THE JEFFERSON DAVIS HIGHWAY

THE JEFFERSON DAVIS HIGHWAY

street:
Chapel Hill
NC
Built in
1923
Construction type: 
,
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Last updated

  • Mon, 09/18/2023 - 12:33pm by SteveR

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street:
Chapel Hill
NC
Built in
1923
Object Type: 
Object Subtype: 
Construction type: 
,
,

 

 
The "official" Jefferson Davis Highway (also known as the Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway) was a planned transcontinental highway that began in Washington, D.C. and was to end in San Diego, California; it was named for Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. The Jefferson Davis Highway was sponsored by the United Daughters of the Confederacy beginning in 1913 as a 'counter' to the naming of an earlier transcontinental route, the Lincoln Highway.
 
The North Carolina and federal governments had no role in the naming of the highway as an official route, nor was the route as a whole fully embraced by the state or federal governments. In the early 1920s, the various named transcontinental routes were in effect "split up" and redesignated as state routes, utilizing state route numbers, and also later by the American Association of State Highway Officials when they adopted the U.S. numbering plan in November 1926.
 
The route is often and erroneously thought to be the route of the "Jefferson Davis funeral train" (roughly the route that Davis's casket was transported along via train in 1893, four years after he died), as that route ran between New Orleans, Louisiana, and Richmond, Virginia. It did travel through North Carolina, but partially followed the later route of U.S. Highway 1; it stopped in Raleigh, but then made its way through Orange County on its way to Danville, Virginia. Nor is it the route of Davis's retreat at the end of the Civil War, on his skeddadle towards Texas. As mentioned earlier, it was purely a counter by the UDC against the Lincoln Highway.
 
The route of the highway through Orange County was along the then-named Chapel Hill-Pittsboro Road (from the Chatham County line to Chapel Hill), and the Durham Road (between Chapel Hill and Durham). Basically, it came from Chatham County via South Columbia Street, made a right onto East Franklin Street, then went east to the Durham County line.
 
The markers were placed locally in November 1923 by the Durham and Orange counties chapters of the UDC's Jefferson Davis Highway Committee. There were four markers placed in Orange County (all in Chapel Hill): One at the intersection of East Cameron Avenue and South Columbia Streets (near the west gate); one on East Franklin Street in front of McCorkle Place on the UNC campus; one on East Franklin Street at the Bolin Creek bridge; and one at the intersection of Franklin and Columbia streets.
 
There are no original markers to the highway that remain in their original locations in Orange County. There was a new marker on East Franklin Street in front of McCorkle Place which was emplaced by the Sons of Confederate Veterans circa 2003 to replace a marker that had been removed/stolen years ago (the plaque was new but the plinth was original). This marker was permanantly removed by the Town of Chapel Hill in 2019.
 
A November 6, 2020 article in The News & Observer indicated that NCDOT was in the process of removing Jefferson Davis highway signs and markers along state-owned right-of-ways, to begin in the summer of 2020. In the Board of Transportation's meeting minutes from November 2020, regarding any JDH signs, they stated "The Department will treat items on this corridor as we do any other items or objects placed or abandoned in the state right of way." The NCDOT also stated that the original owners of the monuments could come reclaim them at any time.
 
From the November 8, 1923 Chapel Hill Weekly
 

 

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