A marker in the front yard of the Massillon Museum identifies the road that runs adjacent to it — Lincoln Way. “This Highway Dedicated to Abraham Lincoln,” words on a medallion set into the concrete post above the red-red-white-and-blue “L” that signifies the road is part of the Lincoln Highway.
A marker in the front yard of the Massillon Museum identifies the road that runs adjacent to it — Lincoln Way.
“This Highway Dedicated to Abraham Lincoln,” words on a medallion set into the concrete post above the red-red-white-and-blue “L” that signifies the road is part of the Lincoln Highway.
The Lincoln Highway was the nation’s first “Coast-to-Coast Rock (paved) Highway,” as it was called when it was envisioned by its creator, Carl G. Fisher, who hoped it would “stimulate as nothing else could the building of enduring highways.”
It is the realization of the dream of Fisher — the builder of the Indianapolis Speedway — that dozens of Lincoln Highway historians and enthusiasts will celebrate at the annual Lincoln Highway Convention being held in Canton today through Friday.
Lectures, seminars, banquets and other activities will be staged at McKinley Grand Hotel in Canton, only blocks from where the Lincoln passed through the city as Tuscarawas Street.
A public cruise-in from 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday in front of the hotel will reflect on the type of cars that traveled on the Lincoln Highway after it was opened. And the conference will start the highway’s centennial year.
A LITTLE HISTORY
According to the “Highway History” page of the website for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, the road was named after President Abraham Lincoln because Fisher respected the president.
New York City and San Francisco, Calif., were chosen as the ends of the proposed highway, and Fisher and his supporters set out to determine “the shortest, best, and most direct route possible between the two points,” the website said.
“Selecting the route for the eastern section was relatively easy,” said the website history. “To select the best roads for the western section, Fisher and the LHA’s (Lincoln Highway Association’s) ‘Trail-Blazer’ tour set out from Indianapolis in 17 cars and 2 trucks on July 1, 1913.”
The Association dedicated its route on Oct. 31, 1913.
“Bonfires and fireworks marked ceremonies in hundreds of cities in the 13 states along the line,” said the website. “Concerts and parades took place.”
Over ensuing years, the Lincoln Highway Association heavily promoted the road. But, it was not designated with its familiar concrete markers until the Lincoln Highway’s 15th anniversary celebration on Sept. 1, 1928.
“On that day, at 1 p.m., groups of Boy Scouts placed approximately 23,000 concrete markers at sites along the route,” said the online history. “They were placed on the outer edge of the right of way of each important crossroad, at minor crossings, and at other intervals to assure each motorist that he was on the right road.”
The Boy Scouts were a logical choice for the work. The organization already had a connection to the Lincoln Highway. Earlier that summer of 1928, from July 6 to Aug. 8, a small group of Boy Scouts had conducted the Lincoln Highway Safety Tour, traveling from “New York to Golden Gate,” as words on the side of their bus said.
Page 2 of 2 - That tour stopped in Canton on Thursday July 12, 1928, where the group “spent the night at the YMCA,” notes an online itinerary at the website for The Lincoln Highway National Museum & Archives. The next day the Scouts had a “picnic with mayor and road commissioner” in Massillon.
One of those Boy Scouts, Eagle Scout Bernard Queneau of New Rochelle, N.Y., who now lives in Pittsburgh, is attending the Canton convention this week. Indeed, the convention is being dedicated to Queneau, said Jim Cassler of Canton, the convention’s director.
A dwindling number of the markers that Scouts placed in Stark County in 1928 still exist. The Massillon marker is not in its original location, notes Massillon historian Margy Vogt.
“The marker in the Massillon Museum’s front lawn was moved there when it was still called City Hall Park in 1962,” explains Vogt, who records the “planting” of the markers with Massillon Museum photographs in her books, “Towpath to Towpath” and “Massillon: Reflections of a Community.”
“Massillon Scouts were responsible for all the markers from Reedurban west to Reedsburg (Wayne County line),” said Vogt.
Historian Ruth Kane also addressed the erection of the markers in her book, “Trolley Car Days.” In that history Kane wrote that Scouts were supervised by “the late Fire Captain Harold Boerner and Scout Director Ira Robinson.”
“The planting took a week to complete,” Kane wrote. “One was placed at each major intersection.”
Marking the road preserved it in history.
“The Lincoln Highway Association,” said Cassler, “wanted to make sure people remembered.”