Lincoln Highway Enthusiasts Travel Through County
Once boasting four hotels, six restaurants, a number of rooming houses, and several lunch rooms for travelers to Philadelphia, Pitts- burgh and beyond, McConnellsburg’s main street, which is the Lincoln Highway, welcomed enthusiasts taking part in the centennial celebration of U.S. Route 30 on Monday morning.
It’s estimated that about 125 people with cars new and old crossed Fulton County on Monday as part of a re-enactment celebration of the 100th anniversary of the historic highway.
Two processions of Model T’s, Model A’s and other cars set out last weekend from New York and San Francisco to the midpoint of Kearney, Neb., to celebrate the 100th year of the Lincoln Highway, considered to be the nation’s first transcontinental highway.
History buffs, road-trippers and auto-lovers alike are marking the anniversary. The two-day Centennial Celebration in Kearney begins June 30 with the arrival of the antique cars in the city’s downtown, brick-cobbled streets. On July 1 – the 100th birthday of the highway – the celebration moves to the Great Platte River Road Archway at Kearney.
Sue Cauffman, admisnistrative assistant for the Fulton County Chamber of Commerce & Tourism, was on hand with Jason Ritchey, owner of Lincoln Way Pizza, to welcome the travelers as they made a brief rest stop here Monday morning. One-hundred years ago many travelers would have probably spent the night in McConnellsburg before continuing on.
“The Lincoln Highway started it all for the automobile,” said Paul Gilger, president of the California chapter of the Lincoln Highway Association. “Before that, people traveling outside of their town did so on a train.”
The highway was the precursor to America’s highway and interstate system, and, in a sense, marked the birth of trucking, Gilger said. Before its creation, people primarily ate only what was grown or raised near them, he said.
“No one in Ohio had ever seen an avocado,” Gilger said. “It changed the way we ate. It created a whole culture.”
The historic highway “is the mother of all roads” fellow cochairwoman Ronnie O’Brien said. “The Lincoln Highway really proved that the automobile was here to stay.”
Predating America’s highway system created in 1926, the Lincoln Highway system was a private venture proposed in 1912 by Carl Fisher – an early automobile entrepreneur and founder of the Indianapolis Motor Sweedway – and several other entrepreneurs tied to the fledgling automobile industry.
First pitched as the Coast-to- Coast Rock Highway, the group soon decided to name the highway for the former president Abraham Lincoln, said Brian Butko, a Lincoln Highway historian who has written several books about the iconic route.
“They really meant it as a memorial to Lincoln,” Butko said. “Many of their fathers knew Lincoln, and he was their boyhood hero.”
It was no accident, Butko said, that those men incorporated the highway on July 1, 1913 – 50 years to the day of the beginning of the Battle of Gettysburg, a turning point in the Civil War.
The highway was cobbled together over years from existing trails and beside easy terrain, such as along rivers and rail lines. It was not, however, what most think of as a highway today. Many parts of the route remained unpaved, and even improved sections often were paved with bricks.
In McConnellsburg, the Lincoln Highway brought a resurgence of economic growth and development that resulted from servicing the automotive and travel needs of the countless people who took to the highway. In addition to hotels, rooming houses, restaurants and lunchrooms, McConnellsburg, in 1936, had at least eight garages available to motorists.
While the highway made transcontinental travel by automobile possible, it didn’t make it easy. The Lincoln Highway was built before drive-up gas stations. Gasoline was bought at hardware stores and poured from barrels into tanks under the driver’s seat.
The Associated Press contributed to this story. (italic)