Road trip from 1924 family diary: part 1/4

For the next four days, we’ll ride along with a family as they cross the country in 1924. Steve Ellis has graciously sent a transcription from a diary his Aunt Annie kept in 1924. Next month, he’ll retrace her path himself through Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska, and is looking for help in finding some of the places she mentioned. I hope all you expert roadies out there can help him!

Click to see larger: Annie, Elmer, and Pearl on their 1924 cross-country trip. Pearl was born in Oregon in 1890, married Elmer in 1917, and they moved to Washington. Elmer, Steve’s grandma’s oldest brother, was born in Bathurst, New Brunswick, Canada in 1883. Annie also was born in Bathurst in 1891 and died there in 1992. Photo courtesy Steve Ellis.

“A few years ago, I was given a trip journal of my grandma’s older sister’s 3500-mile trip from New Brunswick, Canada to Tacoma, Washington in 1924. Although Aunt Annie never mentioned the Lincoln Highway per se, she mentioned the route she took, and from Chicago to Salt Lake City it had to be the Lincoln Highway. Actually, since she crossed the border at Detroit and came west from there, she may have been on the Lincoln Highway a bit farther east than Chicago.

“Aunt Annie was about 32 when she took the trip. I knew her only as a senior citizen, but she must have been a going concern at that youthful age. She was very independent and it wouldn’t surprise me if she changed some of those punctures/flat tired to which she so often refers. I’d say she was an archetypcial woman’s libber.

“Aunt Annie gave quite a bit of detail in her journal for an uneducated woman and she frequently mentioned the tourist camps all along the way including several tourist camps along the Lincoln Highway:

Maple Grove tourist camp in Chicago;
Wheatland, Iowa;
Jefferson, Iowa;
Columbus, Nebraska;
Big Springs, Nebraska;
Laramie, Wyoming;
Salt Lake City.

“While it might be difficult to find out where the Maple Grove camp was in Chicago, a place like Wheatland, Big Springs, or Jefferson would likely only have one tourist camp. Those places are not much larger today than they were in 1924!

“In mid-May, I plan to retrace some of Aunt Annie’s trip from Chicago to Big Springs, and I’d like to stop and see things that Aunt Annie and her brother Uncle Elmer and his wife Pearl saw in 1924. I LOVE your book. For example, on page 201, I am certain that Aunt Annie, Uncle Elmer, and Aunt Pearl saw that same sign that you have pictured. Thanks for writing such a comprehensive account of this highway. [Thank YOU Steve, glad you like it! ~BB]

Click to see larger: The photo from my book that Steve refers to, a split in the road at Granger, Wyoming, 1927. It is actually an amalgamation of two images from the University of Michigan’s LHA collection. Photo courtesy UM Special Collections LIbrary.

Sunday, August 17
Left Windsor Camp at 8 a.m. Ferried the Detroit River. Just got started out of city Toledo, Ohio and had another puncture. Pulled into little garage & got it fixed. Drove on to Nash garage. Left car there to be cleaned and gone over. Driver brought us to Brunswick Hotel. Frank Eddy & wife took Aunt Jen & Pearl and I out to see city. Saw Belle Isle, Fords Hospital, the Packard Plant and beautiful homes of millionaires. Had lunch and supper in Eagle Café. Went to bed early.

Aug. 18
Had breakfast in cafeteria across from hotel. Brought car up for us at 8 o’clock. Went down to Nash Garage. Had to put on new tire. Got started at 9:15. Came thru pretty little Mich. town and thru Ann Arbor, the settlement city. Had lunch in camp at Grass Lake. Drove on 79 miles to Chicago & camped in Maple Grove Tourist Camp. Got there after dark.

Anyone know the location or fate of Maple Grove Tourist Camp?

Steve also makes these observations:

“I think Aunt Annie did very well with the place names. To us, this is not too hard, but we must consider Aunt Annie had maybe an eighth grade education and, although she was a relatively young woman at the time, she had not likely been very far from where she was born until then … and they lived not in the small town of Bathurst but in a relatively isolated area several miles out in the country, off the main road, down by the beach. All of these places would be extremely unfamiliar to her.

“The only place where she seemingly made a mistake was shortly after she came over the river from Windsor Ontario to Detroit. Away back then there was no bridge (not until the Ambassador Bridge was built in 1928), and she mentions ferrying the Detroit River. All that is just fine, but the “Toledo Ohio” comment is not consistent with where they should have gone. Yes, Toledo is maybe only 60 miles south of Detroit but, after spending time in Detroit, they headed south and west in Michigan through Ann Arbor. After she mentioned Toledo, she mentioned Fords Hospital, Belle Isle, and the Packard Plant, all places in Detroit. Maybe they went down to get someone in Toledo and came back to Detroit, but I don’t think so.”

TOMORROW: Driving to Utah

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One Response to “Road trip from 1924 family diary: part 1/4”

  1. Diane Says:

    I don’t know where the Maple Park camp shelter was, but there is a refurbished camp shelter in Aurora – Phillips Park right on Lincoln Highway. Also, at their visitor center, is one of our exhibits that gives some history of the highway and they could send an e-postcard to their friends and family! If they would like more information, have them email me:

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