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“Wherever you find advertising or posters tacked up or posted, covering our O.T. insignia, or on our pyramids, tear them down. No good citizen would be guilty of defacing our marks.” 1919

The Ozark Trails, New Mexico — Pyramids on the Trail

From Paint to Concrete

Before the uniform U.S. highway numbering system, each of the named trail associations marked their highways with a unique color scheme. These typically consisted of a combination of primary colors painted on telephone poles, boulders, barns, or anything that could hold paint.

The Ozark Trails Association employed a green-and-white color scheme, with a green “OT” between two green stripes painted against a white background.

A few private highway associations, including the Lincoln, the Jefferson Davis and the Ozark Trails, looked for more substantial methods to mark their routes.

OT founder,William Hope Harvey first proposed “white pillars bearing the inscription ‘Ozark Trails’” in 1913.

At the 1918 OTA convention, Harvey expanded his idea, proposing a group of concrete obelisks erected at junctions where the Ozark Trails branched in different directions.

He originally envisioned a string of 12 large pyramids, stretching from Springfield, Missouri to Romeroville, New Mexico, where a 50-foot-tall obelisk would mark the junction of the OT and the historic Santa Fe Trail.

The first OT markers consisted of wood-frame pylons finished with stucco and no standard design other than the obelisk-like shaft.

By 1919, a standard design was in place, consisting of a tall, tapered concrete shaft resting on a square base and illuminated by five lights. Along two or more sides were painted the names and distances of towns along the OT.

Placed at the center of busy intersections, the trail markers were short-lived. Realizing their potential traffic hazard, Artesia, New Mexico (like other towns along the trail) tore down their marker in the late 1920s.

No More than Seven

There is no indication of how many Ozark Trails markers were actually constructed; today only seven obelisks are known to survive.

Of the four located in Texas, two were moved from their original locations (Dimmit and Wellington), with the Wellington marker reconstructed to a shorter height. The pyramids in Tampico and Tulia are in their original location, but have lost their lights and period paint schemes.

Two markers survive in Oklahoma. The obelisk in Stroud, despite being moved and covered with graffiti, is listed in the National Register as a contributing resource to an Ozark Trails section of Route 66. Another pyramid in Langston sits in its original location, but is missing its lights and original paint scheme.

Ozark Trails Marker, Lake Arthur

On June 16, 1921, the Board of Trustees of Lake Arthur, New Mexico approved the construction of an OT obelisk; one of eight markers built along the Pecos Valley branch of the OT. Conforming to the OTA’s guidelines, the marker is 21 feet tall and made of reinforced concrete. Artesia contractors Matheson, Hendrickson & Brown fabricated the marker for $250.

For years local high school students painted the marker in their team colors. Recently the community repainted the marker to call attention to its history.

The Lake Arthur marker, perhaps because of its location far from highway traffic, remains unharmed at its original site. Partially restored to its period paint scheme, the obelisk is one of the better examples of OT markers and is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Lost Pyramids?

We suspect there are more old pyramids out there; maybe even buried like the Ozark Trails marker in tiny Quitaque, Texas. Let us know if you come across any evidence of these one-of-a-kind highway markers.

Just after updating this web page, we found this concrete obelisk in the middle of Dameron Park, Hereford, Texas. At first glance, the marker could be an Ozark Trails pyramid. But Hereford was not on the Ozark Trails, and the marker is a bit thicker than an OT pyramid. The trace of the highway shield indicates that the obelisk probably once marked U.S. 60, the Abo Pass Highway, connecting Hereford to Amarillo and Clovis. We’ll keep searching.

OT Marker Web Sites

Texas Ozark Trails Association

Sources Consulted/Further Reading

Lawler, Nan M. The Ozark Trails Association. M.A. thesis, University of Arkansas, 1991.

Murphey, John W. “The Ozark Trails Marker at Lake, New Mexico.” National Register of Historic Places nomination, prepared for the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division, 2004.

Copyright © 2006