The National Old Trails Road Part 3
Promoting the Road During a War
Robert Bruce was a prolific good roads writer for AAA and the Automobile Blue Book travel guides who took a particular interest in the history of the roads he wrote about. In a two-part article on the history of roads in Indiana, he discussed the coming of named trails to the State, including the National Old Trails Road:
Straight east and west through Indianapolis passes the National Old Trails Ocean-to-Ocean Highway, of which the old National Road is its basic part across Ohio and Indiana. This is now the chief competitor of the Lincoln Highway for transcontinental travel through the Hoosier State. Between Indianapolis and Columbus, Wheeling, Cumberland, Baltimore or Washington, the Old Trails route has nothing to fear from its great rival to the north; but it suffers considerably for lack of a high-class modern road from Terre Haute to the Mississippi River.
Great improvements have been made recently across Missouri, and also much of the way from Kansas City over the Santa Fe trail and the Grand Canyon optional route through to Southern California, but the stretch of less than 175 miles from Terre Haute to East St. Louis across Southern Illinois still lowers the standard of that route as a whole from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It is hoped that within a reasonably short time Illinois will realize its obligation to through travel, and co-operate with the other states by putting that portion of the historic old route in condition for motor travel. Pending such action by the State, the counties and towns along the line should make such improvements upon it as may be within their means, not only for the public good but for their own protection, as the travel and commerce of the future will largely follow good roads, and deliberately stay away from districts known for their poor highways. [Bruce, Robert, “The Historic Development and Progress of Indiana’s Highways,” Part II, American Motorist, May 1916, pages 19-23]
Bruce had addressed the National Old Trails Road’s 1916 convention on its first day, then adapted his presentation to the convention for an article in the November 1916 issue of AAA’s magazine, American Motorist. The article began:
During the past several years a movement has been in progress to develop, mark, and bring generally to the attention of motor tourists the old and historic line of road travel from Baltimore and Washington over the Blue Ridge and Alleghany mountains to the Ohio river at Wheeling, thence across the central-western and southwestern states to Los Angeles. Of late it has advanced more rapidly than ever before, due to the great improvements finished or in process in the majority of states traversed, the excellent signposting over the entire main route west of St. Louis, and the almost complete transformation of the Pacific Coast division. Some of the intermediate portions still need a great deal of new construction and repair work to bring them up to the standard of other sections, and make them attractive from a strict touring standpoint. But the route as a whole has become a complete and recognized transcontinental line, which can be traveled throughout at least as safely and conveniently as any other, and during more months of the year than the more northerly routes.
From a historic standpoint, the National Old Trails Road “may have close rivals but at least no superiors.” For much of its length, the road traveled “the very trails by which the Central West and the old Southwest were largely settled.” During the railroad era, the roads were virtually forgotten, “but now they have connected up, brought into an importance never dreamed of by the generations that laid them out, and most appropriately made a memorial road to the pioneers.”
He told the convention that he had traveled the National Old Trails Road from Baltimore and Washington through Hagerstown and Cumberland, Maryland; Wheeling, West Virginia; Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis, Indiana; to St. Louis, Missouri, by way of the National Road; across Missouri by Boone’s Lick Road; and across 150 miles of Kansas on the Old Santa Fe Trails. He informed the convention of the conditions he encountered, beginning with:
Credit was given to Maryland for the uniformly highest-grade roads over its part of the route. Pennsylvania has a considerable mileage as good as Maryland, but some other stretches are not up to its standard. The 16½ miles across the Panhandle of West Virginia are in excellent shape.
In Ohio, the route was “undergoing a transformation which, at least in another year or so, should make it one of the finest sections between the National Capital and Los Angeles.” Beginning at the west side of the Ohio River opposite Wheeling, the road was “an uninterrupted brick boulevard” for 29 miles between St. Clairsville to Fairview. Between Fairview and Columbus, a motorist would encounter several construction zones where a detour would be needed. Most of the detours took motorists on excellent roads “slightly north through Newark and Granville,” but “one of the detours (old Washington into Cambridge), has been in bad shape most of the present year. This stretch will probably be completed before the end of 1916.”
Bruce characterized the route west of Columbus in Ohio and Indiana as “in fair-to-excellent shape”:
A few sections have suffered from inadequate supervision and maintenance, or for lack of oil [a dust preventative], and have become worn or dusty, or both. But they are fully equal to those on the corresponding parts of any other transcontinental route.
The Illinois division of the route from west of Terre Haute, Indiana, to East St. Louis was “by far the unsatisfactory stretch of any considerable length from Baltimore or Washington to as far west as the writer’s observations extended.” The “worst feature” was “that only feeble efforts seem to be made for its improvement.” It was “almost impassable” in wet weather. He recommended that motorists west of Terre Haute take a route “down the west side of the Wabash river in Indiana to old Vincennes, and then across a narrower part of Illinois to East St. Louis.” He considered the alternative “most interesting and should be taken at least one way on a round trip.”
Motorists could cross the Mississippi River on the toll Eads Bridge designed by the self-taught engineer John B. Eads and opened for railroad traffic on July 4, 1874. (It remains in service today.) From St. Louis, motorists used the “St. Charles Rock Road, an excellent stretch of twenty miles.” The road from there to Kansas City, “exemplified some of the best and also some of the worst to be seen in a great western state whose greatest single road is undergoing a revolution.” The 15 miles between Warrenton and Fulton, across the Mineola Hills, “are by far the worst seen on the inspection trip from Maryland to Kansas.” He was optimistic, though, because “a new right of way has been condemned to cut out the worst part of it, and a change for the better will soon take place.”
Still, some long stretches of the route east and west of Columbia “would do credit to New York State or Massachusetts.” A ferry must be used to cross the Missouri River either from New Franklin to Boonville or at Glasgow. He explained that “while there is often some slight delay on this account there is no real trouble, except perhaps getting on or off the boats in time of low water, such as the middle of September, 1916.”
In western Missouri, the Old Trails route was “better than through the eastern part of the state.” A “high-class road” was available from Lexington to Kansas City “with the exception of a few miles along the Missouri river west of Lexington (and that now under improvement).” The last 15 miles or so to Kansas City “are the equal of the best approaches to New York, Philadelphia or Boston.”
Kansas City, “the giant of the near Southwest,” was impressive, “and the run through the new automobile district is likely to be a revelation of its important to the territory it serves.” At Olathe, the Old and New Santa Fe Trails diverged:
The writer’s observations extended only over the old Santa Fe trail as far as Herington; while this was found rough in some places considerable improvements are underway, especially the building of strong concrete culverts to take the place of the old-time frail wood or weak iron bridges.
Bruce summarized his observations of the National Old Trails Road he had traveled on in 1916:
While a motor tour over the Old Trails route from Baltimore or Washington to the mid-Continent in Kansas is by no means all that might be desired, and a few stretches are likely to be quite bothersome in wet weather, no one need hesitate to make the trip now; and road conditions on several portions of the route and being constantly improved. [Bruce, Robert, “Rallying for the Old Trails,” American Motorist, November 1916, pages 24-25]
One of the resolutions adopted during the convention honored Bruce:
Resolved, That we express our appreciation of the excellent historical sketch of that part of the Old Trails Road from Washington to Wheeling, written by Robert Bruce of Clinton, New York, and published in co-operation with the National Highways Association.
We most heartily commend this book. It should be in the hands of everybody and we sincerely hope that its author may receive such encouragement that he will continue this splendid work throughout the length of the Old Trails Road.
The nearly 100-page book, published in cooperation with the National Highways Association, was titled The National Road: The Most Historic Road in the United States and Strategic Eastern Link in the National Old Trails Ocean-to-Ocean Highway. In a Foreword dated March 14, 1916, Bruce explained that the book covered the road from Washington and Baltimore to Wheeling. This was the historic first section of the Cumberland Road authorized by legislation signed by President Thomas Jefferson in 1806 and built by contractors working for the Department of Treasury.
In the first chapter, Bruce explained the importance of the road:
Easily first among the several through highways running west from the Atlantic seaboard, and ranking with the Santa Fe and Oregon trails of the far west, is the old National Road, which, though completed as a government project only from Cumberland, Maryland, to Wheeling (then Virginia, now West Virginia), was connected up with the older pikes from Baltimore, Frederick and Hagerstown, and subsequently with the new lines west of the Ohio River, making for all time the shortest and more natural way for road travel from tidewater at Chesapeake Bay to the junction of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers at St. Louis, Missouri. It follows as direct a course across the Alleghany Mountains as the nature of the country in western Maryland and southwestern Pennsylvania would permit; it is a wonderfully scenic route, and has a historic background beyond comparison with any of its rivals.
This Old National Road has been from the first a unique American institution, and was for many years a vital factor in the life, politics and industry of the country. To no other thoroughfare in the United States can the name “National Road” be correctly applied up to the present time. Between Cumberland and Wheeling, the names “National Pike” and “Cumberland Road” are interchangeable, both having been used indiscriminately by the Secretary of War, Chief Engineer and the field forces in their extensive correspondence during the progress of the work . . . .
It is unquestionably the most direct route of its length in the United States today, the only deviations from a straight line being occasional short offsets in going through some of the towns; and such windings as were found necessary to make safe ascents and descents of the numerous ridges in the Appalachian Chain.
So carefully was the route originally laid out that the loss of distance in the mountains between Clear Spring, Maryland, and Uniontown, Pa., is remarkably small, the road seeming always to find the shortest and easiest way across from one summit to another – usually by running down along the side of one ridge to the foot; and then, perhaps at once, but more often after a restful stretch of level road, making the corresponding ascent on the other side. Generally, too, there is a broad sweep to the curves, and a fair margin of safety to the traveler, in pleasing contrast to the narrow roads and sharp curves often found in equally hilly sections.
