Mile Posts and Sign Boards

[Published in The Greensborough Patriot, Feb. 3, 1844]


Riding across the county of Randolph recently, going and returning over different roads, we had occasion to notice that every mile was marked by a new post, neatly dressed and lettered. A magistrate of the county who was in company informed us that every public road in the county leading from the courthouse, or branching off from any of the courthouse roads, were thus measured and marked.

This brought to mind an order of the county court of Guilford made at August term, 1843, printed and conspicuously posted up at various places, requiring similar services of our overseers of roads to be performed previous to the succeeding term of the court in November. Has this order been attended to all over the county? We made the inquiry lately of some person who had travelled a good deal over the county, and he answered, saying, “sorter–in some places.”

In our sister county of Randolph we were likewise struck with the appearance of the sign boards at the forks of the roads. They were large and legibly lettered, so that he “who runs may read.” They occasioned the indulgence of a melancholy reflection upon the old shingles and strips of clapboards tacked up at various forks of the highway in our old dominion of Guilford, on whose dim and weatherbeaten surface, carved to all appearance with a rusty nail, may be deciphered some such mysterious heiroglyphics as these–“To G B”–“To J T”–“To O S”–“To K K R,” &c.,–meaning, in the opinion of the learned and such has have been brought up in a boarding school, “To Greensborough,” “To Jamestown,” “To Old Salem,” “To Kerner’s Kross Roads,” &c.

All which is nevertheless as intelligible as the red blazonry sewed upon the coat tails of a military company we wot of somewhere in these United States; that is, the letter V on the left skirt and T on the right. Shades of Bonaparte and Wellington! ghosts of Steuben and Lee! what would you suppose these characters, stiched in that conspicuous position, stand for? Why, for VolunTeer, ye bonentition! It is just as plain as that yf spells wife, according to the orthography of Dr. Franklin’s maid; or that &ru Jaxn spells the name of the old hero of the Hermitage, Andrew Jackson.

But we have some how got out of the road subject, owing either to the want of mile posts to show how far we had travelled, or of sign boards to indicate the proper fork to take, or, possibly, unconsciously allured to leave the track and take the field by the splendor of the muster doings…… J. T.”

(This is an English milestone.)

A year before the above article was published, the Justices of the Randolph County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions (the antebellum version of the County Commissioners), had ordered mile posts to be erected on all the main roads. Measurements were to begin at the intersection of Main and Salisbury streets in Asheboro (the location of the court house) and run to the county boundaries. It stated that “The number of miles shall uniformly be designated in the same order by the [Roman] numeral letters, I for one mile, V for five miles, X for ten miles, to be cut in the front side or face of posts made of durable wood or stone pillars neatly dressed, and that each and every post or piller shall contain also on some suitable and conspecious [sic] part thereof a number of notches or scores corresponding with the number of miles.” [Randolph County, 1779-1979, p. 63.] (The notches were obviously for those citizens who were unable to read Roman numerals!)

None of the mileposts and signs mentioned by the article above have survived to the present, though Randolph County continues to mark all of its local roads (and even private driveways) with substantial signs. This date from the institution of 911 addressing, begun in the early 1990s.

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