Jefferson Highway

Guide_w02Poplar Heights Farm is proud to have a founding role in the New Jefferson Highway Association and to have run an automobile in the Sociability Run” of 2003.

The Jefferson Highway was a grand and bold dream that became a lasting reality.  It showed that Americans could rise to meet a challenge and that cities and villages that pulled together would secure a great prize that truly “put them on the map” and brought commerce through their downtowns and prosperity to their citizens.

It is a story filled with political intrigue, inter-state rivalries and national pride.  It is American enterprise at its best tied to the romance of the open road. It is the ”Avenue from the Bread Basket of the World to the Land of Cotton”.  It is the Jefferson Highway - the first north-south transcontinental highway built in the United States.  Conceived by E.T. Meredith to honor Thomas Jefferson and the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, it began in 1915 and lasted until 1928 when the federal government adopted a formal system of numbered highways.  Today it is U.S. Highway 71.

Grading_wIt was billed to become the finest national road in America.  It was to open up the Midwest to development and thereby bring “unparalleled prosperity” wherever it passed.  Its exact route was to be decided by delegates to a convention in New Orleans in November 1915 and by the enterprise of competing communities vying for route location through their town.

In a statement to the Kansas City Star, Walter Parker, general manager of the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce and a leader in the Jefferson Highway Association, said ”You may tell your cities in Missouri and Kansas that this road is going to be built. It is going to be built promptly and it will pay them to have representatives in New Orleans. Enterprise and work will pull down this prize.”

Sign_wsThe new Jefferson Highway Association has been formed to preserve existing segments of the original route and promote awareness of its importance to the Midwest. JHA is working with Missouri Department of Transportation to have the original route declared an “historical trail”.  Marker_2_wMoDOT will produce and install historical marker signs on all federal and state sections of the route.  These markers will be coordinated with the other states along the highway from New Orleans to the Canadian border for uniform marking.Marker_1_ws

County chapters of the Jefferson Highway Association are currently being organized. They will work to identify and photograph existing remnants of the highway and to mark the gravel road sections of the highway.

Country_Road_wIf you lived along the old road, if you were a traveler along its route, if you have old signs, maps, tourist guides, postcards or pictures, the Association would like to hear from you. If you are interested in being a part of this preservation effort, please let a staff member know.

The Powers Museum in Carthage, Missouri offers additional information about the Jefferson Highway on their web site. (click here for more)

For More Information
 visit the Official Jefferson Highway website at:

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