The Midland Trail

(Deb) When we were at the Kansas Sampler Festival Dave DeArmond was in the tent where my booth was set up in the Kansas products tent — yes man, thank you so much. See a lovely assistant. This is and you know I talk about a lot of books, this is stunning, absolutely stunning. I had never heard of Midland Trail, I’m very aware of a lot of our road history because Kansas, being literally the cross roads of the nation, we’ve got some pretty spectacular road history. Let’s jump a couple of pages there Frank. (Frank) Okay. (Deb) Okay what he has done is gone and followed this route from 100 years ago and painted what he found today. These watercolors are all over the state, they are spectacular. It’s just spectacular. Another thing that Dave did, he visited all 105 counties and painted, I think he has a book with like four paintings from each county. He has just literally painted the entire state and just keeps finding new projects to work on. Let’s take a look at the Midland Trail. Roads evolve. They go from animal paths to Indian paths to wagon roads to paved roads to super highways. A special thanks to Dave DeArmond for introducing us to the Kansas section of the Midland Trail. His book, Sketching the 1916 Midland Trail Across Kansas: As I Found It A Century Later, details the history of this route accompanied by his watercolor images along the road today. We thank Dave for sharing the story with us. In May, 1913, the New York Times reported that a motorist acting for the American Automobile Association was searching for transcontinental routes Mister A L Westgard, Pathfinder for the AAA had already set out several routes including one which ran through Kansas called the Midland Trail. According to a map in the New York Times, Westgard’s original route for the Midland Trail ran near the path of today’s I-70. A 1915 article in Motor Magazine described the Midland Trail as an extension of the National Old Trails Highway, crossing Kansas on good dirt road, marked with yellow bands. He said it passed through Kansas City, Topeka, Ellis, Oakley, and on to Colorado. The route was still not firmly established and a 1914 tour book described the route roughly along today’s Highway 24. In the mid-1920s the road was somewhat re-aligned and called the National Roosevelt Midland Trail. In towns the Midland Trail was sometimes marked. The National Midland Trail Association specified utility poles to be marked with two six-inch bands of orange with a six-inch band of black between; however in Kansas the guide only mentions red stripes on “marked poles.” What were the roads like? Paved only in larger or more prosperous towns, and then with cut stones or bricks, largely dirt roads, at times impassable? Yes. You can find Dave’s artistic guidebook in the Kansas Originals Stores. As Dave says, time to hit the road!

(Frank: We have to go already. (Deb) Doggone it, time flies. (Frank) Yes. I’m Frank. (Deb) I’m Deb. (Frank) We will see you somewhere… (Both) Around Kansas.

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