The Yellow Trail Museum, located on the north-west corner of the historic and beautiful Hope (Indiana) Town Square, is a unique place to spend an afternoon! The artifacts that the museum houses are all donated to the museum from the townspeople of Hope!
The museum was the result of planning of three important local citizens, Merrill Clouse, who headed the local grocery store and was president of the Hope Business Association, and Dorotha and J. Bill Heilman, who convinced Merrill that a local museum was necessary. There was a great deal of talk before the museum was actually organized in 1975. Several interested citizens were called together for the first meeting at which the museum became a reality. Mr. Clouse offered to rent the upstairs of the Weinland building, which he owned, on the northwest corner of the town square. The Heilmans volunteered to organize any donations and to set up schedules for the museum operation. Word got out that donations were needed for the museum and thousands of artifacts began to arrive. So many in fact that it wasn’t long before the museum had outgrown its space and had to add the downstairs of the building for its collection.
The name for the building came from an advertising campaign done in the early 1900’s by Elda Spaugh who had built a fine brick garage and filling station in Hope. He planned to become wealthy by servicing all the automobiles in town. However, in 1915, that was a very small number. It didn’t take long until Mr. Spaugh realized that there were not enough cars in Hope to make his business a success. He knew he had to gain his business from outside town, so he traveled to all the towns in about a 50 mile radius around Hope. As he returned from each town, he painted yellow bands around fence posts and utility poles along the route. He then sent out business cards about the size of our modern day credit card that stated “Spaugh’s Garage, The Home of the Yellow Trail”. The public was challenged to follow the Yellow Trail to Hope, Indiana. On the reverse side of the card was a map showing all the surrounding towns with routes leading into Hope. Curiosity got the best of many of those receiving these cards. People would take drives to see if they could actually follow the Yellow Trail to Hope. Since the road conditions were so poor at that time, the drivers often had problems with their cars on the path. By the time they arrived in Hope, they were in need of gasoline, tires, or other car parts. This kept Mr. Spaugh in business until there were enough automobiles in town to keep him busy. The museum selected that name thinking that people might want to come to Hope to visit the museum. In 1980, parts of the Yellow Trail were repainted by the local high school history club as a project for Hope’s Sesquicentennial. In 1998 part of the painting was redone, again, by new members of the history club in honor of the museum board actually purchasing the building in which the museum has always been housed.
By: Barb Johnson