Some landmarks are so important that generations perhaps fail to convey the significance these icons have had. Each generation attaches their own significance to the landmark.
Take the Lincoln Highway for instance. I am sure you have taken it on your way from Salt Lake City into the Tooele Valley or beyond. This footpath of dreamers and explorers goes back even into Native American times. It certainly pre-dates the Mormon pioneers, with Jim Bridger likely following at least a portion of the Lincoln Highway as he explored the shoreline of the Great Salt Lake.
I grew up thinking that everyone knew about the Lincoln Highway. As it turns out, I only know a small part of its history. I may never fully understand the significance of this American icon. I grew up with it (or at least a portion of it) in my back yard.
I made mention in my initial blog regarding landmarks along the Lincoln Highway, namely Adobe Rock and the Benson Grist Mill. It turns out that the reason these landmarks are so instrumental in the history of Tooele County, Utah, the Deseret Territory and the West is that they are located adjacent to one of the primary east-west roads in America.
The pioneers certainly gave it prominence when travelling to the Tooele Valley, Stockton, Rush Valley, Josepha, Ibapah and the Great Basin. In 1912 or 1913, this wagon track was slated to be improved to allow automobiles to traverse America and was dubbed the Lincoln Highway.
A traveler from Salt Lake City would follow the Lincoln Highway to Adobe Rock and Mills Junction and have the option of turning straight south toward Tooele or keep heading west across the Tooele Valley (passing the Benson Grist Mill) into Grantsville and beyond. This landmark remained to become the major highway heading toward Nevada and California.
In modern times, Interstate 80 bypasses the original route that passes the Benson Grist Mill and heads through Grantsville. The ‘old’ two lane road still serves valley residents and travelers. As the old road passes through Grantsville, remnants from the 50’s and 60’s are still visible to those who look diligently.
Many travelers, both local commuters and passer-bys, follow the route of the ages through the valley. You are in very good company. The Donner Party used it, as did other gold seekers and California-bound folks seeking a fresh start.
The Pony Express used portions of it, primarily south of Tooele through Dugway. The many soldiers, surveyors and cartographers sent to Utah used it as well. In more modern times, weekend get-away folks heading to game in Nevada or to attend ‘Speed Week’ on the Bonneville Salt Flats during those heady years of Land Speed records being set every year.
As you travel on this landmark it is my sincere wish that this information makes your journey a bit easier. Happy Trails.