History of Transportation

Early settlement patterns in Oglethorpe County influenced the location and development of existing transportation systems. Rivers and coastal waterways allowed for travel and access, so areas surrounding these waterways were the first to be settled. Native-American trading trails running through Oglethorpe County evolved into migration paths, trade routes, and frontier trails. These trails allowed people to move inland. Eventually, these early trails became modern highways and railroad beds. These transportation routes made it much easier to travel throughout the county, especially between farm and town.

By the 1820s, private companies began building stagecoach routes and turnpikes. The government started constructing Federal highways and postal roads at this time as well.

Because of their practicality and efficiency, the railroads rapidly became a popular form of transportation in the early 1830s. When the Athens-Augusta railroad (later known as the Georgia Railroad and Banking Company) surveyed Oglethorpe County, residents resisted the introduction of this new form of transportation into their towns. Oglethorpe County residents felt concerned over noise and smoke and did not allow the railroad's construction within three miles of Lexington (the county seat). Because Lexington's depot was located outside the town, the town of Crawford eventually grew around this depot.

Because of competition from Crawford and the inconveniences of traveling over bad roads, Lexington residents began a movement to build a spur railroad connecting Lexington with the earlier railroad in Crawford. This linkage was completed in 1889 and operated until 1932, when the increased use of cars, trucks, and buses caused the railroad's abandonment.

General Burnwell Pope is credited with establishing the Georgia Railroad line through Arnoldsville. Pope, a representative in the General Assembly, gave the railroad right-of-way across his land and laid the cross-ties in exchange for a station on his plantation. This station was active until 1900, when it was moved to the town of Arnoldsville.

Highway 78 presently extends from Athens, Crawford, and Lexington and is the most heavily traveled highway in Oglethorpe County. Highway 316 may also have an indirect impact on the county, since it makes Atlanta much more accessible to nearby Athens. Bobbie Maxwell Airstrip, a privately owned airfield available to the public, is located five miles southeast of Lexington.