When asked about the Bankhead Highway, most people said “Oh that old brick road” and continued with a piece of interesting information regarding the road. After interviewing ten Ranger citizens, and doing a bit of my own research, I uncovered an amazing part of history.
The Bankhead Highway was the first coast-to-coast highway in the United States. According to Beverly Neely, “People who could not earn a living or keep a home packed up everything they had and went to California” and used the Bankhead to get there (Beverly Neely, August 30, 2010)
The Bankhead Highway received its name from Senator Bankhead, who first suggested the construction. The highway project started in 1922 and connected New York to California (Pruett, September 5, 2010).
Each county constructed the section of historic highway that ran through its towns. When the Bankhead Highway was often used, travelers purchased a tour guide, which told about each section of the road and where to stop for tires and gas. The Bankhead had three major stops in Eastland County: Ranger, Eastland and Cisco (Neely, September 1, 2010).
Thurber, Texas produced the bricks used for the highway. This created a great sense of community because of the locally made bricks (Pruett, September 5, 2010).
Three brick plants existed in Thurber during the time of the highway construction. These plants provided the county with all the bricks needed to complete the highway. Camilla Adams recalled the Thurber bricks as a great help to the Bankhead Highway and a boost to the community (Adams, September 3, 2010).
The brick roads survived the test of time and can be driven to this day. The section of the Bankhead that ran through Ranger, frequently used when traveling around town, looked worn, but does not have pot holes like modern roads.
People from all walks of life came together to help build the road. Everyone came to help because the highway became a source of income for the little towns in the area.
Construction of the highway was part of a government project to create jobs. Crowds of men looking for jobs went from town to town by train and built various parts of Bankhead Highway.
Camilla Adams and George Falls remembered significant people who contributed to construction. Falls said: “They say there was a black man who laid lots of bricks from Thurber to here (Ranger) and put tar in it, but no one remembers his name” (Falls, October 8, 2010). Adams talked about Italian men in town for jobs, who tore up concrete for the road faster than anyone else (Adams, September 3, 2010).
The Bankhead Highway “bless[ed] Ranger Hill” because a large drop existed before the creation of the road (Adams, September 3, 2010). Although useful, quite a few problems arose because of Bankhead Highway.
The Bankhead Highway ran in front of Waymond Greenwood’s auto shop. Greenwood’s Auto Parts has held a spot on the Bankhead since 1968. When interviewed, Mr. Greenwood shared that the stretch between Cisco and Weatherford posed the second most dangerous threat as far as wrecks go, particularly on Ranger Hill.
Perhaps the most significant incident in Eastland County’s history of the highway was the accident at Scenic Point in 1941. Jeane Pruett, President of the Ranger Historical Preservation Society, shared some of the findings she and her crew uncovered. On November 15th, 1941, an accident occurred at Scenic Point, a local nightclub. One truck collided with a broken down truck on the side of the road and caused a huge explosion with severe damage (Pruett, September 5, 2010).
Through all the good and bad, the Bankhead Highway has remained an important piece of history. The Bankhead Highway is now recognized as an historical landmark.
All across the United States, historical commissions have recognized the highway as an historical landmark. On June 19, 2009, the Bankhead Highway became a Texas Historical Highway as part of the state Historical Roads and Highways Program by Representative Carol Kent. Representative Kent showed the importance of celebrating Texas heritage.
Today, towns have torn up their sections of the road to replace the brick, but the Bankhead Highway will always hold a special place the memories of bygone generations and American history.