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We live on the ‘Daniel Boone Trail’

By Staff | Apr 13, 2014

Blue Earth Chamber of Commerce executive director Cindy Lyon made an interesting discovery last summer.

Highway 169, as it goes through Blue Earth, was once designated as the “Daniel Boone Trail.” She learned this from some folks in Amboy.

She is right.

In fact, the trail (highway) was marked along the way with signs that had the letter ‘B’ inside a large letter ‘D.’ They were usually nailed to posts along the route.

But, before you get too excited, let’s make it clear that this naming Highway 169 the “Daniel Boone Trail” didn’t just happen recently.

In fact, it was done sometime around 1916 nearly a hundred years ago.

At that time, many highways across the entire U.S. were given name designations instead of numbers.

There were 26 different ‘trail’ names on highways in Minnesota. Most of the names covered more than one highway, and in many cases, stayed with the highway as it went from state to state.

For instance, the “National Parks Highway” stretched from Seattle to Chicago, passing through Minnesota. The “Theodore Roosevelt Highway” went from Seaside, Ore. to Portland, Maine. The “Yellowstone Trail” went from Seattle to Plymouth, Mass., passing through Minnesota on Highway 212.

Some trails ran north and south. The “Jefferson Highway” ran from New Orleans to Winnipeg and passed through Albert Lea.

A number of years ago, the town of Lake Benton discovered the history of these trail designations and learned their city was located at the intersection of two trails.

The “King of Trails” runs north and south from Galveston, Texas, to Hallock (and on to Winnipeg) following Highway 75 in Minnesota.

And, the east/west trail called the “Black and Yellow Trail” runs from Yellowstone National Park to Chicago and follows Highway 14 when it is in Minnesota (New Ulm, Mankato, Rochester, etc.).

Lake Benton sits at the crossroads of Highway 75 and 14 or “King of Trails” and “Black and Yellow Trail.” The community has promoted that fact for a number of years, but how much impact the designation has these days is debatable.

Blue Earth also sits at the crossroads of some of these trails.

The “Daniel Boone Trail” runs north and south along Highway 169. But unlike others, it’s length is limited. The official trail runs from the Twin Cities to the north on to Algona, Iowa, to the south.

Despite the fact that Highway 169 runs from Duluth down to Texas.

Why is it called the “Daniel Boone Trail?” Was ol’ Dan’l Boone ever in Minnesota and Iowa?

Information gleaned from articles found by Google indicates while Daniel Boone may not have ever been here, his 10th child was.

Captain Nathan Boone was someone who explored the area and in 1835 made it as far north as Blue Earth before turning back south into Iowa. Interestingly, he and a Lt. Albert M. Lea commanded three companies of about 170 men.

I think I now know how our neighboring city to the east got its name.

The other trail going through the fair city of Blue Earth was called the “Red Trail.”

Actually, that name was given to several short routes of highways in four locations in Minnesota.

One was from Fairmont and east to Albert Lea, passing right through Blue Earth.

So, Blue Earth residents can say they live at the intersection of the “Daniel Boone Trail” and the “Red Trail.”

Actually, all joking aside, residents along these trails did use these nicknames of the highways as their street address.

But, by the mid-1920s, most states were adopting the numbered highway system designations and by 1926 the U.S. Highway numbered route system was being posted.

The name “Daniel Boone Trail” was officially replaced by the designation of “Highway 169.”

Doesn’t seem to be nearly as interesting a title.

Some of the national highway trails designations live on to this day, at least in historical references. Names like the “Lincoln Highway” and “Dixie Highway.”

I?wonder what ol’ Dan’l Boone would think about having a bunch of roundabouts on his namesake highway?’