Okay, sometimes I’m a bit behind in researching historical information about Caddo. However, in my own defense I have to remind you that I did NOT grow up in Caddo and although I have lots of connections to family and friends, and lots of memories of visits, I do not have the same memories and knowledge that many of you long-time residents have. So I depend on you to help me with interesting bits of history. I need topics, ideas, suggestions. Like Mr. Moore telling me about Socialists in Caddo. Or Mrs. Davison telling me about the Moon mausoleum. You can’t always wait for me to discover something you’ve known about all your life! So now you should feel very guilty if you knew all about the Jefferson Highway, but didn’t think about mentioning it to me. I had to read about it in W.F. Dodd’s obituary and wonder “what are they talking about?” and then go research it for myself!
First, here is what I read in the obituary of W. F. Dodd, local pharmacist and civic champion: “…was president of the Jefferson Highway Association. It was largely through his efforts that the Jefferson Highway was located through Caddo, and through Oklahoma. It is a memorial to his enterprise and his ability.”
I think we forget that in the early days of automobile travel “roads” were the trails that had been used by horses and buggies, mules and wagons. Think about that dirt or gravel driveway through your pasture, or the lane that leads to your favorite primitive campground at the lake, or the road to the “deer woods”. In 1910 that was a road. Businessmen and travelers clamored for a better way to travel. They formed associations and raised money. They eventually built interstate routes to connect hundreds of towns.
One of the first north-south roads was the Jefferson Highway, which stretched from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada down to New Orleans, Louisiana. It was conceived in 1915, dedicated in 1919 and completed in 1926. Imagine what an undertaking that must have been! You can read more about the Jefferson Highway Convention if you’d like. Our Mr. Dodd and his Texas counterparts must have been quite the lobbyists. If you look at a map, from Joplin, MO through Oklahoma to Texas to Shreveport isn’t exactly a direct route to New Orleans. I’d sure like to know why they bypassed Arkansas altogether.
The Jefferson highway eventually connected 2,200 miles of road. The nickname for the highway was “From Palm to Pine” and in the summer of 1919 a group set out to prove the worthiness of the route. They arrived in Caddo on Monday, July 7 at 10:30am.
The Caddo Herald, July 11, 1919
“Jefferson Highway Officials Were Here
Manager Clarkson of the Jefferson Highway was the leader of the Sociability Run that came through Caddo Monday morning at 10:30. In the four other cars were Governor R. G. Pleasant of Louisiana, Mayor Behrman of New Orleans, and Duncan Buie, State Highway Commissioner of Louisiana.
They are making the run from New Orleans to Winnipeg over the Jefferson Highway to show the possibilities of the Highway for auto driving.
Being a little behind time the party stopped but a moment in Caddo.”
In 1926 a motorcade of 132 people in 32 cars completed the route, in reverse- north to south, in 13 days. I’m still researching their passage through Oklahoma.
The Jefferson Highway didn’t exist by that name for long. The government soon moved to a system of numbered highways. If you have any stories about the highway or any photos of the highway signs I would love to hear from you.