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4. The Times Hails The Monumental Highway Motor Men Of 1917


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#1 Keep the Show on the Road!

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Posted 16 June 2009 - 09:30 PM

The launch and progress of the Motor Men of 1917 didn’t go unnoticed. Both Dr. W C Hopkins and Dolph Andrus sent on route progress reports which were published in newspapers across Southern Utah…..we see Dolph hailed in the Grand Valley Times of Moab. “He is a Christopher Columbus and North Pole Explorer all in one” they say.

In trying to learn more about the Motor Men of 1917, I have uncovered at least 20 newspaper articles that not only trace their trip, but tell the story of the efforts through the early 1930’s to establish the Monumental Highway. Of course, the highway was eventually established, but it carried US numbers, not nearly as “romantic” as a name like the Monumental Highway. (But it wasn’t until the 1930’s that the road between Bluff and Mexican Hat was improved.)

The Motor Men of 1917 collected donations to support the trip in the small towns and trading posts along their route. Dolph met Hopkins on May 6th in Blanding and there they collected $58 in donations ranging from $3 to $15 dollars each from locals. Not incidentally $3 in 1917 has an equivalent value today of $50, so to donate $15 ($250 today) was quite a show of faith and support!

At Bluff, local boosters gave $115. Names of those who donated appear elsewhere in this tale as it unfolds included Frank Hyde who operated the local Bluff mercantile (and is pictured in my earlier posted 1918 article), and A. L. Raplee, local oil man and source of support on the trip (They stayed at his sand filled house on the San Juan River near Mexican Hat). Their objective (which was achieved) was St George, Utah where the Monumental Highway would connect with the famed Arrowhead Trail to California.

The Times headline describing the start of the trip stated “Trail Blazers Leave Bluff on Long Trip,” to go where no automobile had gone before. Dolph told the Times “…the car won’t fail us….we may have to stop many hours, even days to make road, but we’re going to make the attempt of our lives to get through” ……and as we will see, get through they did.

They left Bluff, Utah on May 8th 1917 in Dolph’s Maxwell coup (21 HP!). Originally the Federal Truck Company had promised to come to Bluff and take our Motor Men on the route planned, but Hopkins noted “the war troubles stopped that company from any such move” referring of course to the gathering dark clouds of WWI.

It has been difficult to fix their route to Comb Wash. My best estimate, and the one that best fits the verbal description Dolph gave in the log (see earlier post) took them west along the route I have marked in Green in the Google Earth view below. Bluff is at the far upper right. The distances from the log (displayed at the red crosses) are close except between Buck Wash and Butlers Wash where the log and the ground are off by two miles!




The trail followed by the Mormon pioneers who settled Bluff in 1879 came from the west down Comb Wash, around the tip of Comb Reef and then up San Juan Hill (green hikers symbol, far lower left) along a route that can only be hiked today. The pioneers built the trail in desperation when they could not go east along the San Juan River and couldn’t cross Comb Ridge from Comb Wash. I can’t believe the Motor Men followed the San Juan Hill trail because it would seem impassable to an automobile.


Combs Ridge has only one break, and that is where the modern and 1950’s highways start down the long man made ramp to Comb Wash. If Dolph and Hopkins didn’t go through that gap they had to travel in the San Juan River (they didn’t!) or take the pioneer trail of the 1870’s Hole in the Rock Mormon party down San Juan Hill (southern tip of Comb’s Ridge). The grade is so steep the pioneers took 7 teams of horses to pull their wagons up, and it nearly killed the teams.

By 1912 there was a three times a week stage between Bluff and Mexican Hat, and it is very unlikely that the stage routinely used such a grade either. So the stage must have taken the gap route, and that is my best guess for the route of the Motor Men, until one of our members or old road pros proves me wrong.

So this chapter leaves the Motor Men in Comb’s Wash. This photo appears to be taken in Comb Wash looking northward, probably on day one!. The little Maxwell was definitely ”fully loaded.”




Dave

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#2 mobilene

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Posted 17 June 2009 - 06:32 AM

Dave,

Any chance that when you're done doing all this research and telling the story here, you would create a Web site for the story for the Internet at large to read? It would be an important and interesting resource.

jim

#3 Keep the Show on the Road!

