Thank you for the article on the Springerville Madonna of the Trail statue, located along the National Old Trails Highway, a precursor of Historic Route 66 (Harry Truman and the Springerville Madonna, Sept. 4, “Times Past”).
However, the people of Kingman have a different view of the decision regarding where the statue was to be located in Arizona. Kingman residents in 1927 and today feel the statue was “stolen” from Kingman.
The recollection of then-Congressman Harry Truman on the lady from Kingman (Nina Uncapher, a regent of the Charles D. Poston Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution) was accurate only to the extent that Uncapher felt the committee choosing the final location of the Arizona statue ignored their own criteria to locate the statue in Springerville, to satisfy J.W. Becker, the national vice president of the National Old Trails Highway association.
I will elaborate briefly.
The Daughters of the American Revolution sponsored the Madonna of the Trail statue program, to be located along the National Old Trails Highway in each state where the designed route would pass. Twelve states and locations were chosen. Specific criteria were set up for towns along the route to bid for statue locations. The criteria include: the town must be located on the designated National Old Trails route; the town’s business community had to have supported the National Old Trails effort; the town must have met a certain population threshold; the town must have had a Daughters of the American Revolution chapter; and the town’s chapter must have contributed to the statue program.
In 1925, Arizona had three chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution – the Maricopa Chapter, the Tucson Chapter and the Charles Poston Chapter in Kingman. In the fall of 1925, a state meeting of the chapters was held in Tucson. At that meeting the other state chapters agreed to back Kingman as the Arizona location for the statue, as Kingman met all the criteria established. No other location in northern Arizona along the Old Trails route met them at that time.
Also, Willis Black, the first president of the Kingman Chamber of Commerce, was a promoter of the National Old Trails efforts.
In the fall of 1927, Uncapher traveled by train to Albuquerque to meet the committee that was to name the locations of the statues. The town of Williams also put in a bid, as did Flagstaff. Truman of Missouri and Becker of Springerville, the chief officers of the National Old Trails association, also were involved. It was there, to the stunned surprise of Uncapher, that Springerville was chosen.
It was alleged the committee was influenced by the two Old Trails officers, choosing Springerville, instead of Kingman. Springerville’s population was too small, it was not located on the proposed route (which ran from Gallup to St. Michael to Holbrook), it did not have a chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, it had not contributed money to the program, and it was not supported by the balance of Arizona’s chapters.
More recently, there was an effort by the Daughters of the American Revolution to solicit money to refurbish the statue. Kingman declined.
Kingman would be happy to house the statue for the next 80 years, however.
We hope this gives an alternative view of the matter that was cited by Congressman Truman in his letter to Bess.
- Thomas L. Duranceau