By Jack Gurner
Highway No. 7 between Water Valley and Coffeeville hasn’t always been the smooth drive it is today. During the early part of the 20th Century, a trip over the dirt road could take most of a day.
It wasn’t until late in 1923 that the road – then known as the Jeff Davis Highway – was straightened and graveled. At the same time, a seven-mile stretch of the northbound lane was concrete surfaced . This made for smooth driving if you were headed to Water Valley from Coffeeville. However, the concrete was also used by southbound traffic which made for some exciting motoring.
Newspaper reports from the 20s and 30s told of many accidents including one in 1927 when R. C. Knox of Water Valley was struck by ex-Governor Bilbo and thrown some 20 feet. Apparently Bilbo was headed back to Jackson at a high rate of speed in the wrong lane when he struck Knox.
Another report told of a serious accident in 1931 when Kermit Morgan lost a perfectly good mule to a speeder from Jackson who was returning from an Ole Miss football game.
Deputy Sheriff A. K. Burt said that the car was traveling at a terrific rate of speed on the wrong side of the road when it hit a wagon being driven by Morgan. There was evidence that the driver had used liquor, Burt added.
In 1938 the half-on, half-off driving came to an end when the state issued a contract to black-top the west half of the road. There were still accidents, but at least those folks who were in such a hurry to get back to Jackson could drive in the right lane.