Answering The Mclane Road Question

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Tim Ehrhardt photo

This memorial is dedicated to one of the men who pushed for the creation of the Beeline Highway in the mid-1950s. Ironically, he was killed in an accident on the highway in February 1960, not long after it was completed in the late 1950s. Another of the highway’s creators was Glenwood Lyle McLane, for whom Payson’s McLane Road is named.

A 1978 Payson Roundup carried the following headline: “Old Main merchants question naming of McLane Road.” At the time the merchants were asking the Payson Town Council to rename the road “Old Payson Trail.”

According to the article, “the merchants added that no one seems to know who McLane is and why the road was named after him.”

It’s a question that most folks still don’t know the answer to, even though McLane Road is a main arterial street.

So who was McLane Road named for? A clip from the April 14, 1953 Tucson Daily Citizen provides part of the answer.

“Payson Renames Old Highway For McLane

“Payson – (U.P) – The Payson Chamber of Commerce announced today the old highway into Payson has been renamed McLane street, in honor of G.L. McLane, retiring Arizona division engineer for the U.S. bureau of public roads.

“McLane was largely responsible for starting action on the new Beeline Highway from Phoenix to Payson.”

G.L. stands for Glenwood Lyle McLane, a civil engineer who originally came from Kansas. Like many of that era, he served in World War I. Transactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers lists the following about his service during that war.

“Entered service July 7, 1917, as Capt., E.O.R.C.; Acting Maj. Engrs., U.S.A., Mar 14, 1919. Overseas service May 2, 1918-June 27, 1919. Discharged July 23, 1919. With 110th and 546th Engrs.; Asst. Engr. Of Roads in technical chg. German prisoners of war on road labor, 1st Army, A.E.F. One star.”

It appears that either before or right after the war, McLane spent time serving as the city engineer of Hutchinson, Kansas. By the mid-1920s though, he had come to Arizona where he spent the rest of his life. He patented 77.5 acres of land in Phoenix in 1928. The land is south of Dobbins Road, west of 27th Avenue, near South Mountain. He had a farm there.

For many years he was the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads head engineer in Arizona. This agency was a precursor to today’s Federal Highway Administration.

Let’s get back to the question of why Payson named the road for McLane. At that point in time, that road was the main road into town. The center of Payson was Main Street, between where McLane comes in from the south and where it goes up the hill to the north. In the early 1950s the effort to build the Beeline Highway really got rolling.

At that time the Bush Highway was the route between Phoenix and Payson and it wasn’t that good of a road. It wasn’t paved and it could be really treacherous. Travel time from the Phoenix area to the high country was four to five hours on a good day. Clearly, there was opportunity for Payson and the surrounding area if that road was improved.

Two agencies ended up having a major hand in getting the Beeline Highway built. The U.S. Bureau of Public Roads was one; the other was the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. As head engineer for this area of the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads, McLane had substantial influence. There have been some rumors that McLane was related to the Hathaways, who were influential people in Payson during that time. That’s not been confirmed at present time it wouldn’t necessarily come as a shocker. However, given the importance of that road at that point in time, it’s understandable why a push was made to rename the road in his honor.

Folks may complain that Payson named such a main thoroughfare for McLane, but it should be noted that the other key person behind the building of the Beeline Highway, also had something named for him. While McLane was the key supporter from the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads, Jim Hart was the key supporter from the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. Like Harvey G. Bush before him, the man who the Bush Highway is named for, Hart had a personal interest in seeing the Beeline Highway built. He had a second home in the Payson area and clearly saw the potential of the region, as he had a real estate office in Payson. Hart died in an accident on the Beeline Highway in February 1960. After that they renamed the Beeline Highway the Hartline Highway, but the name never stuck. People were so used to making a “bee-line” from Phoenix to the high country, that they continued to call the highway that.

Glenwood Lyle McLane died in the late 1960s in the Phoenix area. He still had his farm in Phoenix at the time of his death, and according to court records had $12,133.36 in his bank account with The Valley National Bank in Flagstaff.

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