Learning Lincoln On-line

CONTENTS SET A:

The Old National Trail--  MILESTONE MARKERS & SIGNAGE

HIGHWAY SIGNAGE INCLUDING NATIONAL TRAIL MILESTONES

      

NATIONAL TRAIL:  How a trail was "marked," for travelers, much as our mile-markers along the Interstates now.  Geographical and Geological landmarks, the stars, some small villages and the man-made and placed "Milestone Markers" of engraved stone would be how the emigrants would find their way along the "blazed" trail.
       One interesting point in how the National Trail was truly a real highway in pioneer days was that stumps were only allowed to be up to 14" tall.

       In this section, students could help to design "Milestone markers" out of any appropriate material including plaster of Paris, or even cardboard.
       A simulated trail could be created on the school grounds with groups of students following the trail with the "Milestone markers."  The markers could have coded messages about the point they represent.

       To modernize the trail, make use of a Magellan GPS device, and create a school grounds trail with points mapped on the device.  See if the students can read the latitudes/longitudes of the Magellan. They will be able to.  I've done it down to 2nd grade.
       This represents the same principle as the old days, but a bit more modern.

 

Milestones were hand carved stone markers placed along the Old Trails to help travelers know how far they had gone, and how far to go.
The National Trail, by the 1840's, became more than just a muddy road.  The government had actually built gravel covered roads.  This made travel a lot smoother and faster.
A Milestone Marker would have initials for the area or town it was in, plus a number represent the distance from the beginning point.
       On the other hand, many pioneers, including children and babies, died along the old trails.  Simple wooden markers, or sometimes stone carved slabs would be used to mark their graves.  Sometimes an "epitaph" would be written.  Pioneers following up on the previous family, with the death, would no doubt mourn for them.  It was very common for many pioneer families to lose members to death from sickness, accidents, or murder by bad people, and sometimes unfriendly Native Americans.

A project for your class could include:
1.  Study Pioneer travel on the trail, divide the class into "families".
2.  Create milestone and/or grave markers to post along a "trail" on the playground.
3.  Have the students make the journey following the milestone markers and the gravestone markers.
4.  Each group will have their own stories (already made up) and could place their own grave markers.  The teacher would place the milestone markers.
5.  The teacher would decide the start of the journey (location) and the final destination desired.  The National Trail, and later the western trails (Oregon, etc.) would be the means of transportation.

Some tips on Making Milestone Markers
       If wanting to be really fancy, you could use paper Mache, but if not enough time or materials, you can make them from strips of cardboard (sturdy) with a stick stapled or fastened to the back to drive into the ground.  Most milestones were nearly 3 feet in height.  They could be painted gray, and the location letters/mile number painted on with black paint. Gravestones can be also made with cardboard, painted wood color or stone color and wording with black paint.


Visit the Maumee and Western Road Milestone Cemetery

GO TO WIKIPEDIA TO SEE AN ASSORTMENT OF SIGNS USED ON HIGHWAYS AND ROADS IN THE U.S.A.


National Trail Resources

16th President Topics Index

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