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Historic Jefferson Highway marker is dedicated

VIPs who attended the dedication are, from left, Tim Holzkamm, Charlene Christenson, Katie Magozzi, Helen Holmer, Don Tschudi, Sharon Friedman, Frank and Mona Mitchell, Helen Henderson, Allen Friedman and Archie Henderson. (Kalee Holland / Enterprise)

It was the early 1900s and the States were busy. People were getting up and going places, whether it was to the movies, to the theaters, to the ballrooms, or just out in the countryside. And the one thing that all of America could agree on when going places, was that when you were going places, you needed to go places in an automobile.

Automobile production was booming, as the one millionth Ford Model-T was being rolled off the line in 1915. With the widespread introduction of the inexpensive automobile, the American people could go anywhere at anytime given the opportunity. Naturally, the U.S. government took notice of this.

Thus, an idea was born, an idea that would unite not only entire states, but also the entire Louisiana Purchase in its love of vehicular travel.

The Jefferson Highway, as it was christened, ran all the way from New Orleans, Louisiana to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada and passed right through the center of Park Rapids. Today, it is more commonly known as Highway 71.

After the national government instated the U.S. Numbered Highways system in 1925, the Jefferson Highway dissolved into a number of state-specific highways and county roads, with only a few stretches retaining the original name. Today, markers identify the old highway's route, with one being at each end, and various others spread out in between.

As of Tuesday, June 5, another marker has been added to the list. Just north of the intersection of Highway 71 and County Road 41 in Arago Township, a plaque now stands on the west side of the road beneath a metal overhang and between two log pillars.

The brainchild of the Lake Country Scenic Byway Association, this project has been in the works for going on three years now. It's been through the efforts of roughly 30 people over the span of the last two months that the marker has seen its full completion.

Katie Magozzi, Executive Director of the Park Rapids Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce, had this to say about the project:

"We wanted those who lived in and passed through the [Hubbard County] area to be aware of the impact of Highway 71. We wanted people to know its historical importance."

Now that the marker has been erected, that wish can be fulfilled. Attached to the marker and on the back are various informational tidbits, including a map of the area the Jefferson Highway passed through and a brief history of the surrounding area.