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Posted 17 June 2009 - 11:36 AM

QUOTE (mobilene @ Jun 17 2009, 03:32 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Dave,

Any chance that when you're done doing all this research and telling the story here, you would create a Web site for the story for the Internet at large to read? It would be an important and interesting resource.

jim


Jim,

That’s a good idea…...and I know that because I have been thinking the same thing. rolleyes.gif biggrin.gif

I am holding off because I want to get a better handle on the whole of the story before I do a website, otherwise I fear too many false starts.

This story is so good it deserves a good writer to pull it together for a magazine (American Road Powers that Be…. take note!).

As soon as I get well “steeped” in the story so locations and events are in my memory banks rather than on paper, I hope to make a trip to the area. Ara and Steve have shown an interest as well.

Berwyn had not seen the stories in the newspaper, so I think they will be of interest to him. I sent him copies. He is going to send me the original log, which I hope will help resolve some of the details of the route.

I want to thank you, Becky, Denny, and Roadhound for your recent comebacks. We get many visitors but I never know if something is grabbing interest unless there is a “come back” post. I really appreciate it. It keeps me plugging along.

Dave

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#4 beckyrepp

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Posted 18 June 2009 - 08:33 PM

QUOTE (Keep the Show on the Road! @ Jun 17 2009, 12:36 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Jim,

That’s a good idea…...and I know that because I have been thinking the same thing. rolleyes.gif biggrin.gif

I am holding off because I want to get a better handle on the whole of the story before I do a website, otherwise I fear too many false starts.

This story is so good it deserves a good writer to pull it together for a magazine (American Road Powers that Be…. take note!).

As soon as I get well “steeped” in the story so locations and events are in my memory banks rather than on paper, I hope to make a trip to the area. Ara and Steve have shown an interest as well.

Berwyn had not seen the stories in the newspaper, so I think they will be of interest to him. I sent him copies. He is going to send me the original log, which I hope will help resolve some of the details of the route.

I want to thank you, Becky, Denny, and Roadhound for your recent comebacks. We get many visitors but I never know if something is grabbing interest unless there is a “come back” post. I really appreciate it. It keeps me plugging along.

Dave

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Based on a fabulous suggestion by Dave, I spoke with our American Road Foundation president to discuss the possibility of the Foundation taking on a project of collecting, cataloging, and archiving road stories - such as this one - for an online library. The president likes the idea. I need to present it to the board. I've been absolutely buried in work -- but, it is high on my to do list.

If approved by the board, we will need volunteers to assist in this process. We'll also need to seek grant funding to help with developing the online library. This would be a very worthwhile project for the Foundation. I hope everyone on the Forum agrees. If anyone is interested in volunteering please send me a PM or email me at becky@americanroadmagazine.com. (A volunteer with grant writing experience would be MOST welcome!).

Dave, being the great guy that we all know he is, has already agreed to be a project volunteer. Once the board approves, we should have a planning meeting. I believe, however, that the first phase of the process--collecting the stories--could easily begin once we have board approval--and should not be delayed (time is of the essence when attempting to collect first hand accounts of events).

I look forward to hearing everyone's thoughts.
Best,

#5 mga707

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Posted 21 June 2009 - 12:26 AM

QUOTE (Keep the Show on the Road! @ Jun 16 2009, 07:30 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Combs Ridge has only one break, and that is where the modern and 1950’s highways start down the long man made ramp to Comb Wash. If Dolph and Hopkins didn’t go through that gap they had to travel in the San Juan River (they didn’t!) or take the pioneer trail of the 1870’s Hole in the Rock Mormon party down San Juan Hill (southern tip of Comb’s Ridge). The grade is so steep the pioneers took 7 teams of horses to pull their wagons up, and it nearly killed the teams.

By 1912 there was a three times a week stage between Bluff and Mexican Hat, and it is very unlikely that the stage routinely used such a grade either. So the stage must have taken the gap route, and that is my best guess for the route of the Motor Men, until one of our members or old road pros proves me wrong.


