The statue before you was created as a tribute to the pioneer women who braved the uncertainties of the great journey west. The Madonna memorials were a project of the Daughters of the American Revolution and were dedicated between 1926 and 1929. The monument was conceived by Arlene B. Moss of St. Louis, Missouri and sculpted by August Leimbach. Earlier plans included the idea of placing over 3000 mile markers along the entire length of U.S. 40. By 1924, the plans had evolved to that of placing a single monument in each of the states through were the road passed.
A total of 12 statues were placed along the route of the National Road. At that time, the route known as the National Road was a transcontinental highway, sometimes called the National Old Trails Road. It included the original section of federal highway, identified today as he Historic National Road, and the later extensions encompassed in what we know today as U.S. 40.
This specific monument was dedicated on July 7th, 1926, the first being in Ohio just 3 days earlier on July 4th. The work of creating and placing the statues was done in cooperation with the National Old Trails Road Association. The Association, with its president, Harry S. Truman, later U.S. President, provided for the cost of erecting the monuments.
All of the Madonnas are identical. They were cast in an amalgam of crushed granite, stone, cement and lead ore known as "algonite". A primary ingredient was a pinkish Missouri granite.
The statue is 10 feet tall and sits on a 6 foot base. An additional 2 foot foundation makes the monument 18 feet tall, weighing over 17 tons.
Dedication inscriptions are carved into the base. The text on the inscriptions varies with the site.
The original National Road extended from Cumberland, MD to Vandalia, IL. Often referred to as the Cumberland Road, it was constructed between 1811 and 1839, with an interruption in work due to the War of 1812. The road reached Wheeling in 1818. In 2002, the original road, with the addition of sections from Baltimore to Cumberland, MD and from Vandalia to East St. Louis, IL, was designated as an All American Road. This is the Historic National Road of today.
"We must not allow our past to slip away from us, but talk to our history, teach our history and live surrounded by its memorials." —Mrs. Charles Oliver Norton, Nebraska DAR - 1909.