Can summer really be over? It seems every year it goes faster and faster. We, here at the Byway office, seemed to have packed quite a bit into our last 3 months. Five communities celebrated 150 years this summer- Carroll, Dow City, Grand Junction, Scranton, and Westside. We entered a car into several of the parades and had Bob and Joyce Ausberger, Lincoln Highway Association members, help toss candy out to the crowd in Grand Junction. What a great way to share in the fun!
The Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway took 4 of the 11 days at the Iowa Byways booth under the grandstand at the Iowa State Fair (Aug 8-18) and talked to fair-goers about the unique Byway routes in Iowa. We shared some history in a trivia spinning-wheel game. Everyone, of course, got a prize!
This year our new featured booklet at the fair was about the original 1919 Army Convoy, the Lincoln Highway, Henry Ostermann (the idea man behind the convoy and a man we have written about before), Dwight Eisenhower (who was on the original convoy), and Dwight’s wife, Mamie, (who was born in Boone, Iowa). These booklets are available at some state Welcome Centers and select locations along the Byway route. And of course, you can always request copies from our office at email@example.com
On August 15th, we unveiled an interpretive panel in the City of Montour’s Maple Hill Cemetery. This panel serves as a long overdue memorial to Henry Ostermann, who served the Lincoln Highway Association as their first Field Secretary and knew the road and the route better than anyone. He had been piloting convoys up and down the east coast in 1917 and came up with the idea to test men, equipment, and roads by taking a convoy across the nation- on the Lincoln Highway. His idea was a reality in 1919. In 1920, on his 21st trip across the nation (and his honeymoon), he lost his life in an accident east of Montour, near the cemetery. In the August-September 1920 Iowa Highway Commission Service Bulletin, the IHC called for a memorial to be placed near the accident site.
In 2019, it became a reality (99 years later). About 25 people gathered to witness this installation. A small program consisted of several speakers: Reed Riskedahl (Prairie Rivers of Iowa Board); Mary Preston (Iowa Lincoln Highway Association President); Dotti Thompson (Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa/Tama County Community Foundation); Rev. John Christianson (Living Faith Methodist Church of Montour), Sue Eberhart (Montour City Council); and Jan Gammon (Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway Coordinator). Gammon also reads words from Rep. Dean Fisher of Montour. Sue Eberhart and Vicky Garske, Montour City Council members, unveiled the panel for all to see. During the program, a few sprinkles fell from the sky. In retrospect, maybe it was Mr. Ostermann verifying his overdue acknowledgement.
A few days later, we celebrated Mr. Ostermann once again as the Military Vehicle Preservation Association (MVPA) retraced the route of the original 1919 Convoy. The original convoy traveled about 6 mph and this modern day group, with vintage vehicles, averaged 35 mph. There was a link to live tracking, so a person could follow the convoy as it made its way across America. Our Byway staff caught up with the convoy in Belle Plaine, Iowa and then saw them again in Tama, Marshalltown, and Nevada. The convoy was impressed by the amount of people who came out to see them- whether on a city street or at the end of their rural lane. Byway staff had helped promote this event in Iowa- sending out press releases, sharing our booklet, and doing interviews with KROS Radio in Clinton and also with RadioIowa. We are most appreciative to the public for their response.
The Lincoln Highway Association will also bring a convoy of classic and contemporary cars, retracing the same route. They will be in Iowa September 6th and 7th, overnighting in Marshalltown and Council Bluffs. They will go a little faster!
Now with fall approaching, its time to regroup and look for funding for future projects. We have some already being planned, so stay tuned!
One hundred years ago, in what began as the idea of one man, America was shown how motor trucks could transport troops, supplies, arms, and ammunition across the nation. This was known in 1919 as the First Trans-Continental Motor Transport Convoy.
The Idea and Development
Henry Ostermann, who we talked about in a previous writing, had been piloting convoys for the Army up and down the east coast in the winter of 1917, during World War I. He was also serving as Field Secretary for the Lincoln Highway Association and merged his two occupations into one idea for the convoy.
In “A Picture of Progress on the Lincoln Way”, published by The Lincoln Highway Association (LHA) in 1920, the LHA officers and the General Staff in Washington held a conference in June 1919 to discuss convoy details. The success of the run was due to the LHA supplying accurate data to the Army as a “result of its years of study of trans-continental highway conditions, and of the co-operation given to the Motor Transport Corps, not only by the Headquarters of the Lincoln Highway Association, but by the consular representatives all along the line between the two coasts. The spirit with which the undertaking was met by the general public and the highway officials at every point along the route, was also invaluable to the project.”
