Good Roads: Building the "Old Spanish Trail" Lesson Plan

Karla Smith


The first automobile to arrive in Mississippi arrived at Biloxi in 1900. This revolutionary change in transportation will ultimately impact every aspect of daily life. It will create a need for better road infrastructure and changes in local and state laws. The development of highways and interstates will better connect the Mississippi Gulf Coast to the rest of the state and to the nation.

Curricular Connections

Mississippi Studies Framework: Competencies 1, 3 and 4.

Teaching Level

Grades 7 through 12

Materials and Equipment

  • Mississippi History Now article, “Good Roads: Building the “Old Spanish Trail”
  • Whiteboard and markers
  • Unlined paper for timelines and cartoons
  • Notebook paper
  • Road maps (optional)


The students will:

  • Construct a timeline
  • Determine supporting details for generalizations
  • Compose a letter to the editor
  • Create a political cartoon

Opening the Lesson

The teacher will ask students to imagine life before the use of automobiles. The teacher will ask students how life changed once the automobile came into use. The teacher can record student responses on the board. The teacher will explain to the students that over the next several days they will learn about the development of roads on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Developing the Lesson

  1. Have the students construct a timeline on the development of automobile transportation along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Allow the students to work independently or with a partner on this portion of the lesson. Ask the students to read the Mississippi History Now article, and have them record on a sheet of paper the most important event that occurred in the years listed below. After the students have determined all the events, ask them to plot the events chronologically, in a vertical or horizontal format on a timeline: 1897 1900 1915 1916 1918 1925 1927 1928 1930 1935
  2. After the students have completed their timelines, ask the students questions about the events they plotted on their timelines. As the students share their timeline events, the teacher can record the events on the board.
  3. Students may work alone or with a partner to complete the generalizations prompts at the end of this lesson. The students will record their answers as they read the Mississippi History Now article. After the students have completed the assignment, allow student volunteers to share their answers. The board can be used to record student responses which will allow the class to check their answers. The students can copy the generalizations onto a sheet of notebook paper or the teacher can duplicate the generalizations for the students.
  4. Allow students to choose one of the activities listed below. The students can work with a partner or alone for this portion of the assignment.
    • Write a letter to the editor, in 1900, about the arrival of the automobile.
    • Draw a newspaper cartoon about the arrival of the automobile in 1900.

Closing the Lesson

Allow students to share their letters or cartoons with the class.

Assessing Student Learning

  • Timelines
  • Generalizations
  • Class participation
  • Letters to the editor
  • Newspaper cartoons

Extending the Lesson

  1. Show students how to read a road map.
  2. Have students research the rebuilding of the Bay Saint Louis Bridge and the Biloxi/Ocean Springs Bridge after the 2005 damage by Hurricane Katrina.
  3. Have students design a trip along one of Mississippi’s highways. They can calculate expenses such as gasoline, lodging, food, and admission fees to local attractions.

The Development of Automobile Transportation in Mississippi

Instructions: Generalizations are broad statements that represent main ideas about important events. Using the Mississippi History Now article, locate at least three details that support the accuracy of each generalization below.

  1. Early automobiles caused a change in state transportation laws.
  2. Many significant events relating to the use of automobiles took place in the year 1900.
  3. The Old Spanish Trail Highway Association that was established in 1915 had an impact on the development of transportation in the state.
  4. Great progress in transportation took place in 1928.