American Roads Discussion > Off Topic

Older wagon and emigrant trails

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This thread is about old emigrant and freight trails, and their relation to later auto trails and highways.


ACSC Collector:
A quick question...Has anybody ever brought up old highways abandoned prior to the official named highways? Such examples are the Bradshaw Trail, The Old Government Road AKA: The Mojave Road. The Butterfield Overland Route and others? I guess this would be the best place to begin a discussion on this subject. Any thoughts?

Well, I don't think I would classify these as "highways." Certainly I have looked into the origins of the auto trails in earlier emigrant and freight roads, but many times these connections are weak. I have actually driven almost the whole Mojave Road from the Nevada line nearly all the way to Barstow. That route never became a highway, and was indeed pretty much only used in the 1870s by the Army. Several auto trails roughly follow emigrant or stage routes, such as US 80 between El Centro and Plaster City in the Colorado Desert of California.
The most sound connection is that of the National Old Trails Road since it was purposely designed to follow and memorialize the old trails by the Daughters of the American Revolution. That road follows the federally funded National Road (1830s, which was based on Braddock's military trail), the Boone's Lick Trail (established by the sons of Daniel Book in Missouri), the Santa Fe Trail, El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, and what was supposed to be Stephen Kearney's route to California. The last section ended up following the route of the Beale Wagon Road by 1914. [map]

ACSC Collector:
I do not know if anybody ever read the books on the old government road by David Casebeir. Here he gave detailed data linking the road with later to become route 66. It was originally started by Lt. Edward F. Beal for the government as a mail and emigration route for those heading out of or coming in from California. The government set up several military posts to protect the route and the people traveling it. Usage of the route was later abandoned when the railroad was established further south and the road paralleled the tracks. This new route soon became known as Route 66. Prior to the automobile this route was considered as a highway by early standards since it was well traveled by emigrants with wagon trains. I guess you could say that it was wide enough to drive a Studebaker through :).

I drove the road with an Xterra club, and we had Dennis's book as a guide.

One of the main emigrant and stage routes was the Southern Emigrant Trail, which goes through Imperial County and then heads northwest towards Los Angeles. Clear remnants of this trail still exist in many places, and several of the stage stations from the Butterfield Overland Mail exists as restored buildings or ruins.


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