Reader question: There’s a yellow rock along State 76 in Clayton that marks the Yellowstone Trail. Who put it there, and what’s its significance?
Answer: Clayton landowner Amos Ihde placed the rock, and the rock that supports it, at the edge of his property in the spring. He later added a coat of John Deere yellow paint and an official Yellowstone Trail sign to complete the landmark.
He used a survey stake to ensure it doesn’t encroach upon the State 76 right of way.
Ihde created the landmark for fun after reading about the Yellowstone Trail historic national automobile route and learning the trail passed his property.
“A lot of people have asked me about it,” he said.
The Yellowstone Trail traverses about 400 miles of Wisconsin highways and roads between Kenosha and Hudson. West of the Fox Cities, the route follows State 76, Lind Lane, Winnegamie Drive, Julius Drive and State 96.
Several yellow rocks and signs, similar to those on Ihde’s land, mark the trail along Julius Drive in Greenville.
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According to the website yellowstonetrail.org, the Yellowstone Trail is a transcontinental automobile route that crosses 13 northern states between Massachusetts and Washington.
The route was conceived by J.W. Parmley of Ipswich, South Dakota, in 1912 as the automobile was gaining popularity. Intercity roads were poor at the time, and Parmley and his business colleagues wanted a good road between Ipswich and Aberdeen, South Dakota, which is 25 miles away.
In a short time, the project expanded to include a good road to Mobridge, South Dakota, and Hettinger, North Dakota, and then to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.
The effort grew in scope to create “a good road from Plymouth Rock to Puget Sound,” the website says.
The Yellowstone Trail Association didn’t build roads, the website says. Rather, it lobbied for good roads at every level of government, promoted cross-country tourist traffic, marked the trail with yellow stones and signs, provided maps of the trail and “generally raised the interest in using the automobile for other than local travel.”
In the 1920s, the numbering of interstate routes took hold, lessening the need for names and colored markers. The Yellowstone Trail lost its appeal, and the Yellowstone Trail Association faded into history.
Around 1999, a number of historians and tourism officials began to champion the historical significance and economic potential of the old route. A modern Yellowstone Trail Association emerged, and volunteers have been marking the trail once again to elevate its status as a travel route.
“Years ago, it was a lot of the same intent,” said Greenville resident John Julius, a member of the nonprofit Yellowstone Trail Association. “Before the government took over, a lot of times we’d do things in the private sector, and that’s who promoted roads across the country.”
Post-Crescent reporter Duke Behnke answers your questions about local government. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 920-993-7176.