Madonna of the Trail Monument

 border= The idea of a highway memorial to the Pioneer Mothers of the covered wagon days began in Missouri about 1909 when a group of women formed a committee to locate the Old Santa Fe Trail in Missouri.  This committee secured the funds that the state of Missouri needed to mark the trail with suitable boulders or monuments. This concept sparked plans for the National Old Trails Road, which was approved by Act of Congress.

In 1911, the Daughters of the American Revolution established a national committee known as the National Old Trails Road Committee whose work was, primarily, to definitely establish the Old Trails Road as a great National Memorial Highway.

In 1912, the National Old Trails Road Association came into being and stated in its bylaws: 'The object of the Association shall be to assist the Daughters of the American Revolution in marking Old Trails and to promote the construction of an Ocean-to-Ocean Highway of modern type worthy of its memorial character.' The Association, under the guidance of its president, Judge Harry S. Truman, guaranteed the expense of erecting the monuments.

By 1924, plans for the proposed markers had evolved from boulders, to a small cast iron marker, to a new plan that involved the erection of 12 large markers.  'The Madonna of the Trail' design was accepted by the members at the annual DAR conference in 1927. Mrs. John Trigg Moss, chairman of the DAR committee, suggested the design, and the monuments were created by the St. Louis sculptor, August Leimbach.

The Madonna of the Trail is a pioneer woman clasping her baby, with her young son clinging to her skirts. The face of the mother, strong in character, beauty, and gentleness, is the face of a mother who realizes her responsibilities. It has feeling of solidity - a monument which will stand through the ages.

The figure of the mother is of heroic proportions - 10 feet high and weighing  5 tons. The base on which the figure stands is 6 feet high and weighs 12 tons. This base rests on a foundation that stands 2 feet above ground level, making the monument 18 feet tall. The figure and the base are made of algonite stone, giving the monuments the warm, pink color of Missouri native granite. On two sides of the base, historic or local commemoration data is inscribed. 

The monuments were erected by state organizations of the Daughters of the American Revolution in each of the twelve states through which the National Old Trails Road passes, culminating in the week of April 19, 1929, with the twelfth monument dedication at Bethesda, Maryland.

The marking of the Ocean-to-Ocean Highway, honoring the pioneer mothers of covered wagon days, completed the memorialization of the trail of a young nation as they crossed the Allegheny Mountains to make their homes in the great western wilderness. 'The autograph of a Nation written across the face of a continent.'  Photo courtesy of George Lanz


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