After summarizing the history of the original section of the Cumberland or National Road, Bruce informed readers that the road was gradually transferred to State control as a toll turnpike, resulting in “a long period of neglect, during which time the old Pike fell from its once-proud estate, largely because when government interest and supervision ceased, the original commanding purpose was lost, and the project was never carried through to its logical conclusions by the states concerned – Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Perhaps this was only natural, as they never had any uniform or united plan for its repair and maintenance; and, at least until comparatively recent years, lacked the machinery to do this in the most effective way.”
Maryland and Pennsylvania “have made so great and permanent improvements over the mountain divisions that it has not only been fully restored to through travel, but is generally conceded to be the most natural eastern connection for the National Old Trails Ocean-to-Ocean Highway, one of the large, vital factors in our coming transcontinental development.”
Without the automobile, Bruce explained, “the Old National Pike would probably not be undergoing its present almost complete transformation, and it is certain the motorists will soon, if they do not now, greatly outnumber all other travelers over the entire Baltimore-Hagerstown-Cumberland-Wheeling line.”
Bruce was concerned that a motorist on the old highway “had nothing to help him identify the interesting old houses, or to connect those and various other points of interest graphically with the past.” He intended his book to fill in that information. Each chapter included detailed maps and photographs.
The chapters covered:
Chapter 2: Baltimore Through Frederick to Hagerstown, Maryland
Chapter 3: Hagerstown through Hancock to Cumberland, Maryland
Chapter 4: Cumberland and the Historic Roads Toward Frostburg
Chapter 5: Clarysville, Maryland, through Frostburg and Grantsville, to the Pennsylvania Line
Chapter 6: From the Maryland-Pennsylvania Line, Past Fort Necessity to Uniontown
Chapter 7: Uniontown through Brownsville to Washington, PA.
Chapter 8: Washington, PA., Across to West Virginia “Panhandle” to Wheeling
Chapter 9: Baltimore-Washington-Frederick “Triangle”
At the end of chapter 8, Bruce summarized:
As a matter of mere driving, the Baltimore-Wheeling trip can be made in about fifteen hours, averaging probably eight from Baltimore to Cumberland and about seven from Cumberland to Wheeling. Spread over two fairly long days, and with such advance knowledge of the route and its chief points of interest as this series of articles is intended to supply, it should – in favorable weather – turn out to be a tour of unusual variety, and one full of memories well worth retaining . . . .
But one making the tour, even so far as already covered by the detailed maps, will inevitably gain a new conception of the Old National Road – particularly its strategic location and deep historic interest; and is quite likely convinced that it is the most logical eastern part of the National Old Trails Ocean-to-Ocean Highway.
Better Roads and Streets reviewed the book:
It is the work of a close student of the subject, who has spared neither time nor pains to go beneath the physical features which, however, are brought out with special clearness and good effect, to the stirring history and legend that center about the old turnpike from Baltimore and Washington across the Allegheny Mountains to the Ohio River more than any other single road in America.
The book was published at a convenient time:
The fact that the National Road is now in first-class shape practically all the way from Chesapeake Bay or the Potomac River to the Ohio, and that many tourists are looking for new trips to take the place of their customary European tours, makes the publication of this book most timely. A careful reading of it is likely to convince one that American highways, especially those built along the lines of the old trails between the Atlantic seaboard and the central West or far West, deserve more careful and thorough treatment than they have received in the past.
The review noted that Bruce “will be glad to correspond with any motorist intending to make all or part of that trip.” [“Old National Road,” Better Roads and Streets, August 1916, pages 46, 48]
Best Paved Road in Indiana
On October 5, 1916, ten thousand people gathered in St. Clairsville, Ohio, to celebrate the completion of 28 miles of brick in Belmont County of “the best paved road in the state,” as the St. Clairsville Commercial Club put it. The section from Bridgeport on the Ohio River to the Guernsey County line was part of the National Old Trails Road. “The celebration was preceded by an auto parade eight miles long over the entire road.” Thousands of people witnessed the parade.
The project dated to 1913 when Highway Commissioner James R. Marker asked the county auditor, Emerson Campbell, what they could do to improve the road if the State would assist in a substantial way. “Ten days later Auditor Campbell called Commissioner Marker by phone informing him that his county was ready for the proposition from the state, as he had taken the matter up with the County Commissioners, and good roads people, in addition to the resident owners along the road, and township authorities through which the road passed.” Governor Cox and Campbell met with Marker, county officials, and a good roads committee. The conference resulted in Governor Cox agreeing to recommend $150,000 of the main marker road fund for the reconstruction of the National road in Belmont county”:
Commissioner Marker appointed W. C. Fawcett, an expert engineer of Martins Ferry, Ohio, as resident engineer, to prepare the plans for reconstructing the National road in the county . . . .
This improvement of the National Road is the most important of all improvements made anywhere on that historic highway. It sets an example that should be followed particularly by the counties through which the roads pass within the state. The task is not so great but that it could be completed at least within the next two years, giving to Ohio the credit of the largest and best improvement of the National Road beyond that of any other state in the Union. If Ohio sets the example it surely will be followed by Indiana and Illinois.
Governor Cox and former Governor Frank B. Willis were the speakers. Marker was unable to attend, but the ceremony included the unveiling of a monument to Marker “who, as state highway commissioner, inaugurated the Main Market highway in Ohio. [“Belmont County Honors Marker,” Dependable Highways, January 1917, page 17]
(On July 23, 1825, a ceremony was held in St. Clairsville to mark the start of construction on the Cumberland Road/National Road west of the Ohio River.)
Historical Highway Day
The centennial of Indiana statehood, dating to December 11, 1816, brought President Wilson and many good roads advocates to Indianapolis on October 12. Each day that week was dedicated to a special purpose, with October 12 designated “Historical Highway Day.” President Wilson would deliver two speeches, one to 5,000 good roads advocates at the auditorium of the Indiana Fair Grounds. He then would speak to farmers gathered at Tomlinson Hall.
His train arrived at Union Station in Indianapolis around 11:30 a.m. After a luncheon, the Presidential party, Governor and Mrs. Samuel M. Ralston, and other officials traveled by automobile to the reviewing stand for the centennial highway parade, organized by the Hoosier Motor Club, the Marion County Good Roads Association, and the Marion County Centennial Highway Committee. Carl G. Fisher, founder of the Lincoln Highway Association, was grand marshal.
The boom of a cannon signaled the start of the parade shortly after 1 p.m. Good roads advocates from eastern Indiana came from one direction, while the western Indiana advocates came from another. With the Presidential party and State and local dignitaries on the reviewing stand, chief marshal Fisher waited at Meridian and Washington Streets (Washington Street was the old National Old Trails Road, the Lincoln Highway crossed the northern part of the State in the general alignment of U.S. 30 today). Fisher directed the two lines of automobiles into a two-abreast formation and led them into North Meridian Street toward the Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument installed in the circle in 1902. A contemporary account described events:
There the parties of the President and the Governor waited to review the parade. As the two lines approached the reviewing stand they parted, one line moving east of the Monument, the other to the west, joining again at Meridian street, north of the Monument. The way then led northward in Meridian street to Sixteenth street, west to Capitol avenue, north to Maple road, east to the east entrance to the fair ground.
There never was so many automobiles in Indianapolis before. When Carl G. Fisher, leading the parade, drew his car up at Meridian and Washington streets, he did not know what a parade he was handling. Behind him in Meridian street a crowd of suffragists waited with banners flying. To the west a long line of automobiles could be seen and some confusion was caused when visiting motorists got tangled with the President’s party, but this soon was adjusted.
Then from the east came another long line of good roads boosters. From practically every county east of Michigan road there were automobiles flying their county and town banners. Drum corps and bands were intermingled with the cars. The two lines of cars drew up behind Fisher, the suffragists got right in behind the chief marshal and the parade began. The police succeeded in separating the two lines and sent them toward the reviewing stand two abreast. The National good roads boosters, interested in the resurfacing of the National road between Richmond and Terre Haute came several hundred strong. The ocean-to-ocean highway boosters were out in equally strong numbers, and the Dixie highway and the Hoosier-Dixie highway had strong representation. Practically every main highway in Indiana had delegations here to let President Wilson know that they support good roads . . . .
The reviewing parties remained in the stand until, on signal from Mr. Fisher, they entered automobiles and were driven north on Meridian street, the cars of the President’s party passing between the long lines of automobiles in the parade.
The party left the reviewing stand around 2:15 p.m. Throughout the parade, the President “bowed and smiled at frequent intervals.” [All quotes not otherwise cited are from coverage of the visit in The Indianapolis News, October 12, 1916]
American Motorist summarized:
Far in excess of a hundred thousand people saw the parade, did honor to the Chief Executive of the Nation, and helped in one way and another to swell the good roads shout. In double columns it required over an hour and a half for the self-propelled parade to pass the reviewing stand, where President Wilson had as his reviewing companions, Governor Ralston, Mayor [Joseph E.] Bell, and former Mayor [Charles A.] Bookwalker, flanked by other Indiana notables.
The First Lady of the Land was an interested observer of the exhilarating proceedings, accompanied by the wife of the Governor and other Hoosier social leaders. A message came to Mrs. Wilson, from Mrs. Thomas R. Marshall, who was accompanying the Vice President [a former Governor of Indiana, 1909-1913, before taking the oath of office as Vice President] on a speaking tour, regretting her enforced absence from the city on the occasion of Mrs. Wilson’s visit.
