5 Places to Go to Learn about Martin Luther King, Jr.

Roadschooling across the USA, our family researched and learned about Martin Luther King, Jr. before heading out on a educational sightseeing adventure (aka Field Trip). We found ourselves in Atlanta, Georgia on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

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Downtown Flagstaff and the Railroad

Downtown Flagstaff, Arizona

With an extended stay in Flagstaff, our family had three days to explore Flagstaff.
After each of us had rated our top 3 choices and all of us debated on what to do,
our family finally decided to:

  • get outdoors, breathe the clean mountain air, and take a walk through downtown Flagstaff;
  • explore the world of astronomy at Lowell Observatory and learn about the  expanding universe and the discovery of Pluto
  • take one of the top 5 scenic drives in America from Flagstaff to Sedona

Besides breathing the clean mountain air, logging miles for Belle’s PE credit,
we learned the history of Flagstaff on our self-guided walking.

Our first stop was the Visitor Center
which is located in a train station dating back to the 1920s.

visitor center in flagstaff visitor center in flagstaff



In the train station, we picked up brochures on “The Early History of Flagstaff” and “The History of the Railroad in Flagstaff“.  guided walking tours, “Flagstaff’s Haunted Places” and “Flagstaff’s Route 66”. 

Armed with information, we began our self-guided tour of downtown Flagstaff.  After the walk and back in our school room, we discussed the sites we saw in Flagstaff and placed the facts we learned in chronological order.

Today I can share with you a virtual and chronological walk through the history and streets of downtown Flagstaff.

store front in flagstaff navajo gallery in flagstaff

The Early History of Flagstaff and the Development of the Railroad

After the US was deeded a vast territory between Texas and California in the Treaty of Guadalupe in 1846 and after gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill in California in 1849,
a railroad route to the Pacific became of an interest.

President Fillmore signed the First Railroad Land Grant in 1850 and a series of expeditions followed to find a potential railroad route.

The Whipple Expedition (Whipple should sound familiar from our visit to the Petrified Forest National Park) set out from Arkansas in July of 1853.  This expedition party reached the territory which is now known as Arizona by November, the San Francisco Peaks near present day Flagstaff by Christmas, and present day LA by March 1854.

Another party led by Lt. Edward Beale was sent out by Congress to find resources and map the area.  Beale sent a report to Congress that the area around present day Flagstaff was rich in timber, grasslands, and water.  Beale Road, which passed through Flagstaff on the way to California, was quickly established and traveled by emigrants.

Plans to build a railroad came to a halt at the start of the Civil War in 1861. Plans resumed when The Pacific Railroad Act was passed by Congress and signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1864.

The Atlantic and Pacific railroad became a reality when President Andrew Johnson signed a bill in 1866.

A party of emigrants arrived in present day Flagstaff in 1876. This party stripped the bark from a ponderosa pine and raised a “flag staff” in celebration of our nation’s centennial.  The party of emigrants departed but the “flag staff” remained and
served as a landmark for pioneers who followed.

flagstaff flagstaff

The Atlantic and Pacific railroad began laying tracks in 1880.
By 1882, the railroad had arrived in present day Flagstaff.

santa fe plaza  gandy dancer

Laborers who built the Railroad found that singing helped them to work in unison.
The Gandy Dancer in the Santa Fe Plaza gives tribute to section crew members
who built and brought the railroad which ultimately led to the development of a town, Flagstaff.

train in flagstaff

By 1917,
the Arizona Lumber and Timber Company had purchased this Baldwin Steam Engine for its lumbering operations.  This display in the Santa Fe Plaza gives tribute to those who have worked in Flagstaff’s Lumber industry for over 100 years.

flagstaff lumber industry

With grass and water for the sheep ranchers, timber for the lumber industry,
and the railroad for transportation, the town of Flagstaff thrived.

And today,
the town of Flagstaff continues to thrive as a logging and railroad community
and a popular tourist destination.

visitor center in flagstaff

railroad in Flagstaffrailroad tracks flagstaff


brews for cueslumberyard

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