Daniel Boone Trail

History of the Daniel Boone Trail


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Two unidentified soldiers and woman in front of Daniel Boone Trail signEstablishment of the Daniel Boone Trail, the “Great National North and South Highway,” was a remarkable undertaking during its time. While many road associations sought to connect the United States from east to west, the Daniel Boone Trail Association was one of the first to set their sights on connecting the country from north to south, from Canada to the Gulf. Such a feat – to connect the nation with a reliable road – embodied the spirit of the Good Roads Movement, and promoted statewide and national cooperation.

The route was renowned for more than just its north-south orientation, it was celebrated for commemorating two of the greatest of pioneers of the Mississippi Valley—Daniel Boone and his youngest son, Nathan. According to the Daniel Boone Trail Association, “Much of this route was actually trailed by these men. Daniel Boone located along this trail west of St. Louis in 1797, while still a part of Louisiana, under Spain, where he saw three flags wave over it – Spanish, French and American. Near the trail the house still stands where he lived, died and was buried in 1820…. Col. Nathan Boone, at the time a captain, is held responsible for making the trail well-known when he marched with his U.S. troops through Iowa to Winona, Minnesota on an Indian mission in 1835.”

Many years after their deaths, as the legends of Daniel and Nathan Boone lived on, people sought to commemorate their famed journeys by registering a historic route that would initially stretch from St. Paul, Minn., to St. Louis, Mo., and ultimately traverse the United States from the Gulf to Canada.

To this end, the Boone Commercial Association met on Dec. 8, 1915, in Fort Dodge, Iowa, to begin resurrecting the northern portion of the Daniel Boone Trail. The Fort Dodge meeting brought together citizens from two industrious Iowa cities – Boone and Fort Dodge. For the portion of the trail in Webster County, L.E. Armstrong was made consul, and S.L. Moore of Boone was named Boone County consul. J.B. McHose was elected president and W. F. Hargan secretary of the entire Daniel Boone Trail Association. Soon after the meeting for the northern portion of the route, a second meeting was held in Moberly, Mo., on Feb. 2, 1916, to revive the southern portion of the trail.

Canada To The Gulf - Daniel Boone Trail mapThe day after the Fort Dodge meeting, W. F. Hargan wrote to the Iowa State Highway Commission (ISHC) asking for the necessary information and paperwork for organizing the northern portion of the Daniel Boone Trail. Hargan said the trail would connect, traveling from Des Moines, Iowa, to St. Paul, Minn., “Polk City, Madrid, Boone, Boxholm, Ogden, Fort Dodge, Dakota City, Humbolt, Algona, Burt, Bancroft, and Elmore….” From that point, the trail followed “the Minnesota State road from Elmore to Minneapolis.”

The following day, Dec. 10, MacDonald responded to Hargan’s request by sending him the application forms and information for registering the Daniel Boone Trail.

Nearly a year passed without any correspondence between the ISHC and the Daniel Boone Trail Association. Then, on Oct. 24, 1916, presumably after having accrued enough funds for the project, the Daniel Boone Trail Association submitted their application to register their trail with the ISHC.

Soon thereafter, the ISHC sent the road association the maps of the counties through which the trail passed, and the association returned the maps with the path of the trail traced on each map. Three months later, in January 1917, their route was approved and construction began. The trail blazed from north to south through the United States from the Canadian border by Grand Marais to the Gulf of Mexico.

Success of the Daniel Boone Trail was owed to the collaborative efforts of citizens, board members, the ISHC, and other states. The road association boasted, “Commercial clubs and spirited public citizens along the line have donated their time and money in the firm conviction that they are contributing to national, state and local needs, in an enterprise that will unite the north and south, make us better acquainted with each other and advance our social, financial and patriotic interests.”

Undoubtedly, the principal motive of the Daniel Boone Trail Association in creating the DBT was not to increase revenue and tourism; this admirable road association had much larger goals in mind. Instead, it sought to make their trail “the very best highway from north to south, connecting up our best cities in a direct route through the very garden of the Mississippi Valley—over a route laid out by nature herself.” In doing this, the Daniel Boone Trail Association unified the nation and became an integral player in the good roads movement.



1Ames Public Library, (2007, August 29). "Daniel Boone Trail". Retrieved May 29, 2009, from Ames Public Library, Farwell T. Brown Photographic Archive Web site: http://www.ames.lib.ia.us/farwell/Publication/Pub5267.htm and letter from J. B. McHose to Iowa State Highway Commission written on Daniel Boone Trail Stationary including history of route on backside, October 27, 1916, Box 2, Folder HA2.024.
2Letter from J. B. McHose to Iowa State Highway Commission written on Daniel Boone Trail Stationary including history of route on backside, October 27, 1916, Box 2, Folder HA2.024.
3Letter from W. F. Hargan to T. H. MacDonald of Iowa State Highway Commission, December 9, 1915, Box 2, Folder HA2.024.
4Letter from W. F. Hargan to T. H. MacDonald of the Iowa State Highway Commission, December 9, 1915, Box 2, folder HA2.024.
5Letter from Iowa State Highway Commission to J. B. McHose, October 26, 1916; Letter from J B. McHose to Iowa State Highway Commission, October 27, 1916; Letter from Iowa State Highway Commission to J. B. McHose, October 28, 1916; Traced Maps from J. B. McHose to Iowa State Highway Commission, December 5, 1916, Box 2, folder HA2.024.
Letter from Iowa State Highway Commission to J. B. McHose, January 18, 1917, Box 2, Folder HA2.024.
6Letter from Iowa State Highway Commission to J. B. McHose, January 18, 1917, Box 2, Folder HA2.024.
7Ames Public Library, (2007, August 29). "Daniel Boone Trail." Retrieved May 29, 2009, from Ames Public Library, Farwell T. Brown Photographic Archive Web site: http://www.ames.lib.ia.us/farwell/Publication/Pub5267.htm
8Letter from J. B. McHose to Iowa State Highway Commission written on Daniel Boone Trail Stationary including history of route on backside, October 27, 1916, Box 2, Folder HA2.024.
9 Letter from J. B. McHose to Iowa State Highway Commission written on Daniel Boone Trail Stationary including history of route on backside, October 27, 1916, Box 2, Folder HA2.024.