The magazine also reported that at one point, Judge Lowe of the National Old Trails Highway Association, had approached the reviewing stand:
At the reviewing stand the President had received from Judge Lowe the “Van Buren gavel,” made from a plank dug up from the old plank road that formerly was a part of the National Road, which is now the main thoroughfare through Indianapolis. According to the Judge, Van Buren was not favorable to extending Federal aid to roads, so it was contrived to dump him out in a famous mudhole on the Old Trails Road in Indiana. His harrowing experience in that well planned accident changed his mind. He signed a bill which permitted paving the particular mudhole with heavy oak planks. Recently, in grading this road to rebuild it, one of the planks was dug up and the gavel presented to President Wilson was made from it. [“Network of Roads Will Release Locked-Up Riches of the Nation, Says the President,” American Motorist, November 1916, pages 12-13, 54; the plank incident is on page 13]
(Judge Lowe included a photograph of him reaching up to hand the gavel to the President in the association’s publications, including the 1925 revised edition of The National Old Trails Road: The Great Historic Highway of America, on page 225.
(Judge Lowe, or the writer of the account in American Motorist, had several details wrong. President Martin Van Buren (March 4, 1837 – March 4, 1841) had been defeated for reelection in 1840, but decided to try one more time to win the presidency. Hoping to gather support in the west, he took the stagecoach along the Cumberland Road to Indianapolis to deliver a speech in June 1842. Van Buren, as a Senator, Vice President, and President, generally opposed internal improvements by the general government. As President, however, he had signed a funding bill for the Cumberland Road on May 25, 1837, authorizing $459,000 for construction west of Ohio, including $150,000 for the road in Indiana. Nobody knew it at the time, but that would be the last major funding Congress would appropriate for the road. Details of the mudhole incident vary, but the stagecoach in which the former President was riding went out of control, with the connivance of the driver, at a mudhole along the road approaching Plainfield and ended up against an elm tree. Climbing out of the overturned vehicle, Van Buren walked through mud to Fisher’s Tavern in Plainfield. The site of the “Van Buren Elm” is noted by a roadside marker on a boulder in front of the Friends Meetinghouse in Plainfield.
(As for the plank road Judge Lowe mentioned, the Van Buren incident occurred before the craze for wooden plank turnpikes began in the mid-1840s. The craze, imported from Russia, lasted only about a decade, at which point railroads had taken travelers away from the roads while the wood planks had rotted through at a time when toll revenue was not enough to pay for their replacement. As Thomas J. Schlereth reported in his book about U.S. 40 in Indiana, the State granted “control of the National Road through Hancock, Marion, Hendricks, and Putnam counties . . . in 1849 to the Central Plank Road Company, which proceeded to cover the road with oak planks and put up a series of tollgates and tollhouses.” [Schlereth, Thomas J., U.S. 40: A Roadscape of the American Experience, Indiana Historical Society, 1985, page 76])
The newspaper described the stage for President Wilson’s speech at the Coliseum on the fairgrounds before an estimated 5,000 people:
President Wilson faced a nonpartisan crowd at the Coliseum when he arrived to make his address. The building was handsomely decorated with flags, and on the front of the railing around the balcony was a line of ninety-two banners, each bearing the name of an Indiana county.
The doors of the coliseum were opened an hour before the arrival of the President and his party in order that there be no jam at the doors when he arrived. There was nothing about the coliseum or the crowd to indicate any politics. The subject of better roads and highways is a non-political proposition in Indiana.
In his days before becoming Governor of New Jersey, President Wilson had been an avid bicyclist, but as President, he enjoyed automobile trips as described in the September 1916 issue of Northwestern Motorist:
No more ardent motorist ever occupied the White House than President Wilson . . . . Mr. Wilson probably has spent an average of two hours a day in an automobile since he became president. He prefers to ride with the top down . . . . His choice of a seat depends upon the purpose of the ride. If he intends to do some thinking, he is almost certain to sit beside the chauffeur. If he is out solely to relax, he joins his companions in the [back seat] and mingles in their conversation. An automobile load of Secret Service men always accompanies the president's car, whether the journey be some 150 miles through the Green Mountains or merely from the White House to one of the Washington theatres. Motoring is the president's chief form of recreation during his vacations. [Brown, L. Ames, “President Wilson the Motorist,” Northwestern Motorist, September 1916]
Governor Ralston introduced President Wilson, who delivered a lengthy address:
I am here because I am interested in the cause of good roads, and because I am interested in the State of Indiana. I was very much interested that this day, devoted to the cause of good roads, should fall in your Centennial Year. It made me think of many of the processes of our national history. Roads have so knit communities together, and communities into counties, and counties into States, and States into the nation, that we must learn how to think, and act, and do things together.
The arguments for good roads from the material point of view, are very obvious. It is true, I dare say, that we had to wait for the rapidly moving automobile to create a large enough number of persons interested in good roads, which would run beyond mere neighborhoods; and I am very grateful to the owners of automobiles, and to the members of automobile associations that they should have insisted with such success, upon the creation of highways. I note, incidentally, that they use them up almost as fast as we make them, but I will forgive them for that, if they stimulate us to the effort to make them, and to keep them in usable condition.
He commented on the purpose of good roads:
But, after all, the highway is not intended, first of all, and chief of all, for the pleasure vehicle. It is not intended for the mere traveler. It is not intended for the mere tourist. It is not made in order that some company of leisurely people may travel from coast to coast of this great continent. It is made because we need it in all the material uses of our lives. We need it first of all, and chief of all, in order that our resources may be made use of, for they can not be made use of until they are got to market and you can not get them to market unless you can get them from the mine and the farm, to the nearest railway station.
You can not know what the resources of the country are unless the country is covered over with a network of roads which will release all the locked up riches of all our country sides. Why, there are little pockets in the mountains in some places in America, where there are the richest sort of crops, where nature has made [the] largest of her gifts of fertile soil and genial climate and abundant rainfall, but where they can never get their crops to market, where they burn their corn, so much of it as they can not feed to their cattle, where they raise what they do raise for the consumption of their families, merely, and contribute nothing to the markets of the nation.
Roads, he said, had a greater purpose as well:
It is perfectly obvious that you have got to have an intricate and perfect network of roads throughout the length and breadth of this great continent before you will have released the energies of America.
Good roads are necessary for every practical aspect of our lives – to draw neighbors together, to create a community of feeling, to create those arteries which may be compared to the arteries of the human body. The blood of the nation will not flow in harmonious concord unless it can flow in intimate sympathy. And so the argument, the material argument, the argument about markets and crops and the products of the mines, sinks into comparative unimportance when you consider the spiritual things that you are doing in making roads. You know there is an old saying that the lines between sections are obliterated only by the feet that cross them.
As an enthusiastic bicyclist in his younger days and now a President who enjoyed regular automobile rides, he explained:
And so one of my interests in roads is that I want to see that thing carried on which I have seen worked to the benefit of this nation in so many parts of it . . . . Wherever you have not got a good road you have created a provincial and sectional population. Wherever you have a good road, you have tied a thong between that community and the nation to which it belongs. And that is my interest in good roads, for, my fellow citizens, my present interest is chiefly in the nationalization of America.
Automobiles and good roads contributed “to justice, to freedom and liberty”:
So that the words I want you to carry in your mind in connection with this good roads cause are these:
First, Nationalization – Getting all the fibers of this great vital people united in a single organism.
Second, Mobilization – Getting them so related to each other, so co-ordinated, so organized, so led, so united, that when they move they move as a single great, irresistible conquering force; and the third word that I want you to consider is the word that I suppose affords the key to doing these things; that word is the word "co-operation."
So, my fellow countrymen, build up these new roads in the construction of which the federal government is now to play so large a part, in the spirit of nationality, the spirit of cooperation, the spirit of liberty, the power which only a free people know how to exercise.
As President Wilson left the podium, the “crowd swarmed up to try to shake hands with the President, and it was only with difficulty he was able to get to the car waiting to carry him to Tomlinson Hall, where he made an address before a gathering of farmers.” [“Wilson Urges Unity of Nation,” The New York Times, October 13, 1916]
The meeting in Tomlinson Hall had begun before President Wilson’s arrival. American Motorist pointed out that the meeting “could not escape from the good roads atmosphere, for the meeting had been opened with a talk by Luke W. Duffy, a well known Indiana highways advocate, and Judge J. M. Lowe.” Judge Lowe was speaking about the history of the National Road when President Wilson arrived. President Wilson’s speech discussed the role of the Federal Government in aiding farming, activities of the Department of Agriculture, including institution of parcel post “whereby the more perishable kind of farm products can be rapidly shipped and distributed in moderately small quantities.” He also discussed the Federal Reserve and the Farmers’ Loan and Credit Bank.
After his speech, the President and his party returned to Union Station to take the train, which left at 5:45 p.m. for the return to his family’s rented summer home in Shadow Lawn on the Monmouth University campus in New Jersey.
[In addition to The Indianapolis News and American Motorist, the account of the visit to Indianapolis includes material from: “Wilson Urges Unity of Nation,” The New York Times, October 13, 1916; “Wilson Urges Need of Unity,” The Baltimore Sun, October 13, 1916; “Condemns Revival of Sectional Talk,” The Evening Star, October 12, 1916; “Scores Sectionalism,” The Washington Post, October 13, 1916. Many of these newspaper articles included excerpts from both speeches. The complete good roads speech can be found on pages 302-310 of The Indiana Centennial 1916, as well as in the November 1916 issue of American Motorist, pages 12-13, 54.]
President Wilson’s Republican challenger was Charles Evans Hughes, a former New York Governor (January 1, 1907 – October 6, 1910) and associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1910-1916). On election day, November 7, the race for the White House was too close to call, with some newspapers declaring Hughes the winner. But on November 10, resolution of the California vote totals tipped the election to President Wilson, who won the State by 3,806 votes. With 266 electoral votes needed for victory, President Wilson won 277 while Hughes picked up 254. The popular vote was: Wilson: 9,126,868 (49.2 percent) Hughes: 8,548,728 (46.1 percent).
