Russellville identifies two oldest town streets
The room fell silent as Franklin County Archives director Chris Ozbirn stood in front of the Russellville City Council Monday and asked what the two oldest streets in Russellville are.
The councilmembers, like most citizens in Russellville, did not know the answer.
Ozbirn said it is common for people to not know where the current town began, so she is working to add signage to help educate on local history.
“You can’t go out on the street here and somebody tell you (what the oldest roads are),” Ozbirn said. “This whole county and town is so rich in history, and we need to tell that and put the signage up so people will know.”
The two original roads in town were Gaines Trace and Jackson’s Military Road. Ozbirn said many people are familiar with Jackson’s Military Road, but they do not know where it’s actually located.
“Many, many people come in here and will ask ‘Where was the military road?’ and nobody knows,” Ozbirn said.
The original town was located at Sloss Lake, but Ozbirn said the town moved in 1818 because of a sickness at the original settlement. When the town moved, it began at the corner of Gaines Trace and Jackson’s Military Road because those were the only two roads at the time.
Eventually, Gaines Trace became known as Lawrence Street, and Jackson’s Military Road became Washington Avenue.
The original town stood at what was known as the public square, the square block created by current day Washington Avenue, Lawrence Street, Jackson Avenue and Franklin Street.
“I think it’s very important because those were the only two roads, and that is the reason they decided to put the town here,” Ozbirn said. “You’ve got to know your history, not just your family history but where you’re from.”
Ozbirn said five signs will be placed on both Lawrence Street and Washington Avenue, letting people know the history of the original roads in town.
“I’ve been trying to come up with projects I can do for the bicentennial, and I thought, what
better than to finally have those two streets designated?” Ozbirn said.
She said she met with the highway department about erecting the signs, and it will be a three-week process to get the material needed. Ozbirn said her hope is to have the signs in place before the Bicentennial Birthday Celebration Nov. 21.