Madonna of the Trail | August Leimbach


All Rights Kevin Karl


August Leimbach was born in the town of Elberfeld/ Wuppertal-Rhineland, Germany February 12th, 1882. His artistic gift was obvious and his natural talents were nurtured early on. Starting at the age of 14, he studied Holzbildhauer (wood carving) at a trade school in Kaltennordheim and advanced beyond all expectations. In 1899 his instructor pens a letter, "August has achieved great skills to my complete satisfaction and is being dismissed at his own request. He is encouraged to continue with college and receive the best training". August takes advantage of the work programs available at the time and perfects his skills over the next decade.

In 1910, now a master sculptor, August is finalizing his creative plans to work in the Orient. His brother Karl who is already living in the USA (St. Louis, MO.) makes a brief visit back to Germany, and during discussions suggest that August might explore the states. August arrives at Ellis Island, NY in May of 1910 and travels directly to St. Louis. He is only in St. Louis two months at best when his talents are procured by a monument company in Waco, TX. His reputation grows quickly in the USA within the circle of monument, terra cotta, and architectural companies, and in 1915 he takes a lead role at the San Francisco Worlds Fair & Exhibition, creating ornate architectural embellishments for the fair's buildings and structures.




Madonna of the Trail Statue | August Leimbach


August Leimbach photographed in Hamburg, Germany prior to coming to the USA.


In 1927 the D.A.R.'s (Daughters of the American Revolution) plan to mark the Old Trails Route with a monument was coming into fruition. Arlene Nichols Moss, D.A.R. St. Louis Chapter Chair envisioned the concept and a St. Louis monument company had been selected to create the monuments. Unfortunately, the monument committee was having difficulty finding a capable artist. August was never considered initally because he was well known only for architectural endeavors. The owner of the monument company suggested that he create a model and after only 3 days, Mrs. Moss was standing in August's St. Louis studio admiring his clay interpretation of the Madonna of the Trail. The model was shipped to D.A.R headquarters in Washington, D.C. and the rest as they say, is history.

August and his wife Frieda eventually returned to Germany while three of his grown children remained in the states. Initially they settled back in Kaltennordheim, which was also Frieda's birth place. August was so respected in Kaltennorheim that in 1945 the Mayor issued a certified letter authorizing August to assume full duties as Mayor in his absence. They moved one last time to Michelstadt in December of 1952. August died on December 18th, 1965 and Frieda on September 19, 1967. They were buried together, but after years of trying to locate family, the grave site was dismantled by the town of Michelstadt for reasons of inattention and remains unmarked to this day.




Madonna of the Trail | August Leimbach


Most of the historical information you'll find regarding August Leimbach quickly reflect upon the Madonna of the Trail Monument created for the Daughters of the American Revolution. While the Madonna was his most recognized work of art, many of his architectural commissions were no less involved, and for the most part, much more detailed. Various authors have already done a tremendous job of gathering and presenting information surrounding the Madonna and the Old Trails Route. My aim to preserve August's legacy visually and historically, through his images as well as one of a kind original documents.


Sculptor August Leimbach and
Arlene Nichols Moss,
D.A.R. Committee Chairman.
St. Louis, MO., 1927.



August Leimbach | Madonna of the Trail | Kevin Karl
Some time after August's death, a small collection of memorabilia and a few of his oil paintings appeared at our home in St. Louis. A black, weathered, thin leather folder full of enchanting sketches, photographs, newspaper and magazine clippings caught my eye. I took the folder under my wing and would look through this treasure often. Each time fascinated by the many talents and life of this man. Controlling interest was in vein however as family members dissected the folder over the years, pulling out individual pieces for random use.

August Leimbach | Madonna of the Trail |1915 Worlds Fair


Coming full circle, I have inherited what remains of the portfolio, but are well aware of some missing documents. Most notably for me, a detailed journal describing architectural projects and commissions by city, state, specific building, as well as Worlds Fair entries. Having this journal would prove invaluable in retracing August's creative journey throughout the USA. From his hand writing on the back of photographs we are partially able to retrace this artistic route.

In the spring of 2006, some of August's oil paintings were pulled from a damp midwest basement where they had endured 30 years of St. Louis heat and humidity. Those items were quickly dispersed to others however so I don't expect any of us will ever have the opportunity to embrace those as a collective. In the alternative, we can preserve what remains and continue to explore my great grandfather's contributions. It's a remote possibility, but a book featuring the life, images, and art of August Leimbach may one day unfold.



August Leimbach Photo

In an effort to recognize and preserve August Leimbach's contributions to the DAR and the arts, we are currently offering fine art prints and photo note cards created from his original portfolio images... Click here for more information.

Inland Living Magazine. Upland, California Madonna of the Trail article. [ HERE ]







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