The Ozark Trails Association and Miami

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Monte Ne, Arkansas millionaire William Hope “Coin” Harvey was a man of many visions. One need he saw was good roads in the Ozarks. Thus, he formed the Ozark Trails Association in 1913, when automobiles were starting to become common. Its goal was to promote better roads and mark them so that the public could easily find them, and tour Ozark communities without fear of impassible conditions.

The green Ozark Trails signs were soon seen along byways from New Mexico to St. Louis, and pillars were erected at significant crossroads.

One such intersection was Miami’s Main and Central.

In June, 1918, Harvey organized a rally in Miami for the association. He urged the city to prepare for some 12,000 guests, most arriving by motorcar. A tent city was created, and the newly built Hotel Miami was filled to capacity, as were the homes of folks who rented rooms for the occasion.

Harvey suggested that Miami erect three twenty-foot solid concrete pillars: one at their main intersection, the others at the north and south ends of town, to be covered with the names and distances of other towns along the Ozark Trails route.

Thus, should Miami agree to the markers, its own name would be inscribed on other markers all across the mid-south. Harvey estimated that would amount to 300 visitors a day traveling the Ozark Trails route, specifically looking to visit Miami.

The city agreed to build the markers, but only with a concrete base, the rest of them in framed stucco. That would give the Main/Central marker an unexpected durability which would become evident the next year.

So, on June 1, 1918, the three markers were placed at the north end of Main (likely near N Third), near the entrance to Riverview Park, and downtown.

Ozark Trails pillar, shortly before it was removed in 1919. Click to enlarge

Harvey was in town the previous Thursday night, then was off to Joplin, to supervise the two monuments they were erecting.

A big concrete structure on a four foot base in the middle of Main Street. What could go wrong?

Click to enlarge

The Miami Daily Record-Herald of February 25, 1919 reported an accident. Allan R. Ward was driving his lady friend home to Commerce when he whacked the monument and knocked it a foot out of line. The tweaked appearance of the pillar in the illustration to the left suggests it might have been photographed soon afterwards.

Ward blamed the accident on the curtains in his car blocking his view. Stick with that story, Mr. Ward.

Anyhow, it was determined soon afterwards that the pillar was a traffic hazard. So in April, 1919, it was arranged for a WWI tank to come to town to demolish the pillar, amid great hoopla. The occasion was used to try and drum up support for the Victory Loan of 1919, intended to pay off war costs.

A crowd of thousands watched as Tank #11 went to war with the monument, driving up its side. The monument refused to give in, however, its concrete base firmly anchoring it vertically. The tank only succeeded in pushing it around.

I couldn’t find details on the pillar’s ultimate demise, but apparently Miami learned a valuable lesson: Don’t set twenty-foot pillars in the middle of a busy road.

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