The 1919 Army Convoy taking a break in Tama, Iowa. LHA Archive, Transportation History Collection, Special Collections, University of Michigan
The Route and Key Personnel
On July 7, 1919, send-off ceremonies were attended by high ranking United States officials, including Secretary of War Baker; General Marsh, Chief of Staff; and many leading U.S. Senators and Representative. At the conclusion of the celebration, the convoy left from “Zero Milestone” near the south lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C.. A marker stands there yet today to commemorate this historic adventure undertaken by the Army. The convoy left from Washington and caught the Lincoln Highway at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. (The Lincoln Highway actually begins in Times Square in New York.)
From the LHA, “The convoy, consisting of 72 vehicles, 65 of which were motor trucks of all types used by the Government during the war, with a personnel of 260 men and 35 officers as statisticians and observers for the various branches of service, under the command of Lt. Col. Charles B. McClure and Capt. Bernard McMahan, and led by Field Secretary and Vice-President H.C. Ostermann of the LHA, in the Association’s Packard, traversed the continent, covering a distance of 3310 miles from Washington to San Francisco, in sixty-two days, arriving only four days behind the schedule laid out in Washington before the start.”
A young Lt.Col. Dwight Eisenhower was one of the men on this trip. He caught up with the convoy at the first overnight location in Frederick. Maryland. He wrote about his experience and his report is on file at his Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas. https://www.eisenhower.archives.gov.
Washing dust from a 1919 Army Convoy vehicle in Cedar Rapids. LHA Archives, Transportation History Collection, Special Collections Library, University of Michigan
What the Convoy Taught Us
Eisenhower found most of the drivers in need of additional training and, as with the rest of the convoy leaders, felt the nation’s roads to be lacking. In the Eastern United States, they were often paved but sometimes too narrow for the large equipment. West of Chicago, roads became graveled. Iowa was lucky because it had not rained which would have turned the unpaved road to “gumbo.” The “Seedling Mile,” a one mile of paved road in Linn County near Cedar Rapids, Marion, and Mount Vernon, was completed just prior to the Convoy. The group did not write about it much. As it was, the ground in Iowa was very dry and the convoy, according to the State Center Enterprise, stretched out for as much as 10 miles. Vehicles were kicking up quite a bit of dust and hindering the men and trucks following them. Nearly one hundred bridges were broken and repaired across the nation, though we have no record of any in Iowa. (Iowa was a leader in bridge building.)
This experience showed that America needed to improve roads and the federal government needed to step in with funding instead of leaving it to the locals and counties to build their own roads. How county secondary road departments, county engineers, Federal Highway Commission, and the Department of Transportation developed is a story all its own- which we will address in a later writing.
1919 Motor Convoy crossing the Lincoln Highway Bridge in Tama, Iowa. LHA Archives, Transportation History Collection, Special Collections Library, University of Michigan
What could have happened in Iowa if it had rained! LHA Archives, Transportation History Collection, Special Collections Library, University of Michigan
Celebrating the Convoy 100 Years Later
This one idea from one man helped change the course of transportation. This year, in 2019, we will celebrate the convoy as the Military Vehicle Preservation Association (MVPA) travels the same route, from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco, and will overnight in Iowa- DeWitt (Aug 22), Marshalltown (Aug 23), and Denison (Aug 24). The MVPA call their convoy the “longest Veteran’s parade in the nation.”
The Lincoln Highway Association will also celebrate with their own D.C.-to-San Francisco convoy and overnight in Marshalltown (Sept 6) and Council Bluffs (Sept 7). Be sure to line the route and wave either flags or hands (or both) to the convoys as they come through your neck of the woods.
March 1, 2017
I spent Sunday hiking along Clear Creek in the company of a curious herd of six deer, who came within 20 feet of me. Bigger rivers may afford more opportunities for boating. Cold-water trout streams in the northeast part of the state may have better fishing. But the warm-water creeks in Central Iowa have their own charms.
Deer by Clear Creek in Munn Woods
Clear Creek starts in Boone County and passes through Munn Woods and Pammel Woods in Ames before joining Squaw Creek. As a boy, the woods along this creek was one of my favorite places, full of interesting rocks and animal tracks and birds and crayfish, the site of both noisy stick battles with my friends and quiet contemplation.
As my environmental consciousness grew, I would go to the woods to pick up litter. At the time, I had no idea the storm drain emptied to creek, or else I would have stopped my friends from throwing pop cans down there. A recent survey showed that 37% of Iowans imagine that storm sewers go to the wastewater treatment plan or soak into the ground, so labels like this one below are a valuable reminder.
Labeled storm drain in Ames: “No Dumping. Drains to Creek”
In revisiting Clear Creek, I was struck by what a marvelous thing a creek can be if given some space to roam. (Thank you Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation.) I’ve heard from many people in both the city and the country who share my fond memories of time spent by the creek near where they grew up. Not every Iowa creek has hills and woods this dramatic, but if we treat them as something more than drainage systems for our convenience, any local creek can instill in a child the same sense of wonder and discovery that this one did for me.
