Dianne Frances D. Powell
A caravan of classic and antique cars pulled up beside the Clay County Courthouse Monday as a group of modern-day auto enthusiasts re-enacted a 100-year-old event.
The drivers were retracing the first 50 miles of the 1913 Hoosier Tour, a promotional attraction that paved the way for one of the first transcontinental highways for automobiles in the United States –– the Lincoln Highway.
Just like their 20th century counterparts, who called themselves the “trail-blazers,” members of the Indiana Region of the Classic Car Club of America left Indianapolis at 2 p.m.,100 years to the minute of the 1913 Hoosier Tour.
In July 1, 1913, the trailblazers — led by Indianapolis Motor Speedway founder and Greensburg native Carl Fisher — traveled through mud pits, rocks and sand drifts to San Francisco. They made a stop at Brazil for the tour’s first night. Twenty Indiana-made cars went on the 1913 journey, which took 34 days to complete, according to a flier provided by the organizers of the 2013 re-enactment.
But their efforts were so successful — thanks to publicity generated by the tour — that the Lincoln Highway, a road stretching from New York to San Francisco, was dedicated on Oct. 31, 1913.
The original Lincoln Highway route stretched 3,389 miles and went through 14 states: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and California.
Over the years, improvements and realignments shortened the highway and portions of it became part of various U.S. routes.
The Lincoln Highway inspired the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956, championed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The highway is also America’s first national memorial to President Abraham Lincoln, predating the 1922 Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
In Brazil 100 years later, the courthouse parking lot on Monday played host to cars that residents no longer see very often.
The centerpiece was a 1914 Packard Custom Roadster once owned by Fisher himself. The antique car, which was kept in a trailer during the journey, is now owned by Allen and Nancy Strong, participants in the re-enactment tour.
Other participants brought their classic cars to the re-enactment, which organizer Carol Pumphrey described to a reporter.
Among them were a 1937 Packard V12 seven-passenger Sedan; a 1938 Packard Convertible Super 8; a 1941 Lincoln Continental V12; a 1941 Cadillac Series 62 Club Coupe; and a 1947 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible.
But the re-enactment of the Hoosier Tour is not about a display of cars.
“It’s a unique opportunity to celebrate the life of Carl Fisher,” Pumphrey said.
She said that Fisher, who was not only instrumental in the development of the Lincoln Highway but also credited for creating Miami Beach, is not as widely known as he should be.
Carl Fisher’s relative, Jerry Fisher, came to Brazil Monday from his home in Oregon and talked at length about the achievements of his cousin and about the memorial he is hoping to erect in Greensburg in his honor.
“He did so much for this country but he’s a forgotten person. So, we’re trying to make up for that,” Jerry Fisher said.
He added it was very important for him to participate in the re-enactment tour because “it’s just one step closer to getting the recognition that Carl Fisher deserves.”
Some Greensburg residents, such as Pumphrey, are working toward the same goal.
“We want to educate the public about this important Indiana innovator. He was a mover and shaker of his time,” Pumphrey said.