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Rainy Days Paving the Way

April 30, 2003

Historian's Notes

The evolution of roads, I think, is something that we take for granted today. When was the last time that you stopped to think before driving off. "I wonder if the road will be passable today?" Unless there is severe weather we just assume that we'll be able to drive fast with no trouble wherever we want. This Almanac illustrated, I think, the vast differences between roads 100 years ago and roads today.


Corbett, William Paul (1948). Oklahoma's Highways: Indian Trails to Urban Expressways. History (Theses).

Almanac Transcript

Rainy days paving the way this week on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.

Hello, Iím Steven Knoche Kite.

For years after the initial European settlement the roads crisscrossing Oklahoma remained much the same. Many of the roads were little more than wide dirt trails at best, and a good road meant that it was two horses wide and passable most of the year. Transportation across the state was hampered by the poor condition of the roads and during winter or rainy periods most of the so-called roadways became bogs of waist deep mud. Horses, tractors, people and livestock all became mired, and sometimes lost, in the muddy messes that were Oklahoma roads. Farmers attempting to haul grain into town during periods of bad weather reported their wagon wheels filling up with mud to the extent that teams of two and even four horses were unable to pull it. The roads in Oklahoma were deplorable, but it wasn't much better in the surrounding southern and plains states.

All across the United States, in fact, a movement began to increase interest in road improvement. The "Good Roads Movement," led by bicyclists and an ever increasing number of motorists, pressured state and national leaders to increase funding and construction of roads throughout the country. Oklahoma always lagged behind the other states in road improvements, but the state roadways did get a boost in 1902.

It was in this week of 1902 that a tremendous flood swept across much of central Oklahoma Territory wiping out bridges, roads, houses and barns. The water not only destroyed property, but it eroded the roads to such a state that it was almost impossible for anyone to get into or out of the flooded areas. It was this event that sparked the beginning of the Good Roads Movement here in Oklahoma. Almost every citizen urban and rural expressed their desire to see better roads that didn't wash away with the rain or become bogs with the lightest sprinkle. Groups ranging from statewide membership to the neighborhood level organized for road production, maintenance and improvement. New technologies led the way to better roads, packed earth, gravel then finally asphalt and concrete, made it easier for Oklahoma farmers and businessmen to compete with other states and countries.

The flood of May 1902 paving the way for the future of our state this week on the Almanac.

I'm Steven Knoche Kite.

The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a joint production of the Oklahoma State University Library and Oklahoma's Public Radio.

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