Happy birthday, Lincoln Highway. Our nation’s first transcontinental automobile route turns 100 this year — officially on Oct. 31, 1913.
But, the Lincoln Highway has always been a favorite Ramblin’ topic, whether it’s the Youngville Cafe or the Tama bridge or old routes in Cedar County or through Marion and Cedar Rapids. So, what better way to wind down my Gazette career than write about it in this, my second to last column? (My final Ramblin’ column runs Wednesday.)
A lot is going on this year with the biggie being the Lincoln Highway Association’s (lincolnhighwayassoc.org) 100th Anniversary Tour along the original route, gravel roads and all. Cars leave Times Square in New York City on June 21 and San Francisco on June 22 to converge in Kearney, Neb., on June 30 for the centennial celebration and national conference. (June 28 features lunch in Mount Vernon and various stops on the way to overnight in Ames.)
The Lincoln Highway ties in with a follow-up to my Feb. 25 column when I asked readers about five vigilantes posing with guns in front of a Ford Model A in a photo sent by Keith Techau of Lisbon. The picture was in a scrapbook owned by Bonnie Pauls of rural Mechanicsville who died Aug. 9, 2010, at age 96.
Several folks responded, but Keith nailed it when he ran across a Lisbon News story about the robbery of the Union Trust and Savings Bank in Stanwood on Feb. 2, 1932. It says one bandit, R.D. Forbes, 35, was killed and the other, Robert Wall, 29, captured in Lowden after the noon robbery that netted $500. They escaped in a Model-T, driving west on the Lincoln Highway.
Outside of Stanwood, they transferred to a Model A and turned around. As they came to Lowden, a group of vigilantes — M. V. Pauls (Town Marshal), A.F. Clemmens, Hans Andreson and Roy Marks — had blocked the road. The shootout ensued. Forbes was shot in the back seat of the car.
Pauls, Bonnie’s father-in-law, was identified far right in the photo by several people including Marilyn Benishek of Belle Plaine who is his niece. “Walt got shot in the leg,” she said. “He didn’t get hurt too bad but he limped the rest of his life.” He died in 1970.
The robbers were identified after Wall told authorities to check at 1011 Second Ave. SE in Cedar Rapids. So, I checked out The Gazette.
On Feb. 3, this newspaper ran the photo, identifying the four men on the right standing in front of the bandits’ stolen car. The story’s details said Forbes had lived in Stanwood, where his father was a barber, until age 10. As a contract painter, Wall had done work at the Cedar Rapids Police Department in 1931.
By then, the Lincoln Highway through Iowa was Highway 30. But, as “The Main Street Across America” with 2,400 Boy Scouts markers placed along the road and icons such as the late George Preston’s sign-decorated service station in Belle Plaine, fans have kept it alive for a century.
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