East of Cass City on M81 next to the cemetery is a roadside park with a Michigan Historical Marker. There is also an old stone maker in the park and both of them recall the first mile of improved road funded by the state. The sign in the park reads:
The state highway system began with the State Reward Road program, created by the Michigan Legislature in 1905. The program provided “rewards” to local governments for road improvements made according to state standards. Horatio “Good Roads” Earle, the state highway commissioner, traveled the state drumming up interest in road improvements. Elkland Township was the first municipality to receive a reward. Spending $985, the township widened (to nine feet) and graveled one mile of rutted wagon road (Later M-81) between the corner of Elkland Cemetery and what became Crawford Road. The township then received a $500 reward. State Reward Road No. 1 marked the beginning of state aid for local roads.
I thought it was interesting the little town of Cass City was the first to take advantage of the state program to improve the roads. I imagine the farmers in the area must have been thrilled to have a decent road to get to town on. I think even before there were cars Michiganders complained about the roads.
P.S. I will be in Cass City at Rawson Memorial Library 6495 Pine St Monday, February 19, 2018 at 2:00 pm giving a presentation about my travels around Michigan, If you are in the area I hope you can stop by.
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