnpike was completed in 1822.  It connected and formed a navigation route from Muscle Shoals to Tuscaloosa on the Warrior River.

Many towns in Tuscaloosa, Lawrence, Winston, Walker, and Fayette Counties of Alabama grew up along the turnpike.  During the Civil War, both confederate and Union armies traveled the road.  Haleyville was built around Byler Road, and that accounts for the narrow Main Street – stores built on either side of the existing Byler Road.

This short account of the Byler Road shows the importance of this road in the early settling of Walker and surrounding counties. The next great influence of commerce would be the building of the railroads.