Madonna of the Trail

109 E. Beech, Lamar, CO, 719-336-4379
The Madonna of the Trail honors the pioneer mothers of covered wagon days on the Santa Fe Trail. This monument is one of only 12 in the world and proudly stands at Lamar's Santa Fe Railway Park. It was dedicated September 24,1928 by the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. Lamar was chosen for a statue because it was located on the Old Santa Fe Trail highway.

The idea that culminated in the "Pioneer Mother/Madonna of the Trail" monument began in 1909 when a group of Missouri women wanted to mark the "Santa Fe Trail" through their state. In 1912, Rep. A. R. Borland of Missouri introduced a resolution in Congress which gave a formal name to the series of trails followed by our forefathers as they traveled West. It was named "National Old Trails Road."

World War I began, and plans were put on hold. Soon after the Armistice, the NSDAR revived the "Pioneer Mother Movement." Mrs. John Trigg Moss (Arlene B. Nichols Moss), of St. Louis, was appointed chairwoman of "Old Trails Road" for the NSDAR. Her idea was to honor the 800,000 pioneer women who took part in the westward expansion. The group elected to place a monument in each of the 12 states which the trail passed through.



With the urging of Judge Harry Truman, president of the National Old Trails Road Association, Congress declared that 12 identical statues at a cost of $1,000 each would be made. In 1924, Mrs. Moss visualized a statue similar to one she had seen in Oregon of Sacagawea, the Shoshone woman who guided Lewis and Clark on their search for a water route to the Pacific Ocean. She took her idea to a stone manufacturer in St. Louis, and he recommended they contact August Leimbach.
August Leimbach had been born in Germany in 1882 and studied drawing. In 1910 he came to America to visit his brother in St. Louis and stayed, working throughout the U.S. Back in St. Louis, he accepted the job of designing the statue. In three days he submitted his design and it was accepted. Soon he began casting the 12-foot tall, 5-ton statue. He used an amalgam of crushed granite, stone, marble, cement and lead. The granite, native to Missouri, produced a pinkish cast which gave the statue a life-like look.

The "Pioneer Mother" in the sculpture wears a sun bonnet. Clasping a baby in her arm and with a small boy hanging onto her apron, she is carrying a rifle. The face of the mother, strong in character, beauty, and gentleness is the face of a woman who realizes her responsibilities and trusts in God. She stands upon a base that is six feet high and weighs 12 tons. The base rests upon a foundation of two feet, making the statue 18 feet tall. Each of the 12 statues is exactly the same.

The inscriptions read:

West Face: Madonna of the Trail, N.S.D.A.R., Memorial To The Pioneer Mothers Of The Covered Wagon Days
South Face: A Place Of Historical Lore Noted For Indian Lodges, Shelter from storm and heat, Bivouac for expeditions, scene of many councils.
East Face: The National Old Trail Road
North Face: In commemoration of "Big Timbers" Extending eastward and westward along Arkansas River approximately twenty miles and of Bent's New Fort, Later Fort Wise, 1852-1866.

Harry Truman, later our 33rd president, was a powerful force in this NSDAR project. He dedicated each statue personally in each state along the trail. In Ohio he acknowledged "the intrepid women," his own grandmothers included, "who endured the bone-wrenching weariness and difficult travel." He said, "They were just as brave or braver than their men because, in many cases, they went with sad hearts and trembling bodies. They went, however, and endured every hardship that befalls a pioneer." On July 27, 1998, at Norfolk, Virginia, the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, was commissioned. A 20" x 24" color photograph of the "Madonna of the Trail" hangs in a place of honor in its Captain's Quarters

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