Re-Signing the Old Trails Road
The March 1917 issue of Touring Topics reported that one of the Club’s first activities “will be revision and elaboration of the Club’s sign system along the National Old Trails Highway between Los Angeles and Kansas City.” The club had dispatched one of its road crews for the trip, which would involve 4,000 miles of travel from March to May.
Many of the 5,000 or so club signs supplied along the road in 1914 and 1915 “have deteriorated under usage and all require attention in greater or less degree.” Further, changes in the routing of the route required signing:
Chief among these changes is the new route of this highway between Holbrook, Arizona and Las Lunas, New Mexico. The roadway which the Club first signed passes through Springerville in Arizona and Socorro in New Mexico. This newly opened roadway will itself require the erection of approximately one hundred and fifty signposts to which direction and mileage signs must be attached. It is further estimated that replacement of signs over the entire route entail the location of approximately seventeen hundred signs and this work is in addition to straightening posts, repairing damaged signs and otherwise revising the sign system to meet the requirements of summer travel.
The crew also would update the club’s map of the route:
Beyond this it is anticipated that the Club’s car will find it necessary to proceed beyond Kansas City and chart the route of the National Old Trails Road across Missouri to St. Louis, thence along the main motor roads through Springfield, Bloomington, Pontiac and Joliet into Chicago. Returning westward from Chicago the crew expects to chart the main line of the Lincoln Highway to Omaha and to take map notes upon the southern road from Omaha by way of Nebraska city, Atchison and Leavenworth to its intersection with the National Old Trails Route at Kansas City.
The data gathered from the trip would be used for preparation of the next generation of National Old Trails Road maps that “will be particularly attractive to the large body of motorists in the central states and in the great lakes region.” [“Club Begins Re-Signing National Old Trail Highway,” Touring Topics, March 1917, page 23]
The eastbound signing crew had seen and heard enough to report general improvement of the road from Los Angeles to Kansas City. After passing Albuquerque, New Mexico they said, “a notable spirit of road improvement is manifest over every unit that has been covered thus far”:
Between Barstow and Needles in California, and particularly in the vicinity of Bagdad and Amboy, the road has been plowed and graded with the result that the roadbed is still in soft condition and is difficult for motor traffic. This condition is only temporary, however, and as soon as these soft stretches have been oiled and rolled this link of the N.O.T. will be in first-class shape for automobile travel.
With the exception of the mileage between Flagstaff and Winslow, which was impassable on account of snow, the Club car has had no difficulty in traversing the highway and the reports that have been received at Club headquarters indicates [sic] that the roadway is in really excellent condition for so early in the season.
A “movement” was emerging for signing the entire road to Washington, D.C.
In addition to reports from the sign crew, Judge Lowe provided assurance to the Automobile Club “that each state unit from California to the District of Columbia is exerting itself toward the improvement of this transcontinental highway and that during 1917 it will be by far the best of the nationwide automobile routes terminating in Los Angeles. His reports indicated:
Recently Kansas enacted laws which will result in hard surfacing the National Old Trails road across that state, and the various counties and communities of Kansas are already actively participating in the permanent improvement of this great highway. The same is true in Missouri and Illinois and it is in these three states that the necessity for improvement of the National Old Trails road is most imperative.
He added that the eastern and western States have been “most progressive in enacting wise highway legislation in actual road construction”:
Maryland has completed the road across the State (172 miles), and it is conceded to be one of the finest stretches of hard-surfaced road in the United States. It was built under the direct supervision of the State Highway Commission.
Pennsylvania has built her section (72 miles) also under State supervision.
West Virginia has completed her section (16 miles) with a very fine road.
Ohio has her section (232 miles) almost completed, there being left only about 12 miles not under contract. The work in this State is being done under the supervision of both the National Government and the State Highway Commission. Much of it is being built at an expense approximating $20,000 per mile. The entire National Old Trails Road in this State will undoubtedly be completed in the coming year.
Indiana has her section (160 miles) built mostly of gravel and macadam. The work in this State is done under County and Township supervision, and therefore is not uniformly of the best construction and contrasts with the work done under State and National supervision.
Illinois has built and hard surfaced about 70 miles of her 170 miles of the National Old Trails Road. The sentiment is fast ripening there to complete the road during the year 1917, and these is little doubt that this will be done.(Video) The Rise and Fall of Route 66 (Why America's Greatest Road Fell into Oblivion)
In Missouri about one-third of her 300 miles of the National Old Trails Road has been hard-surfaced. Here, too, like Indiana and Illinois, the work is being superintended by county and local authorities and will not rank with the high class work done on the eastern sections of the road.
Very little hard surfacing has been done on the road across Kansas (500 miles).
In Colorado (195 miles) very little of the road has been permanently built, but there is a live movement there to hard surface the road across that State.
New Mexico (450 miles), one of the youngest States in the Union, has already accomplished wonders, most of the road across that State being in fairly good travelable condition. Governor [William C.] McDonald, whose term has just expired, says that the road will be completed across that State out of State funds provided by a recent bond issue. The State has a real State Highway Commission, with authority lodged in the State Engineer to initiate and carry out road building. But for that fact alone it would probably be impossible to negotiate that State.
In Arizona (420 miles) the same thing is true as in New Mexico, and the money chiefly raised by County Bonds is spent under the supervision of a Highway Commission. State Engineer Lamar Cobb reports bond issues as follows:
Mohave County . . . . . $100,000
Coconino County . . . . $250,000
Navajo County . . . . . . $150,000
Apache County . . . . . $125,000
California (310 miles), perhaps, is entitled to the record as one of the most progressive States in the Union on the road question. Some years ago the people of the State voted an $18,000,000 bond issue to be spent in hard-surfacing a System of State Highways. Out of this fund, 71 miles of the National Old Trails Road was built, from Los Angeles east, and at the recent election the people carried an additional $15,000,000 State bond issue by an overwhelming majority. This Act provides a sufficient amount of this sum shall be appropriated to finish the National Old Trails Road east across the Mohave desert to Needles. [“Road Improvement General on Old Trails Route,” Touring Topics, April 1917, pages 15-17]
By May, Touring Topics could report that the signing crew had completed its work from Los Angeles to Kansas City, had traveled to Chicago via St. Louis and Pontiac, Illinois, and was now returning home via Omaha:
Even this early in the season the Club’s road crew reports conditions of the National Old Trails Highway as excellent considering the sparsely populated territory which it traverses through the western states and further taking into consideration the damage to the roads that are the result of winter storms. One of the worst stretches of the National Old Trails Highway is in eastern California and this untoward condition will be speedily remedied by road work on the part of San Bernardino county. The Arizona and New Mexico links of the transcontinental route are in very fair condition and except for those mountainous stretches that are impassible with deep snow, this portion of the road can be placed in first-class shape with comparatively small effort. The Colorado section of the highway is also reported very fair, as is likewise the roadway through Kansas. The road through this latter state, however, is of ordinary dirt construction for practically the entire distance and is liable to local damage from unusually heavy spring and early summer rains.
Based on reports received, the article stated that the work in the early spring and summer “will see very marked improvement in this entire highway:
The enormous gain in westward-bound travel over the National Old Trails Highway that resulted last year from the advertising that has been given this transcontinental route, has impressed upon the citizens of the western states the economic desirability of supplying travelers with a first-class roadbed.
Every community along the road was “doing its share to attract additional thousands of motor tourists”:
Not only have the garages, the hotels and the storekeepers of the towns on this roadway benefited by the expenditures of the several thousand parties that used the roadway last year, but a direct benefit has also resulted to the property owners in each of these states from the visits of potential investors who have later become actual investors in many cases.
Regarding the sign posting, the article concluded:
When this work is completed the National Old Trails Road between Los Angeles and Kansas City will be, beyond all others, the most completely sign-posted long distance highway in the United States. [“All Links of Old Trails Active in Road Improvement,” Touring Topics, May 1917, page 10]
National Old Trails Road in Missouri
The January and February 1917 issues of American Motorist carried Robert Bruce’s two-part article on “Crossing Missouri by the Old Trails.” As in his book on the National Road, Bruce provided readers a topographical, pictorial, and historic view of the road, but also detailed commentary on the road itself.
Part 1 on St. Louis to Columbia began with a question:
“How shall I find the route across Missouri?
For years this has been a familiar – and very troublesome – question to all persons handling touring inquiries on a national scale. It is ever-present whenever the subject of a trip via the Old Trails route across the central-western States comes under discussion.
Answering such an inquiry was “difficult at best unless one has personally been over the ground.” Bruce, to answer the question, had traveled the route in both directions in September 1916, on his way to and from the National Old Trails Road Association convention in Herrington, Kansas. Coming and going, he took “notes and odometer mileages westbound from St. Louis to Kansas City, and checking them back on the return trip”:
As a whole the route across the State averages good, that average being somewhat lowered, however, by two unusually bad sections, one or both of which may possibly be improved, at least in part, by the summer of 1917. Evidences of progress are met every few miles, which assures the tourist that efforts are being made to gradually bring the route up to a modern standard.
On this way across the State there will be found many reminders of the Boone’s Lick road, principally tablets erected at historic points by the D.A.R. One of them is in front of the court house, St. Louis; and unless known of in advance, and specially looked for, it will probably be missed.
The “recognized route” began at Locust and 12th Street in St. Louis:
[The] route makes a short right and left turn to pass the Public Library. Then it continues straight out Locust street, past the Museum of Fine Arts to the entrance of Lindell Boulevard. Bearing left, it follows that magnificent parkway past rows of splendid residences, in front of the large Catholic Cathedral and across Kings Highway. Over to the left, just beyond, is the Lindell Boulevard entrance to Forest Park, in which the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1903 was held. Two and a quarter miles from the start the route turns right into the Union Boulevard, crossing Washington avenue, Delmar and Page Boulevards to Easton avenue.
