You want to do this WHEN?

Editor’s note: This is the fourth 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. 

After dreaming of an automobile roadway from Minneapolis, MN, through southwestern North Dakota and on to Yellowstone National Park, and after fulfilling the dream of organizing community-wide Yellowstone Trail Associations (YTA) along the way to create the roadway, and after marking the Trail with various kinds of painted stones or embossed metal or painted signs, the parent association set about promoting the dream of the first transcontinental roadway along the northern states built without Federal funds.

At a time when roads were not marked, when few maps existed and when slippery mud was the usual road surface, the YTA provided a much-needed travel alternative. They had located a route, had encouraged towns and villages along the way to build roads on that route, and now, were about to produce maps and folders to guide travelers on that route.

To further stimulate tourist travel, the Association set up tents along busy places on the Trail to distribute materials and provide weather conditions. Where possible, they encouraged travelers to telephone the Association ahead of time to learn what roads were most passable.

A list of garages, cafes and hotels along the route also came in handy for travelers. Some of those in our area were the Yellowstone Trail Garage, Lemmon, SD; the Trail Garage & Cafe, Haynes, ND; Yellowstone Hotel, Hettinger, ND; Odou & Arnold’s Yellowstone Garage, Hettinger, ND; the Yellowstone Trail Garage, Bucyrus, ND.

Local store owners who did not formally name their businesses after the Yellowstone Trail, often included phrases in their advertisements such as “Special Attention Given to Tourist Trade” (Lemmon Auto Co); or “Tourist Work Especially Solicited” (Beaton Bros Gas Welding and Auto Repairing, Lemmon, SD); and Baker, MT’s, Heinrich & Co Tourist Supplies, whose ad stated: “We cater to Yellowstone Trail Tourists.”

Through believing in a dream, through carefully planning and organizing from 1912-1914, the move was on. The roadbed was built. The roadway was marked. Travel on the Trail was promoted and the Trail was enjoyed by locals and by travelers from miles away in either direction. Never again would travel across the far southwest corner of North Dakota be the same.

From 1914 to 1929, the YTA continued to hold regional and state meetings of the Association across areas included in the Trail. Then, in 1929, the stock market crashed. After the economic depression that followed, worsened by severe and extensive drought conditions, local merchants found it impossible to pay YTA dues. Area citizens, focused on survival, could no longer work on or maintain the road and the Yellowstone Trail Association, as first organized, ceased to exist.

Today, this roadway that opened the northern states to the rest of the nation encouraging transcontinental travel from coast to coast, exists as US Highway 12. The former Yellowstone Trail Association has been rejuvenated by John and Alice Ridge of Altoona, WI, Yellowstone Trail Publishers, and dedicated volunteers.