History of the Interstate Trail, Jefferson Highway and Jefferson Association
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Social runsAs automobile ownership became more common, automobile associations, such as the Jefferson Highway Association, formed to promote automobile use and the needs of drivers for good roads.
These associations organized and hosted sociability runs/tours, which were primarily taken to bring distant communities closer together. They also afforded auto owners an opportunity to drive to see what at that time were considered “novel” places.
Two notable social runs traversed the approximately 2,300-mile distance of the Jefferson Highway. The first occurred in July 1919. Participants traveled from New Orleans north to Winnipeg, Canada. The tour was organized by J. D. Clarkson, the general manager of the Jefferson Highway Association, and was called the “Palm to Pine Sociability Run” in honor of the designated starting and finishing points of the run.
The Palm to Pine Sociability Run got underway July 1, 1919. The touring party was headed by J. D. Clarkson and his wife. Forty-two people started out in New Orleans, including Governor of Louisiana R. G. Pleasant. Also participating in the tour were: Manitoba’s Attorney General Thomas H. Johnson; Mayor of New Orleans Martin Behrman; Mayor of Shreveport, Louisiana J. M. W. Ford; Louisiana State Highway Commissioner Duncan Buie; Vice-president of the Louisiana Jefferson Highway Association R. A. Nibert; Vice-president of the Minnesota Jefferson Highway Association J. H. Beek; and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the American Automobile Association A. G. Batchelder of New York.
Communities along the touring route were urged to host celebrations in honor of the motorists. They were also encouraged to send motorists to meet the touring party before entering a community. Newspapers along the route featured stories about the tour and community events organized in their honor.
The touring party had a strict schedule it was trying to keep, but by July 9, 1919, the local newspapers were reporting that, due to heavy rains in the southern United States, the sociability run would be delayed a day. This caused a number of communities along the route to cancel their celebrations.
R. B. Millard, a Little Falls, Minn. native who was serving as the state secretary for the Minnesota Jefferson Highway Association, published the following statement in the Daily Transcript on June 25, 1919: “We should make the afternoon a holiday in Little Falls. It has been suggested that all business houses along the line decorate with flags and bunting to welcome the tourists.”
The next major sociability run for the Jefferson Highway Association began Feb. 4, 1926, in the dead of winter. The cavalcade of 132 people in 32 cars, most of them from Winnipeg, completed the 13-day trip from Winnipeg to New Orleans to celebrate completion of the highway. The visitors saluted the granite obelisk erected in 1917 that marked the southern terminus of the route.
Route history recalled
An October 22, 1995, a series of articles were published by the Mason City Globe Gazette, titled “Take a Brief Road Trip with Us, Now, Back to North Iowa in the 1920s, 30s and 40s,” and written by Kristin Buehner. Thsese articles offer details about the building and navigating of the Jefferson Highway in northern Iowa, and how the highway gave birth to the Jefferson Highway Transportation Company, now Jefferson Lines.
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