Trail of Tears

Butterfield Overland Mail

Civil War

The Long Road to National Historic Trail Status

Marilyn Heifner
Heritage Trail Partners Board of Directors

A regional bike and pedestrian plan for Northwest Arkansas was conceived by the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission. The “backbone” of the trail was originally planned to be the Butterfield Overland Mail route. This concept was expanded to include the Trail of Tears and Civil War troop movements.

All governmental units (all cities and both counties) in Washington and Benton counties adopted the regional bike and pedestrian plan.

June 17, 2003
The idea of getting the Butterfield Overland Mail route included as a member of the National Historic Trails system was floated. It was decided to contact U. S. senators and representatives to study putting the Butterfield Route on the national list. National Trail legislation refers to the Butterfield Overland Mail route. We thought it would be a slam dunk.

January 21, 2004

Incorporation papers for Heritage Trail Partners were submitted. Incorporators were Scott Mashburn, Jon Loftin, and Marilyn Heifner. Approved February 3, 2004.

February 26, 2004
Heritage Trail Partners nominated and elected the following officers:
President – Marilyn Heifner
First Vice President – Scott Mashburn
Second Vice President – John McLarty
Secretary – Jim Lukens
Treasurer – Glenn Jones

March 25, 2004
Congressman John Boozman’s office was contacted to sponsor legislation to have Butterfield Overland Mail route included in the National Trails System.

March 16, 2005
Heritage Trail Partners held its first annual meeting.

Projects planned for 2005:
1. National Historic Trails Designation for Butterfield
2. Brochure for Butterfield Stage Route through Northwest Arkansas

January 18, 2006
Congressman John Boozman visited Heritage Trail Partners meeting and autographed a Heritage Trail sign. Congressman Boozman pledged his support for National Trail designation of the Butterfield.

February 15, 2006
Local journalist Kirby Sanders agreed to design a map of the Butterfield Overland Mail route through Benton, Washington, Crawford, and Sebastian counties.

March 15, 2006
National Park Services director Fran Mainella and Congressman Boozman met with Heritage Trail Partners board members John McLarty, John Scott, and Glenn Jones. Mainella was impressed with the level of local involvement and advised Boozman to introduce legislation to include the Butterfield Overland Mail route as a National Historic Trail.

May 17, 2006
Butterfield Overland Mail route brochure developed; 20,000 printed. Distributed to chambers of commerce, museums, and state tourist information centers.

July 19, 2006
Heritage Trail Partners sign installed at Old Missouri Road and Highway 265, beginning a project to mark the Butterfield route through Fayetteville. Letter received from Joe Shipman, District 4 Engineer with the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, approving locations for placement of signs in Fayetteville. Twenty route markers were placed in Fayetteville.

July 28, 2006
Congressman Boozman introduced HR.5980, the Butterfield Overland Trail Study Act, for a resource study along the “Ox-Bow Route” of the Butterfield Overland Trail in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.

September 17-18, 2006
Third annual Butterfield Commemorative Ride was scheduled to go from Fayetteville to Avoca. Jacci Perry was trail boss. There were 13 riders on the first day. The ride was cut short by rain, thunder, and lightening on the second day.

September 20, 2006
Marilyn Heifner went to Washington, D. C., and testified before a House committee regarding HR.5980 legislation (passage of the Butterfield Overland Trail legislation), and also met with Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor (supportive of trails legislation) and Philip Moore (Congressman Boozman’s aide).

HR.3998, America’s Historical and Natural Legacy Study Act, which included a special resource study of the Butterfield Ox-Bow route, was introduced.

Butterfield Trail reenactment was held October 3-5, which included a Friday night event at Pea Ridge National Military Park and a Sunday afternoon event at Fitzgerald Station, then owned by Jay and Sarah Berryman. Seventy Girl Scouts and their families were treated to Dutch-oven cooking, historical programs, old-time games, and stagecoach and carriage rides.

