July 7, 1928: Madonna of the Trail Dedicated
The Madonna of the Trail monument was dedicated on the outskirts of Wheeling Park on July 7, 1928. It was the second of 12 identical statues erected along the old National Road between Maryland and California.
The 10-foot-tall monuments were sponsored by the Daughters of the American Revolution and designed by sculptor August Leimbach. Each statue features a pioneer woman holding a baby with one arm while a small boy clutches her skirt. In the woman’s other arm is a rifle, which Leimbach based on a drawing of Daniel Boone’s gun.
The National Road, also known as U.S. Route 40 in West Virginia, was an ideal location for honoring pioneer women. The road—essentially the nation’s first interstate system—was completed to Wheeling in 1818 and helped open the western frontier to settlement. Two of the state’s most historic bridges are part of the National Road. The stone arch bridge in the Elm Grove section of Wheeling was built in 1817, making it the state’s oldest bridge. The Wheeling Suspension Bridge, which opened in 1849, carries National Road traffic over the Ohio River. Both are still in use.