Prairie Rivers of Iowa’s Lincoln Highway Byway Coordinator Jan Gammon spoke at the Nevada City Council meeting on June 24 about the highway’s role as the first improved transcontinental road, and the Corridor Management Plan and Interpretive Management Plan that have been developed for the Iowa section.


Gammon works for Prairie Rivers of Iowa, contracted by the Iowa Department of Transportation, to assist the 13 counties and 43 communities the highway travels through in Iowa with projects to preserve and restore their culture and natural resources.


Formed in 1913, the Lincoln Highway was the first improved transcontinental road in the nation, using existing roads to connect main streets of communities together - from Times Square in New York City to San Francisco. “Travel became a new kind of adventure back in 1913 when the Lincoln Highway was established,” stated Gammon, “Still today, this road works as an invisible thread to tie communities to each other and to the nation as a whole.”


The Lincoln Highway was named a Heritage Byway in 2006 by the Iowa Department of Transportation’s Scenic and Heritage Byway program. It’s Iowa’s longest and most historic byway, encompassing 460 miles.


Gammon talked about brochures created to aid the traveler in Iowa. The first covers the six intrinsic qualities that make a Byway (archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and scenic), another covers the camping and recreational opportunities and the most recent is for kids of all ages to learn the history of the road while collecting stamps from kid-friendly attractions along the route.


Gammon also talked about the interpretive program and panels that have been done in Westside, Jefferson, Grand Junction, Scranton, Ogden and Tama. A panel just arrived to be placed in the Montour Maple Hill Cemetery to honor Henry Ostermann, the first Field Secretary of the Lincoln Highway Association, and the “idea man” behind the 1919 Army Convoy. In the winter of 1917, he had been piloting convoys on the east coast for the military and he combined his love for the Lincoln Highway and his experience with convoys into this historic expedition. Unfortunately, just a year after the convoy, he lost his life on the Lincoln Highway. In 1920, he was on his 21st trip across the nation (his honeymoon) — when he tried to pass a slow-moving vehicle on curves east of Montour (near the cemetery) he flipped the car and was killed instantly.


Coming through Iowa are two convoys


This summer, two convoys will take the same route as the 1919 Convoy, leaving Washington, D.C., to catch the Lincoln Highway at Gettysburg and traveling through Iowa on their way to San Francisco.


The first group, the Military Vehicle Preservation Association, will be in Iowa Aug. 22-25 and overnight in DeWitt, Marshalltown and Denison. They will be in Nevada during Lincoln Highway Days and be available for the public to see the vehicles up close, as well as be part of the LHD parade.


The Lincoln Highway Association will be driving classic and contemporary cars through Iowa Sept. 6 and 7 and will overnight in Marshalltown and Denison.


“The original 1919 Army Convoy had a young Lt. Col. Dwight ‘Ike’ Eisenhower travel with them. It is interesting that he had this experience and then later as the president of the United States, he signed the bill that created the interstate system.” says Gammon, “Some writings say the interstate idea came from this 1919 trip and from his experience in Europe on the Autobahn.”


Prairie Rivers of Iowa is a nonprofit organization that manages the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway and plays a unique role in Iowa. As one of the only nonprofit organizations focusing on both conserving our natural and cultural resources and building stronger businesses and communities, it brings unique expertise to creatively address some of Iowa’s most challenging needs. From assisting small communities in marketing themselves to travelers to supporting students in becoming environmentally-literate citizens, to training the next generation of responsible farmers and producers, Prairie Rivers of Iowa helps Iowans create a stronger and healthier state. For more information, visit prrcd.org.