On any given Monday or Tuesday evening, it has been said that drivers traveling on U.S. 60 could witness more than 100 trucks parked under the lights of the Hawesway 60 Travel Plaza. While the truck stop and incorporated restaurant have been welcoming truckers and visitors for nearly 50 years, the land holds a rich history that dates back over 200 years.
Upon entering the building today, the eye cannot help but be drawn to the large painted mural above the stairs, that reads “HawesWay — rich heritage — bright future.”
“My mother-in-law is the one who named it HawesWay,” Lindy Mercer said. “Everybody thought it was on the way to Hawesville, but it’s the way Hawes do things.”
The way Lindy is referring to is built on the foundation of a strong family work ethic that has spanned over six generations. This work ethic initially included farming, and then also saw the addition of Daviess County Sand & Gravel and eventually the fully operational truck stop.
*In the early 1800s, Joe Wright and his family moved from Shelby County, Ky., and bought a 1000-acre farm where they would build a log cabin near the Ohio River and Wright’s Landing Road. A short time later, Jacob Thompson also moved from Shelby County and bought the adjoining 1000-acre farm as a way to pledge his love for Wright’s daughter Sallie, who would later become his wife.
In the 1880s, Thompson sold the farm, that would later become the present truck stop, to his daughter, Sarah Elizabeth Thompson Hawes. Known to most as “Aunt Lizzy,” Sarah ran Riverside Dairy along with her husband William Sterett Hawes, however, the farm was landlocked until the U.S. 60 was built during World War 1. The home that Aunt Lizzy built in six weeks, is now home to Lindy and Abbie Mercer, the present owners of the 12 acres that the Hawesway 60 Travel Plaza sits on, as well as the surrounding property.
Benjamin Taylor Hawes, Aunt Lizzy’s youngest son, and his wife Dorothy bought the farm from the estate in 1945, just six years before Ben and Bernard Alvey started Daviess County Sand & Gravel. Then in 1954, Ben and Dorothy’s daughter, Abbie Hawes Mercer and her husband Lindy Lee Mercer, purchased Bernard Alvey’s share of Daviess County Sand & Gravel. In 1964, the Mercer’s built the Dinner Bell restaurant, which was later relocated on the property, and is currently operating as Lucy’s Diner.
In 1970, after the concrete plant near the Dinner Bell restaurant was moved closer to the sand pit, the remaining buildings were changed to a fuel stop. With the deregulation of trucking in 1980, business continued to grow until 1983, when a new building was built to house both the fuel stop and restaurant.
“We had four to six office trailers, and we filled 14 rooms upstairs and six rooms downstairs [with trucking dispatchers],” Lindy and Abbie’s daughter, Carolyn said. “The six rooms were all rented at the old restaurant and we even had some waiting on 25th Street.”
With a restaurant, gas station and mobile homes set up for the trucking dispatchers that frequented the location, the decision was made to turn the 12-acre property into a full-blown truck stop with trucking garage. The truck stop was equip with showers, laundry, a lounge and game room and telephones on 50 percent of the tables.
Carolyn said, even trucking has advanced and changed with the times, as truckers no longer need telephone access, but request free Wifi. She added, that while dispatch drivers still lease office space in the Hawesway building, the amenities and the regulations have changed over the years.
“Trucking has become more regulated over the last one or two years,” Carolyn said. “Drivers have e-logs now where they can’t drive over a certain amount of time — which has also brought us a lot more traffic.”
Abbie said with the requirement for drivers to take more downtime and so many plants in close proximity “this area is a pretty big trucking area.”
While the Hawesway Travel Plaza has become a popular destination for truck drivers passing through Owensboro, it has also become a large task for the Mercer family. Although there are still several generations of the Hawes Mercer family living on the original family land, it was time for someone else to take over the day-to-day operations of the truck stop.
“This land has a long family history,” said Michelle Madison with Valor Oil. “The Mercers have lived here all of their lives. Valor Oil took over a few years ago to oversee the facility.”
While the Mercers said Valor Oil leased from Hawesway for several years — since January 2017, Madison has been the one to oversee daily operations for the truck stop. Madison said Valor Oil is a family-owned business as well, so that made the transition much easier.
“It came time for one person to take over everything,” Madison said.
Abbie Mercer said she is incredibly pleased with the transition, as it has taken a huge burden of the couple and their children.
“They [Valor Oil] do an excellent job,” Abbie said. “For the first time in all of these years, we can enjoy it.”
*Family history courtesy of research provided by Benjamin Hawes Mercer.