-Dan Haug, Watershed Educator
Clear Creek meanders through Munn Woods
I live just off the Lincoln Highway Byway and travel on it daily. But how well do I know this important piece of history?
There was this new invention- the automobile- being produced and auto makers really wanted to sell their inventions. They needed roads for traveling and thought it would be pretty neat for cars to travel east and west across the entire nation. The Lincoln Highway began in 1913 as an assortment of existing wagon roads, turnpikes, and trails. The road started in Times Square in New York and ended in San Francisco, California.
The Iowa portion was dictated in part by how to cross two rivers- the Missouri on the west and the Mighty Mississippi on the east. Good bridges were identified in Clinton and Council Bluffs and “good roads” were sought to connect these two points. This often proved to be a challenge, because much of Iowa was boggy, spongy soil and roads often turned to mud. Iowa has many creeks and rivers to cross. But roads did exist as farmers needed to not only get supplies to their farms but their produce to market. These farm to market roads often led to railroad stations.
The original national plan for the Lincoln Highway was to create a “seedling” mile in each state. A mile stretch would be paved to show citizens and travelers how traveling could be improved with paved roads. Iowa’s “seedling” mile is just east of Cedar Rapids. Greene County also applied for federal aid to pave 6 1/2 miles extending equal distances from the county seat of Jefferson. These were the only paved portions in Iowa until 1924. As neighboring roads were improved, the alignment (route) changed. Maybe a mile or two north or south was in better shape or a better bridge was built. In 1920, a red, white, and blue band was painted on poles, fence posts, and rocks to show the traveler which way to go. On September 1, 1928, Boy Scout troops installed 3,000 concrete markers with bronze medallions at planned locations about one mile apart. Many of these markers no longer exist due to road construction, theft, and vandalism.
As Lincoln Highway travelers increased, many gas stations, eateries, and motels sprung up. It winds through many Main Streets. In a display I saw a long time ago, The Lincoln Highway was attributed to the birth of the family vacation.
Today, The Lincoln Highway today travels through 13 states. In Iowa, it travels through 13 counties. It crisscrosses Highway 30- the “new” road that mirrors the Lincoln Highway for the most part, but Highway 30 avoids many of the main streets that the Lincoln Highway connected. It is used for those interested in efficient travel time. I do use this road too. But for the most part, I like my “old” road, It has been designated a State of Iowa Byway- The Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway- and has great things happening across the state. I hope to share more about this great road in the future and as you travel it- look for the red, white, and blue signs with the big “L” on the white background. Travel it. Enjoy it. Be a part of history!
By John Mazzello, Project Coordinator
With 2014 nearly in the rear-view mirror and 2015 starting to appear in the headlights, now is a good time to take a look back at the Lincoln Highway’s 101st year in Iowa. 2014 saw a deepening of the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway’s role in the state.
We launched an exciting new project, the development of a new Corridor Management Plan for the byway, this year. This plan is an important opportunity for the byway to reach out to residents, businesses, and travelers to create a strong strategy to support Iowa’s communities along the Lincoln Highway and preserve the important resources of the byway.
Also in 2014, we moved forward with a unique project to identify locations along the byway with sustainable land management practices, thanks to a USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grant. This project will allow us to build interpretive signage to highlight these land practices, sharing with byway travelers who we know are highly interested in a healthy environment.
This year also saw the second year of our innovative “Kids on the Byway” program, in which we connect the resources of the byway with students to deepen their understanding of Iowa’s history and natural resources and help to improve their academic performance. We worked with three schools and more than 150 students this year, plus we offered an exciting two weeks of summer camp that took participants to locations across the byway and the state!
There are many exciting developments on the horizon for next year. We’ll be pilot testing a new initiative, “Greening the Lincoln,” which will recognize and highlight businesses that support the byway and engage in sustainable environmental practices. Be on the lookout for more information on this initiative next year.
In 2015, our Corridor Management Plan project will move into a public meeting phase, with gatherings to be scheduled across the state to meet with residents, business owners, and others about the possibilities for the byway in the future. This is sure to be a truly meaningful statewide conversation about the Lincoln Highway, and we invite you to participate in the planning process in your area. You can sign up for our email list to learn about events in your area. Visit www.prrcd.org/cmp and click the “Sign up” button.
We are also currently hiring a new byway coordinator, to begin work in early 2015. As you may know, former Byway Coordinator Angie Hettinger left Prairie Rivers of Iowa in October when she moved to Minnesota. While we were disappointed to see Angie go, we are looking forward to being able to introduce a new coordinator to you soon. We are also glad to announce that we are seeking an intern to assist with Lincoln Highway web and social media marketing, in collaboration with our partner, the Iowa Lincoln Highway Association.
2015 looks to be a banner year for the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway, and we value your input, engagement, and knowledge. Please sign up for our Corridor Management Plan email list or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how you can support the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway.