Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Madonna Of The Trail

The idea of marking a highway was begun in Missouri about 1909 by a group of women who formed a committee to locate the Old Santa Fe Trail in Missouri. This committee was influential in securing an appropriation from the State of Missouri to mark the trail with suitable boulders or monuments.

This idea further developed into plans for a highway to be designated as the National Old Trails Road, by Act of Congress, and the work of marking was carried on in conjunction with the National Old Trails Road Association.

In 1911, the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution established a national committee known as the National Old Trails Road Committee whose work was, primarily, to definitely establish the Old Trails Road as a great National Memorial Highway.

In 1912, the National Old Trails Road Association came into being and stated in its bylaws that,"the object of the Association shall be to assist the Daughters of the American Revolution in marking Old Trails and to promote the construction of an Ocean-to-Ocean Highway of modern type worthy of its memorial character." The Association, under the presidency of Harry S. Truman, guaranteed the expense of the erection of the monuments.

In 1924, the plan was changed from a proposed small cast iron marker on the Trails to that of erecting 12 large markers. In 1927, the Daughters of the American Revolution Continental Congress accepted the design -- The Madonna of the Trail.

The Madonna of the Trail is a pioneer woman clasping her baby with her young son clinging to her skirts. The face of the mother, strong in character, beauty, and gentleness, is the face of a mother who realizes her responsibilities and trust in God. It has a feeling of solidarity -- a monument which it is hoped will stand through the ages.

The figure of the mother is of heroic proportions - 10 feet high with a weight of 5 tons. The base upon which the figure stands is 6 feet high and weights 12 tons. This, in turn, rests upon a foundation that is placed on the ground, standing 2 feet above the level which makes the monument 18 feet above the ground.

The figure and the base are made of algonite stone (a poured mass) of which the Missouri granite is used as the main aggregate, thus giving the monument a warm, pink shade which is the color of the Missouri native granite. It was thought and expected that this stone had admirable aging qualities and, with time, would improve in color and solidarity.

On the two sides of the base are to be found words of historical data or local commemoration. These inscriptions are of the Revolutionary period or the early history in respective localities. These monuments were erected in each of the 12 states through which the National Old Trails Road passes. The design of the monument was that of sculptor August Leimbach of St. Louis and was offered by Mrs. John Trigg Moss, Chairman of the DAR National Committee.

The Daughters pay tribute to pioneer mothers as preserved in twelve like monuments in twelve states of our union. One can wish for no greater inspiration than to pause at the monument of a Madonna of the Trail and think of the mothers of the past whose pleasures and hardships, victories and privations we will never know. We may well cherish and perpetuate the many sterling qualities they hand down to us.

In the words of Mrs. Moss, "There's a long,long,trail awinding into the land of dreams" of an only highway from Colonial East through sands of the West, to the Spanish Southwest.

Created by sculptor August Leimbach and funded by contributions, the Madonna of the Trail monuments were intended to provide a symbol of the courage and faith of the women whose strength and love aided so greatly in conquering the wilderness and establishing permanent homes.

Dedicated in 1928 and 1929, with each of the 12 located in a different state, they became a source of local pride. Through the continuing efforts of local and national groups, all are currently in good condition and on display.

There is one monument in each of the 12 states along the National Old Trails HighwayNational Old Trails Highway. National Old Trails Road, also known as the Ocean-to-Ocean Highway, was established in 1912, and became part of the National Auto Trail system in the United States. Much of which later became U.S. Highway 40 and U.S. Highway 66. The monuments in order of dedication are:

*Springfield, Ohio
Springfield is a city in the U.S. state of Ohio and the county seat of Clark County, Ohio. The municipality is located in southwestern Ohio and is situated on the Mad River, Buck Creek and Beaver Creek, approximately 45 miles west of Columbus, Ohio and 25 miles northeast of Dayton, Ohio. Dedicated — July 4, 1928

*Wheeling, West, West Virginia
Wheeling is a city in Marshall County, West Virginia and Ohio County, West Virginia counties in the U.S. state of West Virginia. Most of the city lies in Ohio County, for which it is the county seat. Dedicated — July 7, 1928

*Council Grove, Kansas
Council Grove is a city in Morris County, Kansas, Kansas, United States. The population was 2,321 at the 2000 United States Census. It is the county seat of Morris County, Kansas. Dedicated — September 7, 1928

*Lexington, Missouri
Lexington is a city in Lafayette County, Missouri, Missouri, United States. The population was 4,453 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Lafayette County, Missouri. Dedicated — September 17, 1928

*Lamar, Colorado
The City of Lamar is is the county seat and the most populous city of Prowers County, Colorado, United States. Dedicated — September 24, 1928

*Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque is the largest List of cities in the United States in the US state of New Mexico. It is the county seat of Bernalillo County, New Mexico and is situated in the central part of the state, straddling the Rio Grande. Dedicated — September 27, 1928

*Springerville, Arizona
Springerville is a town in Apache County, Arizona, within the White Mountains. Dedicated — September 29, 1928

Vandalia is a city in Fayette County, Illinois, Illinois, 69 miles northeast of St. Louis, Missouri, on the Kaskaskia River. Dedicated — October 26, 1928

*Richmond, Indiana
Richmond is a city in Wayne Township, Wayne County, Indiana, Wayne County, Indiana, in east central Indiana, which borders Ohio. Dedicated — October 28, 1928

*Beallsville, Pennsylvania
Beallsville is a borough in Washington County,Pennsylvania, The population was 511 at the 2000 census. Dedicated — December 8, 1928

*Upland, California
Upland is a city in San Bernardino County, California. Dedicated — February 1, 1929

*Bethesda, Maryland
Bethesda is a census designated place in southern Montgomery County, Maryland, just northwest of Washington, D.C. Dedicated — April 19, 1929

As of 2005, all 12 monuments are still available for public viewing, although several have been relocated short distances due to highway improvements, etc. Many have been refurbished and re-dedicated since the 1970s. Community groups in each state are watchful for the conditions and security of each Madonna monument.

A 20" × 24" color photograph of the "Madonna of the Trail" hangs in a place of honor in the Captain's Quarters of the U.S. NavyUnited States Navy. The Due to the positions on the site, Maryland's Madonna on Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda has long been the only one facing east. In December 2004, it was necessary to remove the Madonna temporarily to repair a foundation problem. An alert reporter for the Washington Post newspaper noted that as it was placed on the flatbed truck, the Madonna faced west, believed to be the first time all 12 have done so. The report, however, is incorrect as the statue in Upland, California is a city in San Bernardino County, faces south, not west.

A longstanding joke about Maryland's Madonna was that she was placed facing east because no sensible American woman would think it a good idea to turn her back on Washington, D.C. our Nations Capital founded July 16, 1790.

Additional Reading
Bauer, Fern Ioula (1984) The Historic Treasure Chest of the Madonna of the Trail, J. McEnaney Printing; Springfield, Ohio

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