By Ann Marie Shambaugh
Whitestown officials gathered May 1 to look back at a somber moment in the town’s history while at the same time looking ahead to the start of a much anticipated trail expansion that will eventually connect to trail systems in Zionsville, Lebanon and beyond.
The gathering took place at the site where President Abraham Lincoln’s body passed through Whitestown at 1:07 a.m. May 1, 1865, on a funeral train journeying from Washington, D.C., to Springfield, Ill. Now, 150 years later, the railroad tracks are gone, but the night before the commemoration the Whitestown Parks and Recreation Board officially received approval from the state to begin building the Farm Heritage Trail in its place.
Whitestown has received three grants totaling more than $350,000 from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to fund land acquisition and construction. The Whitestown trail will stretch about 1.7 miles from one end of town to the other.
Officials expect dirt to be turning on the project soon.
“I expect to see our section of the Farm Heritage Trail on the ground this year,” said Nathan Messer, Whitestown director of parks and recreation.
The Farm Heritage Trail is a 50-mile project planned to eventually stretch from Lafayette to Zionsville, where it is planned to connect into the trail system in Indianapolis. The route aligns with the former Big Four Railroad route through Boone County and beyond.
In Zionsville, the route runs along the Zionsville Rail Trail, which stretches 3.75 miles from west of Zionsville Road to Heritage Trail Park. The town has plans to extend the trail in both directions to the town borders but it is unclear when those expansions will take place.
As Whitestown prepares to build its portion of the trail, its future users will get a reminder of its history as they travel the path. The town plans to install a memorial along the route where Lincoln’s body made its final trip through Whitestown as it traveled to its final resting place.