October 22, 2019
Retracing Lena Huppler Bevers’ Travel Log
Wed. – Oct. 22.
Left Kansas City, Kan. about 9 o’clock. Drove through Kansas City, Mo., drove around in it for about 2 hours trying to get out. Ate dinner in Belton. Ate supper on the road and stayed all night in Fort Scott. – Lena Bevers
On October 22, 1919 the Bevers family started their day by going across the Kansas river from Kansas City, Kansas to Kansas City, Missouri. The running directions of Route 1042 of The Official Automobile Blue Book 1917 state that there was a 15-cent toll for crossing the Intercity Viaduct one-way and 25-cent toll for round-trip.2 (This is the bridge that crossed the Kansas River at Minnesota Avenue.) But in the 1920 edition of the Blue Book, there is no toll.3 In 1917 Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri bought the bridge and in 1918 the two cities opened the bridge as a free bridge.4 So when Herbert and Mr. McElhany drove over the viaduct they didn’t have to pay a toll. A sister bridge was built in 1962. The two bridges are now called the Lewis and Clark Viaduct. Presently, the eastbound lanes of Interstate Highway 70 travel over the original inter-city viaduct built in 1907.5 When my mother and I crossed the Kansas River today, we were driving on the same bridge that Herbert and Lena drove on.
Upon entering Missouri, the speed law was: “‘Careful and prudent manner’; not exceeding 25 miles per hour.”7 After crossing the bridge, the two-car caravan somehow lost their way in Kansas City, Missouri. They “drove around in it for about 2 hours trying to get out.”8 Possibly they were trying to exit Kansas City, Missouri, on the King of Trails Highway. Lena only mentions traveling through one town between Kansas City and their final destination, Fort Scott, which doesn’t provide enough information to determine on which side of the Kansas-Missouri border they traveled on. Florence’s travel log gives additional information: “Drove thru Stillwell, Louisburg, La Cygne, Trading Post, Pleasanton, Linton, Prescott, Fulton, and stayed all night in Ft. Scott.”9 According to a 1924 Rand McNally map of Nebraska and Kansas, the King of Trails Highway does not travel through any of those towns.10 Apparently, the highway they got on was the Jefferson Highway, another north-south transcontinental route.
The Jefferson Highway was envisioned by Edwin Thomas Meridith, a businessman and political activist of Des Moines, Iowa.11 He and a group of associates organized the national Jefferson Highway Association in 1915, establishing its terminal points as Winnipeg, Canada and New Orleans, Louisiana. This gave the Jefferson Highway the distinction of being the first international route to transect the United States. The highway was named in honor of President Thomas Jefferson for his role in the Louisiana Purchase. It was also known as the “From Pine to Palm” route and “The Vacation Route of America” route.
The Jefferson Highway Association published a guide book in 1923 to assist tourists when they were traveling on the Jefferson Highway.12 The image below is a map of three branches of the Jefferson Highway from Kansas City, Missouri to Fort Scott, Kansas. The center branch goes through some of the towns in Florence’s list. The map also shows four branches within the city limits. This is one example of road designations in the early 1900s that confused automobile tourists.
While in Kansas City, Missouri, my mother and I decided to go to the National World War 1 Memorial. World War 1 ended on November 11, 1918 and the site for this Memorial was dedicated on November 1, 1921. At the time of their trip to Texas, Herbert and Lena had two sons serving in the army, Clarence and Edgar.13
From our motel in Kansas City, Kansas, it took about 45 minutes to get to the Memorial and we found the location quite easily. When we left the memorial, we chose to take the city streets instead of a freeway and it took us about 45 minutes until we were out of the suburbs of the city, only having a little difficulty staying on our route. Then it took another twenty minutes to arrive at Belton, the town where Lena wrote that they had their dinner. Belton has an historical main street and we decided to have our lunch at a café that was decorated with Betty Boop and other retro décor. It was nearly 2:00 PM when we ordered our lunch, a bison burger for me and a grilled ham and cheese for my mother.
When we left Belton, we traveled on a winding country road, but when we came to Louisburg, Kansas, one of the towns Florence mentioned, our only option to continue toward Fort Scott was U. S. Highway 69, a modern freeway. A few times we got off the freeway to drive through towns in Florence’s list. Two of the towns are utilizing old buildings for public libraries. In Prescott, the library had formerly been a school house and we were invited inside to see the upstairs room that was set up as an historical classroom. We finally arrived at our motel at 5:00 PM.
- Kansas City, Missouri, 1915, Business District, http://www.mygenealogyhound.com/vintage-photographs/missouri-photographs/MO-Kansas-City-Missouri-1915-Business-District-historic-photo.html.
- Automobile Blue Book Publishing Company, Official Automobile Blue Book 1917, vol. 5 (New York: Automobile Blue Book Publishing Company, 1917): 1102, https://ia800405.us.archive.org/15/items/case_gv1024_a92_1917_vol_5/case_gv1024_a92_1917_vol_5.pdf.
- Automobile Blue Book Publishing Company, Official Automobile Blue Book 1920, vol. 7 (New York: Automobile Blue Book Publishing Company, 1920): 165, https://ia601208.us.archive.org/26/items/case_gv1024_a92_1920_v_7/case_gv1024_a92_1920_v_7.pdf.
- Intercity Viaduct, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intercity_Viaduct.
- Intercity Viaduct, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intercity_Viaduct.
- Automobile Blue Book Publishing Company, Official Automobile Blue Book 1920, vol. 7: 65-66.
- Automobile Blue Book Publishing Company, Official Automobile Blue Book 1920, vol. 7: 863.
- Lena Bevers, Our Trip to Texas (unpublished, 1919): 3A.
- B. Winkelmann, Our Trip to Texas [Transcription of Our Trip to Texas by Florence Bevers, 1919] (unpublished, n. d.): 2.
- Rand McNally and Company, Commercial Atlas of America, “Auto Trails Map, District No. 12, Southern Nebraska, Eastern Colorado, Kansas, Northeastern New Mexico, Northern Oklahoma” (Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1924): 372-373, https://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~201708~3000668:AutoTrails-Map,-Southern-Nebraska.
- Iowa Department of Transportation, History of the Interstate Trail, Jefferson Highway and Jefferson Association: 1, https://iowadot.gov/autotrails/history-of-the-jefferson-highway.
- Jefferson Highway Association, International Tourist Guide, Jefferson Highway (Saint Joseph, Missouri: Combs Printing Co., 1923): 25, https://jeffersonhighway.org/resources/Documents/JH-International-Tourist-Guide-1923.pdf.
- C. M. Bevers, personal communication with E. J. Jones (October 17, 2019).