top of page

Madonna of the Trail

The Autograph of a Nation Written Across the Face of a Continent

The Inception
The idea of marking a highway was begun in Missouri about 1909 by a group of women who formed a committee to locate the Old Santa Fe Trail in Missouri. This committee was influential in securing an appropriation from the State of Missouri to mark the trail with suitable boulders or monuments.

The Process
This idea further developed into plans for a highway to be designated as the National Old Trails Road, by Act of Congress, and the work of marking was carried on in conjunction with the National Old Trails Road Association.

In 1911, the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution established a national committee known as the National Old Trails Road Committee whose work was, primarily, to definitively establish the Old Trails Road as a great National Memorial Highway.

In 1912, the National Old Trails Road Association came into being and stated in its bylaws that, "the object of the Association shall be to assist the Daughters of the American Revolution in marking Old Trails and to promote the construction of an Ocean-to-Ocean Highway of modern type worthy of its memorial character." The Association, under the presidency of Harry S. Truman, guaranteed the expense of the erection of the monuments.

NSDAR Memorial to the Pioneer Mothers
of the Covered Wagon Days
Richmond, Indiana
Located at the entrance to Glen Miller Park, 22nd and East Main Streets

In 1924, the plan was changed from a proposed small cast iron marker on the Trails to that of erecting 12 large markers. In 1927, the Daughters of the American Revolution Continental Congress accepted the design -The Madonna of the Trail.

The Measurement, Content, and Inscription

The Madonna of the Trail is a pioneer woman clasping her baby with her young son clinging to her skirts. The face of the mother, strong in character, beauty and gentleness, is the face of a mother who realizes her responsibilities and trusts in God. It has a feeling of solidarity--a monument which will stand through the ages.

The figure of the mother is of heroic proportions--10 feet high with a weight of 5 tons. The base upon which the figure stands is 6 feet high and weighs 12 tons. This, in turn, rests upon a foundation that is placed on the ground, standing 2 feet above the level which makes the monument 18 feet above the ground.

The figure and the base are made of algonite stone (a poured mass) of which the Missouri granite is used as the main aggregate, thus giving the monument a warm, pink shade which is the color of the Missouri native granite. It was thought and expected that this stone had admirable aging qualities and, with time, would improve in color and solidarity.

On the two sides of the base are to be found words of historical data or local commemoration. These inscriptions are of the Revolutionary period or the early history in respective localities. Among the inscriptions on the Indiana statue is an inscription indicating the nearby site of Indiana's first tollgate on the National Road (US 40).

The Dedication
The monuments were erected in each of the 12 states through which the National Old Trails Road passes. The design of the monument was that of the sculptor August Leimbach of St. Louis and was offered by Mrs. John Trigg Moss, Chairman of the DAR national committee.

At Bethesda, Maryland, during the week of April 19, 1929, the twelfth of the monuments erected by state societies of the Daughters of the American Revolution was dedicated to mark the Ocean-to-Ocean Highway in honor of the pioneer mothers of covered wagon days. See the chart below for listing the location of all twelve Madonnas and their dedication dates.

Restoration and Rededication

In 1988 President General Ann Fleck (Mrs. Raymond Franklin) requested all statues be restored and rededicated. Many were desperately in need of repair. Jane Rehl (Mrs. Robert P.), who was the State Regent of Indiana, saw the poor condition of the monument and undertook its restoration as her state project. When the work was completed, a Rededication Ceremony was held on October 29, 1988. Ann Weir (Mrs. Edgar), Historian General, attended the ceremony and accepted the restoration project for the National Society. A restoration plaque was placed at the base of the Madonna. A maintenance fund was established for the future care of the statue.

Ten years later in 1998 under the administration of Indiana State Regent Vicky Zuverink (Mrs. Robert D.), the monument required special attention and was cleaned, repaired and resealed.

On August 9, 2003, when JoAn L. Nichols was State Regent, a state celebration was held in Glenn Miller Park, Richmond, Indiana to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Madonna of the Trail Monument. The Madonna was rededicated and a wreath was laid followed by a reception. JoAn L. Nichols once again saw the poor condition of the monument and in July 2005, the monument was repaired and a high bonding cementious coating providing breathability, color retention, and waterproofing was applied. The color chosen for the entire monument was Cherry Cream to reflect as nearly as possible the original color of the Madonna.


By Miss Kathy Van Amsbert,

Lafayette-Lexington DAR Chapter, MO


My mother stands upon the hill,
Very quiet and very still,
Looking out upon the land
Which was claimed by her man.
That Mother now not flesh and bone
Stands there in silent stone
To keep alive for all to see
The memory of those
Who made our country free.
Once traveled by horses, ship and rail,
As a nation moved from East to West
That Mother always gave her best.


  • OHIO, Springfield (4 July 1928)

  • WEST VIRGINIA, Wheeling (7 July 1928)

  • KANSAS, Council Grove (7 September 1928)

  • MISSOURI, Lexington (17 September 1928)

  • COLORADO, Lamar (24 September 1928)

  • NEW MEXICO, Albuquerque (27 September 1928)

  • ARIZONA, Springerville (29 September 1928)

  • ILLINOIS, Vandalia (26 October 1928)

  • INDIANA, Richmond (28 October 1928)

  • PENNSYLVANIA, Washington County (8 December 1928)

  • CALIFORNIA, Upland (1 February 1929)

  • MARYLAND, Bethesda (week of 19 April 1929)

bottom of page