WINSTON COUNTY - A nearly lifelong interest in a local history subject has culminated in the publication of a new book.
Joel Mize is the author of “The Byler Road”, a new book detailing the history of the Byler Road, which was constructed shortly after Alabama gained statehood in 1819. The road ran from just south of the Tennessee River to Tuscaloosa, and went through what is now Winston County. The path of the road is still traveled today in many spots.
Mize, 79, noted that his fascination with the Byler Road began as he was growing up in Haleyville.
“The concept of the existence/importance of Byler Road was first in my consciousness related to the historical marker installed by the old post office in Haleyville (now the Haleyville Public Library). Some speculated that the old road ran through the alley between the post office and Mitchell’s Drugs. Looking across the street, there was no corresponding alley on that side of Main Street, so I began thinking as a teenager that there was more to this story of Old Byler Road,” Mize said.
As an adult, Mize’s fascination continued, with the project really spearheading in 2014, when Mize began working to get a resolution through the Alabama Legislature to encourage the Byler Road being listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Mize realized during his collecting of materials that the road had been largely forgotten in some areas.
“This is particularly true on the north end in the counties of Lauderdale and Colbert, where other named roads had usurped the original Byler pathway,” Mize said.
After years of research, Mize began writing the book this year so it could be released during Alabama’s Bicentennial, a fitting tribute to a road whose origins began shortly after the state was created. The book was written in less than a year, which Mize credits to the work of his “outstanding” editor, Theresa Wolfe Snoddy, of Double Springs.
Snoddy is not the only person Mize credits for helping the book come to fruition.
“Ricky Butch Walker is an inspired trail-finder and historian. He motivated me to create the historic record of Byler. Dr. Jeff Hayes, board member of the Alabama Hiking Trail Society, was an inspiration of looking at Byler’s route as a living cultural corridor that offers opportunity to pay tribute to this route well into the future,” Mize said.
While researching a subject Mize has been intrigued about for years, he learned many things he had not previously known.
“It was settled by some 80 Revolutionary War soldiers, then built by up to 320 War of 1812 soldiers,” Mize said.
Also, for the first time in print, “The Byler Road” has a detailed map of the “Stands”, which were early versions of hotel, general store and tavern combinations, that were located along the Byler Road. For example, the location of Haleyville was first served by a stand operated by Richard Hallmark (1830s), then by Judge Orrin Davis in the 1860s, followed by a Miller in the 1890s.
The road was also utilized during the Civil War, Mize learned.
“About 8,000 men of General Wilson’s Union Cavalry Corps, composed of McCook’s 1st Division and Long’s 2nd Division, came through Haleyville on Byler Road while on the way to mid-Alabama Confederate resistance at Elyton (now known as Birmingham), Tuscaloosa, Montevallo and the eventual surrender of General Nathan B. Forrest south of Selma. Brigadier General Croxton took his cavalry battalion cross country from just below Delmar to Jasper. That trail-blazer route has been known as Yankee Trace and is today the Highway 5 route between Haleyville and Jasper. McCook took his division southward on Byler to Eldridge, then turned left to rendezvous with Croxton, Long and Upton’s 4th Division, which also contained General Wilson and his 400 headquarters staff. Much of this movement through the Byler Road country is recorded in the claims of the Southern Claims Commission, as this Cavalry Corps (14,000 in total) were scavenging the countryside for food as they only took two days rations with them when they left the Tennessee River for the drive south,” Mize said.
“The Byler Road” also details the importance of the road overall to the early days of the State of Alabama.
“The Byler Road was built by private capital. At the time of its building, this was wilderness and the wild-wild west. It opened the path for settlers to access the Winston County lands and others along the route. It continued to be of service and well known into the 20th century. Today it is mimicked by Highway 13 from Haleyville to Northport,” Mize said.
Locally, “The Byler Road” is available at the Winston County Archives, located on Highway 195 in Double Springs. The standard quality version of the book, which is the version currently available, is $20. A premium quality, collector-item version of “The Byler Road” will also be made available through the Winston County Genealogical Society in January. This version will have over 50 pages in color. The premium version will be available for $35 and only a limited supply will be available. To reserve a copy of the premium version, please contact Treva Hood at email@example.com to reserve a copy or place an order.
Orders for the standard version can also be made by emailing Mize at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mize will be in Haleyville Tuesday, Dec. 17, at the Haleyville Public Library from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. with copies of “The Byler Road” for a book signing, a great way to pick up a Christmas present for any history buffs.
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.