Lincoln Highway sign

A convoy of military vehicles following Lincoln Highway will stop in Clinton at 2 p.m. Thursday and spend the night in DeWitt before leaving the area Friday morning for Cedar Rapids in its trip across country.

CLINTON – More than 50 historic military vehicles will pass through Clinton and stop overnight in DeWitt Thursday in celebration of the first U.S. Army motor convoy to cross the country.

The Military Vehicle Preservation Association 100th Anniversary Convoy will stop in Clinton from 2-3:30 p.m. between the city swimming pool and NelsonCorp Field before driving to DeWitt to stop for the night, according to MVPA.

The Clinton stop will allow residents to see the historic military vehicles and will give drivers a chance to get out and stretch their legs, said Mary Seely, director of Clinton’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, Monday.

“We will be closing a few roads,” Seely said, so residents can walk in the street to view the vehicles parked along both sides. Barricades will block the road from the city pool north to LumberKings stadium.

Parking will be available north of the stadium, near Riverview Bandshell and along Riverview Drive, Seeley said. MVPA expects several hundred people to visit the convoy while it’s in town.

The convoy will arrive in DeWitt between 4:30 and 5:30, according to Clinton County Fair officials. Vehicles will pass Central DeWitt High School, head west on 11th Street, turn south on Fifth Street, east on 10th Street, south on Sixth Avenue and east on Eighth Street before stopping at the fairgrounds.

DeWitt streets will not be closed for the procession, but police will escort the caravan.

Vehicles will be on display at the fairgrounds after 5:30 p.m. DeWitt Nite Lions will serve pork chop sandwiches and hot dogs from 5-7:30 p.m.

The convoy is retracing the 1919 motor convoy route along the famed Lincoln Highway, MVPA said. The present convoy left Washington, D.C. on Aug. 11 and will arrive in San Francisco on Sept. 14.

According to Federal Highway Administration article by Richard F. Weingroff, Lincoln Highway Association was established in 1913 by automobile enthusiasts and industry officials to establish a continuous improved highway from coast to coast. It played a role in the evolution of the highway system that led to the creation of the Dwight D. Eisenhower System of Interstate and Defense Highways.

Dedicated in 1913, the Lincoln Highway, comprised mostly of today’s U.S. Highway 30, was the first transcontinental road for automobiles in the U.S., according to Lincoln Highway Association.

Shortly after Armistice Day in 1919, the United States Army, in conjunction with the Lincoln Highway Association, began organizing the first Army Transcontinental Motor Convoy to prove the practicality of motorized truck transportation and to demonstrate the need for national highways, according to MVPA.

The convoy of military vehicles crossed the country via the nearly formed Lincoln Highway, beginning at the White House and ending at Lincoln Park in San Francisco, a trip of 3,250 miles that took 62 days.

The Lincoln Highway was, at that time, a series of roads ranging from poured concrete to tracks across alkali mud. Some bridges gave way under the weight of the vehicles. The convoy averaged 59 miles per day and about 6 miles per hour, MVPA said.

The cross-country drive put the equipment through as grueling a trial as could be devised. Officials used the trip to study how varying road conditions affected each branch of the service, to recruit men for the Army, to demonstrate the need for good roads and to thank the American people for their support during World War I.

About 81 Army vehicles, 37 officers (including Lt. Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower) and 258 enlisted men made the trip in 1919.

MVPA expects more than 50 vehicles to travel the entire 3,200 miles of the 100th anniversary trip. Another 50 or more will join along the way to drive portions of the tour.

The 2019 convoy, which includes cargo trucks, Harley Davidson WLA motorcycles, staff cars and jeeps from all eras, will follow the original Lincoln Highway route as closely as possible, MVPA said, crossing 11 states in the process.

The convoy will leave DeWitt on Friday morning, stop for lunch in Cedar Rapids and spend Friday night in Marshalltown.

A native of Centerville, Winona comes to the Clinton Herald after writing for the Ottumwa Courier for two years.