The Yellowstone Trail


J.W. Parmley was a true pioneer of the midwest. His idea of what came to be the Yellowstone Trail evolved and came to be known as the transcontinental U.S. Highway 12, making Ipswich the home of the Yellowstone Trail.  Road building, the great passion for which he is most remembered today, is why he is known as the "father of the Yellowstone Trail."

In 1905, Parmley purchased his first car, and his grandson Joe Trotzig would later recall, “He always had at least two cars during his prosperous years.”  In 1907, his first attempt at road policy was undertaken with a bill in the state legislature to have road work named the responsibility of county commissioners, but the bill was literally laughed at by other legislators, and defeated. Nonetheless, J.W. Parmley and other area businessmen felt the need for a good road between Ipswich, SD and Aberdeen to spur economic development. In 1910, Parmley organized a caravan to travel from Aberdeen to Mobridge - rough country with hills and sloughs. But from that first path, Parmley expanded the idea farther to encompass the entire region between Minneapolis and Yellowstone Park, then ultimately the coined the phrase behind the Yellowstone Trail “a good road from Plymouth Rock to Puget Sound.”

The first conference to organize the Yellowstone Trail was held in 1912, with Parmley elected president of the Yellowstone Trail Association. The association members, community leaders from towns all across Minnisota and South Dakota and later other states as well, acted to advocate tax dollars for road infrastructure and encourage motorists, who were a new breed in America at that time, to go through their towns on their way to Yellowstone Park. By 1916, the trail had its slogan and J.W. Parmley was among those who physically stenciled its markers - a yellow circle with a black arrow pointing the way - on rocks and utility poles along the track used by motorists. It was America’s first coast to coast highway, and today this route is U.S. Highway 12. The final segment of this highway was hard surfaced in 1950.

Parmley also made a less successful effort to create a “Canada to Coast” highway from The Pas, Manitoba to the Panama Canal. For this effort, he was named the president of the C to C Highway Association, and while the highway itself never came to fruition, his activities as a booster in the Turtle Mountains of North Dakota would later bring about the International Peace Garden.

For more information on the Yellowstone Trail, click here.  


Official Website of Ipswich, South Dakota