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Editor’s note: This is the second of five articles tracing the emergence of the Yellowstone Trail through Adams County and Hettinger, ND, in an effort to increase awareness of this historical roadway and to focus on the important part that Hettinger and Adams County, ND, played in that effort.
In 1914, after two years of meeting, thinking, reasoning and planning, the Yellowstone Trail Association was closer to implementing J. W. Parmley’s dream of an automobile roadway from Minneapolis, MN, through southwestern North Dakota and on to Yellowstone National Park.
Having gathered a group of men he felt were influential in their small communities, three of whom were from Hettinger, ND (ACR article #1, 9.16.16), Parmley led the Association in locating a route and in trying to persuade county boards and state highway commissions of the need “to create one long, connected road through counties instead of supporting roads that went nowhere,” but at that time, neither the Federal government nor state governments were interested in road construction.
Members of the Association realized that if the road was going to get built, it would have to be built a different way. Through the work of Association members and with the help of local citizens, Trail Days were organized to “excite and encourage” people of small towns on the route to take charge of building the Yellowstone Trail.
For Trail Days, local citizens brought their own teams of horses and mules, and their own picks, shovels, discs, harrows or road drags. Out of old lumber, old railroad ties, old binder frames, old haystack frames or anything else handy, they improvised other needed equipment.
In a letter to all state, county and village representatives of the Association, to all county and township officials, and to the 120 newspapers along the trail, Yellowstone Trail Association secretary/treasurer O. T. Peterson from Hettinger described what should happen on the first Yellowstone Trail Day, May 22, 1914:
Let there be a squad of men on every mile of the entire eleven hundred miles of the trail. Let the trail boosters of each town see to it that some one man is responsible for the work to be done on each mile tributary to that town.
Let that man get all the help he can. Let him prepare his mile for Trail Day by having it plowed, if need be, graded, if need be.
Let the men be furnished an abundance of cool fresh water. Let there be an equal amount of good fellowship and rejoicing.
Let your photographer be on hand to take pictures of the work. Let all business houses be closed this day.
In the evening, let there be patriotic music by bands or choirs. Let the school children and the multitudes sing. Let high school children read their essays on good roads. Let the public spirited men speak to the assembled people.
Still no maps for it, still no markers on it, but in the first two years of work on the land, 800 miles of roadway from Minneapolis to Yellowstone National Park were citizen-graded. The dream was being fulfilled.