Casey Gill, curator of the Wells Fargo Museum, traveled the Butterfield route and made stops in Northwest Arkansas at Pea Ridge National Military Park, Lowell Elementary School, and Fitzgerald Station.

Arkansas Parks and Tourism Commission approved the formation of a state heritage trail system based on all Indian removal routes, Butterfield stage route, and Civil War troop movements. Representative Lindsley Armstrong Smith introduced the bill to the state legislature. Passed.

Maggie Lemmerman, senior aide to Congressman Boozman, left that position. Zachary Hartman is the new contact in Congressman Boozman’s office.

Butterfield Overland Stage Trail Driving Atlas in Missouri and Arkansas, authored by Kirby Sanders, was published by Heritage Trail Partners.

Articles on the Butterfield appeared in True West, Rural Arkansas, and the Wells Fargo blog.

HR.146, Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, was signed into law by President Barack Obama. The bill included a study for Butterfield to determine if it was eligible to be included in National Historic Trails system.

Kirby Sanders presented research on Hanger’s stage route and Springdale stage routes, additions to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas entry on the Butterfield Overland Mail Company, and the 1858 railroad route from St. Louis to Tipton, Missouri.

The National Historic Trails Division of the National Parks Service held a kickoff meeting for the Butterfield Trail Study in Fayetteville on March 2. (Though the study was approved by the House and Senate in 2009, budget appropriations for the National Park Service to conduct the study were not available until 2010.)

Butterfield Overland Mail route interpretive panel dedication was held along an original section of the road segment used by Butterfield near present-day Lake Fayetteville. Approximately 70 attended, including Mayor Lioneld Jordan, State Representative Lindsley Smith, and National Park Service representatives. Fayetteville Parks employees had cleaned the original road segment adjacent to the interpretive panel. Wells Fargo donated two wheel-shaped benches which were installed at the interpretive panel site.

Kirby Sanders continued work on the documentation of the Butterfield route including specific work under contract with the National Park Service.

The Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan incorporated Heritage Trail crossings into the Razorback Regional Greenway.

Heritage Trail Partners via Marilyn Heifner co-hosted the Oregon-California Trails Association annual conference in Fayetteville, October 29-30.

Continued edits on volume 2 of the Butterfield Driving Guide, which follows the route through Oklahoma, Texas, and Arizona.

Heritage Trail Partners sponsored a public program on the history of the Butterfield Overland Mail.

Butterfield Overland Mail interpretive panel was dedicated near the Telegraph Road (an original segment of road used by Butterfield) within Pea Ridge National Military Park.

The Butterfield Overland Mail route study by the National Park Service was completed. Their decision: the Butterfield is worthy of National Trail designation.

From 2014 through 2019, Marilyn Heifner was in contact with now-Senator Boozman’s office. Jimmy Harris was Boozman’s contact at this time. Harris reported no progress. Heifner learned that he was only part-time while getting his law degree and did little to forward the Butterfield National Trail legislation. The Butterfield dropped off Senator Boozman’s radar. (When Heifner visited with Senator Boozman in 2019, he indicated to her he thought the trail legislation had been passed.)

Bill Martin, the Oregon-California Trails Association (OCTA) past president and liaison for the Partnership for the National Trails System, met with McKensie McKernan, senior aide to Senator Boozman, in Boozman’s office. McKernan asked Heritage Trail Partners (HTP) to try and acquire at least one Democratic co-sponsor for the legislation. HTP contacted all senators in each of the eight states where the Butterfield route is found.

National Park Service (NPS) comments on proposed Butterfield legislation were forwarded to McKernan, Joe Brown, and Jace Motley in Senator Boozman’s office.

Senator Boozman’s office reached out to NPS to get clarification on what language should be in legislation.

Bill Martin met with Senator Boozman’s staff, Arizona Senators Krysten Sinema and Martha McSally, Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, and Senator John Cornyn of Texas.

