“‘The Madonna of the Trail’ is a pioneer clad in homespun clothing, clasping her babe to her breast, with her young son clinging to her skirts. The face of the mother, strong in character, beauty and gentleness, is the face of a mother who realizes her responsibilities and trusts in God”
In 1928, the Chairman of the City Commission, Clyde Tingley, led a parade of several hundred Albuquerqeans from downtown to the public plaza.
It was a special day: A statue standing 18 feet high from base to the top, ‘Madonna of the Trail’ was placed in McClellan Park and had eleven sisters being placed along the National Old Trails Road, which itself was built on the old National Road.
The statue represents the “Pioneer Mothers of America,” whose strength and perseverance helped settle the American West.
The official description of the statues from the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) describes the statues thusly:
“‘The Madonna of the Trail’ is a pioneer clad in homespun, clasping her babe to her breast, with her young son clinging to her skirts. The face of the mother, strong in character, beauty and gentleness, is the face of a mother who realizes her responsibilities and trusts in God.”
First thought up by Mrs. John Trigg Moss of the DAR, the statues were made to honor the women who helped settle America via stagecoach during the covered wagon days.
Being placed along the route of original settlers, the statue in Albuquerque was the sixth placed along the route, but it almost went to Santa Fe.
It turns out the Albuquerque chapter of the DAR had raised the money for the statue, and won the debate over placement.
In 1996, it became obvious the statue was in need of repair. Made out of granite, marble, stone, cement and lead ore the statue was cleaned, had holes and cracks filled and was moved 100 feet from its old location because of the construction of the Federal courthouse.
The statue was rededicated where it currently stands (323 Marble Avenue NW, Albuquerque) in 1998. A time capsule was buried at the site, and is due to be opened in 2048.
Today, the New Mexican ‘Madonna of the Trail,’ still faces what was the original Route 66 and silently marks the path of American history and its old path west.
I sat on one of the benches on a Sunday afternoon, and tried to imagine covered wagons passing through Albuquerque, and then the first cars to follow in the early 20th century.
Given the city that has grown up around the statue since its original dedication, it was hard to picture. (Unlike Fort Union, which bleeds history everywhere you look.)
Still, New Mexico’s ‘Madonna of the Trail’ is impressive. Staring at it, imagining the past while looking at Albuquerque with modern eyes is fascinating. Not so long ago, things were very, very different.
As I pondered, I daydreamed a little about the Albuquerque to come- what will Albuquerque be like in 2048? Babies born this year will be twenty seven years old then. How will they feel about the Albuquerque they live in? Will they have different views of 1998, 1928 or even the 1800s the same way I do?
I enjoyed sitting by the statue alone, lost in thought.
Eventually it was time to leave. As I drove off and turned on Marble street, I wished our Madonna well and I hope she makes it another 93 years.