Early roadways in Illinois were merely Indian trails that early settlers, merchants, Indian traders and others traveled from one place to another. One such trail, established by Gurden S. Hubbard in approximately 1822, became known as the Hubbard Trail or Hubbard Trace.
The Hubbard Trail followed the Illinois ridges and wound around sloughs or areas of soft, muddy ground, swamp or swamplike areas and holes full of mire that dotted the Indian trails. Hubbard’s Trail ran from the old Fort Dearborn fort near the south end of Lake Michigan to Danville, which later became the county seat of Vermilion County, to the Salt Licks, 14 miles southwest of Danville and further south to Vincennes, Ind.
According to the History of Hubbard Trail by Edna Boardman, “the trail was located through what is now McFerren Park, passing along just at the east side of the present pavilion.”
Hubbard moved his trade goods by pack ponies from his 80 acre Iroquois farm along with his hogs, cattle, and furs south to Vincennes, Indiana and north to Chicago to sell and brought other trade goods back to the area to sell or trade. Hubbard was said to have established trading posts every forty to fifty miles between Chicago and Vincennes, according to one history. His livestock, wagons and pack ponies helped widen and harden the trail making it a better, easier traveling route for travelers.
In 1834, Hubbard’s Trail was designated as the first State Road by the Illinois State legislature and was marked with milestones from Chicago to Vincennes, Indiana. Some of the early markers still remain today to mark State Route 1. One original marker is in Rossville by the old Stufflebeam home on Route 1 on the west side of the road by the house. Another is located on Route 1 on the east side of the road before the Mann’s Chapel Road turn off. A newer marker was placed beside the original Mann’s Chapel one when Barbara Standish Chapter National Society Daughters of the American Revolution rededicated the trail. A third marker located near Route 1 outside the McFerren Park fence in Hoopeston is a huge rock with a dedication plaque on it from Barbara Standish Chapter NSDAR marking Hubbard’s Trail as it traveled past Hoopeston.
In 1914 the Dixie Highway Association was formed from an idea of Carl G. Fisher to establish a connection between the midwest and the southern United States as part of the National Auto Trail System. It was to be a network of connected paved roads with four routes connecting to Miami, Florida.
The Western route connected Chicago and Miami, Florida via Hoopeston, Rossville and Danville in Illinois along Route 1, through Indianapolis, Louisville, Kentucky, Nashville and Chattanooga, Tennessee, Atlanta, Georgia, and Tallahassee through Orlando to Naples, Florida.
The Eastern route connected Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan with Miami, Florida through Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and Jacksonville and West Palm Beach, Florida.
The Central route was a short cut-off from the western division at Macon, Georgia and the eastern route at Jacksonville, Florida forming a shorter route to Miami.
The Carolina route shortened the distance between Knoxville and Waynesboro, Georgia on the eastern route to Miami.
Construction began on the routes in 1915 and was completed by 1929. The government took over the highway system in 1927 before completion of the route making it part of the U. S. Route system. The Dixie Highway Association was then disbanded.
Hoopeston celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the Dixie Highway’s 1915 completion in Illinois by joining with the A’s R Us Model A Ford Club, based in the Chicago area, to dedicate local interpretive historical signs in towns along the Dixie Highway from Chicago to Danville by October 2015. Hoopeston’s dedication marker giving a history of Hoopeston with early photos of the town, was dedicated on October 9, 2015 on Route 1 across from Subway. The sign was removed, however, to make way for the new First Farmer’s Bank and Trust bank and erected temporarily on Route 1 and West Main Street until a more suitable sight can be established.
Drive by and stop to see the Dixie Highway sign. It’s pretty impressive, in my opinion, and brief history of Hoopeston and the route that connected Hoopeston to Chicago and south to Miami.