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Ruts Of First Transcontinental Auto Trips

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I have been doing some road research which has turned out to be fascinating, at least to me. But I am having a real problem organizing the story so that it doesn't bore everyone.

 

The tale deals with three first ever transcontinental auto runs. Actually four records were set, but two were set in one run. I have "rediscovered" a section of the actual routes down to the ruts, where all three traveled, and so far as I can tell, it has not been previously recognized as such.

 

The three events are as follows:

 

1903 First Transcontinental Auto Trip (You all recognize this one... Horatio N Jackson, Crocker, Bud the dog)

 

1905 First Transcontinental Auto Race and First East to West Transcontinental Auto Trip

 

1905 First Transcontinental Round Trip by Automobile.

 

 

 

1905RaceStart.jpg

START OF THE FIRST TRANSCONTINENTAL AUTO RACE

 

1905OldScoutinLavaFields.jpg

OLD SCOUT NEAR CRATERS OF THE MOON

 

I started this whole thing thinking I would follow some of Horatio's tracks in Oregon and Idaho. He had been forced northward on his run from San Francisco to New York to avoid winter conditions in the mountains. I know the eastern Oregon, southern Idaho region well enough to have a pretty good idea of the landforms and roads, and I surmised that I could use old maps to make a pretty good estimate of his detailed route.

 

What I didn't know was that two other less known, but significant events had followed shortly on parts of his route, but going the other direction. It soon became apparent that I could identify one section of desert road, still unpaved, and not even graveled, that all three traveled over a hundred years ago. It also became apparent that even those familiar with the area and the road, apparently did not know its historic importance.

 

Of course that makes it very interesting to me....and to some here on the forum. The thought that I could drive a hither to unrecognized historic road is a kick in and of itself. And researching and mapping the road is right down my alley.

 

I want to do a little qualifying. All three runs are documented. Actually, the first, while by far the better known because of the PBS documentary, was the least well documented at the time. The others were reported in the papers, almost day by day, and followed in the auto related publications of the time like it was Christopher Columbus driving.

 

What has not been done to my knowledge is to recognize that all three trips, and all four records were set, in part on one section of road still unpaved, that winds through the desert of the Snake River Plain in Idaho, and through the Craters of the Moon National Monument. Not even the Monument's knowledgeable Resource Manager was aware of the last two events. Now we know!

 

When I say the trips were well documented, that doesn't mean that anyone has ever identified the road they followed in the area. The event maps show Blackfoot and Hailey Idaho, which are 130 miles apart, but no detail in between. So I overlaid turn of the last century plat maps on Google Earth, and bingo, there was a stage and wagon road that pops up on several. And I found old reports that said, for example, that "we stopped at Cottonwood Ranch where Jackson had spent the night." So I could fix specific sites on the actual road and knew that the different parties had gone the same way.

 

I ended up with some old photos from magazines, and one is of a ranch house with Old Scout in the foreground. It may be that the same ranch house still stands. At least there are buildings on the site. It would be a big kick for me if there was a then and now photo op.

 

I don't know where this will go. The site and the ruts themselves are not exactly the story. The "back" stories are fascinating. I am inviting your thoughts, interests, etc. I have already been in contact with Denny G and Eric (Sit Properly) who show at least a passing interest in the tale. Any other takers?

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

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Ooh! This sounds crackling good! It sounds like you have enough data to put together a very likely route map. I'm interested in the tale -- of course! -- but will have to live vicariously through you on this one!

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Ooh! This sounds crackling good! It sounds like you have enough data to put together a very likely route map. I'm interested in the tale -- of course! -- but will have to live vicariously through you on this one!

 

Jim,

 

I could draw the map today, using the plat map overlays. I tried that last night and was pleased with the results, as far as I went.

 

I have a couple of unanswered concerns, which maybe someone can resolve. The 1905 vehicles stopped at Jim Murray's ranch which is between Blackfoot and Arco (perhaps old Arco because the town moved) and between Big Butte and Middle Butte. Murray was said to pipe his water 5 miles from near the top of Big Butte. Big Butte is evidently Big Southern Butte, and Middle Butte is still Middle Butte but I can't find Jim Murray's place. Big Jim Murray was said to be an Indian fighter so you would think his presence would have been noted beyond the stories provided by the auto trippers.

 

I should also say that Megalgel wrote a novel in 1908 called "The Car and the Lady" that used his journal of the 1905 race for locations, and you can trace the route in the book, which is on Google Books. I have checked the book against contemporary news stories and find at least the part I'm looking at to agree.

 

I am also trying to absolutely fix the location of Cottonwood Ranch. The plat maps show a house and barn at the mouth of Cottonwood Creek at the proper distance from Martin (see Craters of the Moon) but my inquiry to the Lava Lake Land and Livestock Company (famous grass fed lamb) hasn't been answered. They own or control the site and I thought they might know if it was called Cottonwood Ranch and run by the Drakes (cited in the book and magazine articles of the time) in 1903- 1905.

 

I am going to draw the map soon. As I noted in my Pacific Highway / Cowlitz Trail thread, plat maps vary in accuracy, but most of the time the surveyor got a road right when it intersected his survey line along section lines. I think he often guessed at the route within sections (1 X 1 mile), as will be evident when I post the map!!

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

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Dave,

 

Well, now you've got my attention. I've had a thing for Goodale's Cutoff of the Oregon Trail since riding through Craters of the Moon in 2008. I've got a feeling that the road you're talking about will include at least some of that old trail.

 

Not sure if we'll be able to join you, but it will be on my to-do list, for sure.

 

-Eric

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Dave,

 

Well, now you've got my attention. I've had a thing for Goodale's Cutoff of the Oregon Trail since riding through Craters of the Moon in 2008. I've got a feeling that the road you're talking about will include at least some of that old trail.

 

Not sure if we'll be able to join you, but it will be on my to-do list, for sure.

 

-Eric

 

Eric,

 

If you are familiar with the Goodale Cutoff in and near Craters of the Moon, then you know at least a road section of all three transcontinental auto events. It is referred to as the emigrant road on the plat maps, and in parts it is the Blackfoot - Wood River (stage and wagon) Road.

 

As is always the case, there are some conflicting data concerning the routes taken, but all three go past (or stop at) Cottonwood Ranch and Martin. I am confident of that, but I am not as comfortable with the exact route between the Monument and Blackfoot. In places a couple of roads would be possible, and finding where Big Jim Murray's ranch was would fix the route.

 

I should try to contact the Lava Lake Land and Livestock folks again, as I suspect they will know something about the history of their land, and be able to confirm or deny my determination of the Cottonwood Ranch location.

 

It looks like Huss is wearing the famous Dishpan Stetson :blink: .

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

 

1905OldScoutIndians.jpg

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The Lincoln Highway Association conference has kept me busy so that I've not been able to keep up a meaningful conversation here and I'm continuing to slip further behind on my own website. I've a couple more days of guided touring here then I'm off on my own. It will likely be to the coast though I'll keep watching here in case an expedition develops that (tongue in cheek) depends on my participation. The Ruts Of TATs are really intriguing and hopefully, if they remain unvisited when I'm next west, we can plan an assault then.

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