Promise Road: How the Lincoln Highway Changed America

Promise Road: How the Lincoln Highway Changed America

The exhibition Promise Road: How the Lincoln Highway Changed America will be open at the Gutekunst Public Library in State Center August 8-20. Local historian Harlan Quick will give a presentation on “The Impact of the Lincoln Highway on Marshall County” at 5:30 pm on Wednesday, August 10, in the library’s Fireside Room.

The exhibition then moves to the Nevada Public Library on Monday, August 22, in time for Lincoln Highway Days, August 26-27.

Promise Road tells the story of how the Lincoln Highway knit together the nation in the early days of the automobile and helps communities grow. It was created by Prairie Rivers of Iowa with funding from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, a grant from the Greater Iowa Credit Union, and support from the Iowa Department of Transportation.

“Many of us have driven the Lincoln Highway but haven’t realized its significance for the unfolding of our country’s modern history. This exhibition tells that story,” said Shellie Orngard, the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway coordinator.

Lincoln Highway Traveling Exhibit

The building of the Lincoln Highway was initiated in 1913, when most people traveled by foot or by horse and the roads were mud or gravel. America’s first coast-to-coast highway, the Lincoln Highway starts in Times Square, New York City, and travels through 14 states, ending at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. A dramatic story of ingenuity, personality, and commerce, Promise Road will engage visitors in a new understanding of and appreciation of our forgotten past and what it means for us today.

1st president of the Lincoln Highway Association Henry Joy in the mud (gumbo) - near La Mouille, Iowa June 1915.

The exhibit’s first stop was at the Greene County Historical Society in Jefferson, Iowa including a special presentation by Bob and Joyce Ausberger of rural Greene County, who helped found the new national Lincoln Highway Association in 1992, which now has hundreds of members across the country and around the world. It will eventually travel to all the 13 Iowa counties traversed by the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway.

In 2021, the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway in Iowa was recognized as a National Scenic Byway. The National Scenic Byways Program is a voluntary, community-based program administered through the United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to recognize, protect, and promote America’s most outstanding roads.

Prairie Rivers of Iowa manages the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway in Iowa on behalf of the Iowa Department of Transportation.

Lincoln Highway Traveling Exhibit at Greene County Historical Museum
Marsh Rainbow Arch Bridges

Marsh Rainbow Arch Bridges

During our April meeting while discussing the bridge in Tama, we had a conversation about James Marsh and his Rainbow Arch Bridge designs along the Lincoln Highway. So I reached out to our resident experts, Bob and Joyce Ausberger for a history lesson on these bridges and their significance to the Lincoln Highway.

James Marsh was the builder and promoter of several Rainbow Arch Bridges. He graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. His company was N.E. Marsh & Son Construction Company in Des Moines. The bridge designs were formed by the conjunction of new technology, and reinforced concrete. The previous stone bridges were more expensive and labor-intensive.

By 1893 Marsh had constructed numerous bridges in Iowa – a three-mile elevated railroad structure in Sioux City and three bridges in Des Moines. Similar bridges were built in Montana, South Dakota, Minnesota, Colorado, and five other western states.

James Marsh Rainbow Arch Bridge Design

Patent Photo credit: wikipedia.org

Beaver Creek Bridge on the Border of Greene and Boone Counties in Iowa

Photo credit: bubbasgarage.com

The Marsh Rainbow Arch Bridge (known as Beaver Creek Bridge) is located on the Lincoln Highway on the border of Greene and Boone County in Ogden at 210th Street and was built in 1919. This bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.

Beaver Creek Bridge

Photo credit: Garry Gardner/wikipedia.org

Photo credit: John Zeller/Iowa DOT

Numerous single-span concrete arches can be found in rural Iowa, but multiple-span examples are rare. Moreover, among those concrete arches remaining in the state, the Eureka Mill Bridge is one of the earliest such arch structures designed by the state highway commission. We are fortunate to have these existing samples of these two types of bridges still remaining

This article was reprinted with permission from the Iowa Lincoln Highway Association Summer 2022 Newsletter, Volume 27, No, 2.

Lincoln Highway Traveling Exhibition  Premiers at the 2022 Bell Tower Festival

Lincoln Highway Traveling Exhibition Premiers at the 2022 Bell Tower Festival

An audiovisual exhibition telling the story of the national Lincoln Highway debuts at the Bell Tower Festival in Jefferson this year. Promise Road: How the Lincoln Highway Changed America opened June 9 at the Greene County Historical Society Museum and will remain through June 26.

“Many of us have driven the Lincoln Highway but haven’t realized its significance for the unfolding of our country’s modern history. This exhibition tells that story,” said Shellie Orngard, the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway coordinator.

Lincoln Highway Traveling Exhibit

The building of the Lincoln Highway was initiated in 1913, when most people traveled by foot or by horse and the roads were mud or gravel. America’s first coast-to-coast highway, the Lincoln Highway starts in Times Square, New York City, and travels through 14 states, ending at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. A dramatic story of ingenuity, personality, and commerce, Promise Road will engage visitors in a new understanding of and appreciation of our forgotten past and what it means for us today.

The exhibition culminates with a presentation on June 26 by Bob and Joyce Ausberger of rural Greene County, who helped found the new national Lincoln Highway Association in 1992, which now has hundreds of members across the country and around the world.

1st president of the Lincoln Highway Association Henry Joy in the mud (gumbo) - near La Mouille, Iowa June 1915.

After this first stop in Greene County, the exhibition will travel to Marshall and Story counties, and on to the rest of the 13 Iowa counties traversed by the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway.