Turning left on Easton avenue at mileage 5.8, the tourist starts northwest, crossing the Missouri river at St. Charles, and soon passes the court house in front of which is the boulder referring to the Boone’s Lick road as the old-time connecting link between St. Charles and the start of the Santa Fe Trail at Old Franklin.
Now begins the pleasant rolling country, quite typical of the whole route in Missouri. The road, so far good all the way from St. Louis, is still hard surfaced but has become somewhat worn. Soon there is apt to be an unpleasant surprise if it happens to be wet; for at about the mileage 27.0 an unimproved stretch is met and followed into Cottleville. Beyond the town there are more than two miles of narrow, very stony and poor road; and there is a longer worse piece ahead – but we will get to that soon enough.
Gaining a slightly higher average altitude, the going gradually improves. Soon the tourist enters a region of “checkerboard roads,” which extend more or less across the rest of the State. It would seem impossible that so many short turns could be incorporated into any road system. The early land surveys were along section lines; there must have been a different group of surveyers [sic] working every few miles – and no attempt made to harmonize their lines. From the mileage 42.3, entering Wentzville from the east, to the mileage 59.2, where the road straightens out to go into Warrenton, there are twenty-eight square right and left turns.
One making this trip is not apt to lose sight of the fact that it is over an historic route, for two or three D.A.R. tablets are seen along the road between St. Charles and Warrenton. Entering the latter, one passes between the buildings of the Central Wesleyan College and Orphan Asylum . . . . Four miles east of the town, a deserted log cabin stands as a mute reminder of pioneer days. A yellow wildflower with narrow pointed leaves grows in abundance through this section; it is rather attractive to the traveler, but a great pest to the farmer, like mustard in the eastern states.
Since the bad 2-mile stretch west of Cottleville, road conditions had been average, but in talking with people encountered along the road, he began to hear warnings about Mineola Hills and further inquiries could “hardly be reassuring”:
From an elevated spot at the mileage 89.4, a range of beautiful hills looms up ahead; but there is first a descent over a series of waterbars that would put the worst of those remaining in Pennsylvania or Ohio entirely out of reckoning. They are really mounds, large and irregular; no matter how you take them, the car will roll and pitch in going down that grade.
Just beyond Mineola, the motorist crossed Loutre Creek on an iron bridge, but a tenth of a mile later “brings one to an unmistakable right turn into by far the worst stretch of road on the entire trip across the State”:
The grades are not steep, but the roadway up from the west side of the stream is narrow and almost impassable in wet weather though in dry weather it presents no serious difficulties.
Having gained the western slope, the motorist comes to about two miles of approximately level road; but it is across an almost continuous ledge of bare, uneven rocks, evidently the backbone of the range of which the Mineoli Hills are a part. Getting over it is a strain on tires more than on axles, for as only slow speed can be made, the car takes the wrenches and hitches in a deliberate way. It is possible to favor the tires only to a limited degree; and one is out of it in a few moments.
It passes the comprehension of the average tourist from the east that such a condition should still exist on any main route across a great and enterprising State; it is due largely to the fact that in Missouri and other western states, road improvement has heretofore been almost entirely by counties. That portion of the route across the Mineola Hills is in a corner of Montgomery county, whose population and wealth would probably never enable it to build without assistance a road suited for through travel, even if it were crossed by a level stretch instead of by this rock formation, which goes to unknown depth. Furthermore, the principal towns and largest population are in the northern part of the county, off the direct route, which has always made it difficult to secure any real appropriation even to draw gravel to put on top of the exposed stone, which would help very much.
Fortunately, this stretch and the one west of Cottleville were the worst parts of the route across Missouri:
The question as to whether or not these pieces make the trip advisable from a touring standpoint is a subject of much debate. Personally, after covering the whole, once in somewhat wet weather and again in dry, I should say that one intending to make a fairly long run, of which this trans-Missouri trip is a logical part, might reasonably go ahead with it . . . . With good roads, the trip over these scenic highlands of a semi-prairie state could be made one worth going fairly long distances to make.
There is some discussion of a project to build an improved highway from the point where the road to New Florence turns off seven and one-half miles east of Mineola village, running through New Florence and Montgomery City, cutting out the worst part of the present route and returning to the direct line just before coming to the next town, Williamsburg. While this would eliminate a picturesque section, and take the tourist north of the Van Bibber Tavern, in some ways the most historic one now standing along the route, it would be a vast improvement over present conditions.
Bruce described Van Bibber Tavern as “famous in stagecoach days, and for a long time the center for the politics and social life of that part of Missouri.”
He reported on some of the historic sites along this stretch of the road, noting:
The taverns and wagon stands along the Old Trail route in Missouri were not built as substantially as those on the National Road in Maryland, Pennsylvania or Ohio; and most of them passed away with the generation they serviced. Not so, however, with the log houses, many of which still remain; some are so small that one imagines it must have been difficult for the early settlers to have arranged their few belongings inside, while others seem spacious even today.
The road crossed an iron bridge over Big Muddy creek at mileage 106.3. From there “the route leads through Calwood, a small place, and thence over a good road into Fulton, county seat of Callaway county, and the commercial and railway center of its section.” In Fulton:
One comes into Court or Main street, Fulton, between rows of fine residences, passes a tablet relating to the early history of the place and sees the signboard indicating the right turn between two attractive churches into Seventh street, continuation of the route west.
He found some road improvement, particularly grading, across Callaway County. He was told “by competent authority” that “very soon the road across that entire county will be graded”:
At times this requires considerable cuts and fills, more common in the eastern states than the rolling prairie states. Starting from Court or Main street, Fulton, the route starts out west Seventh street, running into an excellent stretch of rock road.
Now follows about seven miles without a turn (a rare thing in Missouri); along this stretch of mostly level road, the weeds have grown amazingly, and no one seems to have tried to check them; as a result, they in some cases sway above the heads of the people in the car when the wind is blowing. Scientific care of the roadside has been given small attention in the central-western States.
In this section they have also made a start toward eliminating some of the useless short turns left by the old surveyors. It is a hopeful sign, for there is scarcely anything more monotonous than taking one after another, always at reduced speed.
Bruce reached Millersburg at mileage 125.9, and soon crossed a bridge over Cedar Creek, “and the tourist passes from Callaway into Boone county, running into a stretch of fine road which extends most of the way to Columbia”:
We speed through Harg, a little crossroads settlement, come along a picturesque stream, and follow the excellent winding road, considerable of it down a long easy grade, to a sharp right turn across an iron bridge. After an equally sharp turn on the opposite side, the road straightens out again and ascends a long, easy grade into Broadway, the fine side street of Columbia, home of the University of Missouri, and 138 miles from St. Louis.
Bruce noted that, “Walter Williams, Dean of the School of Journalism in the University, is one of the pioneer good roads workers in the State, and was the first president of the National Old Trails Road Association.” (As explained in part 1 of this history of the National Old Trails Road, Dr. Williams presided over the association’s first convention and was considered to become its first president, but declined “for reasons that I have confided to some of my more closely affiliated friends” and that made it impossible for him to consider the post. He recommended Judge Lowe who, of course, was elected.) [Bruce, Robert, “Crossing Missouri by the Old Trails, Part 1 from St. Louis to Columbia,” American Motorist, January 1917, pages 35-37, 70]
Part 2 of the American Motorist series covered Columbia to Kansas City. Bruce reported that in Columbia, “Broadway is followed through the city without a turn, becoming the main line of travel toward the next important point, Rocheport.” Near Rocheport, “there are a few rough spots, and some holes in the road, but nothing serious”:
At mileage 13.9, the road turns sharp left to run alongside a stream. Making the next right turn into the main street of the town, a tablet, “Rocheport 1825,” is passed on the left. A right turn at the western edge of the town crosses an iron bridge, beyond which the road passes from Boone into Howard county, and starts over the hills for New Franklin and Boonville.
The road between Rocheport and the crossing of the Missouri River “is distinctly inferior to that from Columbia to Rocheport. Caution is needed on some of the curves and there are a number of short choppy hills, which must be harder traveling in wet weather than the really steep grades of the Alleghanies.”
At 22.0 miles, the motorist would the first evidence that Boonville and Glasgow were keen rivals for travelers between that point and Marshall:
A very large sign on the road straight ahead indicates the Cross-State Highway through Fayette to Glasgow, where a ferry may be taken across the Missouri, thence through Slater to Marshall. On the left is a small sign indicating the continuation of the Old Trails route to New Franklin and Boonville. Intent upon following the latter all the way through, the writer made the left turn, coming, a few miles further on, to a right turn under the arch erected at the approach to the old Salt Creek cemetery . . . . A series of short turns brings one within sight of New Franklin. “Considerable hills,” I instinctively wrote in my notebook on the westbound trip alongside of the diagram before entering the village.
On Bruce’s westbound return trip, he found what “proved to be perhaps as steep a grade as any encountered on the way across the State; and no doubt a lot of drivers are caught unawares on it.”
Bruce pointed out a landmark:
The most conspicuous landmark on the way into New Franklin is a large boulder set in the center of the main street; on its western face is a metal tablet referring to the place as the “Cradle of the Santa Fe Trail,” an honor usually credited to what was once Old Franklin, the original north side settlement, along the Missouri a short distance from where our trip crosses it now. In this locality, the Boone’s Lick road, the pioneer route from St. Louis through St. Charles, Warrenton, Fulton and Columbia, comes to an end, and is succeed by the greater Santa Fe trail, whose markers will be seen more or less frequently along the balance of the way across the State.
Old Franklin had been wiped out by flooding in 1844, “and was never rebuilt. The population that stayed on the north side of the river in this vicinity moved farther back toward the hills and centered at what is New Franklin, which now claims for itself, or as the successor of Old Franklin, the honor of being the start of the first trade caravan to Santa Fe.”
