ST. CLOUD - July 25th, 1916 – Officials of the Jefferson Highway Association arrive in St. Cloud.

The turn of the century marked the development of automobiles as the most reliable means of transportation. Thus, roads began their grand expansion. One such example of progress was the Jefferson Highway that was received in St. Cloud on this day in 1916.

Meant to bear tourists from south to north, The Jefferson Highway, the “Palm to Pine” route, commenced in 1915 and was to run from New Orleans to Winnipeg. St. Cloud was one of the many cities honored with a place on the pioneering route 95 years ago.

The Jefferson Highway Association was formed to select the route of the new road from the Twin Cities to Winnipeg. Of the 1,800 miles between New Orleans and the Canadian city, 500 miles of the highway would be in Minnesota. The original idea was for one continuous highway. However, plans changed shape as work progressed. Much controversy surrounded the issue of what towns would be included in the route.

The route was proposed to enter the state at Albert Lea then proceed to the Twin Cities. However, the path from the cities to St. Vincent, Canada was much debated. Members of St. Cloud’s Automobile Club championed the highway and voiced their eager interest in participating in the historic route. Their work paid off. A tri-route alternative was proposed and accepted which included Bemidji, Elk River, Mille Lacs, Little Falls, Sauk Centre, and St. Cloud.

At least part of the route was fixed by July 25, 1916, for officials of the Jefferson Association visited St. Cloud. The officials were greeted by a large number of cars lined along Third Avenue South to welcome them. Official Car No. 1 of the Jefferson Highway Relay Sociability tour turned the corner at Seventh Street at 1:49 scheduled time. The tour began in St. Joseph, Missouri and was hailed by thousands of automobiles on the way.

The Jefferson Highway may have been a crude road but it marked the promising future of transportation and travel which has excited and benefited St. Cloud residents for years.

Map of full route from New Orleans to Winnepeg
Jefferson Highway Association Facebook Page

Thanks to Stearns History Museum Intern Brittany Bokovoy for her help with our series, "This Date In Central Minnesota History" on WJON.