Dave

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Dave--

Enjoying this story!
While certainly no expert, I have driven nearly all of the major roads in the Four Corners area...and a few of the not-so-major ones!
After consulting my trusty AAA "Guide To Indian Country" map--a fantastic Auto Club of So Cal map that I have worn out several copies of--I will concur with your hunch that the "Motor Men" of 1917 used what is now basically the US 163 alignment to cross Comb ridge between Bluff and Mexican Hat.

Can't wait to hear more, and would love to be able to be part of any future 'expedition' to find the elusive inscription somewhere south of Red Lake!

Mike





#6 Keep the Show on the Road!

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Posted 21 June 2009 - 10:02 PM

QUOTE (mga707 @ Jun 20 2009, 09:26 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Dave--

Enjoying this story!
While certainly no expert, I have driven nearly all of the major roads in the Four Corners area...and a few of the not-so-major ones!
After consulting my trusty AAA "Guide To Indian Country" map--a fantastic Auto Club of So Cal map that I have worn out several copies of--I will concur with your hunch that the "Motor Men" of 1917 used what is now basically the US 163 alignment to cross Comb ridge between Bluff and Mexican Hat.

Can't wait to hear more, and would love to be able to be part of any future 'expedition' to find the elusive inscription somewhere south of Red Lake!

Mike


Mike,

Thanks for the come back! You confirm what I have thought about the route to Comb Wash. I also found last night in a 1911 USGS report on Google Books that the oil companies operating to the west of Comb Ridge had built a road from Bluff to Goodridge (Mexican Hat) which went via Navajo Springs. Navajo Springs is shown on old maps beside the gap in Comb Ridge. A look on Google Earth shows a green spot at the base of the modern ramp fill that is probably the remains of Navajo Springs.

So the Motor men very probably did use the oil company road. That fits the description Dolph gives, but not the mileage. Berwyn tells me he has put a copy of the original log in the mail, so I will see if it shows anything else.

I have your name down on my list of potential explorers. I definitely plan to mount an “expedition.”

I am working on the next installment of the story and hope to have something posted soon. I have discovered that the Monumental Highway raised quite a bit of attention at the time, and got some “ink” and a lot of “verbal” support. I mentioned to Berwyn by email that what it lacked were enough towns along its route that would have paid membership fees to sustain an association. And by the time tourism did develop in the area, the numbered highways had come into being and a named trail had lost its purpose.

Thanks again!

Dave

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#7 winstonhurst

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Posted 26 November 2013 - 02:26 PM

     Interesting stuff, to which I can contribute a bit:  In the context of archaeological survey of the Comb Wash-Comb Ridge-Butler Wash area for University of Colorado and BLM, I and my crews have recorded a number of historic roads in this neighborhood, including successive realignments of the old road through the Navajo Spring notch on Comb Ridge.  The route taken by the Hansen-Herricks-Andrus parties in 1916 and 1917 is close to the one you show, but not exactly.  The alignment that you show actually dates to a little bit later period after it became a state road and was realigned.  Between about 1909 and about 1927, it was a county road that followed a slightly different route, coinciding in some places with the later state road version, but varying significantly in some sections.  See attached mapAttached File  Navajo Spring roads WHurst recordings.jpg   176.22KB   1 downloads.  The 1917 route is shown in red and purple.

    On a related note, there is a great set of photos from the 1916 trip, donated by Hansen, at the Utah State Historical Society library in Salt Lake City, showing the Maxwell car being pulled back up the Comb Ridge dugway with the help of a team of horses. Some of them may be viewable online.

Winston Hurst



#8 Keep the Show on the Road!

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Posted 27 November 2013 - 03:44 PM

Winston,

 

Brilliant, great, fantastic, terrific....and any other positive exclamation!  How wonderful to see your map and comments!!  Now I will have hours of study and fun savoring every morsel of your great information.

 

My wife and I have been discussing if we want to escape the overcast of the Northwest for a sunshine vacation this winter, and you may have provided another reason!

 

Berwyn Andrus,, Dolph's son, lives in the Salt Lake area and I will send him an email about your post.

 

Thanks so much and don't be a stranger!!

 

Dave

 

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