The road continues through New Franklin by turning left “at a concrete building beyond the large boulder with tablet.” A mile further, the road approaches a boat landing at the Missouri River. “The last hundred yards or so are a packed sand trail, the length of which depends upon the stage of the water in the river; nor is the boat landing a permanent one, as it is shifted from one point to another as the necessities of navigation require. Care in driving down to the river and on to the boat is recommended from personal experience.” He continued:
The road from Rocheport to the Missouri river opposite Boonville is considerably below the standard of the route from Rocheport eastward to and through Columbia . . . . The piece from New Franklin to the river must be ticklish motoring in wet weather. And with all due respect to the courteous management and obliging, hard-working crew on the Dorothy, it seems as if a bridge ought to be built to carry the Old Trails across the Big Muddy at this point, where it is not very wide . . . . The boat makes an average of 30-minute crossings; so if it happens to be on the opposite side when one comes down to the north side from New Franklin, the wait will not be long.
Although the motorist has several options for leaving Boonville, Bruce advised that “the preferred way is to continue straight ahead across the Missouri Pacific railroad past the depot on the right, turning left with the travel just beyond into East High street, which leads up to Fifth or Main street. Turning right on Fifth street, the tourist at once passes the Cooper county court house on the left; and at the Farmers’ Bank building corner turns right on East Spring street, soon crossing the M.K.&T. railroad.”
The route led motorists to “a good wide road out of Boonville,” which, for a short distance, “affords an interesting view of the Missouri, over to the right”:
It also leads directly into a region of more hills and greater scenic beauty than the section just left behind. A few miles out one crosses a long iron bridge over La Mine river; after going through La Mine village there is another series of monotonous right and left turns.
The road followed a northwesterly course close enough for a “distinct view of the Missouri river and its characteristic bluffs.”
Just east of Arrow Rock village, the road enters Saline County:
The road is graded from here to Marshall, but not improved; in fact, the county once voted down a bond issue, though good roads sentiment has recently increased, and it is thought that a proposition for a new bond issue would pass.
Bruce explained that for through trips, motorists really had only one choice:
After a bit of rough going one comes to the center 4-corners at Arrow Rock village. On the left-hand corner, at the turn, is one of the real old taverns now standing along the route in Missouri. It was built in 1830. A ferry was established at this point in 1812 and continued to run until 1911. Recently there has been talk of restoring it.
The north side route from New Franklin to Arrow Rock is said to be from six to eight miles shorter than the standard one through Boonville and La Mine, and to pass over more level ground; but it has not an intermediate point nearly as large as Boonville, and of course the lack of a ferry at Arrow Rock makes that old-time option impracticable today.
The Missouri D.A.R. had “taken a great interest in the old tavern at Arrow Rock, and in 1913 furnished one of its room with relics of pioneer days, largely for the interest it would have for increasing motor travel.”
For years, the towns in the area were “almost completely isolated, with no railway service; and often, as in the case of those on the direct line between new Franklin and Arrow, separated by a river without means of crossing for miles.” Bruce added that, “With poor roads added to these handicaps, the outlook on life must be small indeed.”
Three-tenths of a mile past the tavern, “the road turns right to leave Arrow Rock village, passing a Santa Fe trail marker at the turn.” Sixteen miles along, the route crosses the Missouri River and “ascends a winding grade into Marshall,” a prosperous town that, as of September 1916, was “entirely without signs by which the stranger may know one street from another.” The alternate route that left the Boonville line 22 miles from Columbia joins here with the alternative route and “the two coincide the balance of the way to Kansas City”:
The writer had no means of comparing the two; but from sifting reports has no reason to believe that one is materially better than the other, and suggests that each might be used one way on round trips. One choosing the Glasgow route in traveling westbound will notice the large signboard indicating straight ahead when the road to New Franklin and Boonville turns left.
Following a northwesterly direction from this point, the upper route passes through Fayette to Glasgow, where it crosses the Missouri by ferry, and continues generally southwest through Slater to Marshall.
Leaving Marshall, the route leads “past the court house to the next cross street and then left at the post office; there are several right and left turns within the next few miles, “but the travel and sign posts make the way clear.”
Malta Bend, 83 miles west of Columbia, was the start “of a rich and very prosperous belt of country,” in Saline and Lafayette Counties. The 3½ miles from Malta Bend to Lexington “are bad in wet weather; and the people along the line do not seem inclined to improve it on account of having no rock in the localities through which the Old Trails route passes”:
Commenting upon this condition, a well-informed official of the State said to the writer that the people along that route could better afford to import sufficient rock from foreign countries to improve their main road than to leave it in the present condition.
Bruce employed a rare joke about Grand Pass, saying, “close observation on both the westbound and eastbound trips discovered no ‘pass’ and nothing ‘grand.’”
The line between Saline and Lafayette Counties was marked “by a large signboard,” after which a motorist would notice “evidences of recent grading”:
Running through Waverly and Dover, on some pieces of road none too good, the tourist shortly goes through a covered bridge over Tabo Creek . . . . After a long stretch of dirt road, it is restful to run on to a fine stretch of brick leading to the center of Lexington, an enterprising little city and the largest place along the line in this section of the State.
Once called Jack’s Ferry, Lexington had always “been a crossing point on the Missouri river, a steam ferry operating there now to connect the main roads north and south.” Bruce reported that:
Lexington is very active in [the] good roads movement, and was one of the first places to organize as a special roads district under the present Missouri law, voting $125,000 in bonds, some of the proceeds of which are now being spent to close up the few poor gaps still remaining on the Old Trails route in Lafayette county.
Bruce was optimistic about the future of the next stretch of the route:
One making the trip in the fall of 1916 could see, with some temporary inconveniences, a naturally poor road being transformed into a good modern thoroughfare. There was still enough left of the original road to give the observing traveler some conception of the troubles that must have been experienced by the pioneers in working their way in all weathers over the trail that preceded the fast-disappearing old road. Much of the proceeds of the road bonds voted by Lexington are being spent on this section.
The road continued “bad” for a few miles beyond Wellington, “but it will probably be improved soon after the stretch nearer Lexington”:
Within ten miles after leaving Wellington the Old Trails route passes from Lafayette into Jackson county . . . . A short seven miles beyond, the route goes through a covered bridge across the Little Blue river, and a mile and a half farther on, it curves left past a brick church in a grove and then past a reverse fork with a Santa Fe trail marker in the angle (as one travels east). The remaining six miles to Independence are unmistakable, as the main travel shows the way to all points. But there are several very sharp curves, as if the modern road-builders had simply rounded the corners of the old section lines instead of cutting across them, and making an easy winding road, in place of one which needs to be driven with considerable care, particularly by strangers.
On entering Independence, Bruce found “an unusually attractive aspect to the motor tourist approaching it from either of the principal directions”:
Entering by College street to Main street, the Old Trails route turns left on Main to Maple avenue, and then right on Maple avenue, running alongside the court house and post office, on the left, at the center of the city. A half mile farther along, Maple avenue comes to an end at River boulevard.
The Old Trails route continued with a right turn onto the boulevard and left turn on West Blue Avenue, named for the Blue River the route would cross half way between Independence and Kansas City:
The next three miles carry the route under a railroad viaduct, over a concrete bridge above another railway, meanwhile coming into the limits of Kansas City, past Mount Washington cemetery, and under a stone railroad arch, beyond which is a long, easy downgrade to a concrete bridge over the Blue river. Crossing the Southern and Frisco railroad tracks, at grade, at Centropolis station, the route picks up the trolley and follows it along Fifteenth street, a fine, wide asphalted thoroughfare, to the intersection of Grand Avenue.
Bruce concluded his narrative with a summary:
Probably no other trip of its length in the United States has so many reminders of the Old Trails as the approximate 300 miles between St. Louis and Kansas City. Taken with philosophical allowances for its remaining drawbacks, it is highly educational. Certainly none other has so much history and romance of both river and road, which combined in the early days to afford primitive transportation to the farther west. The chances are that one who has followed the Boone’s Lick road until it merges into the Santa Fe trail, and the latter to Kansas City, will not be satisfied until he has crossed into Kansas, and followed it still farther toward the setting sun. [Bruce, Robert, “Crossing Missouri by the Old Trails, Part 2 from Columbia to Kansas City,” American Motorist, February 1917, pages 23-27]
A Transcontinental Trip
The February 1917 issue of American Motorist included a brief description by Cecil Billup of Norfolk, Virginia, of his transcontinental trip to Los Angeles. Following a map provided by AAA in October 1916, Billup reported that his 3,600-mile trip took 3 weeks, “running only during the day.” He wrote:
I found the roads in Missouri and Illinois very bad indeed, due somewhat, however, to recent rains. In the other States, until I reached New Mexico, the roads were excellent, particularly in Kansas. The trail across the mountains from Pueblo to Raton and on to Los Vegas [sic], Albuquerque, Springerville, Winslow, Flagstaff, and Seligman to Needles was not in any sense good, but when one would look on the hundreds and hundreds of miles of barren waste, one could hardly expect to find a good road across it, so I have no complaint to make.
My trip was rather remarkable in one particular at any rate – viz: that I did not receive as much as a puncture from the time I left Washington until I reached Los Angeles; neither did I make an adjustment of any kind of my engine. In other words, it was an absolutely clean performance from coast to coast.
Another remarkable feature, I think is that the car I drove was a 1910 30-60 chain drive Stearns. The remarkable part is not in its being a Stearns, but in the age of it. I count this motor trip across the country the greatest experience of my life, and I have had many.
He did not think anyone could “get any idea of the vastness of this country until one has motored across it”:
From Washington to Pueblo was about as simple as from Washington to Hagerstown – it was simply one lap after another of good sailing.
