Horatio Sawyer Earle was born on February 14, 1855 in Mt. Holly, Vermont. He came to Michigan in 1888 and worked as an agricultural implement salesman. He was elected as a State senator and began his campaign for improved roads. He was nicknamed “Good Roads” Earle. In 1901 he headed a senate committee that developed the first statewide plan for road improvement. With his urging, in 1903 the legislature passed a law creating the Highway Department and Earle was appointed its first commissioner. Legal challenges to this law resulted in it being declared unconstitutional. Earle worked, without salary for two years until the law could be amended in 1905. He continued as commissioner until 1909 when the world’s first mile of concrete roadway was laid on Woodward Avenue in Detroit.
The paving of what is now M-53 began in Detroit in 1923. It extended northward through Center Line, Utica, Disco, Washington. Romeo, Almont, Imlay City, Burnside, Marlette, Hemans, Popple, Bad Axe, Filion, Kinde and ended at Port Austin at the northern tip of the thumb. The paving was completed in early 1924. The completion of the roadway caused the Detroit Urban Railway to cease operations in Romeo, Almont and Imlay City.
To recognize Horatio Earle’s contribution to the roads of Michigan, the M-53 highway was designated as the “Earle Memorial Superhighway” and a monument was erected in Almont at the curve at the north end of town – where Howland Road continues due north. The monument was dedicated on August 21, 1930. The monument has seven plates that indicate the seven counties serviced by the road. It also has a plague that honors not only Horatio Earle but also Almont’s own state senator, Charles B. Scully who secured the legislation that made the road a truck line highway. The monument was disassembled in the late 1980’s and moved to Murphy Park and reassembled.
In 1971 Horatio S. Earle was elected to the Michigan Transportation Hall of Fame.
Mr. Earle died in 1935 and is buried in Grand Lawn Cemetery, Detroit, Michigan.