The answer to that question is obviously, the chicken. Perhaps the most essential question should be, why was the road named for a chicken and was the chicken, a bird, an Indian or a soldier? For more than a century , toponymists (look it up, I had to) have vainly sought out to finally determine the derivation of the name of "The Chicken Road," which runs from Hawkinsville, Georgia on the Ocmulgee River to Dublin, Georgia on the Oconee River.
The Chicken Road is actually two roads. Laurens, Bleckley andDodge Counties differ in their Chicken Roads. Both Chicken Roads follow a northeasterly path running from Old Hartford on the Ocmulgee River, opposite Hawkinsville, through Frazier and Empire. The lower road continues through Chester in Dodge County following the general path of Highway 257 on into Dublin.
Northwest of Empire, another Chicken Road, sometimes called the "West Chicken Road" or "East Chicken Road" veers a little northwest of the former rail center through Dodge and Bleckley and enters Laurens County near the intersection of Branch Road, Moore Road and the terminus of Hillbridge Road. Continuing along its northeasterly course, this Chicken Road runs through the Buckhorn Community, first settled by Benjamin Darsey in the early 1800s, and intersects the Dudley-Dexter Road, Highway 338 at Turkey Creek, at a place once called Kewanee.
From Kewanee it passed through the Hogan lands on the same basic northeasterly course to the Shewmake Community near I-16. Passing through the legendary first county seat of Laurens, Sumpterville, this Chicken Road followed Moore Station Road until its intersection with Bellevue Road and Bellevue Avenue (Old Hawkinsville Road) until reaching its terminus at the Dublin Ferry, where the ancient Indian road from Indian Springs to Savannah crossed the Oconee River.
One of the first attempts to find the derivation of the name was published in the Dublin Post on May 1, 1879. "Ms. James Wyatt tells us that Mrs. Polly Weaver says Mr. Thomas B. Fuqua is mistaken in thinking the Chicken Road to Hawkinsville got its name from the chicken stealing proclivities of the road hands who opened the road. This aged lady, then about 80, says the Chickasaw Indians who lived in this community used to travel that road to Hawkinsville (which town, by the way was at that time situation on this side of the Ocmulgee River and called Hartford) to trade, and that on this account it was called the Chickasaw road, finally abbreviated to Chicken Road."
At the southern end of the Chicken Road, J.W. Carruthers, an ancient resident of Hawkinsville, proclaimed that the road's name had nothing at all to do with Indians. He claimed that road was constructed about 1825 to 1830 and it was a mere folly to the residents of Pulaski County, who in ridiculing the idea proclaimed "that nothing more than a few dozen chickens would ever be brought over the road."
Carruther's statement as to the date of the road seems to be plausible in that no trace of a trail is shown on the surveyors' detailed land lot maps of the area mad about 1806.
Yet another attribution of the name to the feathered bird is the story that the area along the southern end of the road was abundant with wild chickens. The story goes that one day a chicken peddler was traveling along the road when he fell asleep near a creek in the present day Frasier community. When the man awoke, he found his wagon gate open and not a single chicken in sight. The old timers believed they skedaddled to the woods and swamps where they lived the wild life.
Most anthropologists believe that the Chickasaw came from the west to settle in Louisiana and Mississippi, so it seems unlikely that any Chickasaw ever lived in the Hawkinsville area.
Renowned toponymist, Kenneth Krakow, in his landmark work "Georgia Place Names," restates the Chickasaw Indian connection, but incorrectly states that the Chicken Road was originally part of the Lower Uchee (Yuchi) Trail, which also ran from Hawkinsville, but along a somewhat parallel path crossing the Oconee River, five to six miles above Dublin near Blackshear's Ferry.
Guy Alford, of Swainsboro, after consultation with Hal M. Stanley, State Commissioner of Insurance and formerly of Laurens County, believed that the Chicken Road was named after General George Chicken. Mereness in Travels Among the Colonies, wrote that George Chicken represented the the English Commissioner of Indian Affairs, traveling through this area on his way to the Flint River.
And so, I come to the end of my quest. The question still remains. Not only are there three somewhat logical sources for the naming of the Chicken Road, once the road leaves the Empire Community of Dodge County, there are two separate and distinct Chicken Roads.
If you want to know my guess, I will go with the less romantic name which derived from the shipping of chickens along the road. This conclusion is based on the lack of a chicken road being shown on early 19th Century surveys of the area coupled with the fact that this area was primarily settled by Yuchi (Uchee) and Muskogee speaking Creek Indians.
However, it remains positively clear that at one time or another that a bird, a soldier and an Indian did cross the Chicken Road. Why? You know why! And don't ask me again!