Freedom Rock in Boone along the Lincoln Highway

Hello byway travelers!

I am writing today from the National Lincoln Highway Association’s Annual Conference in Elkhart, Indiana! Since I am here all week I thought that I would share with you the feature that I submitted for the Iowa Byways monthly newsletter. If you would like to learn more about Iowa’s other byways be sure to sign up for the newsletter at:

It seems fitting that as we get ready to celebrate America’s Independence Day that we should celebrate the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway. The Iowa byway gained National Scenic Byway status in 2021 for the historical significance to our country as the first planned transcontinental highway across the United States.

On July 1, 1913 Carl Fisher’s coast-to-coast rock highway was officially named the Lincoln Highway after the 16th President of the United  States, Abraham Lincoln. The Lincoln Highway Association was officially incorporated and tasked with promoting the Lincoln Highway to local governments and the public. It was no coincidence that Lincoln, a martyr for freedom, was chosen by Henry Joy (the association’s first president) to represent the roadway. Lincoln was a martyr of freedom and the idea of having an improved road across the country that anyone could use to move about freely was the goal. The road soon became known as the “Main Street Across America” and an avenue to a new life for many. 

The Lincoln Highway has another significant date in July and that is July 7, 1919 when the first of its kind Transcontinental Motor Convoy left Washington DC to meet up with the Lincoln Highway in Gettysburg and traverse the route. There were 81 military vehicles, 37 officers, and 258 enlisted men who began the trip. Not all of them made it the distance. The Convoy traveled through a muddy Iowa from July 22- July 28th. Read more on the Transcontinental Motor Convoy

Many of the 43 communities across Iowa’s Lincoln Highway choose the fourth of July as their community’s annual town celebration. Belle Plaine has held a July 4th celebration for many years and good ol’ George Preston would even pull his two-headed pig in the parade. Mount Vernon’s Lincoln Highway Nitty Gritty has about the best name out there and highlights history through antique displays and shopping in the streets and local businesses. The larger towns of Clinton, Council Bluffs (at the historic General Dodge House), and Ames have annual celebrations as do some of the smaller towns like Logan. But the town that wants to really own the fourth of July is Marshalltown, the location of Iowa’s Veteran’s Home which also happens to be one of the largest Veteran’s Homes in the country. 

All this talk of freedom and veterans brings us to the topic of this month’s newsletter, Iowa’s Freedom Rocks. The first Iowa Freedom Rock was painted in Adair County in 1999. Artist, Ray “Bubba” Sorensen II wanted to give veterans unique recognition on Memorial Day.  Eventually Bubba began a Freedom Rock Tour, where his goal was to paint a Freedom Rock in every county honoring the history and veterans who had connections to the county. Bubba has even started a 50 State Freedom Rock Tour. There is now a Freedom Rock in every one of Iowa’s 99 counties, a 100th one in Altoona, and a Liberty Rock in the Lincoln Highway community of Glidden.  Read more about this special rock, Freedom Rocks along the byways and other byway events in the July newsletter!

Safe Travels!

Iowa’s Scenic Byway Coordinators

Greene County Freedom Rock
Carroll County Freedom Rock
Boone County Freedom Rock

The Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway traverses through 13 Iowa counties.  Of those 13 counties, five of the communities are home to their counties’ Freedom Rock but there is another rock that is on the Lincoln Highway that is not a Freedom Rock. It is the Glidden Liberty Rock. The Carroll County Freedom Rock was complete when the community of Glidden approached Bubba wanting their own rock. The fact that Glidden has ties to the beginning of WWI and the end of WWII inspired the artist to say yes. The Glidden Liberty Rock portrays Merle Hay, the first Iowan and one of the first three Americans killed in WWI, the “Enola Gay” plane that dropped the bomb to end WWII, injured veteran Ralph Neppel, and a Vietnam Vet Donald Sparks, MIA.

Liberty Rock in Glidden on the Lincoln Highway
Glidden Liberty Rock

The Lincoln Highway Freedom Rock Tour also includes: Clinton County (Clinton), Cedar CountyLinn County (the 99th rock completed), Benton County, Tama County (features Meskwaki Code Talkers), Marshall County (Marshalltown), Story County, Boone County (Boone) , Greene County (Jefferson), Crawford County , Harrison County (Lincoln Highway/Loess Hills Interpretive Center), and Pottawattamie County (Lewis & Clark Trail).


Story County Freedom Rock
Story County Freedom Rock
Tama County Freedom Rock
Tama County Freedom Rock from road
Linn County Freedom Rock

Located in the Gateway Park & Preserve in Marengo, the Iowa County Freedom Rock is protected beneath a lighted pavilion.  One side of the rock features Marengo born Marine Sgt. Major Bradley Kasal. Kasal was awarded the Navy Cross for his heroic action during a firefight in which he was severely injured during Operation Phantom Fury in the Gulf War. Williamsburg native, Eugene Ely, an aviation pioneer who was credited with the first shipboard aircraft take-off and landing is featured beneath the American flag. Army Air Force veteran Dr Burns Byram is also featured on the rock. Byram would fly his restored military plane, “Tangerine” low over the town of Marengo to announce that the doctor had arrived. Other Iowa Valley Scenic Byway counties include the Benton County Freedom Rock which features Army, Navy, and Air Corps heroes and the Tama County Freedom Rock which features the Meskwaki Code Talkers.

Benton County Freedom Rock
Benton County Freedom Rock
Cedar County Freedom Rock
Cedar County Freedom Rock
Clinton County Freedom Rock
Clinton County Freedom Rock
Clinton County Freedom Rock

I hope you have enjoyed this Lincoln Highway and Iowa Valley Freedom Rock Tour. Have a wonderful July and I will see you on the byway!!

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