When the Government one hundred years ago began the construction of the Cumberland or Old National Road from tidewater to the Mississippi River the vehicle for which it was designed was the prairie schooner, and for half a century an unending procession of these ships of the wilderness passed over its dusty turnpike, carrying pioneer families to the ever-receding border land.
From St. Louis, the terminus of the National Road, the prairie schooners passed over Boone’s Lick Road to Old Franklin, Mo., from which point they followed the Santa Fé Trail. The first trading trip on this trail was made by William Bicknell and a party of thirty men in 1822. At Santa Fé the older civilization of the Spaniard was encountered and the history of the Grand Canyon Route from Santa Fé to the coast dates back to 1541.
It is for the consolidation of these ancient roads into a single ocean to ocean highway that the National Old Trails Road Association has been formed. The movement dates from the Good Roads Convention of Oct. 5, 1910, but the first National Old Trails Road Convention was held April 17, 1912.
Much has been accomplished since that date. More than $2,000,000 was expended in improving this highway in 1914 and $2,000,000 more have been appropriated for it in 1915. It is anticipated that fully 25,000 automobiles will pass over it on the way to the Panama-Pacific Exposition this year, and a special transcontinental tour to the exposition will be made in June under the auspices of the National Highways Association, the National Old Trails Road Association, and the Automobile Club of Southern California.
The grandchildren of many of the hardy pioneers that passed over the National Old Trails Road, when it was a roughly broken trail through an uninhabited wilderness, now live in populous cities that have sprung up along the route and drive their six-cylinder touring cars or luxurious electrics over a portion of the road every day in the year.