The traveling exhibit Promise Road: How the Lincoln Highway Changed America was funded in part by a grant from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and with support from the Iowa Department of Transportation.

In 2021, the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway in Iowa was recognized as a National Scenic Byway. The National Scenic Byways Program is a voluntary, community-based program administered through the United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to recognize, protect, and promote America’s most outstanding roads. 

For more information about the national Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway in Iowa, visit Prairie Rivers of Iowa’s website at prrcd.org. Prairie Rivers of Iowa is a nonprofit focused on conserving natural and cultural resources, using its expertise to address Iowa’s most challenging needs. It manages the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway in Iowa on behalf of the Iowa Department of Transportation.

Update on Status of the Bridge over Mud Creek in Tama, Iowa

Update on Status of the Bridge over Mud Creek in Tama, Iowa

The bridge over Mud Creek in Tama, Iowa, will be preserved in its current location, in a decision made at the March 21 Tama City Council meeting. City Council member Ann Michael, who had been pushing to repair the bridge, said after the meeting, “It took the work of all of us to preserve this historic little bridge.”

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and considered one of the most visited sites along the Lincoln Highway nationally, the Tama Bridge has been cited for repair since 2016. 

Historic Lincoln Highway Bridge in Tama, Iowa

With the assistance of Prairie Rivers of Iowa, nearly $100 thousand dollars have been raised for that purpose which, along with funding from the Iowa Department of Transportation would have paid for the repairs, but various administrative issues have delayed the project.

Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway Coordinator Shellie Orngard at Tama City Council

PRI Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway Coordinator Shellie Orngard speaking in support of the historic Lincoln Highway Bridge to Tama City Council. KCRG Photo

Earlier this year, the Tama City Council began to consider moving the bridge and replacing it with a culvert, sparking a nationwide campaign to contact the Council or attend City Council meetings and ask them to save the bridge and repair it in place.

To gain a full understanding of the options, Tama city staff called a meeting with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) that included representatives from the Iowa Department of Transportation, City of Tama, the structural engineering firm Shuck-Britson, Prairie Rivers of Iowa, and the Lincoln Highway Association. SHPO indicated that moving the bridge without prior approval would cause it to be de-listed from the National Register.

A process to gain such pre-approval could take two years, with no guarantees of re-listing. Additionally, the project engineer cast doubt on the feasibility of moving the concrete structure and maintaining its structural integrity. With this information, and the prodigious input from people across the country, the Tama City Council decided to let bids for repair through the Iowa DOT. City Council members said they were surprised by the amount of interest and the passion for bridge’s preservation from so many people across the country.

Women’s Suffrage History Along the Lincoln Highway in Iowa

Women’s Suffrage History Along the Lincoln Highway in Iowa

As you travel along the Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway you’ll find many cultural and historic points of interest — including a retracing of footsteps taken by many responsible for pioneering women’s suffrage in Iowa. This March, we commemorate Iowa History and Women’s History month, let’s take a look at a couple of related stories.

A historic milestone during the decades-long fight to win the right to vote for women in the United States took place in the Lincoln Highway community of Boone, Iowa over 100 years ago. At 11:45 a.m. on the morning of October 29, 1908, more than one hundred women gathered at the corner of 7th and Carroll, hoisted their banners, and began to march towards downtown in support of women’s suffrage.

Championing the ensuing parade was a car transporting the then National Women Suffrage Association President Dr. Anna Howard Shaw.

Women's Suffrage March in Boone, Iowa
Carrie Chapman Catt and Anna Howard Shaw in 1917

Carrie Chapman Catt and Anna Howard Shaw in 1917.

When the marchers reached the intersection of 8th and Story, the crowd paused to allow Shaw to speak. The Woman’s Standard newspaper reported that Shaw “…held the breathless attention of her hearers, wit, humor, pathos, sentiment and clear, hard logic from one to the other she passed, naturally, entirely without self-consciousness, with the greatest sincerity of manner and at time with much dramatic fire.”

Women's Suffrage Monument in Boone Iowa

At the site today you’ll find a monument in honor of that 1908 parade that was organized by Boone Equality Club President Rowena Edson Stevens and former Iowa Equal Suffrage President Rev. Eleanor Elizabeth Gordon. Be sure to stop at this location, stand in these women’s footsteps, imagine, be inspired, and immerse yourself in their bravery and sacrifice.

At the top of Oakland Avenue and Lafayette along the Byway corridor in Council Bluffs, you’ll find Fairview Cemetery, the resting place of Mormon pioneers, Mrs. Caroline Pace who rode the first locomotive to come to Council Bluffs, and Amelia Jenks Bloomer a social reformer, temperance activist, suffragist and one-time editor of The Lilly, the first newspaper by and for women, which became a model for women’s suffrage publications thereafter.

The Bloomer family settled in Council Bluffs in 1855 where Amelia continued her activism and was Iowa’s first resident to speak publicly for women’s suffrage. She started the Soldiers’ Aid Society of Council Bluffs to assist Union soldiers and served as president of the Iowa Suffrage Association from 1871-1873.

Amelia Jenks Bloomer

Though she became the namesake, the late Victorian era fashion of “Bloomers” inspired by Turkish pantaloons did not begin with Amelia, but in the Lilly, she advocated for their wearingSoon they became a symbol of the women’s rights movement, freedom, and feminist reform.

The next time you’re traveling the western edge of the Lincoln Highway in Iowa be sure to visit Council Buff’s Fairview Cemetery and pay respect to the American women’s movement pioneer Amelia Jenks Bloomer.