Woman Who Has Lived 102 Years On National Highway, Greets Caravan

Mrs. Mary Ann Hickman Resides in Reynoldsburg

Of the thousands who thronged the streets of Columbus and surrounding towns to watch the colorful caravan of the National Highway Friday probably none was more vibrant with youthful enthusiasm than the oldest of them all—Mrs. Mary Ann Hickman of Reynoldsburg, who for 102 years has lived with this artery of American transportation.

As Mrs. Hickman in a voice made querulous by excitement demanded that the window of the modern auto in which she was seated be rolled down that she might “hear the music,” nostalgic memories of past days flooder her still agile mind as she nodded her white head in rhythm.

Swaying Stagecoach

Instead of the caravan of modern autos sweeping toward their Columbus rendezvous with the western half of the calvacade [sic], Mrs. Hickman’s mind’s eye described other, even more colorful visions.

The plush upholstery of the auto suddenly became the hard, unyielding backboard of a swaying stagecoach beating its way over a rutted National Road into Reynoldsburg as she spoke. The sturdy little lady with stooped shoulders and bright eyes again became an eight-year-old miss, dancing madly in Route 40 ahead of the stage as it pounded into town.

Under the magic of Mrs. Hickman’s tongue the line of neat, white house smiling austerely upon this modern counterpart of the creaking wagon trains became instead more rugged, less comfortable homes half hidden behind tall trees dipping a welcome to the rumbling coach.

Recalls Corduroy Road

Too, she recalled memories of the National Road itself. How the growing flow of travel to the west gradually broadened its dirt surfaces; how some sections built the dependable old corduroy log roads, and how finally it was paved with brick which grew into the broad super-highways of today.

As the band passed, and Charles Tallman, West Virginia’s representative, bowed his way into the auto for a brief talk with this aged little lady, still retaining the gracious manners of the belle she must have been in 1870, her thoughts snapped back to 1940 as she greeted him.

Nor was she awed by the hand of Miss West Virginia—Mary Jane South, Bethany college sophomore—but rather reached eagerly to clasp it with a murmuring word of congratulation.

But as the caravan rolled out of Reynoldsburg in the company of highway patrol officers, a wrinkled had fluttered momentarily out of the car window to wave a lingering “goodbye” to the cavalcade—and an ear she once knew.

Source: Columbus Sunday Dispatch, May 19, 1940.


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