In Richmond, Indiana, there is a lovely green space called Glen Miller Park. And in Glen Miller Park there is a monument that stands 18 feet tall. In the world of monuments, it almost seems a bit significant. After all, there are statues and plaques in all kinds of places commemorating significant people, events and moments in history. I probably wouldn’t have stopped to admire this monument because it seemed like so many others I’ve happened upon in my travels, but luckily my mom knew the significance of this particular one when we stopped during a recent road trip.
The statue in Glen Miller Park is a Madonna of the Trail monument, a nod to the settlers who traveled along the road to the West Coast. It is located on America’s first national highway, which officially runs from Cumberland, Maryland, to Vandalia, Illinois, and then was extended through all state and territorial capitals as it moved west. This Madonna of the Trail statue is one of twelve similar monuments, which are spread throughout the country. The other eleven can be found in:
Wheeling, West Virginia
Council Grove, Kansas
Albuquerque, New Mexico
The monument shows a pioneer woman with her children, putting her foot forward as she continues onward to the great unknown; all twelve of the statues are the same. All twelve of the statues were dedicated by the Daughters of the Revolution, most in 1928, and a few in 1929. Though there are different inscriptions on each side of the monument, my favorite one reads: A nations highway! Once a wilderness trail over which hardy Pioneers made their perilous way seeking new homes in the dense forest of the great Northwest.
It’s easy to skip over things like the Madonna of the Trail as we rush from one destination to the other, but it’s also often a lesson in history, art and culture, if we take the time to stop.