"The Mail Must Go Through,' By Horse, of Course" Muddy Roads of Yesteryear

Narratives from the Georgetown's Yesteryears Book

A special thanks to The Georgetown Heritage Society and Martha Mitten Allen for letting the us post these wonderful first person stories.

View Foreword and Preface

There was a time when going someplace meant walking or using the kind of horsepower that used oats for fuel and went clip-clop down the street. Horses and mules were characters with minds of their own. Even the roads challenged the driver and the latest rig.

Ruby L. Snowden: Tyler Hunter, Interviewer

First, I can remember up here in Georgetown, they didn't even have paved streets, it was mud streets. And it got bad, too, I tell you. They had the horse wagons and buggies and things parked right around the square up there, and they had a place to tie them. Even cotton wagons, where they brought cotton to the gins. . . . We lived out, my dad and I and our family lived out, three miles south of Georgetown, and at Christmas time one year, he had to put four mules to the front wheels of the wagon to come in and get our groceries and Christmas things. He just had to come to get it . . . they bogged up to their knees in mud coming in on that Rabbit Hill Road.

Otha Horger Ullrich - Interviewer: Lea Ann Sikes

No streets were graveled or paved [when she came here in 1909. The streets were just plain black mud up to here when it rained a long spell. Somebody asked me how did you get around downtown when it rained? They had stepping stones, flat rocks from this corner to the next one, and instead of having sidewalks in front of the stores like they have now, they were built up from the ground with planks, up even with the door and then all this in here was filled with gravel. They took long rocks and set them down in the ground in a row on each side and would fill in between them with gravel. I can show you the remains of one of those sidewalks right at the end of this block.

That's where you ruined your new shoes. You couldn't walk in the mud without getting mud up above your high-top shoes and laced ones later, laced way up to here.

Tullia Ischy: John Martin, Interviewer

They had dirt roads, and when it was muddy, you couldn't go very far. Way back there, when I was just a kid, we'd come to town with the mules and the hack. It was two-seated, like a buggy with two seats. It would be so muddy, there would be ruts cut 'where you just have to stay in those ruts, and if you met somebody, they were hard to get out of...

We kids had more accidents with our buggy and horse than we ever had car accidents. We had to go about four or five miles to school and we had a horse that we drove to the buggy. One time we come home, it was snowing and awfully cold. It was hard for us to even see. It was snowing, and we were trying to keep the snow out of our faces, and this horse we always used, had one eye out. Every time he'd see anything, he'd shy and jump. There was a log, a tree, laying on the ditch side next to the fence. When we got along there by that thing, our horse shied and jumped and, when he did, the shafts came out from under the buggy he didn't turn us over that time he pulled loose from the buggy and, of course, he went on home. There were three of us. We weren't really hurt, so we just started walking home. After a while, some of the neighbors along the road called and told Dad they saw us walking and our horse going home. My Daddy and my sister's husband got on their horses and come to meet us. We were not hurt much, only scared to death.

Another time it happened, we hadn't got away from school very far, and the shafts come loose up there under the buggy, but my brother held onto the reins and didn't let our horse get away from us. He pulled the front wheels on, and, of course, my brother held on to the wheels and he wasn't hurt, but it just dropped down.

When it rained a lot we had to stay home as we had to cross Berry's Creek and there were no bridges in those days on the country roads.

Tommye B. Jefferson: Mike Lade, Interviewer

We had something fancy in those days. I don't know if you know anything about a surrey. It has two seats in it and had the tassels all around, and then we had the curtains that you could put in there. We had that. And we had a buggy and then a hack. It was a little like a pickup truck in the back of it. Then after that, we got a Model A.

Tillman Barron: Mark Graves, Interviewer

Of course, then, you either hoofed it or rode a horse or had the horse and buggy like Grandfather, who lived the other side of us. Grandfather Kolby, on Mother's side, was a Dane. He always kept a horse and buggy and everybody else would have a horse and buggy or a surrey.

I had an aunt and they were pretty well fixed, we thought. They had a nice surrey and always a good horse. If Mother had someplace to go, like to Ladies' Aid Society, Aunt Dell would come over and get Mother and they'd ride down to the church. That was the method of getting around.

The streets were all "macadamized," they called it, gravel and then run over by an iron wheel. There were no rubber tires. The farm wagons and buggies had iron wheels. Some of the buggies or surreys had what you called hard rubber, a wheel with a hard rubber tire on it no air. That would pack the streets down and they did have some type of roller. They didn't have grader blades or anything like that. They'd have a big shovel or something. They'd just manually spread it out, and they would run over it with this roller to kind of even it up and make it look like a street. We'd get some rain and that stuff would set up pretty good. It would be really hard.

In the summertime, when there'd be a whole lot of wagons this was big cotton country back in those days they would go to the cotton yard out here to store the cotton that they'd ginned, and these farm wagons would cut up this rock [street] and it'd be dry and be real dusty. I know as a kid, barefooted, we'd like to run down the street and get our feet in that dust.

"`The Mail Must Go Through,' By Horse, of Course"
Pat Brady - Interviewer: Sam Brady

I started carrying the mail on a rural route on September 15, 1919. I bought a buggy from Sam Harris, a brother-in-law, and bought an old horse; I called him Roan. Old Roany, he was a very slow horse, suited my temperament trying to get on with carrying the mail. My route was 241/2 miles long in those days. That was about an average route for horse and buggy because all my roads were muddy, mud roads, dirt roads. There weren't any paved roads. I had one little stretch, about a mile, of gravel road, when I came down Rabbit Hill. The roads were really narrow, with tall weeds and brush on all sides. I had an open buggy, and I also had to have a two-wheel cart. I used the cart in the wintertime and the buggy in the summer. That cart was so hard on a horse's back. I used a pad on his back, but still, the weight of that two-wheel gig bouncing on him made his back get sore. It was so hard to keep him healed up. Some of the horses I drove in later years were muley, and they would go to kicking, and I'd have all the slats kicked out under my seat. When I'd get to these bad mud holes, I'd have to get out and tie my single-tree down on each end with a heavy strap so the horse wouldn't break my single-tree. That's how bad they were. I had one bad mud hole that so got so bad I couldn't go through because my horse would flounder in it. One man on horseback was going to show me how easy it was to go through there, and he floundered his horse clear up to his belly. I had to get some mules to pull him out.

I had another horse, "01' Snyder," to back my gig back over the lower end of the high concrete causeway bridge at McNutt's Branch when the river was on the rise. 01' Snyder was scared to death of cars. Just as we started across the bridge, here came a Model "T" Ford. Snyder began shaking and quivering and backing up. He backed me and the cart, and to the rail, over the edge of the bridge, just dangling there before I could get him stopped. I'd finally get him started again, and here that car would come at us again. We had a bad time before I finally got him across, but I'd. cut him across the back with the buggy whip, and he'd go to kicking out the slats. I had originally bought 01' Snyder from Jay Thomas for $125.00, which was a pretty big price for a horse in those days. Later I sold him to Will Hardy who was a government tick inspector, and Will rode him as a saddle horse for a number of years.