In August, Senator Boozman introduced National Historic Trail designation legislation for the Butterfield, co-sponsored by Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) and John Cornym (R-TX). This bill died in the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

In February, Senator Boozman sent a letter to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) asking for a hearing on the Butterfield Trail legislation.

In February, Senator Boozman filed S-3519, co-sponsored by Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Roy Blunt (R-MO).

In March, Marilyn Heifner was notified that Joe Brown was no longer with Senator Boozman’s office. Andrew Kelley was the new contact. Kelley indicated that they were still working with the ENR on a potential hearing and were shopping House members on a potential House companion.

On May 11, the Butterfield was included in an ENR legislative hearing and was declared eligible to be in a markup (possibly late June or July).

THE REST IS HISTORY! On December 22, we were notified that the Butterfield legislation had passed both houses and the bill was headed to President Joe Biden for his signature.

Butterfield Overland Trail National Designation

Springdale Mayor Doug Sprouse, Sen. John Boozman, and Marilyn Heifner of Heritage Trail Partners at Fitzgerald Station in Springdale, Arkansas.

On Monday, 10, 2020, August U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) introduced legislation to designate the Butterfield Overland Trail as a National Historic Trail. Boozman made the announcement today during a visit to Fitzgerald Station (in Springdale, Arkansas), a stop along the historic route.

The trail was used to transport mail and passengers between St. Louis, Missouri; Memphis, Tennessee; and San Francisco, California, serving as the route of the longest stagecoach operation in history. Much of the trail traveled through portions of Arkansas.

“The Butterfield Overland Trail played an important role in our nation’s westward expansion. Designating it as a National Historic Trail is a fitting recognition for its contributions to the growth and development of our country and the state of Arkansas,” Boozman said. “For more than a decade, I’ve been working through the process to achieve this long overdue distinction. With the introduction of this bill, we are now one step closer to accomplishing this goal.”

In June 2018, the National Park Service (NPS) announced the trail meets the requirements to become a national historic trail after conducting a study to evaluate the significance, feasibility, suitability and desirability of designating the routes associated with it as a national historic trail. The study was required by a provision of Public Law 111-11 that was authored by Boozman during his tenure as Congressman for the Third District of Arkansas in the U.S. House of Representatives.

From 1858-1861, the Butterfield Overland Mail Company held a U.S. Mail contract to transport mail and passengers between the eastern termini of St. Louis and Memphis and the western terminus of San Francisco.
It became known as the “ox-bow route” due to its curved path comprised of approximately 3,553 miles of trail routes in eight states: Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

The routes from St. Louis and Memphis merged in Fort Smith, and the Butterfield Overland Express stagecoaches traveled through much of the state. Stagecoaches made stops between Memphis and Fort Smith in St. Francis, Prairie, Lonoke, Faulkner, Conway, Pope, Yell, Logan, and Franklin counties. The northwestern route that came out of Missouri included stops in Benton, Washington and Crawford counties.

Four segments of the roads that the Butterfield Overland Express traveled over in Arkansas have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Potts home, a well-preserved Arkansas way station for the Butterfield Express, is still standing in Pope County and is maintained as the Potts Inn Museum on Highway 247 by the Pope County Historical Foundation.

The legislation, S. 4404, is cosponsored by Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and John Cornyn (R-TX).

Shiloh Museum of Ozark History


The Shiloh Museum of Ozark History is a regional history museum focusing on the Northwest Arkansas Ozarks. The museum takes its name from the pioneer community of Shiloh, which became Springdale in the 1870s.

The museum is located along the route traveled by the 1837 Cannon detachment and the 1839 Taylor detachment of Cherokees on the Trail of Tears. Nearby is Fitzgerald Farmstead, a registered site on the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail and also a stop on the Butterfield Overland Mail route. Museum exhibits include a small display on the Civil War in the Arkansas Ozarks.

The Shiloh Museum is located on the Razorback Regional Greenway, making it a great destination for bike riders.