Recently we had a chance to stop by the Arago corner and take a photo of the historical marker there.
In 1843,the explorer Joseph N. Nicollet named a nearby lake Arago in honor of Dominique Francois Arago, a celebrated French astronomer. Fifty years later, the name was given to the township surrounding this area. At the turn of the century the Fairview Hotel and Arago Post Office stood in this vicinity. Settlers here worked in the logging camps, operated sawmills grew crops and were relatively self sufficient. After Itasca State Park was established in 1891 a stagecoach made regular trips from Park Rapids to the Itasca Post Office, stopping to rest and change horses at Arago and the place became a stopover for travelers.
US highway 71 in this area coincides with the Jefferson Highway, dedicated in 1919. The collection of roads and trails meandered through the land area known as “The Louisiana Purchase,” acquired when Thomas Jefferson was President. The visionaries of 1915 who committed to building this 2,300 mile highway included a delegation from Winnipeg, Manitoba, who convinced the Americans to make their city the northern origin of the Pine To Palm Highway. The other end and ultimate destination was New Orleans, Louisiana.
I think this marker is maintained by The Scenic Byways Association, there are maps of the Jefferson Highway, information and a place for comment cards.
While I was the curator at the Historical Museum there was a program about this highway. They are having a huge “to do” in Park Rapids this spring all about the Jefferson Highway.
The Jefferson Highway is also called The Pine to Palm or the Blue Road. It’s counterpart is the east and west Red Road or The Lincoln Highway which spans from Time’s Square in New York City to Lincoln Park in San Francisco. The Red Road was dedicated in 1913.
Some of the Jefferson Highway enthusiasts are painting JH on a white field with blue bands on power poles. Others just did their own thing like this small wooden sign at the Arago Cemetery which is just south of the historical marker.
We like to stop at all the historical markers we come across, sometimes we don’t have time to stop, but we always enjoy a bit of history when we do.