Just six miles from the steel mill I work at is The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. It is rivaled only by the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. in it’s collection of artifacts representing American culture and ingenuity. The steel mill where I am employed , at one time, was the largest single manufacturing complex in the world. In southeast Michigan we have a world class hospital system with research and teaching in the latest advancements in medicine. All of which were started by the auto tycoon Henry Ford.
To look at the one item that started it all, that spark that ignited this multi-billion dollar, 119 year old empire, we need to go back to the museum. Now the Henry Ford Museum is much more than automotive history but the car collection is naturally a central display. The machines are arranged so the viewer can walk along and view the evolution of the automobile, and the very first in line is Ford’s quadricycle. After two years of tinkering, Henry built this first combustion engine horseless carriage in his garage in 1896. He went on to build two more and sell them for $200 each. Eventually he bought one back for $65.
When Ford bought it back I imagine it had some wear and rust and maybe some missing parts. Maybe the paint was chipping and the engine needed tuned up, but he new it had to be restored. The only remaining Ford Quadricycle today sits polished and protected. People wearing clean gloves tend to it and keep it looking like it did in 1896.
A single item like a 19th century car may have gone through a few owners. From Ford to his customer, back to Ford and finally to the museum. An 18th century road can not so easily be contained.
Boone Trace started with no owner but was traveled by thousands. Today its remnants have many owners and is traveled by no one. But it can still be restored.
In the last 16 days we have connected the forgotten portions to the already known paths. We walked in the shadows of the mountains and waded many of the cold streams that Grandpa Joshua and the other pioneers waded. Givan, myself and you cyber hikers have had a grand adventure on the road that gave us the “west” and the “American Dream” and we should not be the only ones.
Just as the Natchez Trace, Lewis and Clark Trail, Overmountain National Historic Trail and other historic routes are travel-able paths today, it seems only fitting that Boone Trace should be included. Boone Trace needs to have many footprints on it again. Footprints from the estimated 47 million descendants whose ancestors first saw the beautiful land of “Kantucke” looking west from the saddle of Cumberland Gap. Footprints of school children who need to learn the history, victorious and tragic, of how their country grew. Footprints of a lone traveler looking for inspiration and to echo the words of Daniel Boone:
“One day I undertook a tour through the country, and the diversity and beauties of nature I met with in this charming season, expelled every gloomy and vexatious thought.”