Early Settlers of
Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
many years no paved roads aided traffic in
A day or more at
Then came the advent of the first paved road across the mountain. A different route was chosen from the Logan Turnpike. An engineer with the Georgia Highway Department, Mr. Warren Rabun Neel, surveyed for the road. He chose as the most likely corridor the old Frogtown Indian Trail. In laying out the road, Mr. Neel had to follow the natural contours of the land. Consequently, many steep grades and sharp curves were in the original plan for the road.
In 1923 work began on the road through
Frogtown or Walisiyi Gap. No modern
equipment was available then for grading.
Citizens were hired as were their teams of mules and horses. Ball wagon dirt movers were used to dig out
the roadway. One steam shovel was
available, provided by the construction company, C. M. Lyle, who had
contract for building the road. Picks,
shovels, wheelbarrows and drag pans pulled by the farmers’ mules were
tools used to grade the road across Frogtown, in the shadow of towering
Some of the men who hired out to work on the road from the Choestoe District was my father, J. Marion Dyer, and his team of mules and a drag pan; Jeptha Souther who fired the boiler for the steam shovel and contracted to erect the guard rails at the curves; Alonzo Allison, Howard Curtis, Tom and Ed Lance, Floyd Berry and Victor Souther were other known workers. John Paul Souther, son of Jeptha, a mere eight years of age at the time the work began, got a job as water boy.
When the road was first opened
summer of 1925, it was a soil-surfaced road fourteen feet wide. It was named Neel Gap to honor the engineer
who had drawn up the plan for the road.
In 1926 macadam was applied and paving became a reality for the
nine feet of the roadway. Four feet of
crushed stone paved the shoulders, providing passing room on the
road. More improvement came with the
years. In 1931 the highway was
resurfaced and widened to fourteen feet.
Another project in 1950 brought it to its present 20-feet width
some of the sharp curves softened. Now
the picturesque mountain roadway has passing lanes and smooth surfacing. It is a boon to tourism and to commuters who
live in the mountains and work “below” them in
Fascinated by the work of the
John Paul Souther could hardly stay away from the scene of the grading
1923 and 1925, and when the first macadam surface was laid in 1926. He says, “This was the most exciting thing I
had ever seen in my life. That is why I
wanted to see the road work.” Now 90
years of age, Mr. Souther still remembers clearly how the road was
and how it changed the way of life for farmers in
When Jeptha Souther worked to build the railing, or fence, guard rails were not available. Strong locust posts and cyclone fencing twenty-four inches in width were used to make the fence. Local men were glad to be paid for the locust posts they cut and hauled to the sites along the new road. It was a means of making some money when times were hard for mountain farmers.<>From a five-day trip to Gainesville by wagon over the Logan Turnpike to the one-day trip by automobile or truck, farmers took their eggs, chickens and mountain cured hams to markets below the hills. Better economy and ease of travel were assets of this first paved road over the mountain.
Jones; published May 19, 2005 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville,
Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Updated August 31, 2009