After we got into the desert land of New Mexico we commenced then to prepare against an eventuality, but none happened. I provided myself with an Egyptian water-bag, and after soaking it for twenty-four hours it was absolutely tight. We never lost an opportunity to pour a little in the radiator, and to keep it full, or to keep the gas tank full, as above stated not wishing to take any chances getting across the desert. We also carried an extra supply of oil and some light provisions.
I thank you very much for the assistance you gave me on the day I left. [“Virginian Writes A.A.A. Of Coast-to-Coast Trip,” American Motorist, February 1917, page 58]
The Arizona-New Mexico Connection
Dating to the April 1912 founding convention, the connection between Arizona and New Mexico had been debating. The convention, as described in part 1, adopted the most direct route, from Gallup, New Mexico, to Holbrook, Arizona, for the official location of the National Old Trails Road. However, in view of its poor condition, the association employed the Springerville alternative until an improved Gallup-Holbrook road was available.
Statehood for Arizona (February 14, 1912) and New Mexico (January 6, 1912) altered their highway functions. Through much of Arizona’s history before it became a State, the counties were responsible for its roads. A centennial history of the Arizona Department of Transportation explained:
Fortunately for Arizona, the lack of good roads was not a serious problem during most of the Territorial period. In many parts of the Territory, where the climate was dry and the soils rocky, the mud that plagued road users in other parts of the country was blessedly absent for most of the year. And when conditions were bad, the horses and mules that Arizonans used for transportation were usually able to negotiate even the worst trails.
In 1909, the Territorial Legislature placed road construction and maintenance under a Territorial Engineer who was required to be a civil engineer. The engineer “was expected to set up a formal Territorial highway system, design and supervise the construction of all new Territorial roads, and provide engineering support to the counties.” County road districts were replaced by county road superintendents who were expected to give their full time to the job, ending the “part-time political road commissioners and overseers.”
The first Territorial highway system, adopted in 1909, included a cross-State road from Springerville to Topock via St. Johns, Concho, Hunt, Holbrook, Winslow, Flagstaff, Williams, Ash Fork, Seligman, Kingman, and Yucca. The system was, however, “a system in name only,” with most work on the roads done by the counties instead of the Territorial Engineer. “The location of these roads was determined primarily by the needs of local traffic moving in and out of towns, and secondarily by regional traffic moving between towns.” In 1912, upon statehood, the Territorial Engineer became the State Engineer. [Pry, Dr. Mark E., and Andersen, Fred, Arizona Transportation History, Arizona Department of Transportation Research Center, December 2011, pages 23-25]
In New Mexico, the Territorial Legislature created a Territorial Roads Commission to repair, construct, and maintain highways. The $10,000 provided by the legislature for this purpose was “wholly inadequate,” as State Engineer James A. French explained in his first report. By a law approved on June 10, 1912, the State Legislature created the State Highway Commission with broadened powers to go into effect on September 29, 1912. It directed the commission to plan and construct a system of State highways; to confer with and advise counties, towns, and villages on road and bridge work; and called for county road boards, appointed by the commission, to handle the work carried out by the counties.
The 4,000-mile State Highway System included a route from Raton to Las Vegas, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Las Lunas, before a western turn to Gallup and the State line on the way to Holbrook – the preferred route of the National Old Trails Road. At Las Lunas, another route continued south to Socorro, where a route turned west via Magdalena, Datil, and Quemado on the way to Springerville – the alternative routing of the National Old Trails Road. However, these were lines on a map, not improved roads. French added in his report, “I suggest that an effort be made to have the Legislature designate these roads as state highways, and that funds from the Road Fund shall be expended only upon these highways.”
In fact, French had little good to say about the state of roads in New Mexico:
In its relation to traffic the situation throughout the state at the beginning of 1912 was deplorable; it was practically impossible to travel from county to county with any degree of comfort. Up to that time very little had been accomplished in systematic road building, due to the sparsely settled condition of the state, to the general misuse of county road funds, and to the lack of a central, or state, organization. Practically no inter-county road work had been attempted, construction having been confined to small stretches here and there, of purely local importance, with no thought of eventually connecting them to form a district or state system . . .
Immediately upon the organization of the State Highway Commission a tentative state highway system, embracing county seats and other populous towns and communities, was outlined. [French, James A., First Report of the State Engineer of New Mexico, New Mexico State Highway Commission, pages 8-14]
With the two new States in early stages of organization, efforts to improve the National Old Trails Road continued. In Arizona, the new State Legislature provided $5,500 for construction of a bridge across the rugged, 100-foot deep Chevelon Creek canyon in Navajo County to provide a link between Holbrook and Winslow. With State assistance and an allocation from the State road fund, the Navajo County Board of Supervisors entered into a contract on October 2, 1912, with the Missouri Valley Bridge and Iron Company of Leavenworth, Kansas, to construct the bridge. The company completed the bridge in July 1913 at a cost of $4,985. It was a single-span, steel Warren truss, with a Camelback configuration, (102 feet between the sandstone walls of the gorge), 12 miles southeast of Winslow. It replaced a “pin connected” Pratt truss. The new bridge was posted to the National Register of Historic Places in December 1983. [Chevelon Creek Bridge, National Register of Historic Places – Nomination Form, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.]
The Canyon Padre bridge in Coconino County near Flagstaff opened in April 1914. In Great American Bridges and Dams, Donald C. Jackson wrote:
In 1913 the newly formed Arizona State Highway Department requested competitive designs and bids for a span over the canyon. Shortly afterward, the Topeka Bridge and Iron Company of Kansas, acting as a western representative of Daniel Luten's National Bridge Company, received a $7,900 contract to build a 140-foot-long, single-span, concrete arch bridge.
It remained in service on the road until replaced by a new bridge in 1937. [Jackson, Donald C., Great American Bridges and Dams, The Preservation Press, National Trust for Historic Preservation, 1988, pages 244-245]
In 1914, Arizona highway officials began surveys for a bridge across Canyon Diablo, about 9 miles east of the Canyon Padre bridge. The State acquired plans for the bridge from the Topeka Bridge & Iron company, again representing Luten. The bridge, which cost about $9,000, opened on March 17, 1915, and remained in service until 1938 when it, too, was replaced. Coconino County “also improved much of the road from Flagstaff to Bellemont, built thirty-three miles of new road between Flagstaff and Winslow, and twenty miles of new road to the Grand Canyon.” The Canyon Padre and Canyon Diablo bridges were added to the National Register of Historic Places on September 30, 1988. [Mangums, page 66]
Navajo County erected a ridge over the Little Colorado River 2½ miles east of Winslow. It was a 620-foot long, four span truss. The bridge, which had a timber deck, was only 14-feet wide. According to the Historic Bridge Inventory for the State of Arizona, “With its timber deck, and 14-foot-wide roadway, the Winslow Bridge became a major bottleneck on the highway.” The State completed a replacement bridge in 1939. “It carried mainline highway traffic for some 20 years before construction of Interstate 40 to the north of the original highway.”
Despite these improvements, the Mangums noted, “There was still a weak link, however, the segment of the highway between Holbrook and Gallup. There was a primitive road between the two points, but it was not up to the standards expected of the national highway.” A road existed, but “very few drivers attempted it because it was so bad”:
From Albuquerque west, the route had been decided, but there was that pesky black hole between Gallup and Holbrook that rendered the chosen route unusable, forcing motorists to take the Socorro-Springerville route . . . . [Mangums, pages 60, 62-63]
Advocates for the southern route near the Mexico border heavily promoted their road by, in part, criticizing the Gallup-Holbrook link of the National Old Trails Road.
In 1915, as discussed in part 2, the National Old Trails Road Association held a convention at the Grand Canyon on July 15. Many delegates, as well as Judge Lowe, had attended a ceremony on July 14 for dedication by the D.A.R. of a plaque in Flagstaff “In Memory of the Pioneer Women of Arizona.” For local officials and advocates, the real purpose was to introduce the Walnut Canyon Bypass that would funnel sightseers to Flagstaff on their way to the Grand Canyon instead of a popular route between Townsend and Grandview that bypassed the city. [Mangums, page 79]
The agenda for the convention was largely noncontroversial, allowing delegates to spend much of their time enjoying the Grand Canyon. However, they did consider one important question: whether to drop Gallup from the National Old Trails Road. The Mangums quoted the Coconino Sun (issue of July 23, 1915) on the issue:
All of our present traffic is over the Springerville road and when the Automobile Club of Southern California commenced the signing of the National Old Trails Road with uniform signs from Los Angeles to Kansas City they found that the road from Holbrook to Albuquerque as designated by the National Old Trails Road was not passable and that all traffic was coming and going by the Springerville road.
At that time the Old Trails Association consented to the signing of the Springerville road, which made it in fact a part of the National Old Trails Road, and the maps of the association showed it to be such. A strong delegation from Springerville were present and they desired to absolutely abandon the Gallup road as a part of the Old Trails because there had not been any results in the way of road making.
Delegates from along the Gallup route maintained, however, that they were going to have a road but were handicapped both in New Mexico and Arizona by the powers that be so the money which had been raised had been held and not expended when it should have been. There was evidently more poetry to this and there was some considerable argument among the delegates but the Springerville road was finally adopted as an alternate road and the same official recognition was given to it as to any other part of the National Old Trails.
The question of abandoning any part of the original line was not only a bad precedent but it might mean that a majority vote in any convention could change the route of the National Old Trails just to suit that majority when the majority voting might not be a representation of the section involved. It was the intention of the convention at Kansas City two years ago that when the route was chosen west from Santa Fe to Los Angeles that it was to be permanent and that there would be no changes of location thereafter.
It is wise that there should be no changes, as the possibility of the change in every convention would mean tearing down of the very foundation upon which the association was building its great work. Arguments were made and at times some of them were quite spirited. But in the end all parties met upon intermediate ground and settled the question by unanimously adopting the report of the committee on resolutions, which provided that the Springerville road be an alternate road and so recognized by the association.
