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Dixie Highway history outlined in new book

PUTNEY, Ga. -- Frank A. Gossett, Sr., an avid amateur historian, has completed his most recent work, “The Dixie Highway in Southwest Georgia,” a compilation of press clippings and photographs outlining the regional creation of that landmark road.

According to Gossett, 1915 was a boom year for the nation. Prosperity was everywhere and the population clamored for more cars and better roads. The Lincoln Highway, dedicated in 1913, connected New York and San Francisco and was well-traveled. The Dixie Highway would join the Midwest at Chicago and wind its way south to Miami.

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Frank Gossett, Sr. has competed his most recent historical compilation, the Dixie Highway in Southwest Georgia, an account of the 1915 project linking Chicago with Miami. The book includes more than 100 newspaper articles and photographs of the period.

The term “highway” is almost a misnomer when used against today’s vision of a straight, well-paved interstate, Gossett said. The Lincoln and the Dixie highways were largely unpaved, meandering stretches of pre-existing state roads, connected for convenience. As raw as that seems now, the potential economic boost of a national highway sent communities vying for the designation.

Gossett tells the story of the Dixie Highway’s western or scenic route from Macon through the cities of Fort Valley, Montezuma, Americus, Smithville, Leesburg, Albany, Camilla, Meigs and Thomasville to the Florida line. The history begins with the creation of the Dixie Highway Association and is presented in newspaper format, utilizing some 117 articles to complete the story. A number of historical photographs and illustrations are included in the book.

“The idea occurred to me when I was working on the Putney Book,” Gossett said. “I saw an article where the Women’s Study Club of Thomasville had proposed this route because of the scenery and the flat land down here, with no big rivers to cross. They put it all together and gave it to their delegate. It came to be known as the ‘scenic route.’ ”

According to Gossett, some 400 names of principle parties and individuals, primarily Southwest Georgians instrumental in routing the highway, are included in the index of the work.

In a foreword to the book, former Albany mayor James V. Davis states his praise for Gossett and his new work.

“Mr. Gossett continues to be a principal instrument in the preservation of our Southwest Georgia history. Painstakingly researched, well-written, (the book) takes its place a classic in the annals of Georgia,” Davis wrote.

Those interested in Gossett’s historical work may attend a special book signing in the lobby of the YMCA, 1701 Gillionville Road from 9 a.m. till 1 p.m. Wednesday. Alternately, Gossett may be reached at fagossett@hotmail.com. Copies are available for $14.50 each plus $3.00 for mailing.

Gossett’s previous works include “Turner Air Force Base, Albany, Georgia — Turner Field’s Second Life 1947-1967” and “History of Putney, Georgia.”