The Yellowstone Trail in 1922

In the Auto Trail era, Indiana was a beneficiary of the massive good roads movement. There were many of these roads, and they were going every which direction. The Granddaddy of them all, The Lincoln Highway, crossed the state from Dyer to Fort Wayne..although through South Bend. A more direct route would come a little bit later. I covered that when I wrote about the Winona Trail. The following year, the Winona Trail would be taken over by the Yellowstone Trail. The Yellowstone Trail would cross the country just like the Lincoln Highway.

In November 1921, Fort Wayne held the annual convention of Indiana Trail Representatives. This convention was held at the Chamber of Commerce building. Surprise visitors arrived at that convention…officials from the Yellowstone Trail. The Fort Wayne Sentinel of 17 November 1921 announced that the Yellowstone Trail Association was to be more active during 1922. The General Manager of the Association, H. O. Cooley, of Minneapolis, had visited Fort Wayne to discuss the status of the trail. Many programs were mentioned by Mr. Cooley that would increase the visibility of the Yellowstone.

It was announced that the entire trail through Indiana would be marked with special iron signposts, as opposed to the common markers painted on utility poles, or the tin signs that the Yellowstone Trail used that were nailed to the same utility poles. Information bureaus would also be established across the country, with one in Fort Wayne and possibly one in Gary, to hand out information to tourists about the advantages of and facilities along the trail.

Unlike other states, the Yellowstone Trail was, in 1921, a road that was maintained by the Indiana State Highway Commission. This would help the Yellowstone Trail Association immensely. Since there was a program by the ISHC to pave its road in concrete, the Association stated that the entire route was “schedule for early paving in concrete.” Another plan that would be added to the road was unusual at the time. Two cars would travel the entire length of the Yellowstone Trail, visiting the above mentioned information bureaus, passing out information to people using the road, and information gathering about the conditions of the highway.

Construction along the Trail in February 1922 left the road, and its detour, in bad condition. “The temporary bridge five miles east of Columbia City is unsafe for heavy loads or trucks; the detour is bad. There is a temporary bridge between Atwood, Ind., and Etna Green, Ind., which is safe for light traffic, but dangerous for trucks. A good truck detour will be found by going west from Atwood one and one-half miles, then right one mile to school house, then left two and one-half miles into Etna Green.”

In August 1922, State Highway Commission construction caused confusion when it came to Yellowstone Trail trail out of Fort Wayne. It was best described in both the Fort Wayne Sentinel and the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette of 13 August 1922 as follows: “The best way to reach the Yellowstone Trail (or Leesburg road) is to leave the city over the Lincoln Highway, turning left on the Butler road and following this road until it reaches the trail, or following the Lincoln Highway as far as Lincoln school, turning left on the California road, which leads back to the Yellowstone Trail.” It is mentioned that the Hoosier Highway and Yellowstone Trail were closed east of Fort Wayne, and recommended that travelers leave Fort Wayne on State Street. The Yellowstone Trail opened to traffic on 29 August.

Another mention of the Yellowstone Trail in 1922 is in the South Bend Tribune of 31 January 1922. But it wasn’t about the trail itself. There was a plan at the time for the State Highway Commission to take over the Liberty Road, which would connect South Bend to the Yellowstone Trail. This idea would not happened for several years…with the Liberty Road becoming part of SR 23.

A most confusing announcement was made in the South Bend Tribune of 12 November 1922. “A representative of the Yellowstone Trail association was here Friday and stated that it was proposed to pave the Yellowstone trail from Fort Wayne to Indianapolis next year. The road has been surveyed.” It would have to be assumed that this means that the Yellowstone Trail would be rerouted? Not sure. But, it was noted in other newspapers that the route between Chicago and Fort Wayne was nine miles shorter using the Yellowstone Trail versus the Lincoln Highway through South Bend. Such a reroute would seem, to me at least, strange at least.

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