The word “branch” which has heretofore appeared on the signs over the Springerville road will now show that this is part of the main line. [Mangums, page 81]
While Judge Lowe headed to California to attend a joint meeting of the Automobile Club of Southern California and the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, the delegates from New Mexico went home with the recognition that the Gallup-Holbrook line retained its designation but by only a few votes. The Mangums wrote:
The New Mexico delegation left the Grand Canyon, went home, and immediately began work to fix the gap between Gallup and Holbrook. The Flagstaff newspaper printed an account of their activities:
Gallup citizens have already made preparations to build two bridges over the Puerco and a good road to the Arizona line. It behooves our state and Apache County to spend the necessary money to make the road along the track by Navajo Springs to Holbrook travelable. We cannot have too many good roads through this part of the state. [Mangums, page 83; quote from Coconino Sun, August 6, 1915]
Work was underway on the route, as the Mangums wrote, “By September 1915 the road between Holbrook and Gallup was a reality at last.” The Gallup Independent (September 9, 1915) wrote of travelers who reached Holbrook and heard of the dangers of the road to Gallup, compared with the Springerville alternative:
They were confident that they had been misinformed as to the condition of the roads, and are more than pleased that they came this way. The roads are fine. The road between here and Holbrook now has guide posts on it two miles apart and it will be difficult for the tourist to lose his way in going or coming between the two points.
The Mangums quoted the Gallup newspaper from the next day on the condition of the road in late September 1915:
The work on the Old Trails, the road which will eventually be the great transcontinental highway, and which will go through Gallup, is rapidly going forward.
The McKinley County Road Commissioner has just now about completed the bridge work on the road between Gallup and the Arizona state line. The task has been no matter of small concern. In the neighborhood of one hundred thousand feet of lumber has been consumed in putting in the timber part of the bridges. Beside this there was a tremendous amount of stone and cement work that had to be done. A large force of men have been employed during the past couple of months which got the road gang pay roll up to about $1,000 a week has just returned from that stretch of the road.
This work and all the work during the summer has been under the direction of . . . the engineer. He went to Houck [Arizona] this week to confer with and assist in every way possible the Apache [County] Arizona road commissioners who are at Houck planning and surveying to put a large and substantial bridge over the Puerco at that point which will be the main connecting link of the Old Trails road between the two states. The Arizona people will of course survey their own road and will connect up with the road from New Mexico as conpleted by the McKinley County Board. This is the reason for the bridge at this point at Houck, which is directly in line with the road which passes Manuelito and on to the state line but a short distance beyond.
The Apache County road board has a sum of $12,000 which they intend to spend on the repairing of the road from Holbrook to the state line, which is immediately available and will be put onto the road before the winter weather comes on. This will line up the road so that it will be open early in the spring and will be a fine road in a very short time thereafter.
Besides the ready amount of money that the Apache County Road Board has at the present time in a month or so the county will vote another $75,000 worth of bonds exclusively for bridge construction over the Old Trails way and a few other side routes that are necessary to repair, which will also assist materially in making the Old Trails route between here and Winslow one of the most popular roads in the southwest not only for transcontinental tourists but for interstate traffic.
Work was underway across Arizona. Navajo County was setting up a bond election for road improvement. The Winslow Mail wrote, “One road that will be improved is between Winslow and Holbrook, and the Lord know it is needed, as in its present condition it is little better than a cow path.”
The straight-line route between Winslow and Flagstaff “crossed over the recently constructed Canyon Diablo and Canyon Padre bridges, although some travelers still preferred the old road via Leupp.” Westbound motorists reaching Winona “were directed to turn south, going past Walnut Canyon and entering the Flagstaff area at Cliffs”:
From Flagstaff to Williams much road work had been performed and the road was considered to be in good shape. The Automobile Blue Book for 1916, which used road test information gathered in 1915, said: “A very fine graded road, built by the people of Flagstaff, is followed as far as Williams. This is one of the best roads in the Southwest and is very fast.”
The guide described the road from Williams to Ash Fork as “also a good road thru timber, with a drop of 2,000 feet in about 209 miles.” The road from Ash Fork to Seligman was “a fair to poor natural road thru desolate country”:
Leaving Seligman, a graded road is followed to the [Mohave] County line. From here to Hackberry the road is rough and poor, but from there to Kingman, an excellent graded road is followed. The road is well sign-posted by the Automobile Club of Southern California.
The Mangums continued:
From Kingman, a major piece of work was done when the old road, which went through the bottom of Kingman Canyon, was replaced with a new, higher road, made possible by much blasting to make an essential cut through the hard rock of the upper canyon walls. This new cut carried the road to McConnico, from which point drivers could elect to go over the mountains through Oatman or around the mountains by Yucca.
The 1916 Automobile Blue Book, based on data collected before completion of the Topock Bridge, commented on the Yucca route:
This route is across the Mojave Desert with no sign of habitation, except at Yucca. Until the Colorado River is reached at Topock, the road is well-graded and of a natural gravel formation to Yucca. From there to the Colorado River, while the road is graded in most places, it is rather sandy and crosses numerous washes, and is very winding, making fast time impossible. At Topock the river is crossed on a plank RR Bridge (toll $3.50 per car).
As the Mangums pointed out, the high country of northern Arizona experienced record breaking snow during the winter of 1915-1916, “crushing roofs, paralyzing traffic, and straining resources”:
On the road between Flagstaff and Winslow, all of the fill was washed from the surface of the road, leaving exposed stone ledges that made the important road segment a travelers’ nightmare for years to come. Even in the desert there was damage, with storms washing out the road between Yucca and Topock in several places. The damage on the Yucca road was so bad that months later the State Engineer reported that, “Although considerable sums have been spent on this highway for repairs it is not practicable to maintain as at present constructed.” [Mangums, pages 85-86]
Following dedication of the Topock bridge as described earlier, work continued in Arizona according to the Mangums:
In Navajo County state crews were building a new bridge across the Little Colorado River about four miles east of Holbrook.
Flagstaff got about a mile and a half of paving through the downtown district, the first on the National Old Trails Road in Arizona, in the spring [of 1916] . . . .
The citizens of Gallup were still struggling to build their road to proper standards so that autoists would turn west at Los Lunas instead of proceeding south to Socorro. In order to demonstrate that the road could be traveled, Gallup businessmen organized an excursion from Gallup to Albuquerque in May 1916 and were pleased to report that all eight of the cars that participated were able to make the trip and return. Blowouts hit the party in both directions, but the Gallup newspaper put a chipper face on the tire problems, saying that these “occasioned only a few hours delay to the party.”
On a road that was about 140 miles long, the Gallup vehicles took over 9 hours to reach their destination. Members of Albuquerque’s Commercial Club were somewhat surprised by the arrival of the Gallup eight. As quoted by the Mangums, The Gallup Independent wrote:
The Albuquerque people stated that they had never intentionally turned any tourists from Gallup, but at the same time very little attention had been given the route this way. They did promise to advise all travelers that the Gallup route is open and that traveling thereover is good, in the future.
There are many side roads leading from the main route of the trip which makes it very difficult for a stranger to keep the right road. Even the Gallup people who have been over it many times have difficulty in staying on the main road.
The Mangums also reported that to promote the road, “a race from Gallup to Albuquerque was organized in the summer of 1916, and improvement work was done in order to have the highway at its best. The race was held, with the winning time being six hours and thirty-three minutes.” The editor of the Gallup Independent, in the issue of October 5, 1916, “boasted that in another year the road between Gallup and Albuquerque would be a veritable boulevard.” Even so, the Mangums wrote, “The problem that dwarfed all others was that of the terrible state of the road between Gallup and Holbrook.” [Mangums, pages 89-90]
Thomas F. Nichols, Office Engineer, Arizona State Highway Department, explained in 1917:
The laws under which the construction of highways is being carried on in Arizona have been in existence only about four years and will undoubtedly be modified in many ways within the next few years. They provide about $400,000 annually for expenditure by the State Engineer. In addition to this amount the various counties, by bond issues and direct taxation, raise a much larger amount, which is expended under their own supervision.
Nichols also discussed traffic on the National Old Trails Road:
Even with the highways partially improved, as at the present time, the tourist travel is steadily increasing. During the entire calendar year of 1915 the number of cars crossing the state via the northern or “Old Trails” route was reported to be 1,400. In the first nine months of 1916, the number of such cars passed the 1,500 mark. In the first nine months of the year 1916 tourist automobiles carrying an average of 3¼ passengers each to the number of 1,200 had been accommodated at the garage at the Grand Canyon, and it was estimated that an equal number had passed through without patronizing the garage. [Nichols, Thomas F., “Road Construction in Arizona,” Good Roads, March 3, 1917,
In an Act of March 8, 1917, Arizona approved Senate Bill No. 101, assenting to the terms of the Federal Aid Road Act of 1916. An article in Good Roads summarized the bill:
. . . the State of Arizona placed itself in line for receiving its portion of federal appropriations made to the various states for road construction and for other purposes. The act vests the State Engineer, with the approval of the State Board of Control, with authority to proceed under the requirements of the federal law in the making of contracts and agreements with the Government in relation to highway survey and construction, and to do whatever is necessary to comply with its provisions. [“Road Legislation in Arizona,” Good Roads, June 2, 1917, page 324]
The centennial history stated:
Arizona’s initial share of federal aid funds was a modest $68,500, but that share grew quickly, rising to $890,000 in 1919 and to $1.3 million in 1920. Not all of this money was actually received by Arizona and spent by the highway department, however. The states were required to match any federal aid they received, and in some years property tax collections and legislative appropriations in Arizona were insufficient to match the federal contribution. In 1919 and 1920, for example, Arizona actually received only $573,000 in federal aid – much less than it was eligible to receive, yet still a substantial new source of highway funding. [Arizona Transportation History, pages 33-35]
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